WASHINGTON— In the first detailed report on the events leading up to the Nov. 5, 2009, shootings at Fort Hood, Texas, the Senate Homeland Security Committee on Thursday blamed the Pentagon and the FBI for failing to recognize that Army Maj. Nidal Hasan had links to a suspected al-Qaida operative and had become an Islamic extremist before he allegedly opened fire on fellow soldiers, killing 13 and wounding dozens of others.
The report also warned that neither the FBI nor the Defense Department had done what was necessary to make certain that the mistakes weren't repeated. It said the FBI was using outdated methods to examine intercepted e-mails, that the post-9/11 system of investigating terrorist threats still discourages the sharing of information, and that the Defense Department hadn't identified radicalization as a potential threat.
In a statement, the FBI said it would study the report and implement changes "as appropriate." It said another study of FBI actions was expected soon from former FBI Director William Webster on whether the "corrective actions" the FBI has undertaken are "sufficient."
The Army said it, too, would study the report.
The Senate report, which was directed by Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., painted a damning portrait of fumbling by the Army and the Defense Department.
Hasan's military supervisors allowed him to remain in the Army, and to be promoted just six months before the Fort Hood shootings, even though his fellow doctors at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington felt he was a "ticking time bomb." His extreme views were clear to his colleagues at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, where he held a fellowship. They were so outraged by one of Hasan's classroom presentations that the instructor stopped it after just two minutes, the report said.
The FBI did no better, the report found. After the FBI intercepted e-mails between Hasan and an unnamed "Suspected Terrorist," the San Diego Joint Terrorism Task Force requested assistance from its counterpart in Washington, where Hasan was then based. That request was unfulfilled for three months, however, and then was dismissed after just four hours of investigation, the report said.
The report doesn't identify the "Suspected Terrorist" by name, but other references in the report make it clear that he is Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S.-born Yemeni cleric who has been under FBI investigation since Sept. 11, 2001, when FBI agents in San Diego learned that he knew two of the hijackers.
The report noted that al-Awlaki had been tied to at least five cases of suspected domestic terrorism in the four years before the Fort Hood shooting, the last one just four months before Hasan allegedly opened fire at Fort Hood. That case was investigated by the FBI's Washington office.
'That's our boy'
The report said that Hasan was so well known by FBI investigators that one agent assigned to investigate him called another investigator as he watched accounts of the shootings on television. "You know who that is?" the report quoted the agent as saying. "That's our boy."
Nearly two years before the shootings, the report said, Hasan told fellow soldiers that his allegiance to the Quran superseded his oath to defend the Constitution. That was enough to have him dismissed from the Army, the report said, but instead his supervisors gave him positive evaluations, in part because supervisors said they feared charges of discrimination.
Those evaluations misled the FBI too, when it conducted its initial investigation into Hasan's e-mails with al-Awlaki, the report said.
Because of the positive evaluations, the FBI assumed that any ties between Awlaki and Hasan were "benign" and that Hasan was doing research for the military.
Once the FBI determined that Hasan was not a terrorist, the "ensuing inquiry failed to identify the totality of Hasan's communications and to inform Hasan's military chain of command and Army security officials of the fact that he was communicating with a suspected violent Islamist extremist."
Instead, Hasan was promoted to major and assigned to Fort Hood to provide mental health care at the Army's largest base. Weeks later, the shootings occurred.