Would it normally be considered a national-security problem if a high-ranking military officer had tried to contact an enemy of the United States during wartime? ABC News reports that the FBI knew that Major Nidal Hasan had attempted to contact al-Qaeda and its associates months before Hasan went on a shooting rampage at Fort Hood, killing 13 people. Did the FBI tell the Army about it? That gets rather murky:
U.S. intelligence agencies were aware months ago that Army Major Nidal Hasan was attempting to make contact with people associated with al Qaeda, two American officials briefed on classified material in the case told ABC News.
It is not known whether the intelligence agencies informed the Army that one of its officers was seeking to connect with suspected al Qaeda figures, the officials said.
One senior lawmaker said the CIA had, so far, refused to brief the intelligence committees on what, if any, knowledge they had about Hasan’s efforts.
However, the Army certainly had enough information to know that Hasan was a problem:
A fellow Army doctor who studied with Hasan, Val Finell, told ABC News, “We would frequently say he was a Muslim first and an American second. And that came out in just about everything he did at the University.
Finell said he and other Army doctors complained to superiors about Hasan’s statements.
“And we questioned how somebody could take an oath of office…be an officer in the military and swear allegiance to the constitution and to defend America against all enemies, foreign and domestic and have that type of conflict,” Finell told ABC News.
Meanwhile, the imam with whom Hasan associated — with his own ties to the 9/11 terrorists — has issued a statement calling Hasan a “hero,” a “man of conscience” who successfully resolved the conflict of being Muslim and a member of the American armed forces. Anwar al-Awlaki now lives in Yemen, but he used to run mosques in Denver, San Diego, and Falls Church before beating feet after the 9/11 attacks. ABC reports that Awlaki runs a jihadist web site, which is where he posted his support of Hasan.
Did Hasan commit his act of terror alone or under instructions from Awlaki and his AQ associates? That’s what investigators want to know, but either way it seems that a 9/10 attitude has re-entered national-security considerations. Anyone attempting to contact al-Qaeda should have been arrested, or at the least kept away from military bases. Why did our counter-terrorist efforts leave Nidal Hasan in position to actually deploy into a combat theater if the FBI knew or even suspected these attempts to contact the enemy?
It sounds a lot like the law-enforcement model of counterterrorism that failed us so spectacularly from 1993 to 2001.
Update (AP): In case you missed WaPo’s story on Hasan over the weekend, note what he told a neighbor on the morning of the murders after handing her a Koran: “I’m going to do good work for God.”
Update (Ed): Verum Serum has more on al-Awliki and Hasan’s “heroism”.
Update II: Joe Gandelman asks the right question: “If American intelligence agencies missed the signs pre-911 and they missed a big hint pre-Foot Hood, exactly what are they missing now, as you read this post?” I would also add this: “And why are they missing it?” Because in this case, it seems as though political correctness over the feelings of Muslims has played a part in hamstringing action — and that could be the case with other potential threats, too.