Wonderful.

Intelligence agencies intercepted communications last year and earlier this year between Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, who is accused of shooting to death 13 people at Fort Hood, Tex., and a radical cleric in Yemen known for his incendiary anti-American teachings. But federal authorities dropped an inquiry into the matter after deciding the messages warranted no further action, government officials said on Monday.

Maj. Hasan’s exchanges with Anwar al-Awlaki, once a spiritual leader at a mosque in suburban Virginia where Maj. Hasan worshipped, indicate that the troubled military psychiatrist came to the attention of the authorities long before long before last Thursday’s shooting rampage at Fort Hood, but left him in his post. It is not clear what was said in the exchanges, believed to be e-mail messages, and whether they would have offered a hint at the major’s outspoken views or his declining emotional state…

But federal officials briefed on the case said their decision to break off the investigation was reasonable based on the information about Maj. Hasan that was compiled at the time, which they said gave no indication he was likely to engage in violence.

The officials said the communications do not alter the prevailing theory that Maj. Hasan acted by himself, lashing out as a result of combination of factors, including his outspoken opposition to American policy in Iraq and Afghanistan and his deepening religious fervor as a Muslim.

No word on what was in the e-mails. Cooking tips, maybe? Still, consider this progress. All it took for the jihad angle to be considered one possible factor in the shooting is this turd sending e-mails to Al Qaeda; maybe a video of him hanging out with Osama will surface and we can go ahead and nudge it towards “possible main factor.” As for Awlaki, I wrote about him this weekend but this bit from a U.S. counterterror official quoted in a WaPo story last year bears mentioning again: “There is good reason to believe Anwar Aulaqi has been involved in very serious terrorist activities since leaving the United States, including plotting attacks against America and our allies.” If Awlaki was considered a “very serious” terrorist threat as of 2008, how can any e-mail sent to him by Hasan have not been cause for great concern? Even if the e-mails weren’t explicitly violent or threatening, the other red flags in Hasan’s file should have set off alarm bells about where this might lead. It’d be like a U.S. military officer sending telegrams to the German command during WWII. Whatever his reason is, it’s a bad reason.

You’ll be pleased to know, incidentally, that Awlaki considers Hasan a hero whom other Muslims should emulate. As for the hero himself, he’s headed to trial in a military court. Ed thinks that’s good news, but given how far the army evidently went to avoid, ahem, “discriminating” against this guy, I wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up with a life sentence instead of the death penalty.