FBI: Hasan contacts with AQ part of a research project
posted at 9:30 am on November 10, 2009 by Ed Morrissey
Well, let’s test this latest theory of FBI inaction, shall we? Had e-mail existed in World War II, would we have ignored messages between an Army major and Josef Goebbels if the officer in question was working on a counter-propaganda project? Would we have shrugged at correspondence between a naval officer studying Kamikaze attacks and a member of Tojo’s staff? Or would the FBI have hotfooted it over to the Pentagon to recall the officer in question ASAP?
The FBI apparently says that your mileage may vary:
U.S. intelligence agencies intercepted 10 to 20 e-mails from Hasan to Anwar al-Aulaqi, a U.S. citizen who once was a spiritual leader, or imam, at the suburban Virginia mosque where Hasan had worshiped, said a law enforcement official who spoke about the investigation on condition of anonymity.
Aulaqi responded to Hasan at least twice, according to Rep. Peter Hoekstra (Mich.), the ranking Republican on the House intelligence committee.
“For me, the number of times that this guy tried to reach out to the imam was significant,” Hoekstra said. “Al-Qaeda and radical jihadists use the Internet to spread radical jihadism. . . . So how much of [Hasan’s] lashing out is a result of . . . his access to radical messages on the Internet and the ability to interact?
“I believe that the responses from Aulaqi were maybe pretty innocent,” Hoekstra continued. “But the very fact that he’s sent e-mail . . . to this guy and got responses would be quite a concern to me.”
The FBI determined that the e-mails did not warrant an investigation, according to the law enforcement official. Investigators said Hasan’s e-mails were consistent with the topic of his academic research and involved some social chatter and religious discourse.
Gen. George Casey bemoaned the damage that would be done to “diversity” if the Hasan investigation got out of hand. That isn’t an entirely illegitimate concern, but the FBI apparently turned it into a fetish long before Hasan picked up his guns and murdered 14 people, including an unborn child. The Washington Post calls Aulaqi (sometimes spelled Awlaki) a “radical cleric,” but Aulaqi is openly recruiting people for al-Qaeda in Yemen — and last we looked, AQ is still an enemy of the US. Repeated contacts by a military officer with an AQ recruiter, or for that matter any “radical cleric” living in Yemen, should have been a big, red flag.
Let me share with you one personal story. In my days working for a defense contractor, I held a security clearance — nothing too high-level, but enough to have access to some fairly sensitive information. We received regular briefings about the necessity of reporting contacts with any persons who could be hostile. In one case, friends of mine wanted me to meet someone that they had met who was traveling in the US from the Soviet Union, which I would have had to report immediately or face all sorts of investigations. It would have cost me my job at the very least had I not reported the contact immediately. When I explained that to my friends, they wisely withdrew the invitation.
The briefings were very clear on this point: our enemies would use social contacts as a means to meet people they could attempt to recruit. In fact, that was the primary method of recruiting people back in the Cold War days. The shrug at “social chatter” seems very, very odd to me, and would to anyone who sat through those briefings during that period.
After the 9/11 attack, Congress rightly howled about a lack of “connecting the dots” (while ignoring some of the 9/11 Commission members’ role in erecting “the wall” between law enforcement and intelligence that prevented it). We have the same situation here. The Army had plenty of data from its own officers about Hasan’s erratic and potentially disloyal behavior. In the last few days, a number of his colleagues have gone public to tell the media that they repeatedly warned their chain of command about Hasan’s actions and statements. The Army certainly had enough data points to make a serious evaluation of the danger Hasan presented.
Had the FBI coordinated with the Army and Hasan’s chain of command about the nature of his “research,” do you think people would have started connecting a few dots before the attack? Isn’t that what they’re supposed to be doing after 9/11?
Update: Verum Serum reminds me that Aulaqi was one of the original “dots” that didn’t get connected.