In the aftermath of the massacre at Fort Hood and the deaths of fourteen people, some members of Congress demanded investigations into why the Army and the FBI failed to identify and stop Major Nidal Malik Hasan before he had an opportunity to commit mass murder. Some of the revelations from Hasan’s past, including communications with an al-Qaeda recruiter in Yemen, have Rep. Pete Hoekstra and Sen. Joe Lieberman promising to conduct separate investigations into the failure of counterterrorism efforts. President Obama warned Congress to stay out of it, at least until the FBI finishes investigating the shootings:
President Barack Obama on Saturday urged Congress to hold off on any investigation of the Fort Hood rampage until federal law enforcement and military authorities have completed their probes into the shootings at the Texas Army post, which left 13 people dead.
On an eight-day Asia trip, Obama turned his attention home and pleaded for lawmakers to “resist the temptation to turn this tragic event into the political theater.” He said those who died on the nation’s largest Army post deserve justice, not political stagecraft.
“The stakes are far too high,” Obama said in a video and Internet address released by the White House while the president he was flying from Tokyo to Singapore, where Pacific Rim countries were meeting.
There are two separate issues to be investigated, however, and nothing prevents them from being investigated in parallel. The first is the shootings themselves, which so far appear to be fairly cut-and-dried, at least in terms of identifying the shooter. Several witnesses saw Hasan shooting, and the military and FBI have publicly stated that they believe he acted alone. They certainly have enough evidence already to try Hasan, which will give the victims and their families justice.
But at the same time, we have to make sure that we don’t have other Hasans waiting in the wings, and we have to fix the failures in our counterterrorism efforts that allowed this to happen. That can’t wait until after Hasan’s trial, which could take months. Furthermore, that oversight authority belongs to Congress, not the FBI or the CIA or even the executive branch. Congress has to investigate the series of decisions made that shrugged off Hasan as no threat even though he made a number of contacts to a figure considered a suspect in the 9/11 plot and who openly recruits for al-Qaeda, behaved so oddly that his colleagues considered him “delusional” and complained up the chain of command about his apparent disloyalty, and who may have sent a lot of his money to Pakistan, according to reports from the House Intelligence Committee.
The families of the victims deserves justice. The American people deserve an accounting of the failure quickly enough to fix the problem so that more American families won’t have to cry for justice after other attacks. Fortunately, this country can walk and chew gum at the same time.