More jihadist ties to Hasan?

As if a pen-pal relationship with a suspected 9/11 plotter wasn’t bad enough, ABC News now reports that the suspected shooter in the Fort Hood massacre may have had other ties to jihadists.   Those dots should have been connected before 14 people died in a hail of gunfire:

A senior government official tells ABC News that investigators have found that alleged Fort Hood shooter Nidal Malik Hasan had “more unexplained connections to people being tracked by the FBI” than just radical cleric Anwar al Awlaki. The official declined to name the individuals but Congressional sources said their names and countries of origin were likely to emerge soon.

Questions already surround Major Hasan’s contact with Awlaki, a radical cleric based in Yemen whom authorities consider a recruiter for al Qaeda. U.S. officials now confirm Hasan sent as many as 20 e-mails to Awlaki. Authorities intercepted the e-mails but later deemed them innocent or protected by the first amendment.

The FBI said it turned over the information to the Army, but Defense Department officials today denied that. One military investigator on a joint terror task force with the FBI was shown the e-mails, but they were never forwarded in a formal way to more senior officials at the Pentagon, and the Army did not learn of the contacts until after the shootings.

Awlaki (or in the 9/11 Commission report, Aulaqi) was bad enough.  And the FBI knew about Aulaqi, unlike the Army, which was kept in the dark about Hasan’s correspondence.  If they knew that Hasan had communicated with Aulaqi and other people on their terrorism watch lists, why didn’t they connect the dots?  Why didn’t they at least inform Hasan’s chain of command?

All good questions — and apparently, people in the intel community want some answers.  American media outlets have been getting a deluge of leaks, all pointing to dropped balls in the counterterrorism effort as one reason Hasan still had access to Fort Hood and orders to deploy to a war zone.  Those leaks do not occur by accident.  They come from people who are either angry at the failure of the system to stop Hasan, or people looking to cover their own asses in the wake of earlier revelations.  A “senior government official” could be either, but it’s almost certainly one or the other.

As the scope of this failure becomes known, the big question will be this: how many more Hasans do we have, communicating with known terrorists and 9/11 attack suspects?  If counterterrorism officials had this much information about Hasan and still didn’t act, it doesn’t leave any confidence at all that Hasan was just an anomaly.

It seems as though the public has the same concern.  Rasmussen’s new poll shows that 60% of Americans want the Fort Hood shooting treated as a terrorist attack, not a random shooting:

Sixty percent (60%) of likely voters nationwide say last week’s shootings at Fort Hood should be investigated by military authorities as a terrorist act.

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 27% want the incident investigated by civilian authorities as a criminal act. Another 13% are not sure.

Those following the story Very Closely are even more likely to want the shooting investigated as an act of terrorism.

Sixty-five percent (65%) of all voters say Major Nidal Malik Hasan should receive the death penalty if convicted. Nineteen percent (19%) disagree, and 16% aren’t sure.

The terrorism approach has a great deal of support across all demographics.  It’s not every day that majorities of Republicans (76%), African-Americans (51%), and the youth vote (52%) all agree on the same thing as they do here.  Democrats have a thin plurality (43%/39%) in favor of treating it as a terrorist attack, too.  Only the political class seems almost monothically opposed to that approach (28%/51%), as well as self-described liberals (33%/48%), two groups with obviously significant cross-over anyway.

If more jihadist links start rising to the surface, you can bet that these numbers will grow significantly into a mandate.