Fort Hood Investigation Reveals Officers' Judgment Failures

Pentagon finds mistakes by officers over Hasan

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Fort Hood shooting suspect Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan could be permanently paralyzed, according to his lawyer.

    The military remains vulnerable to another Fort Hood-like massacre with religious radicalization on the rise and too little attention being paid to internal threats, senior Pentagon officials said Friday.

    An internal investigation into the shooting at the Texas Army post in November found that several officers failed to use "appropriate judgment and standards" in overseeing the career of Army Maj. Nidal Hasan and that their actions should be investigated immediately.

    Hasan, an Army psychiatrist, has been charged with killing 13 people.

    "I would ask all commanders and leaders at every level to make an effort to look beyond their day-to-day tasks and be attuned to personnel who may be at risk or pose a danger," said Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

    Lawmakers including Rep. Ike Skelton, the Missouri Democrat who chairs the House Armed Services Committee, and Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn called the findings unacceptable.

    "We go to great lengths to keep our troops safe in overseas theaters of combat; when they return home, we cannot let our guard down," said Cornyn, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

    A separate White House assessment concluded the government doesn't do enough to share information on "disaffected individuals" and that closer scrutiny of some information is needed by intelligence and law enforcement officials.

    Of particular concern is "self-radicalization" by individuals seeking out extremist views, said Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

    "There is clearly more and more of that going on, and how much of it we have in the military is something that we ought to really understand," Mullen said.

    The Hasan case has taken on heightened importance in recent weeks because of its parallels to the attempted bombing of a Detroit-bound passenger jet. Both cases are linked to a radical cleric in Yemen and expose a failure by intelligence officials to prevent the attacks.

    According to two officials familiar with the case, as many as eight Army officers could face discipline for failing to do anything when Hasan displayed erratic behavior early in his military career. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because that information has not been publicly released.

    The officers supervised Hasan when he was a medical student and during his early work as an Army psychiatrist at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington.

    The review did not consider whether the shootings were an act of terrorism and did not delve into allegations that Hasan was in contact with the cleric. Those questions are part of the separate criminal case against Hasan.

    Hasan was described as a loner with lazy work habits and a fixation on his Muslim religion. He was passed along from office to office and job to job despite professional failings that included missed or failed exams and physical fitness requirements.

    Hasan was often late or absent, sometimes appeared disheveled and performed to minimum requirements. The pattern was obvious to many around him, yet not fully reflected where it counted in the Army's bureaucratic system of evaluation and promotion, investigators found.

    Hasan nonetheless earned some good reviews from patients and colleagues. His promotion to major was based on an incomplete personnel file, one official said, but also on performance markers that Hasan had met, if barely.

    Hasan showed no signs of being violent or a threat.

    Retired Adm. Vernon E. Clark and former Army Secretary Togo D. West Jr., who led the Pentagon's two-month investigation, told reporters that there were discrepancies between Hasan's performance and his personnel records.

    "There is not a well-integrated means to gather, evaluate, and disseminate the wide range of indicators that could signal an insider threat," Clark said.

    Their investigation also found that his top-level security clearance hadn't been properly investigated. Had policies been properly followed, investigators say, his clearance may have been revoked "and his continued service and pending deployment would have been subject to increased scrutiny."

    The investigation found there aren't policies and procedures in place to improve chances that officials will prevent another attack. Gates and the study's authors said the threat was not profound, but that one attack would be too many.

    "We will prepare harder, plan more diligently, and seek to see around the corners of our future to find the signs of an emerging potential next event," West said.

    The inquiry also questions whether the Pentagon is fully committed to FBI-run Joint Terrorism Task Forces. The report calls on the Defense Department to fully staff those teams of investigators, analysts, linguists and others so the Pentagon can quickly see information collected across government agencies about potential links between troops and terrorist or extremist groups.

    Gates said the latest Pentagon report raises "serious questions about the degree to which the entire Department of Defense is prepared for similar incidents in the future, especially multiple simultaneous incidents."

    He said he has directed Army Secretary John McHugh to implement many of the report's recommendations by summer.