Fort Hood shooting probe slams Pentagon policies

McClatchy NewspapersApril 15, 2010 

WASHINGTON — A Pentagon investigation into the Nov. 5 rampage at Fort Hood, Texas, that killed 13 soldiers and injured 32 others concluded that Department of Defense's policy on carrying personal weapons on military bases was "inadequate" and that communication between the FBI and military was "inconsistent."

None of the 26 actions Defense Secretary Robert Gates has authorized as a result of the investigation, however, directly addresses why the Army sent a disgruntled Army doctor to Fort Hood to deal with the mental health of soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan even as fellow Army doctors questioned his abilities as a doctor and charged he was aggressively urging patients and fellow doctors to convert to Islam.

Maj. Nidal Hasan, who once worked at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington as a psychologist, was charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder.

Since the shooting spree, news stories have chronicled the concerns Hasan's colleagues had about his professional abilities and politics and the failure of his superiors to approach him after it was learned he'd contacted a radical Islamic cleric in Yemen with links to three of the Sept. 11, 2001, hijackers.

Last week, the Obama administration authorized U.S. forces to kill that cleric, Anwar al Awlaki, who is an American-born U.S. citizen.

On Thursday, the Pentagon released a summary of what actions Gates has authorized as a result of the investigation, which was led by former Army Secretary Togo D. West Jr., and retired Adm. Vern Clark, a former chief of naval operations.

The summary said that West and Clark recommended 79 changes in Pentagon procedures, but only disclosed the 26 Gates had acted on. The remaining 53 will be acted on by June, the Pentagon said.

The investigation itself has not been released but the summary provides clues about some of its findings.

Among the changes Gates authorized, according to the summary, was expanding an FBI-based threat detection and tracking system; developing a new weapons policy for carrying guns on bases; establishing "the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Americas' Security Affairs as the (Department of Defense) lead for the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force program;" and a strengthening the department's anti terrorism policy.

The summary suggests that the investigation concluded that Hasan's supervisors had not been alerted to his mental health despite "a significant body" of Defense Department policies intended "to ensure that that commanders and supervisors do received appropriate health care-related information about their subordinates."

"The Independent Review found that appropriate commanders, supervisors and other authorities do not always receive information about individuals who may commit violent acts because they may not have sufficient access to health care assessments," the summary said.

The summary said a Pentagon official had been ordered to review Pentagon policies and "update them as necessary by September 2010."

The summary also suggests that the investigation found inadequacies in the way the Pentagon responded to information that had been developed about Hasan.

For example, the summary said that the Pentagon did not have a coordinated cyberspace counterintelligence policy that would have required that Hasan's emails to Awlaki be reported to Pentagon "investigative organizations."

It also said that Pentagon did not have policies that would have prohibited Hasan's contact with a radical cleric or raised questions about his reported statements to colleagues that the United States was conducting a war on Islam.

Pentagon policy "only addresses active participation in groups that may pose threats to good order and discipline," the summary said. "However, further clarification is necessary to illustrate more effectively what constitutes associational, advocating, supremacist and extremist behavior," and it directed that a review be completed by September.

The summary said the investigation had concluded that at the time of the Fort Hood shootings, the Pentagon had no way to track reports of suspicious activity by service members. A previous system was terminated in 2007, the summary said, and a pilot program to find a new tracking system had been completed only in July 2009.

That system, however, will now be implemented throughout the military, with a plan for doing so due by June 30, the summary said.

"The eGuardian system, which is FBI-owned and maintained, provides an unclassified, secure, Web-based capability to report suspicious activity." The system "will appropriately safeguard civil liberties," the summary said.

The summary also said that while the military has policies governing the ownership of personal weapons by troops who live on base, there are no such policies for soldiers such as Hasan who lived off base. Hasan personally purchased the two handguns allegedly used during the shooting spree in the weeks before he allegedly opened fire.

The summary is unlikely to quiet demands from Congress for more information about the Fort Hood case and how Hasan was able to carry out the attacks. On Thursday, Sens. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, gave the Pentagon and Justice Department until Monday to surrender Hasan's personnel file or face a subpoena.

The Obama administration has balked at releasing the files, saying it did not want to taint a potential jury pool that will hear the case against Hasan, who is being held in the Belton County Jail in Texas.

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McClatchy Newspapers 2010

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