Fort Hood suspect charged with murder

Fort Hood shooting suspe

Nidal Malik Hasan 248.88 (photo credit: )
Nidal Malik Hasan 248.88
(photo credit: )
An Army psychiatrist was charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder in the Fort Hood massacre as he lay in a hospital bed Thursday, while President Barack Obama ordered a review to determine if the government fumbled warning signs of the man's contacts with a radical Islamic cleric. Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan could face the death penalty if convicted. Army officials said they believe Hasan acted alone when he jumped on a table with two handguns last week, shouted "Allahu akbar" and opened fire. The dead included at least three other mental health professionals; 29 were injured. Additional charges were possible, said Chris Grey, spokesman for the Army Criminal Investigation Command. It had not been decided whether to charge Hasan with the death of the unborn child of a pregnant soldier who died, officials told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak about the case publicly. Meanwhile, Obama ordered a review of all intelligence related to Hasan to determine whether it was properly shared and acted upon within the government. John Brennan, assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism, will oversee the review. The first results are due Nov. 30. Obama also ordered the preservation of the intelligence. Members of Congress are pressing for a full investigation into why Hasan was not detected and stopped. A Senate hearing on Hasan is scheduled for next week. Rep. Peter Hoekstra, the top Republican on the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, and others have called for a full examination of what agencies knew about Hasan's contacts with a radical imam and others of concern to the US, and what they did with the information. Hoekstra confirmed this week that the US government knew of about 10 to 20 e-mails between Hasan and a radical imam, beginning in December 2008. A joint terrorism task force overseen by the FBI learned late last year of Hasan's repeated contact with a radical Muslim cleric who encouraged Muslims to kill US troops in Iraq. The FBI said the task force did not refer early information about Hasan to superiors because it concluded he wasn't linked to terrorism. Hasan was charged in the hospital without his lawyers present, said John Galligan, his civilian attorney. "What I find disturbing is that my client is in ICU, and he's 150 miles (240 kilometers) south of his defense counsel, and he's being served with the charges," he told The Associated Press. "Given his status as a patient, I'm troubled by this procedure and that I'm not there. I'm in the dark, and that shouldn't be the case. I am mad." Months before the shootings, doctors and staff overseeing Hasan's training reported viewing him at times as belligerent, defensive and argumentative in his frequent discussions of his Muslim faith, according to a military official familiar with several group discussions about Hasan. The official was not authorized to speak publicly about the meetings and spoke on condition of anonymity. Hasan was characterized as a mediocre student and lazy worker, which concerned the doctors and staff at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, a military medical school in Bethesda, Md., the official said. Even outside the military, Hasan's behavior drew attention. Golam Akhter, a civil engineer from Bethesda, Maryland, said Thursday that he had spoken with Hasan about 10 times at the Muslim Community Center in Silver Spring before Hasan left for Texas last summer. "He used to not believe that 9/11 was solely the work of Middle East people," Akhter said, referring to the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. "His main thing was, 'America is killing Muslims in the Middle East.' That made him very, very upset." Akhter said he sensed that Hasan was "a troubled man" and feels guilty for not alerting others. "I tried to convince him to try to be a moderate Muslim," Akhter said. Hasan repeatedly referred to his strong religious views in discussions with classmates at Walter Reed, his superiors and even in his research work, the military official said. His behavior, while at times perceived as intense and combative, was not unlike the zeal of others with strong religious views. But some doctors and staff were concerned that their unfamiliarity with the Muslim faith would lead them to unfairly single out Hasan's behavior, the official said. Some questioned Hasan's sympathies as an Army psychiatrist, whether he would be more aligned with Muslims fighting US troops. There also was some concern about whether he should continue to serve in the military, the official said. But they saw no signs of mental problems, no risk factors that would predict violent behavior. And the group discussed other factors that suggested Hasan would continue to thrive in the military, factors that mitigated their concerns, the official said. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Thursday he was appalled at news leaks about the investigation into last week's deadly shootings at Fort Hood. "Frankly if I found out with high confidence anybody who's leaking on the Department of Defense, who that was, that would probably be a career-ender," he told reporters traveling with him to Wisconsin. "Everybody ought to shut up."