The First Draft: US media’s Fort Hood coverage turns to militancy question
First came questions about whether anyone missed emotional signals that suspected Fort Hood shooter, Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan, was close to cracking. Now U.S. media say Congress wants to know if he was also veering toward Islamist militancy.
A preliminary review of Hasan’s computer has revealed no evidence of any connection to terror groups or conspirators, according to a report by CBS News.
But lawmakers have asked the CIA and other U.S. intelligence agencies to preserve documents on Hasan. That’s according to ABC News, which says the spooks believe he may have been trying to contact U.S.-born imam Anwar al Awlaki, who is based in Yemen and supports holy war against the West.
It’s not clear whether the U.S. military knew one of its officers was under intelligence surveillance, ABC said.
U.S. law enforcement and military investigators are also looking into associations between Hasan and the Dar al Hijrah Islamic Center in Falls Church, Virginia, in early 2001, about the same time Awlaki and two of the Sept. 11 hijackers were there, the Los Angeles Times reported. The mosque is one of the biggest in the United States and thousands of people go there for prayer services and other events.
Witnesses at Fort Hood told investigators that Hasan yelled “Allahu Akbar” — Arabic for “God is Greatest” — before killing 13 people and wounding another 30 last week. The 39-year-old psychiatrist was shot four times by police and remains hospitalized.
It is unclear what motivated Hasan and the Army’s chief of staff, General George Casey, is afraid the shooting spree could cause a backlash against Muslims in the military.
But Sen. Joe Lieberman, the Connecticut independent who is a hard-liner on security issues, sees the Fort Hood melee as a possible act of terrorism.
“We don’t know enough to say now. But there are very, very strong warning signs here that Dr. Hasan had become an Islamist extremist and, therefore, that this was a terrorist act,” Lieberman told Fox News over the weekend.
Lieberman, chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, wants the Pentagon to launch an independent probe of whether defense officials missed early signs of stress and statements that might have expressed Islamist sentiment.
Photo Credits: Reuters/Ho New (Hasan); Reuters/Jessica Rinaldi (Fort Hood); Reuters/Vivek Prakash (Lieberman)