Intelligence Breakdowns, Human Failure Led to Fort Hood Terrorist Attack
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The inability to rapidly share information, poorly trained FBI threat analysts, and the failure to exhaust all intelligence sharing options led to the 2009 terrorist attack at Fort Hood, TX which killed 13 and injured 42 others. The former director of the National Counterterrorism Center and the deputy chairman of the Webster Commission outlined the shortcomings before a Homeland Security Oversight & Investigations hearing that allowed Army Maj. Nidal Hassan to slip through the cracks without a formal investigation.
"The legal landscape is a myriad of conflicting statutes and it is extremely difficult to know how information can be shared," testified former NCTC director Mike Leiter. While he praises great improvements within the Intelligence Community and many success stories since 9/11, Leiter said "the pace at which (intelligence sharing) discussions occur borders on the biblical." The NCTC classified the mass shooting as a terrorist attack one week after it took place.
The FBI's Washington Field Office, which was warned of red flags including email exchanges between Maj. Hassan and al Qaeda leader Anwar al Awlaki months prior to the shooting, elected not to launch an investigationinto Maj. Hassan. Most of the 18 emails were not shared within the FBI. The Webster Report concluded FBI Washington waited until its deadline, 90 days, to analyze evidence. Leiter testified it was ultimately analyzed by "an officer who did not have a strong understanding of the signs of radicalization."
"There was no FBI policy on the assignment of these types of leads or taking action on these types of leads," testified Douglas Winters, deputy chairman of the Webster Commission which conducted an independent investigation into the Fort Hood shooting.
Once the FBI's San Diego Field Office, which initiated the Washington inquiry, was told there would be no investigation, San Diego failed to pursue other avenues including directly warning the Department of Defense of a possible threat.
"They have DOD employees on these (FBI) task forces. Why didn’t one of those at least contact Ft. Hood? Why didn’t anybody contact Ft. Hood and say, "You know what, there's an issue here. You’ve got a problem. There's a guy that could actually kill somebody. And I don’t think any of you really have the answer to that. I don't know the answer to that," Congressman Michael McCaul (R-TX), the Subcommittee Chairman, told the witnesses.
The Webster Report outlined several missed opportunities by the Army to report Hassan as a threat, even though he was described by fellow soldiers as a "ticking time bomb". Professor Irshad Manji, Director of the Moral Courage Project at New York University and a self-proclaimed reformist Muslim, testified she is skeptical as to why neither the Army nor the FBI was willing to report Maj. Hassan and share information.
"I think it would be fair to ask if political correctness also crept into the FBI. Why did the San Diego officer not stand up when it became clear to him or her that an obviously unsettling lead was not going to be acted upon?" Professor Manji asked.
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