November 11, 2009
Contact:
Anna Christopher, NPR


   

NPR NEWS REPORTS:
WALTER REED AND USUHS OFFICIALS DISCUSSED WHETHER NIDAL HASAN
WAS "PSYCHOTIC"DURING SERIES OF MEETINGS BEGINNING IN 2008

November 11, 2009; Washington, D.C. – NPR News has learned that key officials from Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USUHS) held a series of meetings and conversations between spring 2008 and spring 2009 to discuss Nidal Hasan, and at one point questioned whether he was psychotic and mentally fit to be an Army psychiatrist. NPR correspondent Daniel Zwerdling has spoken with several officials and military psychiatrists from both institutions who are familiar with the meetings; one official who worked closely with the committee tells Zwerdling: "Put it this way. Everybody felt that if you were deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan, you would not want Nidal Hasan in your fox hole."

Excerpts of Zwerdling's report are below; the complete story is available now at NPR.org: www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=120313570 Zwerdling will also have a report this evening on All Things Considered.

Zwerdling reports that a group of key officials from Walter Reed and USUHS met in spring 2008, as they do every month, to discuss issues surrounding the psychiatrists and other mental health professionals training at the institutions. One of the most perplexing items on their agenda: What should we do about Nidal Hasan? Participants in that meeting and subsequent conversations about Hasan reportedly included John Bradley, Chief of Psychiatry at Walter Reed; Robert Ursano, chairman of the psychiatry department at USUHS; Charles Engel, assistant chair of the psychiatry department and director of Hasan’s psychiatry fellowship; Dr. David Benedek, another assistant chair of psychiatry UHUHS; and Scott Moran, director of the psychiatric residency program at Walter Reed, according to colleagues and other sources who monitor the meetings.

NPR tried to contact those reportedly involved in the meetings; all either did not return the calls or said they could not comment. But psychiatrists and officials who are familiar with the conversations, which continued into spring 2009, say they took a remarkable turn: Is it possible, some mused, that Nidal Hasan was mentally unstable and unfit to be an Army psychiatrist?

Zwerdling reports that one official involved in the conversations had reportedly told colleagues that he worried that if Hasan deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan, he might leak secret military information to Islamic extremists. Another official reportedly wondered aloud to colleagues whether Hasan might be capable of committing fratricide, like the Muslim U.S. Army sergeant who killed two fellow soldiers in 2003 by setting off grenades at a base in Kuwait.

Hasan had been a trouble spot on this group’s radar since he started training at Walter Reed, six years earlier. Several officials confirm to Zwerdling that supervisors had repeatedly given him poor evaluations and warned him that he was doing substandard work. The sources tell NPR that both fellow students and faculty were deeply troubled by Hasan’s behavior – which they variously called disconnected, aloof, paranoid, belligerent and "schizoid." The officials say he antagonized some students and faculty by espousing what they perceived to be his extremist Islamic views.

In his report, Zwerdling also speaks with officials and psychiatrists at both Walter Reed and USUHS about why Hasan was not removed from his duties. They tell him that key decision makers decided the expulsion process – which is cumbersome and lengthy at most medical institutions – would be too difficult, if not impossible. Some of Hasan's supervisors were also worried they might be discriminating against Hasan because of his seemingly extremist Islamic beliefs.

All excerpts must be credited to NPR News. Television usage must include on-screen credit with NPR logo. Zwerdling has continuously broken news about Hasan's career at Walter Reed; his prior reports and all of NPR's coverage on the shooting at Fort Hood are available at: www.NPR.org