NPR logo Ft. Hood's Hasan To Get Military Trial; FBI Defends Its Role

Ft. Hood's Hasan To Get Military Trial; FBI Defends Its Role

Federal officials said Monday evening that alleged Ft. Hood Army Base mass killer, Major Nidal Hasan, will be tried by a military court.

NPR's Tom Gjelten reported on the reason for that move:

The decision of whether Nidal Hasan should be tried in federal or military court hinged in part on what charges would be brought against him. Were he to be tried for terrorism, federal prosecutors might want to pursue him.

But senior US officials say the fact that Hasan is an Army officer accused of killing other soldiers on an Army post mean it's appropriate for him to be tried in a military court.

FBI officials are assisting in the investigation of the shooting spree at Fort Hood. So far, the officials say, there is no evidence Hasan was directed by anyone else to carry out the massacre or that he had any conspirators.

The officials say they quote "took a look" at Hasan in recent months because of communications with an unnamed individual who espoused radical views. But their concerns did not rise to a level warranting further investigation, the officials say.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation issued a statement to explain why the bureau didn't take action against Hasan. They essentially thought that when he communicated with a radical imam, that he was doing research as an Army psychiatrist.

An excerpt:

There has been and continues to be a great deal of reported information about what was or might have been known to the government about Major Hasan prior to the shooting.

Major Hasan came to the attention of the FBI in December 2008 as part of an unrelated investigation being conducted by one of our Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTFs). JTTFs are FBI-led, multi-agency teams made up of FBI agents, other federal investigators—including those from the Department of Defense—and state and local law enforcement officers.

Investigators on the JTTF reviewed certain communications between Major Hasan and the subject of that investigation and assessed that the content of those communications was consistent with research being conducted by Major Hasan in his position as a psychiatrist at the Walter Reed Medical Center. Because the content of the communications was explainable by his research and nothing else derogatory was found, the JTTF concluded that Major Hasan was not involved in terrorist activities or terrorist planning. Other communications of which the FBI was aware were similar to the ones reviewed by the JTTF.

Our top priority is to ensure that the person responsible for the Fort Hood shooting is held accountable. The ongoing investigation includes forensic examinations of Major Hasan's computers and any Internet activity in hopes of gaining insight into his motivation. But the investigation to date indicates that the alleged gunman acted alone and was not part of a broader terrorist plot.