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Obama Heads To Fort Hood Memorial Service

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Obama Heads To Fort Hood Memorial Service

Obama Heads To Fort Hood Memorial Service

Obama Heads To Fort Hood Memorial Service

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President Obama travels to Fort Hood, Texas, Tuesday to attend a memorial service for the victims of the shooting rampage that took place there last week. The massive Army post is taking time to honor those who lost their lives and were wounded, but it is still going about the business of getting soldiers ready to deploy in Iraq and Afghanistan.


Its MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. Im Steve Inskeep.

The man accused of a mass murder at Fort Hood, Texas has said one thing to investigators. He says he doesnt want to talk. Plenty of people are talking about Major Nidal Hasan, and well hear more on the investigation in a moment. President Obama will be talking, today, about those who were killed. He is attending todays memorial service at the Texas military base.

Our coverage begins there with NPRs Wade Goodwyn.

WADE GOODWYN: In just two days, the Army has erected a giant barrier in front of the post headquarters. Its made up of hundreds of railroad-car-sized containers that have been stacked three high to provide President Obama and the memorial service security and privacy. While the ceremony will be televised across the nation, General Robert Cone, the post commander, says the service will really be for the families of the wounded and killed, and the men and women who were directly affected by the shooting.

Lieutenant General ROBERT CONE (U.S. Army): The ceremony will be our traditional memorial service. And so it will be familiar and comfortable to many of our soldiers. The added benefit, of course, is the significance of having the president of the United States here, and all that that represents in terms of the importance of the Fort Hood community, our mission, and the importance of our families and these families of the fallen soldiers.

GOODWYN: General Cone estimates that 600 soldiers and civilians were affected by the attack, either were at the Readiness Center when the shooting occurred, or were involved in rescuing, transporting, and treating the wounded. The Army will be offering counseling to all. The general emphasized that Fort Hood is no stranger to deaths in the family.

Lt. Gen. CONE: The person who is most prepared to deal with this are the soldiers. This is what we do. Many of us are used to being in theater, and something like this happens. We do the memorial service, we send our comrades home, and then we move on with the mission.

GOODWYN: But moving on with the mission does not mean the Army is not deeply unsettled by the fratricide.

Lt. Gen. CONE: I think whats really important is that Hasan was a soldier. We have other soldiers that might have some of the same stress and indicators that he has, and we have to look across our entire formation, not just in a medical community, but really look hard to our right and left. And thats a responsibility of everybody from the top to the bottom.

GOODWYN: If the generals are thinking about damage control, the rank and file are getting back to work, but there is an awareness now that the violence doesnt have to wait for a soldiers arrival in Iraq or Afghanistan. Sergeant Tina Bonicorrie(ph) is a security NCO for III Corps.

Sergeant TINA BONICORRIE: It was very shocking. A lot of people cannot believe that one of our own, and not only one of our own, but an officer, could do this to innocent people that were getting ready to deploy, or coming back from deployment.

GOODWYN: Specialist Jermaine Lee(ph), signal support, is getting ready to be deployed to Iraq in February. Ask Specialist Lee whats on his mind and he is succinct.

Specialist JERMAINE LEE (Specialist Signal Support, U.S. Army): Go there, take care of my job for the time I have to, and make it back home safe, sir.

GOODWYN: For the thousands of soldiers at Fort Hood like Specialist Lee, the shooting last week is about one dangerous attack avoided, with more to come.

Wade Goodwyn, NPR News, Killeen, Texas.

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Answers Sought On Fort Hood Suspect's Link To Imam

The FBI knew that alleged Fort Hood shooter Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan had communicated with a radical imam nearly a year before the attack but concluded the Army psychiatrist was no threat, officials said.

The report comes on the same day that Fort Hood held a memorial service honoring the 13 people who died during Thursday's shooting rampage at the Texas base. President Obama and the first lady attended the ceremony that drew an estimated 15,000 people.

Hasan, the only suspect in the attack, was shot by civilian police and remains hospitalized under guard in San Antonio. The 39-year-old Army psychiatrist is reportedly awake and talking to doctors and has met with his lawyer.

As the impact of the worst-ever mass shooting at a military post sinks in, information has begun to emerge raising questions over what U.S. intelligence agencies knew about Hasan's behavior and whether they shared that knowledge with local Army and law enforcement officials in the weeks and months before the Fort Hood shootings.

E-mails With Imam Were Deemed 'Fairly Benign'

Heard On 'Morning Edition':

Investigative officials told The Associated Press that FBI Director Robert Mueller has ordered an internal investigation into whether the agency mishandled an "assessment" of Hasan that was conducted last December and concluded he did not pose a threat. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to communicate with the media.

On Monday, the FBI and military officials briefed senior lawmakers. Rep. Pete Hoekstra of Michigan, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, said it was his understanding that Hasan and a radical Yemeni imam had exchanged 10 to 20 e-mails.

The imam, whom reports have identified as Anwar al-Awlaki, was released from a jail in Yemen last year. He writes a blog that denounces U.S. policies as anti-Muslim and once presided at a mosque in Falls Church, Va., that Hasan attended.

The officials said a joint terrorism task force, with military participation, took "a look" at Hasan, but concluded his communications with Awlaki were "fairly benign." At the time, Hasan was conducting research on post-traumatic stress at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., and the officials say Hasan's communications were judged to be consistent with that research.

They said the military was made aware of the communications, and that law enforcement authorities could not take the matter further because the messages did not advocate violence or threaten violence. The terrorism task force concluded Hasan was not involved in terrorist planning.

The concerns, one official said, were not enough even to start a preliminary investigation.

Former Walter Reed Colleagues Talk Of Dismissal Effort

The officials also dismissed the significance of reports that Hasan's colleagues complained about his religious and political views. One official said they get thousands of complaints every year, some of which lead to investigations, while others do not.

Two psychiatrists who worked with Hasan at Walter Reed told NPR that during the six years he was there, he was frequently distracted and often late for work. The psychiatrists, who asked not to be identified, said that when on call, Hasan often would simply not answer the phone.

They also said Hasan once tried to convert a patient to Islam, telling him that Islam would "save his soul." Hasan received a verbal warning for that incident.

He was repeatedly warned about his performance, but officials said the problems had nothing to do with his faith.

At one point, the psychiatrists said, a former psychiatric director at Walter Reed, Scott Moran, sought to have Hasan dismissed, reportedly saying, "I do not think Hasan should carry the Walter Reed name." Moran, reached by NPR, declined to comment.

But the administrative procedure for removing a resident at Walter Reed was considered onerous, according to the psychiatrists, and a key official on a review committee reportedly asked how it might look to terminate a key resident who happened to be a Muslim.

Hasan was later reassigned to Fort Hood.

Radical Cleric Calls Hasan 'A Hero'

Awlaki praised Hasan as a hero on his personal Web site Monday. The posting stated that American Muslims who have condemned the Fort Hood attack are hypocrites who have committed treason against their religion.

It went on to state that the only way a Muslim can justify serving in the U.S. military is if he intends to "follow in the footsteps of men like Nidal."

"Nidal Hassan [sic] is a hero," Awlaki said. "He is a man of conscience who could not bear living the contradiction of being a Muslim and serving in an army that is fighting against his own people."

Hasan's family attended the Dar al Hijrah Islamic Center in Falls Church, where Awlaki was preaching in 2001. A funeral for Hasan's mother was held there on May 31, 2001, according to her obituary in the Roanoke Times newspaper, around the same time two Sept. 11 hijackers worshipped at the mosque.

The mosque is one of the largest on the East Coast, and thousands of people attend prayers and services there every week.

Imam Johari Abdul-Malik, outreach director at Dar al Hijrah, said he did not know whether Hasan ever attended the mosque but confirmed that the Hasan family participated in services there. He said the Hasans were not leaders at the mosque and that their attendance was normal.

Suspect Warned Of Difficulties For Muslim Troops

The Washington Post reported Tuesday that Hasan warned his medical colleagues a year and a half ago that to "decrease adverse events," the U.S. military should allow Muslim soldiers to be released as conscientious objectors rather than force them to fight fellow Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"It's getting harder and harder for Muslims in the service to morally justify being in a military that seems constantly engaged against fellow Muslims," Hasan said in a presentation to senior Army doctors, a copy of which was obtained by the Post.

Officials say Hasan will face charges in a military court. Hasan's attorney, retired Col. John P. Galligan, said he told his client Monday that all of his rights as a defendant in the military justice system will be respected.

Galligan appeared on CBS's The Early Show on Tuesday and said he found Hasan to be "coherent" and that he is "aware that he's a suspect. But there were no formal charges that I could discuss with him."

Galligan said he thought it would be difficult for Hasan to get a fair trial at Fort Hood, "given the national media attention that has been focused" on the case.

From NPR's Tom Gjelten, Daniel Zwerdling, Scott Neuman and wire reports