Former Colleagues Say Hasan Was Detached

New details are emerging about Nidal Hasan's career at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Psychiatrists who worked with him there say he was detached, unproductive and sometimes hostile Some wondered why he wasn't removed.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Before he was sent to Fort Hood, Major Nidal Hasan trained and worked as a psychiatrist at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. And this morning, we have new details about his troubled career there and what some of his colleagues thought of it. NPR's Daniel Zwerdling is covering this story. He's in our studios. Good morning.

DANIEL ZWERDLING: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: What have you learned?

ZWERDLING: I have been talking over the last few days with several psychiatrists who worked closely with Nidal Hasan. I should stress that none of them will allow me to use their names because they say we're in the middle of a criminal investigation. But here's the picture they paint.

During most of the six years that Hasan was in and out of Walter Reed, they say some colleagues felt very, very troubled by his work. They say he seems detached, he was uninterested, he often didn't show up for work on time. He'd be the psychiatrist on-call - here's an example, Steve - that means he's the go-to guy, right, for urgent psychiatric matters. So, doctors would call him and he would not answer the phone.

There's a key committee at Walter Reed, called the policy committee - this is the one that oversees the residents - and they got reports that Hasan had tried to convert a patient. He reportedly told the patient that Islam would save his soul. And psychiatrists tell me that the supervisors repeatedly warned him that he better shape up.

And they say it had nothing to do with his orthodox Muslim beliefs, they just say he was not doing a good job as a psychiatrist.

INSKEEP: It's easy to point all this out now, in retrospect, but why didn't people at Walter Reed do something at the time?

ZWERDLING: It turns out they actively tried. They tried - some wanted to get rid of him. A couple of years ago, a new director took over the psychiatric residency program. His name is Scott Moran. And an official who was close to this process told me that Moran felt they should kick Hasan out of the program because he so consistently was underperforming.

In fact, Moran was telling his colleagues - and I'm quoting here, secondhand -"I don't think Hasan should carry the Walter Reed name." I called Scott Moran and he wouldn't confirm or deny this, but one of the key officials at Walter Reed says that Moran and his colleagues on the policy committee actually sat around discussing can we get rid of Nidal Hasan?

INSKEEP: They discussed that, but I wonder if it would be just as hard to get rid of a military doctor at Walter Reed as it can be hard sometimes to get rid of a civilian doctor that some people think is incompetent?

ZWERDLING: Absolutely. In fact, see this manual here - this thick manual?

INSKEEP: Yeah.

ZWERDLING: I'm not going to read all of it. But this is the National Capital Consortium Psychiatric Residency Handbook and Manual, and on page 62 it tells us that if you want to get rid of a resident at Walter Reed, like Nidal Hasan -I mean, it's almost like going to court - not quite that much, but you have to have a long paper trail, details documenting what he's done wrong.

You have to show that you've tried to remediate his behavior. Two committees have to vote on it. Then the resident can hire a lawyer and appeal, there are hearings. So psychiatrists at Walter Reed tell me that residents are hardly ever kicked out of the program, even when they've done something really egregious.

Plus, one of the key officials at Walter Reed, who's close to the policy committee, told me that they - some of the members sat around saying, and how would it look if we kick out one of the few Muslim residents in our program?

INSKEEP: So, how did they end up resolving this dilemma?

ZWERDLING: Well, the word is that earlier this year they basically read Hasan the riot act and they said, you - this is it, you know, it's now or never. And they say, according to his supervisors, he did improve. He started showing up on time, he was more focused. So, they said, you know, let's let him go to Fort Hood and let's hope he does even better there.

INSKEEP: Daniel Zwerdling, thanks very much.

ZWERDLING: Thank you, Steve.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Daniel Zwerdling.

We have special coverage of today's memorial service from Fort Hood, beginning at two o'clock Eastern time. It's anchored by NPR's Neal Conan. You can also hear it live at NPR.org as well as many of our member stations.

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Answers Sought On Fort Hood Suspect's Link To Imam

  • Mourners attend the memorial service Tuesday in honor of 13 victims of the shooting rampage in Fort Hood, Texas.
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    Mourners attend the memorial service Tuesday in honor of 13 victims of the shooting rampage in Fort Hood, Texas.
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  • During the memorial service, President Obama named each of the 13 who died and shared personal stories about them and their families with the crowd of about 15,000.
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    During the memorial service, President Obama named each of the 13 who died and shared personal stories about them and their families with the crowd of about 15,000.
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  • Kolleen Alldridge (from left), Gavyn Alldridge, Kim Rosenthal and Alice Thompson light candles Saturday at a small memorial in the courtyard of the apartment complex where Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan lived prior to the Fort Hood shooting.
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    Kolleen Alldridge (from left), Gavyn Alldridge, Kim Rosenthal and Alice Thompson light candles Saturday at a small memorial in the courtyard of the apartment complex where Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan lived prior to the Fort Hood shooting.
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  • Soldiers bow their heads in prayer during a vigil at Fort Hood on Friday.
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    Soldiers bow their heads in prayer during a vigil at Fort Hood on Friday.
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  • Some of the first responders to the mass shooting at Fort Hood gather to give interviews Friday morning. Thirteen people were killed and 30 were injured in Thursday's shooting.
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    Some of the first responders to the mass shooting at Fort Hood gather to give interviews Friday morning. Thirteen people were killed and 30 were injured in Thursday's shooting.
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  • A frame grab from a security video shows suspected shooter Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan in a convenience store in Killeen, Texas, early Thursday morning, before the attack. Hasan, an Army psychiatrist, was unconscious and on a ventilator Friday, contrary to early reports that he had been killed.
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    A frame grab from a security video shows suspected shooter Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan in a convenience store in Killeen, Texas, early Thursday morning, before the attack. Hasan, an Army psychiatrist, was unconscious and on a ventilator Friday, contrary to early reports that he had been killed.
    CNN via AP
  • Patricia Villa, next-door neighbor to Hasan, stands in her apartment doorway in Killeen. A day before Hasan allegedly went on a shooting spree at the Fort Hood Army Base, he gave Villa furniture, clothing and a copy of the Quran.
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    Patricia Villa, next-door neighbor to Hasan, stands in her apartment doorway in Killeen. A day before Hasan allegedly went on a shooting spree at the Fort Hood Army Base, he gave Villa furniture, clothing and a copy of the Quran.
    Jack Plunkett/AP/
  • Federal agents search Hasan's apartment in Killeen early Friday. Hasan, an Army psychiatrist, was unconscious and on a ventilator Friday, contrary to early reports that he had been killed.
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    Federal agents search Hasan's apartment in Killeen early Friday. Hasan, an Army psychiatrist, was unconscious and on a ventilator Friday, contrary to early reports that he had been killed.
    LM Otero/AP/
  • This 2007 picture shows Nidal Malik Hasan, the suspected shooter, when he entered the program for his Disaster and Military Psychiatry Fellowship.
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    This 2007 picture shows Nidal Malik Hasan, the suspected shooter, when he entered the program for his Disaster and Military Psychiatry Fellowship.
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  • Jamie Casteel and her husband, Scotty, of Duncan, Okla., wait to hear news about their son-in-law Thursday outside the Scott and White Hospital emergency room in Temple, Texas.
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    Jamie Casteel and her husband, Scotty, of Duncan, Okla., wait to hear news about their son-in-law Thursday outside the Scott and White Hospital emergency room in Temple, Texas.
    Tony Gutierrez/AP/
  • Daniel Clark kisses his wife, Rachel Clark, while they wait for Fort Hood to reopen after Thursday's shooting so they can pick up their 5-year-old child at a day care center.
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    Daniel Clark kisses his wife, Rachel Clark, while they wait for Fort Hood to reopen after Thursday's shooting so they can pick up their 5-year-old child at a day care center.
    Michael Thomas/AP/
  • Monica Cain, 44, tries to get in touch with her husband, Sgt. Darren Cain, who is stationed at Fort Hood.
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    Monica Cain, 44, tries to get in touch with her husband, Sgt. Darren Cain, who is stationed at Fort Hood.
    Jerry Larson/Waco Tribune Herald via AP/
  • Sgt. Fanuaee Vea (center) embraces Pvt. Savannah Green outside the base.
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    Sgt. Fanuaee Vea (center) embraces Pvt. Savannah Green outside the base.
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  • An ambulance passes the main gate at Fort Hood following the shooting.
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    An ambulance passes the main gate at Fort Hood following the shooting.
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  • A SWAT team enters the main gate at Fort Hood. The shooting occurred at the Soldier Readiness Center, where troops deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan receive last-minute medical checkups.
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    A SWAT team enters the main gate at Fort Hood. The shooting occurred at the Soldier Readiness Center, where troops deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan receive last-minute medical checkups.
    Jerry Larson/Waco Tribune Herald via AP/

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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'

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

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