Hasan's Psychological Health Raised Concerns

There is new information about concerns among Walter Reed Army Hospital officials over the job performance and psychological health of Maj. Nidal Hasan, the man authorities believe was behind the deadly shootings at Fort Hood last week.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Lets learn a little more now about the suspect in the shootings, Major Nidal Hasan. Before we say anything more, we should point out that Major Hasan is considered innocent until proven otherwise. Information about his past does not necessarily mean that he committed the crimes at Fort Hood. Still, this is a time when investigators will look into the suspects past, and NPRs Daniel Zwerdling has been learning new details about that.

Good morning, Danny.

DANIEL ZWERDLING: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: Youre reported previously how concerned people were at Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington, D.C. about his performance there. What more have you learned about those concerns?

ZWERDLING: Well, at the end of 2007, the government sent Hasan to the militarys medical school, its nicknamed USUs, right here in the Washington, D.C. area. And pretty soon the psychiatrists and officials and professors there were very worried about Hasan and they started having a series of conversations and meetings in early 2008, wondering - is it possible that Nidal Hasan is psychotic? Psychotic is a word that people throw around in daily conversation.

INSKEEP: Right.

ZWERDLING: It basically means out of touch with reality.

INSKEEP: And if doctors are using this word, they mean it in that very specific, clinical way.

ZWERDLING: They did, although this was, you know, conference room and hallway conversation. It was not you know, he was not sent, puzzling enough, to a mental evaluation, but what made them wonder if he was psychotic is that one thing is that they kept telling him over and over again - and Ive gotten documents that show this - Nidal, youre doing a really bad job; I mean academically you are just not cutting it. And he basically would blow them off and ignore them.

Number two, some of his papers seem to have disjointed thinking. Thats actually a symptom of psychosis. They just one of his papers sort of went off into a religious diatribe. It just seemed my sources say it just seemed very out of touch with reality. So they were quite concerned about him.

INSKEEP: And they also used, if Im not mistaken, the word fratricide.

ZWERDLING: Well, so some of the supervisors and professors started, you know, musing over coffee and talking about him in a worried way, and one told his colleagues - do you think if hes deployed to Afghanistan or Iraq that he could leak military secrets to Islamic extremists?

And another psychiatrist at USUs wondered to colleagues - do you think this guy is capable of committing fratricide? Nidal Hasan

INSKEEP: Killing his fellow soldiers.

ZWERDLING: Thats right. And back in 2003, in Kuwait, an American Muslim sergeant set off hand grenades that killed two people and wounded 14. And Im told that Hasan was obsessed with this case and actually wanted to study the minds of Muslim soldiers who committed fratricide, even though his supervisors said there was no evidence that they knew of that there were any more cases like that.

INSKEEP: We should be clear - in fact its part of your story - that there was no formal psychiatric evaluation of this man. But still, you have doctors and colleagues who are very concerned about him. I mean what did they do about it?

ZWERDLING: They sat around trying to figure out where could we sent Nidal Hasan that would do the least harm? One psychiatrist said, you know, in the military theres a long tradition - when you have somebody who is a loser or is a failure or youre worried about, you try to create a job for them where they can, you know, do as little harm as possible. And they decided, lets send him to Fort Hood.

Why Fort Hood? Because Fort Hood has a bigger mental health staff than most Army bases, and they thought, you know, at least if he goes to Fort Hood and he doesnt do anything of value, theres plenty of other people to pick up the slack. But number two, there will be lots of psychiatrists around there to help him and monitor him.

But one psychiatrist said to me, you know, we were sort of hoping hed go to Fort Hood and disappear.

INSKEEP: NPRs Daniel Zwerdling, thanks very much.

ZWERDLING: Thanks, Steve.

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