Pentagon Review Of Post Shooting Raises Questions
GUY RAZ, host:
The U.S. military is so focused on protecting America from foreign enemies that it misses internal threats like Nidal Hasan. That's the conclusion of the Pentagon's investigation into the Fort Hood shootings that was released yesterday.
Hasan, of course, is the Army psychiatrist accused of killing 13 people and wounding dozens of others in November.
NPR's Daniel Zwerdling has read the report cover to cover, and he joins me now.
DANIEL ZWERDLING: Hi, Guy.
RAZ: Danny, soon after the shooting, you broke the story that Hasan's supervisors were worrying about him for years before he went to Fort Hood. Some of them were wondering if he might even be psychotic and yet...
ZWERDLING: That's right.
RAZ: ...no one did anything about it. So what has the report concluded about what went wrong?
ZWERDLING: The report actually is a little disappointing in that respect because a lot of people thought it was going to be some sort of roadmap that said who knew what, who failed to take action, why. And the report does not discuss anything about the Hasan case specifically.
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said yesterday that because it's still a criminal investigation, they couldn't have specifics. But as a result, the report is simply a very general roadmap that says, look, from now on, the military needs policies that tell people very precisely, if you see this kind of behavior and you're worried because this person seems to be emotionally unstable, or is acting in a weird way, here's how you should report it.
RAZ: Now, I'm wondering, Danny, isn't there some kind of regulation in the military that says, you know, if you see a service member who - he is sort of behaving in a potentially harmful way, you've got to report it?
ZWERDLING: I would think so, and I've asked many, many people in the military about this and everybody has said I don't know of a single regulation like that. And if there is a regulation like that, it means that it's so buried that nobody knows about it.
I kept asking people, so, why didn't the supervisors who were so upset about Hasan, why didn't they act? And here's what the sources I've talked to say. They said there were a number of reasons.
First of all, remember that Walter Reed and the Military Medical University, where Hasan was training and working, these are teaching institutions.
RAZ: Mmm. Right.
ZWERDLING: And the supervisors who are so upset about him kept saying, well, instead of reporting him to somebody, we should just be trying to help him do better. You know, help him have clearer thinking, help him behave more professionally.
They also kept soul searching, I'm told, because they were worried that they were overreacting to him and judging him because they didn't like his seemingly extremist Islamic views. I asked a few people, so, why didn't Hasan's supervisors, though, at least refer him to a psychiatric evaluation?
RAZ: Right. Right.
ZWERDLING: After all, they're all psychiatrists. And people were just sort of blank. They said, that's a good question.
RAZ: You know, Danny, there seems to be two issues here. I mean, one of course, is whether there were enough warning signs that this guy could be a threat, Nidal Hasan. But the second issue I'm wondering about is why did Army officials keep promoting and assigning the psychiatrist, who supervisors had so many problems with him?
ZWERDLING: You know, actually, almost everybody I've talked to in the medical field in the military says that is probably the most important issue in this case, which so far the Pentagon report has ignored.
There is a part of the report - it hasn't been made public, which is - which Secretary Gates sent to the Army, which apparently does detail who knew what, when and what did they do or not do, and it recommends to the Army secretary that he discipline a bunch of supervisors. But we don't know what discipline means. We don't know who those names are. And, again, the big question is still unanswered: why did the Army assign such a troubled psychiatrist to treat its wounded soldiers?
RAZ: That's NPR's Daniel Zwerdling. Danny, thanks so much.
ZWERDLING: Guy, thanks.
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