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One again, U.S. intelligence officials face questions about whether they failed to connect the dots ahead of an attack on U.S. soil. This time it's the Fort Hood massacre. Members of Congress want to know whether the government missed warning signs in the behavior of Major Nidal Hasan, the Army psychiatrist accused of the shootings. This week, President Obama ordered an inventory of all intelligence collected on Hasan before the killings.
NPR's Tom Gjelten reports.
TOM GJELTEN: The cover of next week's Time magazine features a color picture of Major Hasan. Across his eyes, a black box and in big white letters a one word question: Terrorist?
Republican Pete Hoekstra of Michigan has been following the reporting on Hasan's alleged responsibility for the shootings at Fort Hood. He thinks he knows the answer to the question on Times cover.
Representative PETE HOEKSTRA (Republican, Michigan): It's very, very likely that we will conclude that this was a terrorism, radical Jihadist event.
GJELTEN: Speculation about Nidal Hasan's possible ties to Jihadi groups began with the news he was in e-mail communication with a radical imam in Yemen. U.S. investigators knew about those communications, but concluded they were consistent with research Hasan was doing on stresses facing Muslim members of the U.S. military.
His apparent research findings were summarized in a PowerPoint presentation to fellow doctors at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. One slide, referring to Muslim warriors, contained the quote, "We love death more then you love life." If those were his own feelings, Hasan was sounding just like a Jihadi himself. But were they? Or was it just a research finding?
Now, another revelation: Investigators searching Hasan's apartment this week reportedly found a box of business cards he had ordered online. On the cards, Hasan identified himself as a psychiatrist, but just below his name were the letters SOA. Jihadis use those initials to identify themselves as a Soldier of Allah. U.S. defense and law enforcement officials still won't speculate on Nidal Hasan's thinking. Congressman Hoekstra can't understand why not.
Rep. HOEKSTRA: I think that's just putting your head in the ground and not being willing to perhaps accept the reality that is out there, that this is terrorism-related.
GJELTEN: That kind of criticism, however, is starting to irritate administration officials. Here is Defense Secretary Robert Gates speaking about the Fort Hood case yesterday to reporters on board his plane.
Secretary ROBERT GATES (Defense Department): People are looking at it from their own narrow perspective. And people better wait until all the information is in before we have an understanding of what happened.
GJELTEN: We do know now that some of Major Hasan's colleagues at Walter Reed raised concerns about Hasan's religious beliefs and also about his mental stability. In fact, some warning signs about Hasan, including his e-mails to the radical imam in Yemen, were investigated by a joint terrorism task force. But Army officials have been quoted as saying they did not know about those communications. Nor, it seems, was there an official report from Walter Reed advising Army leaders of the concerns Hasan's colleagues raised about him.
Congressman Pete Hoekstra, the ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee, wants to know what happened to all these warnings.
Rep. HOEKSTRA: Did this information ever make its way to a single point where one person or a group of people had access to all the data and could have evaluated it and evaluated the potential threat that Hasan might pose to the military or to the United States?
GJELTEN: That question should be answered by the intelligence review President Obama ordered this week. But U.S. officials have a separate concern: Nidal Hasan is entitled to a fair trial, including the presumption of innocence. He'll be charged in a military court with 13 counts of murder.
In fact, Hasan himself is the only person who can answer some of the questions about what was in his mind last week. But he remains in extremely serious medical condition, according to his lawyer, and may even be paralyzed from the waist down.
Tom Gjelten, NPR News, Washington.
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