Hasan e-mails to Islamic cleric did not result in FBI inquiry

By Philip Rucker, Carrie Johnson and Ellen Nakashima
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 10, 2009

FORT HOOD, TEX. -- Maj. Nidal M. Hasan corresponded by e-mail late last year and this year with a radical cleric in Yemen who has criticized the United States for waging war against Muslims, but the contact did not lead to an investigation, federal law enforcement officials said Monday.

Hasan, an Army psychiatrist suspected of killing 12 soldiers and a civilian here on Thursday, will be tried in military court, the officials said.

U.S. intelligence agencies intercepted 10 to 20 e-mails from Hasan to Anwar al-Aulaqi, a U.S. citizen who once was a spiritual leader, or imam, at the suburban Virginia mosque where Hasan had worshiped, said a law enforcement official who spoke about the investigation on condition of anonymity.

Aulaqi responded to Hasan at least twice, according to Rep. Peter Hoekstra (Mich.), the ranking Republican on the House intelligence committee.

"For me, the number of times that this guy tried to reach out to the imam was significant," Hoekstra said. "Al-Qaeda and radical jihadists use the Internet to spread radical jihadism. . . . So how much of [Hasan's] lashing out is a result of . . . his access to radical messages on the Internet and the ability to interact?

"I believe that the responses from Aulaqi were maybe pretty innocent," Hoekstra continued. "But the very fact that he's sent e-mail . . . to this guy and got responses would be quite a concern to me."

The FBI determined that the e-mails did not warrant an investigation, according to the law enforcement official. Investigators said Hasan's e-mails were consistent with the topic of his academic research and involved some social chatter and religious discourse.

Hoekstra and others are raising questions about whether government agencies paid sufficient attention to warning signs about Hasan.

On Capitol Hill, several investigations of the shootings are taking shape, with the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee announcing the first public hearings on the matter. Federal authorities are continuing to review Hasan's computer and electronic correspondence.

Hasan, 39, was shot four times on Thursday. He is in stable condition at an Army hospital near San Antonio, where he regained consciousness and began talking to doctors and nurses, a hospital spokeswoman said. FBI and Army investigators tried to interview him on Sunday, but he invoked his right to counsel, senior government officials said.

On Monday, Hasan's family hired retired Army Col. John P. Galligan, a former military judge at Fort Hood, to be his attorney. Galligan said he planned to speak with Hasan on Monday night at Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston.

Galligan said Hasan's family has not been permitted to speak to him and has not received a detailed briefing on his condition.

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