By Philip Rucker and Ellen Nakashima
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 13, 2009
The White House pushed forward Thursday with a review to determine whether U.S. intelligence agencies adequately shared information about Maj. Nidal M. Hasan, and military prosecutors charged the Army psychiatrist with 13 counts of premeditated murder in last week's rampage at Fort Hood, Tex.
Aides said President Obama had ordered an immediate analysis of all intelligence about Hasan, who is accused of killing 12 soldiers and one civilian in the deadliest shootings ever on a U.S. military installation. Obama asked his top homeland security and counterterrorism official to oversee the inquiry and to report back by the end of the month.
As questions intensified on Capitol Hill about whether warning signs were missed, new details emerged about the shootings and Hasan's alleged efforts to contact extremists abroad.
An official with access to intelligence reporting said Hasan tried to communicate with someone overseas whom U.S. authorities were monitoring. The official characterized the communication as benign and said it involved e-mail addresses available on extremist Web sites. Separately, a former U.S. official familiar with military operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan said there is evidence that Hasan had been in contact with someone on a "kill or capture" list of al-Qaeda and Taliban targets in those two nations.
The sources spoke on the condition of anonymity, and their accounts could not be independently corroborated. Officials have said Hasan corresponded by e-mail late last year and this year with Anwar al-Aulaqi, a radical cleric in Yemen who has accused the United States of waging war against Muslims.
Hasan, 39, could face the death penalty if convicted of the shootings. Of the 13 people killed, four were Army officers, eight were enlisted soldiers and one was a retired chief warrant officer who was working as a civilian at Fort Hood.
"We're looking at every reason for this shooting," said Christopher Grey, a spokesman for the Army's Criminal Investigation Division and for the joint task force investigating the crime. "We're aggressively following every possible lead."More charges could come
Hasan is accused of opening fire last Thursday at the Soldier Readiness Processing Center on the country's largest military installation. Grey said the suspect had no reason to be at the center, supporting the theory that the shootings were premeditated.
Investigators say they think he was the only gunman. Grey, however, left open the possibility that someone else may have helped instigate the attack. He said military prosecutors may charge Hasan with additional crimes.
Said William Cassara, a former Army captain and lawyer who is now in private practice in Augusta, Ga.: "I would fully anticipate that the charge sheet in this case will get much longer."
Twelve victims remain in local hospitals, one in an intensive care unit, and all are stable, Col. John Rossi said Thursday. Hasan, who was subdued after civilian police officers shot him four times, is recovering at Brooke Army Medical Center near San Antonio.
Hasan has not cooperated with federal investigators seeking to interview him. His attorney, retired Col. John Galligan, told the Associated Press that military officials charged Hasan in the hospital without his lawyers present.
"What I find disturbing is that my client is in ICU, and he's 150 miles south of his defense counsel, and he's being served with the charges," Galligan told the news service. "Given his status as a patient, I'm troubled by this procedure and that I'm not there. I'm in the dark, and that shouldn't be the case. I am mad."
Guy Womack, a retired Marine lieutenant colonel who practices military law in Houston, said Hasan's defense counsel probably will argue that Hasan was mentally unstable at the time of the shootings.
"The defense argument will be that Major Hasan knew that he would be identified, he knew that he would be captured, and he did it anyway, so clearly he was insane, that his mental defect was so severe that he couldn't control his actions from right and wrong," Womack said.
Military legal proceedings in capital cases can be lengthy and complex, and death sentences are rare, officials said. The military's last execution of a service member occurred in 1961. Since Congress reinstated the death penalty in the military justice system in 1984, 15 defendants have been sentenced to death, none of them officers. In 10 of those cases, the sentences were commuted or overturned on appeal. The remaining five convicts are on death row at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.Potential failures
In announcing the review, the White House released an order Obama issued last Friday to the defense secretary, director of national intelligence and FBI director calling for a determination of how "any such intelligence was handled, shared and acted upon within individual departments and agencies and what intelligence was shared with others."
Rep. Peter Hoekstra (Mich.), the top Republican on the House intelligence committee, said the order suggests that the administration is concerned about a potential lapse in government agencies' performance or a failure to share intelligence.
The review may suggest "a failure to connect the dots," said Hoekstra, who on Saturday called for a similar review. "The failure to brief [members of Congress] on Saturday raised red flags with me that the intelligence community had done a lot of information-gathering that they felt uncomfortable sharing with Congress -- not because it was an incomplete package, but that it would raise questions that they might not have been ready to answer."
White House officials said Obama's order formalized two Oval Office meetings that occurred immediately after the Fort Hood shootings in which the president asked his top advisers what needed to be done to help prevent a similar incident.
Hoekstra also said sources outside the intelligence community told him that Hasan wired money to and communicated with people in Pakistan.
"It could simply be innocent money transfers, who knows, for earthquake relief," he said, adding that he has not been able to verify the allegation. "But the sources are pretty good."
Hoekstra said that he did not know how large the transfers were, but that "I would believe that it would be more than one."
A federal official said U.S. investigators have not found evidence to substantiate the claim.Ending the shooting
Although Army officials initially said credit for stopping the suspect went largely to Sgt. Kimberly Munley, who was wounded, Grey said Thursday that another officer -- Senior Sgt. Mark Todd -- also fired at Hasan.
Grey declined to specify who did what in the exchange of fire, saying those details must wait until the evidence is analyzed.
In an interview Wednesday with television host Oprah Winfrey, Todd described approaching Hasan's prone body, kicking his weapon and handcuffing him.
"We're trained to shoot until there is no longer a threat," Todd said. "And once he was lying down on his back, his weapon just fell into his hand and I'm, like, 'Okay, now's the time to rush him and secure him.' "
Munley, sitting in a wheelchair with a blanket on her legs, appeared on NBC's "Today" show Thursday and said the knowledge that so many were killed "was devastating."
"I wish that we would have gotten there faster, to prevent any lives from being lost," she said with tears in her eyes. "Because I know there's a lot of families out there suffering right now. . . . I just wish the call would have came even quicker."
Staff writers Dana Priest, William Branigin, Debbi Wilgoren, Michael D. Shear, Mary Pat Flaherty and Cameron W. Barr and research editor Alice Crites contributed to this report.