Pentagon inquiry: Supervisors discounted Fort Hood suspect's worrisome behavior

Former Army secretary Togo D. West Jr., left, and retired Adm. Vernon E. Clark, a former chief of naval operations, led the Pentagon review.
Former Army secretary Togo D. West Jr., left, and retired Adm. Vernon E. Clark, a former chief of naval operations, led the Pentagon review. (Kevin Wolf/associated Press)
By Craig Whitlock
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 16, 2010

A Pentagon review of the Fort Hood shootings has found that several officers failed to intervene in the career of the suspect, despite widespread signs of his religious radicalization and his shortcomings as a soldier.

The review determined that supervisors of Maj. Nidal M. Hasan, the Army psychiatrist charged in the Nov. 5 attack at the Texas military post, bungled his performance reviews by excluding instances of erratic behavior in treating patients and signs that he might be growing sympathetic to suicide bombers.

The leaders of the review, former Army secretary Togo D. West Jr. and retired Adm. Vernon E. Clark, a former chief of naval operations, recommended in a report released Friday that the Army examine whether "several officers" should be disciplined in the Hasan case.

The report did not name the officers or specify how many should be held accountable. But West said that "we have no doubt the Army will be able to isolate any individuals" who could face disciplinary action, based on detailed information about Hasan's career that was included in a confidential addendum to the report.

The report also said that Hasan was granted a top-level security clearance in February 2008 but that his background check did not include interviews with co-workers, supervisors or Hasan himself.

"If a more thorough investigation had been accomplished, his security clearance might have been revoked and his continued service and pending deployment would have been subject to increased scrutiny," the report concluded.

At a news conference, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said the review found that military supervisors are often slow to act when personnel under their command exhibit suspicious behavior outside the realm of their official duties. He also said the military's ability to guard against internal threats is still geared toward uncovering Cold War moles instead of detecting religious radicals.

Gates said the military needed to be alert to perceived signs of danger and deal with them "openly and honestly."

"Failure to do so, or kicking the problem to the next unit or the next installation, may lead to damaging -- if not devastating -- consequences," he added.

Meanwhile, an independent review of the FBI's actions before the attacks has identified four areas for "immediate" improvement, officials said Friday. FBI agents have put in place a process for sharing information with the Defense Department; set up another layer of review at headquarters for certain threats that "involve equities outside" the bureau; begun to improve some information technology functions; and strengthened training for members of its Joint Terrorism Task Forces.

Unlike the Pentagon's review, the FBI report does not call for possible disciplinary measures against any Army officers. Those steps, among others, remain under consideration by retired Judge William H. Webster, named by FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III last month to lead the inquiry.

Military authorities have charged Hasan, a loner who was awaiting deployment to Afghanistan, with 45 counts of murder and attempted murder in the Fort Hood shootings. Thirteen people were killed; 43 were wounded. Hasan was shot by police but survived.

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