Two senators subpoena Obama administration for information on Fort Hood shootings

By Spencer S. Hsu
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Sens. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) issued the first congressional subpoenas of the Obama administration Monday after accusing the White House of stonewalling their requests for information about the Fort Hood shootings.

In a letter with the subpoenas, the chairman and ranking member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee said the FBI and Defense Department had ignored their requests for five months. The Nov. 5 shootings at the Texas base, the largest Army post in the United States, left 13 people dead.

Lieberman and Collins said they sought witnesses and documents about what the government previously knew about the alleged gunman, Army psychiatrist Nidal M. Hasan, and whether it had adequately investigated his pre-shooting communications with Yemeni cleric and suspected terrorist Anwar al-Aulaqi.

Lawmakers gave the administration until April 26 to respond or face a committee vote to take the administration to court.

"Given the warning signs of Major Nidal Malik Hasan's extremist radicalization and growing hostility toward the U.S. military and the United States generally, why was he not stopped before he took thirteen American lives, and how can we prevent such a tragedy from happening again?" Lieberman and Collins wrote Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates.

"Unfortunately, it is impossible for us to avoid reaching the conclusion that the departments simply do not want to cooperate with our investigation," they wrote in the letter, which they said followed four other formal letters to the Pentagon and two to the Justice Department.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs referred questions about the matter to the Defense Department.

On Friday, Gates said that the military had "no interest in hiding anything" but that its most important priority was to prevent the release of materials that could compromise Hasan's prosecution on 13 charges of murder and 32 charges of attempted murder.

"We are going to be reviewing the subpoena and determining the proper way forward," Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said Monday. "We will continue to cooperate with the Congress as we go forward, but it has to be with the caveat that whatever we do does not have a potentially negative impact on our ability to prosecute."

The senators said senior Pentagon and FBI personnel had provided closed briefings to lawmakers, but added, "Congress cannot conduct effective oversight based only on those facts the agencies want Congress to have."

Collins and Lieberman said the FBI and Pentagon had permitted their personnel to speak to internal investigators -- including the FBI's deputy director and a Gates-appointed panel led by former Army secretary Togo West and retired Adm. Vernon Clark, a former chief of naval operations -- but not to their committee. "Congress cannot settle for less access than the West-Clark review received," they said.

In an April 12 letter, Justice and Defense lawyers said that interviews could compromise agents' testimony at trial and chill future investigations, and that information about how Hasan's associates and superiors at Walter Reed Army Medical Center dealt with complaints about his alleged radicalization could not be provided until internal disciplinary proceedings were completed.

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