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Fort Hood Suspect Acted Alone, Officials Reiterate
The Army psychiatrist accused of the Fort Hood massacre apparently acted alone and without outside direction, investigative officials said Monday evening, even as the FBI launched an internal review of how it handled information gathered about the doctor nearly a year before the shooting.
Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan will be charged by the U.S. military rather than in a civilian court, the officials said.
As the investigation continues, FBI Director Robert Mueller has ordered an internal inquiry to see whether the bureau mishandled worrisome information gathered about Hasan beginning in December 2008 and continuing into early this year.
Based on all the investigations since the attack, including a review of that 2008 information, the investigators said they have no evidence that Hasan had help or outside orders in the shootings.
In late 2008, officials said, a separate investigation revealed Hasan's communications with another individual they declined to identify. Separately, another U.S. official said the person Hasan was communicating with was Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical imam overseas who has come under scrutiny for possible links to terror groups.
All of the officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the case on the record.
Eventually, a joint terrorism task force learned of about 10 or 20 such communications between the two. Officials would not identify the exact type of communications, but al-Awlaki operates a Web site that invites readers to e-mail him. Al-Awlaki was formerly an imam at a Falls Church, Va., mosque where Hasan and his family occasionally worshipped.
The military was made aware of the communications, but because the messages did not advocate violence or threaten violence, law enforcement authorities could not take the matter further, the officials said. The terrorism task force concluded Hasan was not involved in terrorist planning.
One official said Hasan reached out to al-Awlaki, and the other officials said the content of those messages was "consistent with the subject matter of his research," part of which involved post-traumatic stress disorder stemming from U.S. combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
No formal investigation was ever opened based on the contacts, the officials said.
Awlaki, who was released from a jail in Yemen last year, writes a blog that denounces U.S. policies as anti-Muslim.
Investigators tried to interview Hasan on Sunday at the military hospital where he is held under guard, but he refused to answer and requested a lawyer, the officials said.
A lawyer who said he was contacted Monday by Hasan's family said he asked investigators not to question his client.
Retired Col. John P. Galligan said he was headed to an Army hospital in San Antonio to meet Hasan.
"Until I meet with him, it's best to say we're just going to protect all of his rights," Galligan said.
Galligan expressed doubt that the suspect would be able to get a fair trial, given the widespread attention to the case.
Hasan, 39, has been named by authorities as the man who opened fire at the Army post on Thursday. The incident left 13 people dead and 29 wounded. Civilian police shot Hasan in the torso. He was taken into custody and eventually moved to Brooke Army Medical Center, where he was in stable condition Monday and able to talk, hospital spokesman Dewey Mitchell said.
Galligan said he didn't know if Hasan had been medically cleared to talk.
"There's a lot of facts that still need to be developed, and the time for that will come in due course," he said.
Authorities won't say when charges would be filed or if Hasan would face military justice.
Galligan questioned whether Hasan could get a fair trial in either criminal or military court, given President Obama's planned visit to the base on Tuesday and public comments by the post commander, Lt. Gen. Robert Cone.
"You've got his commander in chief showing up tomorrow," Galligan said. "That same kind of publicity naturally creates an issue as to whether you find a fair and impartial forum, whether that's in the military or even if it were in a federal forum."
Authorities say Hasan fired off more than 100 rounds at a soldier processing center. Fifteen victims remained hospitalized with gunshot wounds, and eight were in intensive care.
Authorities continue to refer to Hasan as the only suspect in the rampage, but they have said they have not determined a motive.
Meanwhile, Awalki, the radical American imam living in Yemen, praised Hasan as a hero on his personal Web site Monday.
The posting on the Web site for Anwar al Awlaki, who was a spiritual leader at two mosques where three Sept. 11 hijackers worshiped, said American Muslims who condemned the Fort Hood attack are hypocrites who have committed treason against their religion.
Awlaki said the only way a Muslim can justify serving in the U.S. military is if he intends to "follow in the footsteps of men like Nidal."
"Nidal Hassan [sic] is a hero," Awlaki said. "He is a man of conscience who could not bear living the contradiction of being a Muslim and serving in an army that is fighting against his own people."
Two U.S. intelligence officials told The Associated Press the Web site was Awlaki's. They spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence collection. Awlaki did not immediately respond to an attempt to contact him through the Web site.
Hasan's family attended the Dar al Hijrah Islamic Center in Falls Church, Va., where Awlaki was preaching in 2001. Hasan's mother's funeral was held at the mosque on May 31, 2001, according to her obituary in the Roanoke Times newspaper, around the same time two Sept. 11 hijackers worshiped at the mosque and while Awlaki was preaching.
The Falls Church mosque is one of the largest on the East Coast, and thousands of worshipers attend prayers and services there every week.
Imam Johari Abdul-Malik, outreach director at Dar al Hijrah, said he did not know whether Hasan ever attended the mosque but confirmed that the Hasan family participated in services there.
Abdul-Malik said the Hasans were not leaders at the mosque and their attendance was normal.
Fort Hood officials said the country's largest military installation was moving forward with the business of soldiering. The building where Hasan allegedly opened fire remains a crime scene, but a processing center is scheduled to reopen Thursday in a new, temporary location.
Command Sgt. Maj. Arthur L. Coleman Jr. said Monday that reopening the center is an important step in returning the Army post to normal. Cone said the post stepped up security, including suspending visits by the public, largely to reassure the population that the sprawling base is safe and won't "become a battlefield."
Source: NPR [http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=120254398&ft=3&f=1001]