'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Thursday, November 5, 2009
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Guests: Jim Miklaszewski, Charles Hadlock, Olga Pena, Danny Coulson, Mark Benjamin, Lee Christopher Smith
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Keith. Thank you.
And thank you at home for staying with us for the next hour.
Here‘s what we know about today‘s breaking news: Mass murder at the country‘s largest military base, at Fort Hood in Texas. A 39-year-old Army psychiatrist about to be deployed to Iraq the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and to the processing center on base where soon to be deployed soldiers. At approximately 1:30 p.m. Central Time, he opened fire, with reportedly two handguns.
He killed 12 people and wounded 30 others before he himself was shot and killed by police. Again, the total death toll now, including the shooter, 13. The total number of wounded: 30.
The killer has been identified as U.S. Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan. Again, 39 years old. He was single with no children. He was born in Virginia, a graduate of Virginia Tech. He was part of ROTC at Virginia Tech.
He attended the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences, that‘s essentially the military‘s medical school. He served six years as a psychiatrist at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, presumably including his psychiatric residency. He is listed on the Web site of the Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress as a fellow in disaster psychiatry.
Major Hasan was only transferred to Fort Hood in July.
A spokesman for Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson told the press today that the senator had been told that Major Hasan was upset about his upcoming deployment to Iraq. His cousin is telling reporters today that even though Major Hasan had been in the military since after he graduated from high school, he had, thus far, never been deployed. So, his expected deployment at the end of November would have been his first overseas deployment.
Again, Major Hasan is thought to be the only shooter at this time.
Congressman John Carter, whose district includes Fort Hood, said today that he had been informed that two other soldiers who were taken into custody as suspects earlier today have since been released. That has not been confirmed by NBC News. Again, it sourced to Congressman John Carter of Texas. But since that initial report from Congressman Carter, the same congressman now says that he‘s been told by law enforcement that a third suspect has been detained for questioning in the shootings.
We‘re learning more details about the shooting suspect, Major Nidal Malik Hasan, as the evening rolls on. Joining us now is NBC‘s Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski.
Good evening, Mick. I know this is a very busy time for you. What do we know now?
JIM MIKLASZEWSKI, NBC NEWS PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Rachel, in regard to that third suspect, it is true and has been confirmed that the previous two suspects that were taken into custody shortly after the doctor, Nidal Malik Hasan, was shot and killed, were questioned and released. But Fort Hood r remained under lockdown until very late this evening, because U.S. military officials and military police were in pursuit of who they thought was a second person that may have been directly involved somehow in the shootings—not necessarily was he a trigger-puller but he was suspected of being involved in the shootings.
And then it was late this evening that they took that third suspect in the custody. He is being interrogated now.
We continue to wait. There is supposed to be a news conference from Fort Hood with an update about all this. But it‘s been delayed for some time. I suspect they‘re trying get to all their facts together, Rachel.
MADDOW: Mick, do we know if that suspect is a member of the military?
Is a soldier from Fort Drum? From Fort Hood, excuse me.
MIKLASZWESKI: We weren‘t told that but it is believed that all of the suspects that were involved, the two that had been released and then this third suspect are, in fact, military. But nobody has told that specifically. Nobody has confirmed that, although that was reported earlier.
MADDOW: Jim Miklaszewski, NBC News Pentagon correspondent, if that expected press conference does unfold during this hour, we‘ll, of course, go live to that. Jim, you thank you very much for your help.
MIKLASZWESKI: OK, Rachel.
MADDOW: Joining us now is Charles Hadlock, who‘s with NBC News at Fort Hood.
Charles, thanks very much for joining us. What you can you tell us about any late-breaking developments? We‘re still trying get to our head around this idea of a third suspect, somebody else in custody now being questioned.
CHARLES HADLOCK, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we‘re still waiting for that news conference to take place. We‘re expecting it at any moment, but I can tell you, Rachel, just as Jim reported, that the base has now reopened. About 20 minutes ago, the siren sounded all across the base here, echoing across the plains here with a siren and then a voice that said the emergency is now clear.
So, at that point, the traffic began moving into the base very slowly and moving out of the base now. It‘s very crowded traffic here, trying to get into the base. You can imagine security here remains very tight, especially going in and out of this large military base. In fact, it‘s the largest military post in the world—Rachel.
MADDOW: Charles, do we have any word on the victims, on who the victims were? One of the things that‘s been interesting about the way the news has unfolded today is that they have kept a very tight lid on information from the base, including who might have actually been shot, killed and/or wounded here.
HADLOCK: Well, you can imagine it happened in the soldier readiness center. So, you know, in that center, you have soldiers who are getting ready to deploy to Iraq and Afghanistan, and also returning from those places. So, it was filled with soldiers, primarily. And there are also other civilian workers perhaps in there.
But we did not know exactly who has been shot. We do know that among the 31 wounded are some soldiers who are being treated now at area hospitals throughout central Texas.
MADDOW: NBC News‘ Charles Hadlock—thanks very much for your time tonight, Charles. Appreciate it.
MADDOW: Fort Hood, located near Killeen, Texas, is the largest military base in the world, as Charles said. Fort Hood has also lost more soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan than any other U.S. military facility.
Joining us by phone is Olga Pena. She‘s the managing editor of the “Killeen Daily Herald,” which covers Fort Hood.
Ms. Pena, thanks very much for your time tonight. We appreciate it.
OLGA PENA, KILLEEN DAILY HERALD (via telephone): Thank you for having me.
MADDOW: First of all, is there anything else that you can tell us about the situation here that we‘ve not yet been able to report this hour? Are there any late-breaking developments or is everybody just waiting for the next press conference at this point?
PENA: We are waiting with bated breath for this next press conference. I can tell you, however, the mood here in central Texas. We hear in the news that this is the largest military installation in the free world, but besides that, it is surrounded by communities who are just absolutely supportive.
And at this time, all the events and the goings on that were going to take place this evening—they have been canceled. Prayer vigils have begun. People have been coming in by the hundreds to donate blood, so much so to help. People are saying now, go ahead and wait until tomorrow to donate. And we‘re really just waiting to see if some of these victims, dozens now, at various hospitals will pull through tonight.
MADDOW: Can you give us a sense of the size of Fort Hood? And can you tell us anything about the specific part of the base where the shootings took place? I understand this is a processing center for soon-to-be deploying troops.
PENA: Yes, it certainly is. Well, Fort Hood, as we mentioned, is so large and expansive. We have 50,000 soldiers on a regular basis. Twenty thousand now currently deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. We‘re still looking at thousands upon thousands of soldiers, family members, young and old, young children. Ten schools just in Fort Hood itself, all which were closed down today. Parents are still actually picking up some of those children as we speak.
The center where this took place, this readiness center, of course, someone mentioned on your show earlier, is just filled with soldiers coming in and out, in processing, out processing. And it‘s right next to House Theater, which is a very popular theater with a lot of events take place. So, it‘s a heavily populated area as well.
MADDOW: Olga Pena with the “Killeen Daily Herald,” thank you for joining us tonight. Thanks for your reporting. I know this has been an incredible day. We appreciate your time.
PENA: Thank you.
MADDOW: Ahead: The former deputy assistant director of the FBI, Danny Coulson, will join us live as we continue our breaking news coverage of the shootings in Fort Hood.
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It‘s difficult enough when we lose these brave Americans in battles overseas. It is horrifying that they should come under fire at an Army base on American soil.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: President Obama speaking this afternoon, shortly after we received news of the shootings at Fort Hood outside of Killeen, Texas.
Thirteen dead, including the gunman, and at least 30 injured.
As we have reported, the suspected gunman has been identified as 39-year-old Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan, an Army psychiatrist who‘d been stationed at Walter Reed Army Medical Center for six years. He was just transferred to Fort Hood in July. Major Hasan had received orders to deploy to Iraq on November 28th.
Shortly after the shootings this afternoon, two suspects were reportedly arrested but were since released. We‘re now told that although those two suspects were released, a third suspect has since been detained in connection with the shootings and is being questioned.
The “Associated Press” is also reporting late tonight that sources
tell them Major Hasan had drawn the attention of authorities six months ago
· in the “A.P.‘s” words—for Internet posts.
Joining us now is Danny Coulson, the former deputy assistant director of the FBI.
Mr. Coulson, thank you for making time for us tonight.
DANNY COULSON, FMR. FBI DEPUTY ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: Good evening, Rachel.
MADDOW: The first concern today when this news broke was obviously—is this over? Were there more shooters? Second concern: what‘s the toll? Third concern is why—the motive.
How will the FBI and other law enforcement start to piece together what happened today and why?
COULSON: It‘s an interesting way they do it. It‘s not like you see on TV where a couple guys go out and start interviewing people. They will have scores of agents working with the military to interview everybody he works with, his commanding officers, all of his subordinates, his colleagues at the clinic, his family.
They will tear apart that computer he has and whatever computers he has, one, two, or three—whatever. There are car teams who will get in there and see who he‘s been talking to, who he‘s been chatting with, see what Web sites he‘s been on. They‘ll look at his cell phone. That‘s always a great investigative tool, to get his cellphone, to see who he‘s been texting, who he‘s been talking to.
It‘s a massive investigation. It‘s a thing the FBI does the best.
They can do it quickly and they‘ll do it in conjunction with the military.
MADDOW: Mr. Coulson.
COULSON: And they‘ll have a good picture who this guy is, right away.
MADDOW: I‘m sorry to have to interrupt you. We are going to have to go live right now to.
MADDOW: . just outside Fort Hood where we‘re about to get the long-awaited press conference that we have been looking forward to this evening in terms of getting some more information on the record about what has happened here. You‘re looking at a live shot here just outside Fort Hood, right near Killeen, Texas.
We‘ll go the press conference now. This is live on MSNBC.
GEN. BOB CONE, FT. HOOD, TEXAS: I‘m General Cone, commanding general of Fort Hood Marine Corps.
As I mentioned before, this has been a tragic incident and our hearts and prayers go out to those who have been impacted here today. I have personally spoken with the president and he has extended his condolences and offered his support to the Fort Hood and surrounding community.
The investigation is ongoing but preliminary reports indicate there was a single shooter that was shot multiple times at the scene. However, he was not killed as previously reported. He is currently in custody and in stable condition. I say again, the shooter is not dead but in custody and in stable condition.
This is a cooperative investigation, and state and federal law enforcement officials.
Earlier, it was reported that one victim was killed, was a female civilian officer. We now know that the female officer is alive, just out of surgery and in stable condition. She is believed to be the first responder who shot the suspect.
At this time, the number of victims killed remains 12 with 31 injured.
At Fort Hood tonight, we‘re focusing on three areas. First and foremost, the care of the wounded. Second, security of this installation. This post is no longer locked down, as you can see. But we will continue to operate at a heightened level of security as well as continue to investigate to ensure that no threats remain. Third, we will continue to focus on casualty assistance efforts, including casualty notification and grief counseling.
I want to take a moment to praise the efforts of our first responders and all of the agencies who have come to support our soldiers and families in this critical time. And it is truly overwhelming, the offers of support that we have had at the national and local level in dealing with this situation.
Tomorrow at Fort Hood, we will observe a day of mourning. Fort Hood and local school will be open, and we‘ll move back to normalcy as soon as possible.
At this point, I‘ll take your questions.
REPORTER: General, what can you tell us about—can you tell us about the shooter and his motives (INAUDIBLE).
CONE: I think there‘s been a lot reported on that. I can‘t really tell you much other than his name, of the suspect we have in custody. And that is Hasan. Major Hasan.
CONE: I have nothing to add about Major Hasan.
REPORTER: Where is he right now?
CONE: He is hospitalized and I‘ve had no personal background with him that I can speak of.
REPORTER: General, what about the other two who were taken into custody briefly. What happened to them?
CONE: Yes. As I said, in this incident, when it immediately happened, there were some eyewitnesses that indicated that they saw some people exiting the scene, moving into two buildings. And again, what we took a long time to do is basically secure those buildings, question the individuals, and question over 100 people at the scene that lead us to believe right now that it is a single shooter.
And, again there‘s—the key point I would make is that, you know, with as many people wounded, counter-intuitively, that is a concern. And that‘s why we‘ve asked for assistance from federal agencies to make sure that we have this investigation right.
CONE: There were initially, three were held. All have been interviewed and at this time, we do not, we single—we believe the evidence indicates it was a single shooter.
REPORTER: Can you describe what happened? How the shooter opened fire and what was happening?
CONE: The initial reports again are that the soldier readiness center where units from across this post, and one of the points I make is there are a lot of units involved in this. Normally, we‘d have entire units from one organization but there are many, because Thursday afternoon is a make-up time where people from all across the installation are there. So, this touches a number of units. And that‘s going to complicate as we do grief counseling, and as we help our soldiers and families through this, it‘s going to make it more of a challenge and we‘ll be requesting additional help to deal with that.
CONE: No, they weren‘t. And as I say, they‘re from—they‘re from a number of unites across Fort Hood that were going through this make-up readiness process in the afternoon. I will tell you that it is a very good thing, and again, I credit the first responders.
There was a college graduation ceremony. We had about 138 of our great soldiers who are graduating from college in an auditorium some 50 meters away. And thanks to the quick reaction of several soldiers, they were able to close off the doors to that auditorium where there were some 600 people inside, awaiting on the college graduation for these great soldiers.
REPORTER: General, the make-up of the people who were wounded?REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) Major Hasan and suicide bombing?
CONE: I don‘t have any—I‘m not—I will not discuss anything about major Hasan.
REPORTER: The make-up of the people who were wounded, were they all military?
CONE: Right. The preponderance of them are military. There are—there are two civilians that are involved in this. But, again, this is—
I have to describe it as a very enclosed area where basically soldiers were waiting for dental treatment, medical treatment, et cetera. So, it‘s a large waiting area. And that‘s why I think you get that high number of casualties. And largely, military people are all in this area.
REPORTER: Did he go to room to room to room? (INAUDIBLE)
CONE: There is still evidence coming in in terms of how this all laid out. But my understanding at this point is there are two facilities right adjacent to one another where the shootings took place.
REPORTER: General, can you speak to the time line when he opened fire, then when he was shot and then when you were able to apprehend them?
CONE: We are viewing that time line, but it was in a very close sequence of events in terms of response. As I say, otherwise, I think we‘d had significantly more casualties.
REPORTER: General, is that your understanding he had two handguns and did all these with two pistols?
CONE: But that—those are the initial reports from the scene, is that he had two. One was a semiautomatic weapon which might explain the rate of fire that he apparently obtained.
CONE: I would not say that‘s the case. There is no evidence to support that at this time. Again, this is sort of given the number of disparate people from disparate units. One would kind of reject that hypothesis.
REPORTER: Tell us about the woman who shot him. Tell us about her.
She seems to be a hero in this.
CONE: Well, I‘m sure all of those—that will come out. But I want to be very careful about laying this out in terms of information. There‘s a lot of information out there. And I apologize for taking so long to get out here, but we wanted to make sure that we had what we had right.
CONE: There are a number of folks that were evacuated from the area. There was a report, a confusion at the hospital. And the CID agent has been with him the entire time and we were able to straighten that out here in the last hour or so.
REPORTER: Does he (ph) have any family members here?
REPORTER: The woman who shot, the first responder, (INAUDIBLE) and what were the units that responded? Were they civilians?
CONE: Well, as you know, the police force here is a combination of the Department of the Army, security police and military police. There was a combination of both military policemen and Department of the Army civilian police who responded.
REPORTER: General, is the FBI on base? And are they investigating.
CONE: Yes. The FBI is on base. And again, we will bring in the expertise necessary to properly investigate this case.
REPORTER: General, is it a possible terrorist act?
CONE: I‘m—I couldn‘t rule that out, but I‘m telling you that, right now, the evidence does not suggest that. Yes?
REPORTER: General, was he targeting individuals or you was it just random and he just chose them out of the blue?
CONE: I don‘t—I could not speculate on that. Yes, sir?
REPORTER: This woman who was first responder, and you (INAUDIBLE). What is your message to her tonight, you know, and her quick thinking and her ability to neutralize the suspect?
CONE: Well, I think that the on-the-scene reports indicate that, really, you know, God bless these soldiers and these great Department of the Army civilians. The quick reaction, people tell stories, the soldiers ripping their uniforms apart and basically applying first-aid. We have—we put a great investment in soldiers‘ first-aid and taking care of each other. I‘m sure this could have been much worse. As horrible as this was, I think it could have been much worse.
REPORTER: General Cone, the weapons that were used, were they military issue (INAUDIBLE)?
CONE: There is no indication that they were military weapons.
CONE: Yes, I‘m sorry.
REPORTER: He was not informed that he was going to be deployed and manifested any.
CONE: Yes. I‘ve said I can‘t really speak about Major Hasan.
REPORTER: Is it accurate that Mr. Hasan was temporarily evacuated and hospitalized as a victim? Is that what you‘re saying?
CONE: No. At all times, the CID had custody of him throughout the hospitalization process.
REPORTER: What can you speak what kind of condition he is?
CONE: I don‘t want to reveal his condition. But, again, I‘m sure we‘ll have an update on that.
REPORTER: Is he speaking to investigators? Is he speaking to investigators?
CONE: He is—he is not currently speaking to investigators. No.
REPORTER: Do you expect him to survive?
CONE: I would say his death is not imminent.
REPORTER: General, did you say that there were, in fact, soldiers that were ripping off their uniforms and treating the wounded as they were.
CONE: Right. The problem that you had initially at the scene is that the shooter started and until they could secure the scene in terms of trying to get people in and start the casualty evacuation, there were some tenuous moments in term of trying to get in there. So, it would make sense that soldiers who are on the scene would provide first-aid first because many of them are trained as combat life savers.
REPORTER: So, the soldiers who were in this room, would they have been armed themselves or just a place.
CONE: No. We would not. As a matter of practice, we do not carry weapons. This is our home. So, we do have security guards that are here, the M.P.s and the Department of the Army civilian police. But soldiers on Fort Hood do not carry weapons.
I will say that we are, as a matter of assurance to the local community, we are going to increase our security presence here in the coming days. But the fact is that soldiers do not carry weapons routinely unless they‘re in a training event, et cetera, or something of this nature.
I‘ll take one more question.
REPORTER: What you have you heard about how your soldiers react?
CONE: I‘ve heard anecdotal evidence but I‘m not prepared to talk to that. But suffice it to say there was a lot. I was personally on the scene shortly there after, and there was—as you would expect from the American soldier, they did a tremendous job from what I saw. And we‘ll have more details in terms of this as I‘m certain about what I‘m talking about.
Yes, sir. The last question.
REPORTER: You said two adjacent facilities. Two rooms or two buildings?
CONE: No, there are two buildings. There‘s a large building which is a soldier readiness center and then there are some smaller facilities that are adjacent to it right by the entryway. Two entryways are really adjacent to each other.
CONE: Thank you very much.
REPORTER: Next press conference, what time?
MADDOW: The commanding officer at Fort Hood in Texas, General Bob Cone, today, clarifying a number of details about what happened in the shootings at Fort Hood, and breaking some incredible news.
Contrary to the reports that we have been hearing all day, the man who is described as the single shooter at Fort Hood is not dead. General Cone is saying that he was shot multiple times but he was not killed. The shooter is not dead. He is in custody.
The general is describing him at one point as being in stable condition. He said that he is not currently speaking to investigators. He described his death as not imminent. So, again, initially describing him as in stable condition and then later giving an indication that he‘s not expected to die, at least soon, although he was shot multiple times.
In terms of who shot the assailant, who shot Major Hasan, he described the person who is believed to have shot Major Hasan as a female first responder who was again initially reported to have been killed today, to have among those who were killed in this incident. General Cone is now saying that that female first responder who is believed to have shot Major Hasan was herself wounded but survived after surgery.
General Cone today is also saying that he is not ruling out terrorism as a motive, or as an explanation for what happened today, but he did say that the evidence does not seem to indicate that it was an act of terrorism.
He described the response to this incident, to these shootings, as one that was carried out by both military police and civilian police because both military police and civilian police are on base. They were both involved in the response. He said that the preponderance of the casualties today were military, but there were two civilians among them.
One of the things that‘s been so interesting today is that we‘ve had very, very, very little, if any, information about who were the victims of the shooting. And while you might expect that that information would be held until next of kin could be notified, until all of those immediately affected and their families could be—could be informed, over the course of the day, none of that information has leaked. Now hearing from General Cone that it was a preponderance of military among the casualties but there were two civilians.
Also you new information from General Cone about the weapons involved here. Asked by a reporter about how many of these people, how many, how it was that so many people could have been killed by an assailant who was reportedly armed with just two handguns, the general did not shoot down that report—forgive the term of art there, the turn of phrase there. But he did say that if—that even if it was just two handguns involved as the weaponry here, he did describe one of the women‘s as a semiautomatic weapon, which he said might explain the number of shots fired and the number of people wounded.
More information from this press conference needs to be chewed over when thinking about the investigation and making some sense of this. We‘re joined once again by Danny Coulson. He‘s a former deputy assistant director of the FBI.
Mr. Coulson, thank you for sticking with us. I appreciate it.
MADDOW: Obviously, this is a huge break in the investigation and huge news to learn that the assailant himself has survived. And even if he‘s not speaking to investigators yet, he will be. Presumably, that‘s the biggest possible break in understanding what happened today.
COULSON: That can be. He may not talk to anybody. Since he gets counseled, I‘ll guarantee, he won‘t talk to anybody. But still, there‘s an awful lot of things that can be done.
And with regard to whether or not this is terrorism or not, it‘s—it‘s pretty close. And we they find that he was receiving direction from someone or inspiration from someone, we can probably classify it at that point as a terrorist act.
But I think we should rejoice over the fact that this responding officer survived. That‘s really good news.
MADDOW: Obviously, excellent news.
In terms of the—in terms of the investigation here, General Cone also said that three people had been detained and questioned today. And that after talking to those three people, could have questioned over 100 people, but after detaining and questioning three people, they do believe it‘s a single shooter. In terms of the 100 people they said—in excess of 100 people they said they spoke to at the scene, would that be trying to determine if the shooter acted alone? What would they be trying to get from those eyewitnesses?
COULSON: Well, find out if there are other shooters and point out that other shooter or shooters is still loose. So they‘re going to conduct a ton of investigation. I think he said 100 - to interview people, what happened? What did you see? Did you see anybody running away? Anybody acting in consort with this man?
And oftentimes, in a crisis situation, where people get excited, sometimes innocent people get swept up in the dragnet. And apparently, that‘s what happened here. And they found out after conducting the investigation that they weren‘t involved and released them. And that‘s just the process and that‘s the way these things generally play out.
MADDOW: In terms of the weaponry involved here, Gen. Cone is saying it may very well have been two handguns, one of those, semi-automatic. He said there was no indication that these were military weapons.
Still, there remains this hard to imagine scenario in which more than 40 people were injured before the shooter was taken down. Does that imply something about the overall level of security, the presence of first responders, the ability to intervene here and stop this incident once it started?
COULSON: Yes. What you have to understand is that if you had a high capacity handgun, that handgun would hold between 15 and 20 rounds of ammunition that can be fired in a matter of seconds. If he had extra magazines, an extra pistol with him, he could literally fire hundreds of rounds of ammunition in a matter of minutes.
So it sounds like - well, it sounds extreme. Really, when you look at the capability of that handgun, or handguns, and his training, it is not unusual. And the most important thing here to remember, too, is that they were in a confined space.
He didn‘t take these people down on the parade ground or the golf course. He took them down in a building where there was no place for them to run. I think we heard some mention that there may have been execution-style killings. Well, that would tell me that people tried to escape and he trapped them and then executed and killed them.
So no, high capacity handgun in a confined area - I would say those first responders did pretty well to stop any more carnage than could have happened.
MADDOW: Danny Coulson, former FBI deputy assistant director, thanks very much for helping us understand this tonight. I appreciate it, sir.
COULSON: Yes, thank you.
MADDOW: Still ahead, we will talk with “Salon‘s” Mark Benjamin who has written - who has an incredible track record of writing on the military and written about the strains on the military.
We‘ll also be joined by “Rolling Stone‘s” Lee Christopher Smith who has just written a harrowing account of a rash of murders committed near Colorado‘s Ft. Carson.
Again, we are getting news just this hour that the shooter in the Ft. Hood shootings is not dead. He was shot multiple times. He was not killed. He is in custody. He is hospitalized, reportedly in stable condition, not currently speaking to investigators.
The female first responder who is believed to have shot him and brought him down also survived the attack after surgery. More details as they continue to unfold this hour. Stay with us here at MSNBC.
MADDOW: We are continuing to follow breaking news out of Ft. Hood, Texas under the first cavalry and fourth infantry divisions where 12 people are dead and 31 wounded after Major Nadal Malik Hasan, an Army mental health professional, allegedly opened fire in Ft. Hood‘s Soldier Readiness Center.
Ft. Hood‘s commanding officer just moments ago announcing that Maj. Hasan, contrary to earlier reports, is not dead. He was shot multiple times but survived and is in stable condition. Gen. Bob Cone saying he is not yet speaking to investigators. They‘re obviously hoping that he will.
Gen. Bob Cone is also saying that while he is not ruling out terrorism as an explanation for this attack, he said, quote, “The evidence does not suggest that it is terrorism. They are treating as a single shooter event.”
In trying to make sense of today‘s massacre in Texas, we are sticking as close as we can to the facts, trying not jump to conclusions. In any breaking news story, especially those concerning utterly unexplained violence, there are often red herrings and early rumors that turn out not to be true.
In trying to explain what happened, therefore, it is not even easy at this point to know what to describe as similar previous incidents. But a little more than a year ago, at Ft. Hood, we should report that there was another soldier-on-soldier murder at the base.
One 22-year-old Jody Wirawan, an Army specialist, home from Iraq, shot and killed a first lieutenant from his unit. When police arrived on the scene, the specialist shot and killed himself.
In June of this year, an attack on a military recruiting center in Little Rock, Arkansas that killed one soldier and wounded a second. The man charged in that case, not a member of the military.
He‘s Abdul Hakim Mujahid Muhammad. He is said to have been motivated by religious and political animus. Six months ago in Baghdad, 42-year-old Army Sergeant John Russell allegedly shot and killed five of his fellow soldiers at Camp Liberty. He wounded four others. Russell survived and has been charged with murder.
In Tikrit, in 2005, another possible fratricide when an Army captain and first lieutenant were killed by a Claymore mine set to go off in the captain‘s office. A staff sergeant from the officer‘s unit was charged, but then acquitted.
In 2003 in Kuwait, a U.S. Army Hasan Akbar killed two his fellow soldiers and wounded 14 others with hand grenades and a rifle. He was convicted and sentenced to death.
And of course, Killeen, Texas, a town adjacent to Ft. Hood, is the site of one of the worst mass shootings in American history. It nothing to do with the military. It was the Luby‘s Cafeteria massacre of 1991 in which 23 people died. That was the deadliest civilian shooting rampage in this country before the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007.
The alleged shooter in today‘s massacre at Ft. Hood, himself a graduate of Virginia tech, a member of ROTC there who left for medical school with a Virginia Tech degree in biochemistry.
Joining us now is Mark Benjamin. He‘s a national correspondent for “Salon.com.” He has done a lot of reporting on veterans, America‘s wars and on the U.S. Military. Mark, thanks very much for joining us today.
MARK BENJAMIN, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, “SALON.COM”: Thanks for having me, Rachel.
MADDOW: The suspect in today‘s crime not thought to have ever deployed. He is said to have been upset about the prospect of deploying to Iraq later this month. When you saw today‘s events unfolding, what went through your mind based on reporting?
BENJAMIN: Well, it certainly could be a combination of factors. I mean, there are people that believe that this is a person that was suffering some sort of secondary post-traumatic stress from treating soldiers. And there are people that believe that he was somehow influenced by Muslim extremism.
I think it could be a combination of both. I certainly have met mental health care providers in the military who, after sitting all day long and listening to some really disturbing tales, you know, when they‘re treating these soldiers coming back from Iraq, and in combination with the fact they‘re overwhelmed, overworked, don‘t have the resources to do their jobs, become extremely stress and frazzled.
And there is no reason to not think that this could ultimately lead to that kind of a conclusion.
MADDOW: Mark, I know you‘ve reported on, for example, Army suicides being on the rise, this year already soaring past last year‘s pace. Military suicides now even outpacing the civilian rate.
Is there a double-sided coin here in reporting on mental health issues on our soldiers? That we need them to be taken care of, we need the seriousness of military mental health issues to be appreciated. And we need to make sure veterans and soldiers aren‘t stereotyped as crazy and as untrustworthy.
BENJAMIN: Oh, absolutely. And I think that the military is still struggling in a major way with that stigma issue. I mean, you know, they still have not really incorporated - you know, a soldier learns how to clean his weapon and work on his weapon and handle the whole weapon system.
But they haven‘t really - the military haven‘t gotten around to making sure that the brain is incorporated about weapon system. How do you recognize that problem? It is a normal reaction, post-traumatic stress disorder, a normal reaction to combat stress. I think that‘s something the military still has a lot of work to do even in 2009.
MADDOW: In talking with friends and people I know through this
business who work on the issue of PTSD, this is one of those stories that
makes everybody cringe. Because there‘s no reason to believe at this point
· we don‘t have evidence yet that this is a PTSD situation.
But there is concern that by raising awareness about PTSD, you also make people afraid of soldiers who are suffering from it, right?
BENJAMIN: Oh, that‘s absolutely true. And yet, the other thing that‘s interesting is that this discussion about whether there is some ideological component and, you know, motivation of this person. You know, I‘m not sure that‘s necessarily separate from the kind of treatment this person was doing.
I mean, in other words, if you - I have literally interviewed hundreds of soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan since 9/11. And in private moments, when they tell you some of the things they were forced to do - and I‘m not talking about, you know, intentional (UNINTELLIGIBLE) stuff but, you know, things that happened in the vagaries of war - really, really awful, awful things.
It can affect you. It can turn people against the war. It can make you really think about that stuff. It is extremely difficult to think about - you know, to work on that all day long. Imagine this doctor. That was his job.
MADDOW: What are you going to be looking to, Mark, in terms of the military‘s response to this disaster? What do you think good military leadership looks like after a catastrophe like this?
BENJAMIN: Well, I tell you what the most important thing that the military needs to do. It‘s not just to look into the nuts and bolts of what happened, which I think, you know, it‘s sort of - military investigations sometimes tend to go that way.
In other words, was security OK? You know, did the guards have enough guns? That kind of thing. I think in cases like this, just like the shooting that you mentioned in Iraq at Camp Liberty, it is almost more important for the military to go back and say, “What did we do wrong?”
Why did this guy, for example, at Camp Liberty, go into a health care clinic and shoot everybody up? And I think that the military needs to take a close look at itself in this particular case.
Mark Benjamin, national correspondent for “Salon.com,” thanks as always for your reporting. Thanks for your time joining us today, Mark.
BENJAMIN: Thank you Rachel.
MADDOW: Today‘s shooting is the worst soldier-on-soldier violence in our country‘s history, but it is far from the only incident.
In May, as we reported earlier, Sergeant John M. Russell allegedly killed five service members at a combat stress clinic at Camp Liberty in Iraq and at Ft. Carson, Colorado. Fourteen soldiers from that base have been charged or convicted in at least 11 murders since 2005.
Lee Christopher Smith wrote about the Ft. Carson murders in the latest issue of “Rolling Stone” magazine. Lee, thanks very much for being here.
LEE CHRISTOPHER SMITH, “ROLLING STONE” MAGAZINE: Thank you for having me.
MADDOW: Up until today, the Ft. Carson murders were believed to be the largest killing involving U.S. soldiers at a single institution in modern history. What is your sense of - can you give us the thumbnail of what happened there and how we should think about that in relation to today‘s Ft. Hood shootings?
SMITH: The Ft. Carson homicide case is on a broad level, 12 of the 14 soldiers who were involved in the killings had served at least one tour in Iraq. About, I think, 10 of the 14 had displayed some behavioral health issues and six of those had been diagnosed as being - as having PTSD.
And what we saw at Ft. Carson on broad level then was we saw these soldiers returning from one or multiple tours of intense fighting in Iraq and returning to a base that was not able to adequately care for them or track their behavior.
You saw Evans Hospital at Ft. Carson was understaffed tremendously. They had only about 65 percent of their positions filled in the Behavioral Health Unit. They were dispensing care to soldiers, that the soldiers themselves called cookie-cutter treatment where everyone would be given a 20-minute briefing and sent off with a prescription for the anti-depressant Zoloft.
And you saw them not being able to really find or identify
soldiers that you might call at risk. In one of the more noble cases, a
soldier had come back from a tour in Iraq and had spoken with a mental
health care provider, with a post-deployment assessment. And this soldier
was known to believe that he was an alien-like creature known as the black
· half-dinosaur, half-alien - known as the black raptor, and clearly, according to people in his unit, had serious behavioral health problems.
And yet, the Ft. Carson official declared this soldier fit for duty. And sometime soon after that, he allegedly raped and killed a teenage girl. So what you saw going on was just a base that was not able to adequately respond to soldiers experiencing intense combat.
MADDOW: And again, we don‘t want to draw parallels that aren‘t there between Ft. Carson and Ft. Hood. Today‘s alleged shooter was not a combat veteran. He was a military mental health provider, a psychiatrist.
But anybody who commits a massacre, clearly, is criminally insane or just insane or just criminal. Is there - briefly, is there a screening treatment oversight problem that the military knows it has? I know they did a six-month study on Ft. Carson‘s killings.
SMITH: The study, which was released this July, identified a number
of problems, especially regarding staffing and resources. What you saw was
· the military took study that seemed to identify a number of trends as far as how to identify these soldiers, what they had in common, again, behavior health issues, substance abuse issues.
The study marked actually the first time that the Army ever admitted publicly that intense combat could in fact have what they call a negative behavioral effect on soldiers.
And the study pretty well documented this. And Army officials believe that the study really didn‘t confirm anything other than a need for more studies. And speaking with mental health care providers at Ft. Carson, they were telling me their own viewpoint of what they were seeing in the Behavior Health Care Unit.
And you have guys coming in who are so angry, have so much pent-up rage. They rip their dog‘s throat out at 2:00 in the morning just because he was barking in the middle of the night. And to encounter those kinds of soldiers and really be able to care for them is really what needs to be addressed there. And the military is still sort of studying what they think will be causal factors.
Well, the causal factors are right there, spelled out in the study. You just have to watch these soldiers more carefully. And that‘s not what Ft. Carson did. These were often soldiers who got lost in the system.
MADDOW: Lee Christopher Smith from “Rolling Stone” magazine, congratulations on your reporting on the current issue of “Rolling Stone” on the Ft. Carson murders. And thanks for coming on the show tonight.
SMITH: Thank you for having me.
MADDOW: Aside from the tragic events in Texas, there was some other news today. Health reform is moving ahead in the House with a big vote set for this Saturday. Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann today organized a last-minute protest against health reform in the steps of the Capitol. That‘s all coming up. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CROWD: Kill the bill! Kill the bill! Kill the bill! Kill the bill!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Today, on the steps of the U.S. Capitol, health reform was metaphorically killed by a throng of tea party protests who gathered at the foot of the Capitol to protest against it.
Today‘s kill the bill, defeat health reform at any cost rally was called by Republican Congressman Michele Bachmann of Minnesota.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R-MN): I want people in Minnesota armed and dangerous on this issue of the energy tax, because we need to fight back. Thomas Jefferson told us, having a revolution every now and then is a good thing.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: All people armed and dangerous. Because Ms. Bachmann says her Republican colleagues initially wouldn‘t go along with sponsoring today‘s rally, she took to the Fox News airwaves to try to get it off the ground herself.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BACHMANN: The only way they‘re going to listen is if real freedom loving Americans come here to Washington on Thursday, look at the whites of their eyes of their members of Congress and say, “Don‘t you remember, I told you don‘t take away my health care.”
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Come look at the whites of the eyes of your congressman. Where do we get that phrase from again? Today, thousands of bussed in protestors did come to Washington as did more than a few of Ms. Bachmann‘s Republican colleagues.
There‘s House minority leader John Boehner. There‘s Virginia Fox, Mike Pence, Eric Cantor. And there‘s Michele Bachmann, of course, front and center. Again, like any hastily called together event, this one did have its unscripted “oops, that wasn‘t supposed to happen” moments.
For example, after claiming that the pledge of allegiance, quote, “drives liberals crazy,” Republican Congressman Todd Akin of Missouri then proceeded to botch it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. TODD AKIN (R-MO): I pledge allegiance to the flag of United States of America and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, under God with liberty and justice for all.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: What they said - whatever. Congressman Akin was not alone in stumbling over a little basic U.S. history. He had some good company in the top Republican in the house, minority leader John Boehner.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: This is my copy of the Constitution. And I‘m going to stand here with our Founding Fathers who wrote in the preamble, “We hold these truths to be self-evident.”
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The Constitution doesn‘t have a preamble. Stop it! That would be the Declaration of Independence. There was also this bit of unfortunate stage craft that happened as right-wing talk show radio host Mark Levin took to the mike.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE LEVIN, RIGHT-WING TALK SHOW HOST: What the hell is this? Dare I say it, and the flag drops. Hold up the flag and drop that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Yay, good save. The awkwardness here is not just that this event was full of missteps. The awkwardness here was that all of these Republican members of Congress have lined up behind Michele Bachmann and the conservative celebrities that she is elevating.
Mark Levin isn‘t just the guy who had the embarrassing flag thing happen to him today. His famous first - well, saying stuff like this about then-Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
LEVIN: She‘s Ruth Bader Ginsburg, plus about 50 pounds.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: He followed up that charming comment a few months later by Hillary Clinton, quote, “her thigh-ness.”
The Republican members of Congress are clearly following the energy surrounding these tea parties. The character of the protest themselves may prove politically awkward for members of Congress who aren‘t used to being associated with stuff like this.
“Obama and his Marxist buddies are after your freedom.” This sign depicting President Obama as The Joker above an image of an assault rifle with the caption, “Come and dig it.”
And then, there‘s this one, “The national socialist health care defiled Germany, 1945.” Not much to say about that one.
These signs were ever present in the crowd at the same time that these top-ranking Republican congressmen like John Boehner and minority whip Eric Cantor were there. Eric Cantor today railing against health reform on stage.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), MINORITY WHIP OF THE UNITED STATES HOUSE OF
REPRESENTATIVES: I will guarantee you that we are committed to making sure that not one Republican will vote for this bill.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Republicans did introduce their own health reform proposal earlier this week, a plan that was absolutely eviscerated today by the Congressional Budget Office. This was a proposal that took Republicans more than 130 days to put together after they said they were going to put something together.
And the final product, according to the CBO, is they plan to spend $60 billion so that 10 years from now, the country will have seven million more uninsured people than we have right now. Bargain.
The Republican plan even leaves out the one thing that Republicans like John Boehner and Chuck Grassley and Jon Kyl have all said they agreed on, which is that insurance companies should be blocked from discriminating against people because we have preexisting conditions.
That, according to Republicans, is now apparently a bridge too far. But hey, they did produce a heck of a bill and had a heck of a rally today.
MADDOW: We will have the very latest on the shootings at Ft. Hood at 11:00 p.m. Eastern Time here on NBC. “COUNTDOWN” with Keith Olbermann starts right now.
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