Video: Gates expands review of Fort Hood shootings

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    >> tom costello, thank you.

    >>> also today in washington smshgs hot-button words like terrorism and political correctness and hearings on capitol hill about those mass shootings at ft. hood in texas. and the army major, the psychiatrist accused of killing 13 people. now there's a top-to-bottom review under way into all of the mixed signals in this case. our report tonight from our pentagon correspondent jim miklaszewski .

    >> joint terrorism task force --

    >> reporter: in the first public hearing on the ft. hood shootings, several senators today called it a terrorist attack . they also wanted to know how army and federal lawmen missed a long list of warning signs about the alleged shooter, army xricht nidal hasan , raising the same haunting question that followed the attacks on 9/11.

    >> we once again must confront a troubling question, was this another failure to connect the dots?

    >> reporter: another one of those dots surfaced today. army officials confirmed a memo from a walter reed psychiatrist said hasan showed a pattern of poor judgment and lack of professionalism, inappropriately discussing religious topics with his assigned patients. but the officials don't know if the memo was passed up the chain of command .

    >> there are warning signs and red flags galore.

    >> reporter: and when a federal terrorism task force discovered hasan had exchanged more than 20 e-mails with a militant imam from al qaeda , why didn't she share that with the army or confront hasan himself.

    >> if they didn't believe him for a threat, if they believed the communications to be legitimate, why didn't you go and interview him?

    >> reporter: several senators suggested it was because hasan is a muslim.

    >> do you think that political correctness may have played some role in the fact that these dots were not connected?

    >> i know it exists, no doubt about it.

    >> reporter: president obama 's already ordered a review of all of the intelligence gathered and how it was or wasn't shared. defense secretary robert gates also announced today that both the pentagon and army would launch more wide-ranging reviews.

    >> all that is left for us to do is everything in our power to prevent similar tragedies from occurring in the future.

    >> reporter: the pentagon reviews, separate from the criminal investigation, is due within 45 days. jim miklaszewski , nbc news, the pentagon.

updated 11/19/2009 2:27:32 PM ET 2009-11-19T19:27:32

Defense Secretary Robert Gates is putting former U.S. Army Secretary Togo West and former Navy chief Vernon Clark in charge of a broad Pentagon review of the circumstances surrounding the Fort Hood shootings.

Gates said Thursday that the 45-day review will look into gaps in how the military identifies service members who might be a threat to others. It also will look at personnel and medical programs, and at how well U.S. bases are able to respond to mass casualty incidents.

West was Army secretary in the mid-1990s and later became secretary of veterans affairs. Clark was the chief of naval operations from 2000 to 2005.

The review will go well beyond the specific case of Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the Army psychiatrist accused of killing 13 people and wounding more than 30 in the shootings at the Texas military post on Nov. 5.

President Barack Obama already has ordered a review of all intelligence related to Hasan, including his contacts with a radical Islamic cleric overseas and concerns about the major voiced by some medical colleagues, and whether the information was properly shared and acted upon within government agencies.

'Disturbing' ties to imam
At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Wednesday, Attorney General Eric Holder said he was disturbed to learn that the Hasan had communicated the radical Islamic cleric.

Investigators have said e-mails between Hasan and the imam, Anwar al-Awlaki, did not advocate or threaten violence. After the shootings, al-Awlaki's Web site praised Hasan as a hero. Holder said investigators still were gathering evidence in the case.

At the hearing, Holder was asked what he would do to prevent such an occurrence in the future.

"I think what we have to do is understand exactly what happened that led to that tragedy," Holder said. "Were their flags that were missed? Were there miscommunications or was there a lack of communication? And once we have a handle on that, I think that we can propose and work with this committee on ways in which we can prevent such a tragedy from occurring again."

"I will say that on the basis of what I know so far, it is disturbing to know that there was this interaction between Hasan and — and other people that is, I find, disturbing," Holder said.

Lawmakers to look into
As Congress prepared to open oversight hearings into the massacre, Rep. James Langevin, D-R.I., said Wednesday there was no suggestion that Hasan was working with others. "All the information we have is that this is a lone wolf," Langevin, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said after a closed-door briefing on the Fort Hood investigation.

Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Joe Lieberman, a Connecticut independent, are investigating whether a breakdown in communications or poor judgment calls contributed to the shootings, considered the deadliest attack on a military base in the U.S. The Senate Homeland Security Committee that Collins and Lieberman sit on was expected to open hearings in the case Thursday.

A joint terrorism task force overseen by the FBI learned late last year of Hasan's repeated contact with the cleric, who encouraged Muslims to kill U.S. troops in Iraq. The FBI said the task force did not refer early information about Hasan to superiors because it concluded he wasn't linked to terrorism.

"The Fort Hood massacre also raises questions about whether there are unnecessary restrictions on information sharing and whether those restrictions resulted in a failure to trigger a further inquiry," Collins said.

Hasan's psychiatry supervisors at Walter Reed Army Medical Center had expressed concerns in May 2007 about what they described as Hasan's "pattern of poor judgment and lack of professionalism." The Associated Press had previously reported that doctors there discussed concerns about Hasan's overly zealous religious views and strange behavior months before the attack, but National Public Radio on Wednesday published an evaluation letter signed by the department's psychiatry residency program director, Maj. Scott Moran.

Moran concluded that Hasan still could graduate and did not deserve even probation because Hasan was able to improve his behavior once confronted by supervisors. About a year after Moran's memo was written, Hasan was selected for promotion from captain to major, a position that would give him increased pay and responsibilities. He would formally become a major in May 2009 and by July he was on his way to Fort Hood.

Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Fla., said any "telltale signs that he was a disgruntled major were not as apparent as the rumors you've heard." Rooney spoke to reporters after he left Wednesday's classified briefing.

Rooney, a member of the House Armed Services personnel subcommittee and a former Army lawyer, also said Hasan was qualified to be promoted but was in "more toward the bottom third of his class."

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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