Investigators say Fort Hood suspect acted alone

/ Source: The Associated Press

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.

Messages did not advocate violence
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.

Awlaki is on Yemen's most wanted militant list and had contact with two 9/11 hijackers. On Monday, on a posting on his Web site, he praised Hasan as a hero. He said American Muslims who condemned the attacks on the Texas military base last week 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. 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," Awlaki wrote.

Fired off more than 100 rounds
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, an Army psychiatrist, is accused of killing 13 and wounding 29 in a shooting spree Thursday.

Authorities say Hasan fired off more than 100 rounds before civilian police shot him in the torso. He was taken into custody and eventually moved to an Army hospital in San Antonio, where he was in stable condition and able to talk, said Dewey Mitchell, a Brooke Army Medical Center spokesman.

Fifteen victims remained hospitalized with gunshot wounds, and eight were in intensive care.

A lawyer for Hasan said Monday he asked investigators not to question his client and expressed doubt that the suspect would be able to get a fair trial, given the widespread attention to the case.

Retired Col. John P. Galligan said he was contacted Monday by Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan's family and 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.

Sought by Yemen
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 9/11 hijackers worshipped at the mosque and while Awlaki was preaching.

Awlaki is a native-born U.S. citizen who left the United States in 2002, eventually traveling to Yemen. He was released from a Yemeni jail last year and has since gone missing. He is on Yemen's most wanted militant list, according to three Yemeni security officials.

The officials say Awlaki was arrested in 2006 with a small group of suspected al-Qaida militants in the capital San'a. They say he was released more than a year later after signing a pledge he will not break the law or leave the country. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

The Falls Church mosque is one of the largest on the East Coast, and thousands of worshippers 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.

On Monday, Abdul-Malik held a press conference to denounce the shootings.

"Anyone of any faith would condemn this act of violence on unsuspecting men and women in uniform," he said.

Known to investigators
A former senior U.S. intelligence official said Awlaki is well known in the intelligence community.

The Homeland Security Department's intelligence division became concerned about Awlaki late last year when he published a new group of violent lectures targeting U.S. audiences, according to a Jan. 22, 2009 intelligence note.

On Dec. 23, 2008, Awlaki, on his Web site, encouraged Muslims across the world to kill U.S. troops in Iraq. Awlaki also used these postings to declare his support for the Somali terrorist group al-Shabaab, according to the Homeland Security intelligence note, obtained by The Associated Press.

In December of last year, Customs officials intercepted a flash drive of Awlaki's lectures that his wife sent from Yemen to an Islamic publishing house in Denver, the intelligence note said.

Awlaki told the FBI in 2001 that, before he moved to Virginia in early 2001, he met with 9/11 hijacker Nawaf al-Hazmi several times in San Diego. Al-Hazmi was at the time living with Khalid al-Mihdhar, another hijacker. Al-Hazmi and another hijacker, Hani Hanjour, attended the Dar al Hijrah mosque in Virginia in early April 2001.

In his FBI interview, Awlaki denied ever meeting with al-Hazmi and Hanjour while in Virginia.

He was investigated by the FBI in 1999 and 2000 after it was learned that he may have been contacted by a possible procurement agent for Osama bin Laden. During this investigation, the FBI learned that Awlaki knew people involved in raising money for Hamas, a Palestinian group on the U.S. State Department's terrorist list.

Terror attack?
Sen. Joe Lieberman said Sunday he wants Congress to determine whether the shootings constitute a terrorist attack and whether warning signs that Hasan was embracing an increasingly extremist view of Islamic ideology were missed.

Classmates who participated in a 2007-2008 master's program at a military college told The Associated Press that they complained to faculty during the program about what they considered to be Hasan's anti-American views, which included his giving a presentation that justified suicide bombing and telling classmates that Islamic law trumped the U.S. Constitution.

"If Hasan was showing signs, saying to people that he had become an Islamist extremist, the U.S. Army has to have zero tolerance," Lieberman, an independent from Connecticut, said on "Fox News Sunday." "He should have been gone."

Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey said Sunday it's important for the country not to get caught up in speculation about Hasan's Muslim faith, and he has instructed his commanders to be on the lookout for anti-Muslim reaction to the killings at the Texas post.

Casey, who appeared on ABC's "This Week" and CNN's "State of the Union," said evidence to this point shows that Hasan acted alone.

President Barack Obama is scheduled to attend a memorial service Tuesday honoring victims of the attack. Lt. Gen. Robert Cone, the post commander, said the service will include a roll call of names of the dead and a 21-gun salute.

Mission continues
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."

Sgt. 1st Class Frank Minnie was in the processing center last week getting some health tests and immunizations in preparation for his deployment. Minnie said that even after the shootings, Fort Hood soldiers have the attitude that "the mission still goes on."

"Everybody's going to grieve a little bit. It hurts a lot because it's one of your battle buddies, and someone lost a mom, dad, brother or sister," said Minnie, 37, who served in Iraq in 2006. "But it doesn't change my perspective of going to war. I've got a job to do."