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Gates orders security fixes after Fort Hood case

The defense secretary orders a partial overhaul of Defense Department safeguards against terror-like attacks after a scathing report on the Fort Hood attack.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has ordered a partial overhaul of Defense Department safeguards against terror-like attacks after a scathing report found that the department's policies were "unclear" or "inadequate" to prevent the mass shooting that killed 13 soldiers at Fort Hood in November.

Army psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Hasan is charged in the shootings that also wounded 31.

Secretary Gates ordered the department to:

  • Fully institute a department-wide FBI threat reporting system to handle suspicious incident activities.
  • Establish an Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense to work directly with the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force.
  • Strengthen significantly DOD's anti-terorrism training program.

Secretary Gates based his recommendations on earlier findings that:

  • DOD's commitment to the Joint Terrorism Task Force is "inadequate," resulting in "inconsistent" coordination with the FBI. The Joint Task force knew well before the shooting that Hassan was in communications with an al Qaeda sympathizer and recruiter but that was not reported to DOD or the military.
  • Commanders and supervisors do not always receive information about individuals who may commite violent acts.
  • Counterintelligence training does not address "emerging threats including self-radicalization" that may contribute to potential violence. Hasan was known to have gone off on Islamic-related religious rants and expressed strong opposition to Muslims in the US military serving in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • DOD policy prohibiting certain supremacist or extremist behavior is "unclear" and "limited," when it comes to individual behavior.
  • DOD does not have a comprehensive cyberspace counterintelligence program to alert authorities to "non-foreign intellligence" on potential threats.

Gates' recommendations came as Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman and ranking member Susan Collins threatened to issue subpoenas to the Defense and Justice Departments on Monday if the Obama administration fails to turn over information the panel needs to conduct its inquiry of the Fort Hood shooting.

"I regret to say our efforts to obtain this information necessary to conduct a thorough investigation of this homeland terrorist act have been met much foot dragging, very limited assistance, and changing reasons why the administration cannot provide us with the information that we have requested," Lieberman said.

Collins accused the administration of "spoon feeding us selected facts rather than giving us information to the data and individuals that we need."

The DOD's January 2010 findings on gaps in the department's safety policies did not address the issue of personal responsibility up and down Hassan's chain of command.

A separate report recommends that a number of individuals who failed to report Hassan's somewhat erratic behavior — including commanders and officers at Walter Reed, where Hassan had worked as a staff psychiatrist — be relieved of duty or disciplined. But Army officials tell NBC News that report is still sitting on the Army Secrtary's desk while Army lawyers struggle to determine what legal hurdles must be cleared.

NBC's Ken Strickland contributed to this report.


A previous version of this story posted on NBC’s First Read blog incorrectly indicated that the report on gaps in the DOD safety policies and procedures was issued Thursday. That report was first issued in January 2010.