Radicalization, links to extremists are themes in Hasan case


Ansar al Awlaki (left), and Major Nidal Hasan (right).

As more clues emerge and investigations continue in the Fort Hood shootings, the debate rages as to what Major Nidal Hasan’s motives were. The facts that are already known, however, seem to paint a pretty clear picture of how these events unfolded, and what Hasan’s intentions were.

Hasan’s suspicious behavior:

Hasan had expressed concern to family members over the prospect of being deployed, but his statements and actions went far beyond that. He openly opposed the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and said that Muslims fighting other Muslims would result in “adverse effects.” After the murder of two Army recruiters in Little Rock, Ark., Hasan stated that more of these types of attacks should be carried out and that US soldiers are legitimate targets at home and abroad. He even posted on the Internet a statement to the effect that suicide bombings are equivalent to a soldier’s diving on a grenade to save fellow soldiers. Despite all of these ideas and opinions, Hasan never formally sought permission to leave the Army as a conscientious objector or for any other reason.

According to Army psychiatrists, Hasan had become so enamored with Islam that they ordered him to attend university lectures on Islam and terrorism. In 2007, he was due to give a presentation for senior Army doctors on a medical topic. Instead, in a presentation illustrated with 50 slides, Hasan lectured the doctors on Islam, the Koran, and jihad. Hasan did not try to hide where his allegiance lies in this war. As an Army psychiatrist, Hasan was supposed to help the troops deal with traumas they had experienced while deployed. Instead, he checked with superiors to determine whether he could provide evidence against soldiers for alleged war crimes that he discovered in speaking with soldiers in the course of his work.

Day of the shooting:

The morning of the shooting, Hasan had given away some of his belongings; he had given away a Koran the day before. He phoned one neighbor to say goodbye and told another “I am ready,” which she interpreted as “I figured, he’s with God. He’s ready to go fight.” Hasan then made a stop to pray at the Islamic Community of Greater Killeen mosque, where he had attended services for the previous three months. After entering the Soldier Readiness Center, Hasan sat at an empty table, bowing his head for a moment. He then shouted “Allahu Akbar” and opened fire with two handguns.

Following the shooting:

A lot of finger-pointing has already taken place, and it will continue to distract attention from the facts. Just weeks ago, an FOIA lawsuit forced the FBI to release details of its investigation methods. In the redacted manual that was published, it was revealed that agents are permitted to collect information on an individual based on his or her religion. Many civil liberties groups and privacy advocates are up in arms over this method of investigation. One thing is certain: the controversy underlines the difficulties agents can encounter during an investigation that can lead to mishandling of the case.

Certainly information was bungled in this case; it seems there was an interagency communications problem as well. Lawmakers are already calling for investigations into the matter, and the Obama administration has recently ordered an investigation into the handling of intelligence gathering in this case. Representative Pete Hoekstra, ranking member of the Intelligence Committee, is calling for a full investigation into Hasan’s contacts with radical cleric Ansar al Awlaki and others. Authorities have also recently opened an investigation into whether Hasan was wiring money to or receiving wire transfers from Pakistan before the shooting occurred.

The Defense Department is also taking a harder look at why some of the red flags were ignored or mishandled. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has ordered a probe of Pentagon procedures that go beyond the Army: “Gates wants a probe that hits all corners of the Pentagon,” the Pentagon press secretary stated. Another official said that other warning signs that may have been overlooked will be examined to determine whether the potential exists that other dangerous service members are still active. Although none of Hasan’s superiors saw him as a threat, they did notice a worrisome change in his behavior; the Pentagon probe will also review whether these behavioral changes were properly handled. Hasan is currently facing 13 counts of premeditated murder, and Army Criminal Investigators are considering whether any additional charges will be filed

The connection:

As noted above, Hasan had been in regular contact with the radical imam Anwar al Awlaki. Prior to the Fort Hood shootings, the FBI had intercepted 10 to 20 emails between the two men, but the investigations were halted after investigators determined the emails’ content was “consistent with the subject matter of [Hasan’s] research.” Most of the subject matter discussed in the emails is said to have been questions posed to the imam regarding spiritual matters. Awlaki is reported to have been a spiritual advisor to 9/11 hijacker Nawaf al-Hamzi, as well as to Nidal Hasan, even presiding at Hasan’s mother’s funeral in 2001. Awlaki has garnered a following among Western Muslims as most of his sermons are predominantly in English. He incorporates new media and has operated his blog espousing jihad since his release.

Just days following the shooting at Fort Hood, Awlaki posted articles expressing his admiration for Hasan’s actions. “He is a hero. Nidal opened fire on soldiers who were on their way to be deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. How can there be any dispute about the virtue of what he has done? In fact the only way a Muslim could Islamically justify serving as a soldier in the US army is if his intention is to follow the footsteps of men like Nidal.” Awlaki, who has been hiding out from Yemeni authorities, recently spoke to a Yemeni journalist. The imam claimed to have neither pressured nor ordered the attacks but said that Hasan had become a close confidant and that he had noticed Hasan’s growing discomfort with the US military. When asked why he praised Hasan as a hero, Awlaki responded “I blessed the act because it was against a military target. And the soldiers who were killed were not normal soldiers, but those who were trained and prepared to go to Afghanistan and Iraq.”

Background on Anwar al-Awlaki:

Awlaki, or Aulaqi, first came to the attention of the FBI in 1999, when he was thought to have been contacted by a “procurement agent” for Osama bin Laden. Awlaki’s name appears dozens of times in the 9/11 Commission Report outlining his associations with two of the hijackers. After preaching at the Dar al Hijra mosque in Falls Church, Va., Awlaki left for Yemen in 2002 to continue preaching at a Rabat mosque. He was detained in Yemen in 2006 for ties to terrorists, but was released the following year. In January of this year, Awlaki posted an article on the Internet called “44 ways to support jihad.” In it, he states that it is obligatory for every Muslim to engage or assist in jihad against America and its allies. He calls for non-fighting Muslims to provide material, financial, and moral support to those waging war against the West. Awlaki is currently being sought by Yemeni authorities for issuing fatwas (religious decrees) allowing militants to kidnap foreigners. Yemeni officials believe he is presently taking refuge in one of the Yemeni provinces that has a heavy al Qaeda presence.

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  • Shukri says:

    Six Reasons Why the Fort Hood Killings by Nidal Hasan Are Clearly Impermissible (Haram) in Islamic Law
    By Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
    1. Betrayal of covenant (`and).
    2. Impermissible deceit (ghadr).
    3. Killing those not actively engaged in combat.
    4. Doing something without clear religious sanction.
    5. Doing something of manifest greater harm for Muslims.
    6. The basis of taking human life is that it is decisively haram, unless there is clear and manifest sanction to the contrary.
    It is also a misreading of political realities. The US isn’t in a “war with Islam”

  • T Ruth says:

    Man has been killing man for at least 10,000 years, if not 40,000 years.
    As long as (man-made) organised religions exist (Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam et al) this pattern will continue. Bill’s site will outlast millions of other websites of today.
    We are 6.8 billion, soon to be 7 billion, idiots dancing in the dark on a pinhead in the Universe.

  • Rosario says:

    Major Nidal Malik Hasan’s military career and religion is not the only thing he is conflicted about. Getting lap dances at strip clubs is hardly becoming of an officer, psychiatry or pious.
    What were the HIV drugs for? OOps – don’t ask..

  • DANNY says:

    I have been an American for 50+ years and NEVER have I heard any American say we are in a “war with Islam”

  • My2Cents says:

    Shaykh Faraz Rabbani represents main stream Islam, however the extremist are a different branch of Islam with their own interpretation of Islamic Law in which:
    1. An oath to an infidel (basically anyone who does not support the terrorist in question) has no value and can be violated without consequence.
    2. Deceit is to be applauded if it gets you into position to attack.
    3. There are no non-combatants
    4. The extremists have their own clerics who clearly give Islamic religious sanction to their activities.
    5. The extremists do not see their activities as harmful to Muslims. They see the failure of the vast majority of the Muslim faith to support them and their cause(s) as a symbol of the moral degeneration of that majority. The extremists believe that by their actions they can trigger a war between the rest of the world and the Muslims that force the rest of Muslims to join their version of Islam, which would then march to it’s predestined triumphant victory.
    What is needed is NOT a ‘war with Islam’, but a ‘war WITHIN Islam’. Muslims have to identify the clerics, scholars, and their followers that support violent jihad and either force shese individuals from positions of power and influence in the mosques and schools, or remove themselves and their families to alternate facilities, thereby depriving the extremists of their ability to speak to, radicalize, and recruit more Muslim and the young of the next generation in particular.

  • grh says:

    From a USA Today article, Nov 20, 09, Zoroya:
    Five mental health workers were among 13 people shot to death when Army Maj. Nidal Hasan allegedly opened fire at a Soldier Readiness Center at Fort Hood. Another 19 behavioral health specialists were wounded, Chang says. Members of the 467th and 1908th Army Reserve Combat Stress Control detachments were at the center preparing for deployment.
    “They happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Chang says.
    Dr Chang, I don’t agree with your assessment. I think Hasan purposefully targeted Mental Heath professionals and others. More “pre-meditation” proof from my point of view.


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