Report: U.S. Intelligence Agencies Knew Hasan Was Trying To Contact Al Qaeda

ABC News reports that U.S. military officials were aware that the shooter in the Fort Hood masscre had was trying to get in touch with people associated with Al Qaeda — a report that, if true, has a host of implications on the military, homeland security and political fronts:

U.S. intelligence agencies were aware months ago that Army Major Nidal Hasan was attempting to make contact with people associated with al Qaeda, two American officials briefed on classified material in the case told ABC News.

It is not known whether the intelligence agencies informed the Army that one of its officers was seeking to connect with suspected al Qaeda figures, the officials said.

One senior lawmaker said the CIA had, so far, refused to brief the intelligence committees on what, if any, knowledge they had about Hasan’s efforts.

CIA director Leon Panetta and the Director of National Intelligence, Dennis Blair, have been asked by Congress “to preserve” all documents and intelligence files that relate to Hasan, according to the lawmaker.

Hasan’s action has already been applauded by someone believed to be close to Al Qeada, ABC also reports:

Investigators want to know if Hasan maintained contact with a radical mosque leader from Virginia, Anwar al Awlaki, who now lives in Yemen and runs a web site that promotes jihad around the world against the U.S.

In a blog posting early Monday titled “Nidal Hassan Did the Right Thing,” Awlaki calls Hassan a “hero” and 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.”

According to his site, Awlaki served as an imam in Denver, San Diego and Falls Church, Virginia.

So far the debate here and elsewhere has been over whether Hasan was actually a terrorist or a nutty lone gunman (who happened to be Muslim who shouted “Al Akbar!” before shooting 13 people to death) — but this story will add a new dimension and most assuredly be the focus of much serious discussion, calls for investigation as well as partisan and talk show host political polemics.

The most obvious concern is this:

If American intelligence agencies missed the signs pre-911 and they missed a big hint pre-Foot Hood, exactly what are they missing now, as you read this post?

UPDATE: Read Ed Morrissey’s take on this and his links.

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  • Silhouette

    US Intelligence agencies? Which branches, the Cheney or Obama ones? And why the delay in acting…

    I don't know…the funny business never ends. And certainly the old guard will sieze any chance it gets to keep the fear-train barreling down the tracks.

    Are these the same agencies in charge of keeping the landing of Obama's group, the day after a “seemingly coordinated string of bombings” happened in Bagdhad? Gotta wonder if it's the same people who are only just now “speaking up” about the guy in Texas who did the shooting.

    They want their oil and they don't care how they get it.

  • http://themoderatevoice.com T-Steel

    Well consensus has already been met in Right Blogtopia that this is President Obama's fault because of the investigation into CIA misdeeds. 'Nuff said on that.

    But it looks like the Army knew something was afoot but there was no action. Can a commenter or is a member or former member of our Armed Forces shed a little light on how this could have been missed or not actioned?

  • tidbits

    From the ABC report, “It is not known whether the intelligence agencies informed the Army that one of its officers was seeking to connect with suspected al Qaeda figures…”

    It is too early to begin assessing blame. More factual information is necessary. At this point people are jumping to conclusions and making unwarranted assumptions. Once the additional factual information comes out, we can draw reasonable conclusions about who did or didn't know or do what.

  • http://themoderatevoice.com T-Steel

    “At this point people are jumping to conclusions and making unwarranted assumptions. Once the additional factual information comes out, we can draw reasonable conclusions about who did or didn't know or do what.”

    Your right. Going to wait this one out.

  • Almoderate

    For some reason, folks seem to have forgotten about Army Sgt. John M. Russell. The media was very interested until they found out that the shooter wasn't Muslim.

    The two situations are oddly similar. The biggest difference here being Hasan's religion. But both cases were Army and both cases involved shooters who had some rather serious mental health issues that weren't properly recognized and dealt with– and within months of each other. I would say the whole Muslim/terrorist argument isn't what we should be focusing on. Rather, we need to overlook that distraction and instead look at what really seems to be the issue– the military's screening and handling of mental health issues. But I'm sure Robert Gates would much rather see us arguing over whether or not this is another Al Qaeda attack rather than asking why he didn't follow up on his promises after the Camp Liberty massacre.

  • daveinboca

    As for the CIA, I seem to recall that that same agency neglected to inform the FBI of the arrival in San Diego in 2000 of three of the major perps of 9/11 because of some sort of turf battle, which the imposition of a “firewall” between the two agencies imposed in the mid '90s had facilitated.

    The CIA loves to keep its little intel nuggets to itself lest the FBI actually take action on actionable intelligence. [I worked extensively with the CIA overseas during two assignments in the FS and a bit with the FBI after 9/11.]

    Another eff-up by the Feds, which seem to distribute their colossal mess-ups between the feckless FB( and the cockamamie CIA, regardless of who is POTUS.

    [BTW, the Morrissey article linked to this post blames the FBI, perhaps erroneously, given that the CIA would have been monitoring the communications to Al Qaeda from overseas in the normal order of business. The reluctance of the CIA to divulge its intel with the FBI I mentioned above.]

  • http://polimom.com Polimom

    I disagree, Almoderate. Unless you're going to classify religious extremism as a mental health issue, then Hasan's religion is absolutely relevant.

    Furthermore, the Army is largely at fault for the deaths of those poor people at Fort Hood last week, and I've been growing angrier the more details come out.

    Yes, other shootings happen. But in this particular case, the man had been absolutely broadcasting that, as a Muslim, he had major problems with his entire situation. He was radicalized and extremist in his views, and he was right out there with it. But he was kept in his role, even though he was clearly unfit for duty!!!

    He was extremely dangerous in the position he was in. He should NOT HAVE BEEN THERE! The people who worked with him, as well as at least some of his supervisors, and reportedly the FBI (and now the CIA?) knew about him. There are very serious questions that need answered.

    Some are speculating that it was PC run amok that led to Hasan being left on duty. Myself, I think it's a far more banal reason: beancounters weigh the cost of keeping and educating someone, and want “x” years paid back. It's not an unreasonable request under normal circumstances, but these were not normal.

    Hasan is directly responsible for this horror, of course, but the Army bears a very strong secondary responsibility. Heads should roll over this.

  • Medicated

    Could contact w/ AQ have been justification for keeping Hasan in rank?

    Seems to be a general feeling of shock that all these red flags could have been ignored. Hindsight is everything, but for a moment consider the possibility that the signs weren't missed, just mishandled. Consider the intelligence value of keeping Hasan in place and deploying him to Afghanistan. It may turn out that we dropped the ball on keeping Hasan in the ranks, but if these AQ contacts pan out, they could be precisely the reason why he wasn't removed.

    If it proves to be the case, having a relationship with Anwar al Awlaki and his associates pre-9/11 is a very big deal. Once deployed to Afghanistan, if he sought out AQ (if he hadn't already succeeded), his devotion would not be suspect. He's got a backstage pass to a sold-out show… unquestionable devotion to Islam, and he's a Major in the US Army, with access, and a position that would keep him around lots of other officers… He's al qaeda's dream-recruit for an attack inside a post in Afghanistan. AQ would welcome him with open arms.

    So if our intelligence agencies took notice of his attempts to make contact, Take Fort Hood out of the equation and honestly ask yourself: what's the next move? From a strategic standpoint, would the concern really be that Hasan might go postal before deploying? Considering what Hasan could have accomplished from inside the walls of a base in Afghanistan, it's tough to think that anyone would have assumed Hasan would pass up that opportunity -By all means, the incident at Ft. Hood demonstrates just how much of a coward he is. But back to the question: Taking Hood out of the equation, Do you kick him out and that's the end of it? Or do you let him deploy to Afghanistan, watch him like a hawk and see where and who he leads you to? You have him isolated. He's no longer seeing patients. He's getting ready to deploy. What's the next move?

    The fact is, we don't have a clue yet as to what kind of intel we actually had on him. It may very well be that someone dropped the ball here. It may also be that this contact with al qaeda was justification for keeping him active. I think those pretending this attack wasn't motivated by religion can shut their pieholes now, but before we turn our intelligence agencies into the scapegoats (which these days many seem eager to do) for “failing” lets keep an open mind and remember just how this game is played. Every move has it's risks along with its consequences when you're wrong. The incident at Ft. Hood may just be a colossal backfire in a larger surveillance strategy. …But of course, it could just be plain old incompetence. I truly want to believe that it's not the latter, but until we know more, it's certainly looking like a lot of people screwed up what should have been a no-brainer.

  • TheMagicalSkyFather

    Is it just me or does the CIA seem to spend a good deal of time and effort finding excuses for others to feel that they should be dismantled and sent to the scrap yard? One would think that they would eventually either get their act together or so focus the agency to shield it from being embarrassed on a constant basis. If they admitted that this can't be done in the way we have been told it could be done then why don't they admit it bow out and chuck the patriot act? Of course that would mean giving up power and control which will never happen willingly but what the hell do we need them for if this is the result? I mean it is wonderful that they can find a way to de-stabilize leftist leaders world wide and all but that has never really won us any friends and in the case of places like Iran we continue to pay a price for such an action from the 1950's.

  • TheMagicalSkyFather

    K I need to retract that, we were informed by the CIA about 9/11. I guess the question is who had a “terrorists determined to attack Fort Hood using pistol in hand of military officer” report on their desk and ignored it? I agree with Polimom that some brass dropped a mighty big ball here regardless and also think Medicated is right on target for the cause(we wanted to see how much intel we could get off of him thwarting an attack and did not foresee him going all columbine). I do not think it is an acceptable excuse but I am pretty sure that is why it happened if the current accounts are correct.

  • http://polimom.com Polimom

    But of course, it could just be plain old incompetence. I truly want to believe that it's not the latter, but until we know more, it's certainly looking like a lot of people screwed up what should have been a no-brainer.

    Yes. It's the likelihood that plain old incompetence ultimately set those people up to die that has me so angry.

  • Silhouette

    It will be found to be neither incompetence, nor true. This is another manufactured post-script in order to fan the dying flames of fear that the Cheney administration launched nearly every agenda we wouldn't normally approve of under.

    The fact that they would sieze one of the victims of their nefarious agendas, a mentally instable man who got that way largely because of dealing day in and day out with the wreckage of humanity returning from their illegal wars-for-oil and manipulate his story to further the “need” for these wars is the ultimate salt in the wounds.

    It is neither true, nor incompetence. If the CIA knew he was even an inkling of a threat they would've deftly removed him without a trace in a nanosecond if need be. They won't be allowed to use this tragedy to beget more tragedies. The buck stops here.

  • http://www.xpatriatedtexan.com/blog ThurmanHart

    It's a complex issue.

    Generally speaking, the FBI would not act directly to apprehend a member of the Armed Forces. They would turn information over to the US Army Criminal Investigative Command. The investigation into Maj. Hasan would be CIC jurisdiction. However, the FBI would continue to monitor Hasan's actions and they would have jurisdiction over any civilian accomplices.

    The CIA would likely not contact anyone. They would let Hasan get further into the spider's web and then try to turn him as a double agent.

    It would also depend on Hasan's security clearance as to how the CIC handled his case. At very least, he would have immediately lost his security clearance, which means he would not have been able to work as a psychiatrist (because he would not be cleared to hear some of the things his patients needed to speak about).

    At any rate, a great deal would depend on the precise details, which we will likely never know.

  • http://www.xpatriatedtexan.com/blog ThurmanHart

    In general, the military is reluctant to take someone off of active duty because of what they say. Rightly or wrongly, there is a fear that doing so will only encourage others to make the same sort of statements, whether they are heartfelt or no. That directly impacts operational readiness, perhaps to the extent that it would destroy the Army's ability to accurately predict when it can deploy any given unit.

    Deployment, particularly during wartime, is a difficult maneuver, and soldiers progress through the standard stages of grief. This includes a very real anger and depression stage. It is during those times when something horrible is most likely to happen through either lashing out (anger) or lashing inward (depression). Normal procedure is to try and help soldiers through this – not remove them from active duty. Again, the focus is on unit preparedness, and that, in part, depends on unit cohesion to help pull soldiers back from the brink.

    I agree with you that Hasan's behavior should have raised all sorts of red flags. However, it needs to be noted that Hasan bought a civilian gun, and he would not normally have been given a firearm as part of his duties. In fact, the most the Army would have done would have been to keep him stateside while they re-evaluate him. As long as he continued to say that he did not have any active plans to hurt anyone, the protocol would have been to kept him active and busy.

    I don't think it's PC or beancounting that kept Hasan in the Army. It was simple standard operating procedure.

    I also think it is wrong to blame Islam for his actions. Obviously, he found a strain of Islam that allowed him to focus his sick mind on violence towards those around him. But he would have used something else, just as easily, just as the Manson clan believed that Helter Skelter held secret messages about a race war. Hasan evidently turned his back on everything he once believed in and tried to commit “suicide by cop.” That's pretty much the textbook definition of being crazy – or, at least, if it isn't crazy, then nothing is.

  • Almoderate

    http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/

    Regardless of religion, Hasan was a shrink and had been working with soldiers who suffered from PTSD, and it's been speculated (though not yet diagnosed) that Hasan was suffering from “compassion fatigue.”

    Perhaps I would see it as more of a religious/terrorism issue if the lone military gunman killing his fellow soldiers were a more isolated incident. But we've had enough non-Muslims with no terrorist associations doing this for this particular case of it being a Muslim to actually be an exception rather than the rule.

    But my point stands that there is clearly a much larger problem in the screening of our soldiers. Aside from any mental health issues that Hasan may or may not have had, the federal government was well aware of his status. Another soldier at Fort Hood in particular was sent back out after being determined to be suicidal.

  • http://polimom.com Polimom

    Ah — yes, because we've seen so many psychiatrists going postal due to compassion fatigue. It's just amazing that anyone would consider any other explanation.
    [/snark]

  • http://polimom.com Polimom

    ThurmanHart — I gather from your comment here that you've deployed, and/or are otherwise involved with the military. Yes? No?

    “In general, the military is reluctant to take someone off of active duty because of what they say. Rightly or wrongly, there is a fear that doing so will only encourage others to make the same sort of statements, whether they are heartfelt or no.”

    Yes, there's some truth to that. The slackers are always looking for an excuse. OTOH, Hasan didn't just start yammering about infidels and suicide bombers since being sent to Fort Hood. The overwhelming amount of information coming out about his religious views, and how he viewed the war, etc., goes back years. Not days. Not weeks or months. Not since he went on pre-deployment status. It was all the way back in 2003 (I think) that he first asked to get out of the military…. and he was told that it would be extremely difficult, due in part to the education : time-commitment problem, and because of the (well-known) shortage of Arabic speakers in the military.

    Your point about how the might have handled him is too short-ranged. I'm saying he should not have been retained at all. I've even read (not sure where it was) that he'd offered to pay back the $ that had been spent on his education — and that was, again, long before he was under any kind of pre-deployment stress. If that's true (and I don't know that it is), then he, too, saw a major major problem coming down the pipe.

    “I also think it is wrong to blame Islam for his actions.”

    I agree. Do you think I'm blaming Islam? I'm not. Only an idiot would think all followers of Islam are violent fanatics. But this man is a zealot — a fanatic who thinks the US is making war on his religion. Pretending his religion (or rather, his twisted version) didn't set this tragedy up is to bury one's head in the sand.

  • DLS

    No need to rush. First things first. Did Major Nisan already get the swine flu, ahem, H1N1 flu vaccine?

  • http://www.xpatriatedtexan.com/blog ThurmanHart

    I spent six years in the Navy and have probably have as many members of my extended family who have served as who haven't. Several of them have spent time at Ft. Hood.

    The overwhelming amount of information coming out about his religious views, and how he viewed the war, etc., goes back years

    Yes, but none of it really matters. Unless or until he shows a willingness to act on his views, or confides in someone that he either fantasizes about or is planning to hurt someone, then it doesn't reach a level of relevance beyond a simple wait and watch type activity. In short, even in the military, you are free to believe that America is wrong and/or is committing atrocities that are unforgivable. You are free to say that the political leadership is wrong or even evil. What you can't do is act against the United States. People in the military retain all of the rights of expression that everyone else in the country does.

    I'm saying he should not have been retained at all. I've even read (not sure where it was) that he'd offered to pay back the $ that had been spent on his education — and that was, again, long before he was under any kind of pre-deployment stress. If that's true (and I don't know that it is), then he, too, saw a major major problem coming down the pipe.

    I've heard this, too. However, generally speaking, members are not allowed to buy their way out of a contractual obligation. It's the old bandwagon argument again – if you let doctors buy their way out; then how do you keep enough doctors around when the going gets tough? Beyond that, is it fair to let doctors buy their way out, but not auto mechanics?

    Oddly enough, the only people I've actually seen get out of their contract were athletes who graduated from the service academies. But they didn't buy out their contract, they were released for the convenience of the military.

    I agree. Do you think I'm blaming Islam? I'm not. Only an idiot would think all followers of Islam are violent fanatics. But this man is a zealot — a fanatic who thinks the US is making war on his religion. Pretending his religion (or rather, his twisted version) didn't set this tragedy up is to bury one's head in the sand.

    No, I don't think you are. But I think the way to understand it is that this man is a zealot because he is mentally unstable. The key to that is exactly what you said, it was a twisted version of religion that he used for justification (or so it looks to me).

    There are dangerous versions of every religion, sadly.

  • AustinRoth

    Remind me again, which network is 'not a legitimate news organization?

    What the “C” stands for

  • JeffersonDavis

    “the man had been absolutely broadcasting that, as a Muslim, he had major problems with his entire situation. He was radicalized and extremist in his views, and he was right out there with it. But he was kept in his role, even though he was clearly unfit for duty”

    Amen, Polimom. But you can't just stop at blaming the Army. You must think a bit bigger on this one. I blame our apologetic culture. The Army KNEW all of this about Hasan. Yet, they were in CYA mode trying not to violate their “sensitivity training”. They were afraid of losing their own commissions and/or getting busted down do actually do anything about it. We have become too daggone wussified in this country. If their is a threat that so happens to be a Muslim, neutralize the threat.

    Our sensitive egg-shell walking citizenry needs to wake up to the fact that MUSLIM EXTREMISTS want us dead! The last time I looked – there weren't a lot of Vikings, Hindus, Martians, Christians, Atheists, or any other group that wants our people and our culture to die at their hands. Peaceloving Muslims should be alotted any and all considerations, but they too need to be understanding to the fact that they might get a second look now and again when our nation is being attacked by people who just so happen to dress or look the same way. Profiling? You bet you butt.