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.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.