Thursday, November 12, 2009

Senate to Investigate Ft. Hood Killing Spree

The inevitable Congressional inquiry into the Ft. Hood massacre:
Sen. Joe Lieberman announced [on November 8] that he intends to lead a congressional investigation into the mass shooting at Fort Hood, saying the attack could qualify as a "terrorist act" rooted in Islamic radicalism -- the worst since 9/11.
The Independent Democrat, who chairs the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, said there were "strong warning signs" that the alleged gunman, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, was an "Islamist extremist."
"If that is true, the murder of these 13 people was a terrorist act and, in fact, it was the most destructive terrorist act to be committed on American soil since 9/11," Lieberman [said].

Meanwhile, in a report on the Hasan case, Stratfor, the global intelligence clearinghouse, says that separating "the wheat from the chaff" is on one of the big problems in national security investigations:
Many leads are based on erroneous information or a misidentification of the suspect — there is a huge issue associated with the confusion caused by the transliteration of Arabic names and the fact that there are many people bearing the same names. Jihadists also have the tendency to use multiple names and identities. And there are many cases in which people will falsely report a person to the FBI out of malice. Because of these factors, national security investigations proceed slowly and usually do not involve much (if any) contact with the suspect and his close associates. If the suspect is a real militant planning a terrorist attack, investigators do not want to tip him off, and if he is innocent, they do not want to sully his reputation by showing up and overtly interviewing everyone he knows. Due to its controversial history of domestic intelligence activities, the FBI has become acutely aware of its responsibility to protect privacy rights and civil liberties guaranteed by the Constitution and other laws.
Stratfor also explains that in a departure from the standard operating procedure, the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command (still known by its old acronym CID) rather than the FBI is running the Hasan investigation:
As the premier law enforcement agency in the United States, the FBI will often assume authority over investigations where there is even a hint of terrorism. Since 9/11, the number of FBI/JTTF offices across the country has been dramatically increased, and the JTTFs are specifically charged with investigating cases that may involve terrorism. Therefore, we find the FBI’s absence in this case to be quite out of the ordinary.
However, with Hasan being a member of the armed forces, the victims being soldiers or army civilian employees and the incident occurring at Fort Hood, the case would seem to fall squarely under the mantle of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). From a prosecutorial perspective, a homicide trial under the UCMJ should be very tidy and could be quickly concluded. It will not involve all the potential loose ends that could pop up in a federal terrorism trial, especially when those loose ends involve what the FBI and CIA knew about Hasan, when they learned it and who they told. Also, politically, there are some who would like to see the Hasan case remain a criminal matter rather than a case of terrorism. Following the shooting death of Luqman Ameen Abdullah [in Detroit] and considering the delicate relationship between Muslim advocacy groups and the U.S. government, some people would rather see Hasan portrayed as a mentally disturbed criminal than as an ideologically driven lone wolf.
Despite the CID taking the lead in prosecuting the case, the classified national security investigation by the CIA and FBI into Hasan and his possible connections to jihadist elements is undoubtedly continuing.
Update: The Army has charged the shooter with 13 premeditated murder counts under the UCMJ (making him eligible for the death penalty if found guilty), but as yet no charges related to terrorism or treason. Additional charges may be forthcoming, however.

1 comment:

  1. My friends at STRATFOR have again accurately summarized the challenges of the FBI and other investigative agencies in conducting counterterrorism investigations. I have spent close to 30 years in civilian and military criminal, counterintelligence and counterterrorism investigations and analysis. The process of counterterrorism investigations at the federal level is one of extensive information collection, validation and documentation, followed by extensive analysis, all under the watchful oversight of management within the FBI and DOJ; not to mention Congress and the Courts. In spite of the ever present liberals who seem to be more interested in playing "gotha" on privacy matters than stopping the next 911, not only these agencies, but the individual investigators are acutely aware of their responsibility to protect privacy rights and civil liberties guaranteed by the Constitution and other laws.

    STRATFOR also addressed a very important prosecutorial point for those of us who are looking for a conviction in the Major Hasan case. This case should be treated for what it is, a standard "pre-meditated murder case" and tried on the facts that result from a well investigated criminal case by the Army CID, with the assistance of the FBI and other investigative agencies. And has hard as it might be for some, the government's case should stay as far away as possible from radical Islamic terrorism and trying to make Major Hasan out as a jihadist on a mission directed by al-Qaeda. That will just muddy the water and give the defense more opportunities to expand their arguements.

    Based on the limited amount of evidence out in the news media, it does appear that Hasan was a follower of radical Islamic beliefs and he openly expressed these beliefs to members of the Army who failed to report such behavior. I would hope that the Army has the intestinal fortitude to address their internal failings.

    And there appears to have been a break down in the information sharing process within the National Joint Terrorism Task Force in Washington, DC. Open source reporting seems to indicate that the information on Major Hasan was shared with the Defense Criminal Investigative Service Representative at the NJTTF, but not the US Army CID rep. This may be clarified in the future. But if it is accurate, there appears to be a big problem. DCIS, for all practical purposes is responsible for "FRAUD" and contract related investigations within DoD. Based on the DCIS website, as of May 31, 2009, DCIS had 192 open Global War on Terror (GWOT) investigations, most were contract violation cases. Why is specific counterterrorism information related to a military member not being passed to the service that has a direct responsibility for follow-up?

    The many unexplained aspects of this case will be interesting to watch as this case is prosecuted.