July 19 (Bloomberg) -- The FBI failed to recognize the threat posed by U.S. Army Major Nidal Hasan before he allegedly killed 13 people at Fort Hood, Texas, because poor organization, overwork and concern about a “politically sensitive” case all led to an assessment that was “belated, incomplete and rushed,” according to an independent report.
“The attack could have been prevented” if the Defense Department and FBI “had acted sensibly and responsibly based on the evidence they had of Hasan’s radicalization to violent Islamist extremism,” Joseph Lieberman, a Connecticut independent who heads the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said today after the release of the report.
The review, led by former Federal Bureau of Investigation Director William Webster, makes 18 recommendations for policy and procedural changes at the agency and the Justice Department. It was based on more than 50 formal interviews, meetings and briefings, as well as more than 10,000 pages of documents and input from more than 300 people.
Republican lawmakers had criticized the FBI after the 2009 rampage, which also injured 42 at the Army base, for not pursuing Hasan earlier because it might have been overly concerned with offending Muslims.
The report includes the account of a telephone call between a member of the antiterrorism task force in the FBI’s San Diego field office and another in Washington. On that call, according to one of the agents, it was said that Hasan wasn’t interviewed by the agency’s Washington field office because it was “politically sensitive,” the report said.
Hasan had been communicating by e-mail with Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S.-born radical cleric who was part of al-Qaeda in Yemen. Al-Awlaki was killed in a U.S. drone strike last year.
U.S. Representative Peter King of New York, chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, said the report was “a stark reminder” of the threat of radicals inside the U.S. “that absolutely must be addressed head-on by the federal government without concern for political correctness.”
“Individuals who handled the Hasan information made mistakes,” according to the report. “We do not find, and do not suggest, that these mistakes resulted from intentional misconduct or the disregard of duties.”
The report also found that an agent in the San Diego field office, who reviewed an e-mail in which Hasan told al-Awlaki “suicide is permissible,” decided it was “not a product of interest” for the investigation.
While not singling out any agents by name for criticism, the report urged the FBI to create better policies to guide investigations. The agents weren’t named in the unclassified version of the report that was released.
“We constantly strive to improve our policies and procedures, and I appreciate the final report’s acknowledgment of the actions that the FBI has taken since the shootings,” FBI Director Robert Mueller said in a statement.
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