Sun, Jan 17, 2010 - Page 7 News List

U.S. MILITARY: Pentagon says military is at risk of internal attacks


The military remains vulnerable to another Fort Hood-like massacre with religious radicalization on the rise and too little attention being paid to internal threats, senior Pentagon officials said on Friday.

An internal investigation into the shooting at the Texas Army post in November found that several officers failed to use “appropriate judgment and standards” in overseeing the career of Army Major Nidal Hasan and that their actions should be investigated immediately.

Hasan, an Army psychiatrist, has been charged with killing 13 people.

“I would ask all commanders and leaders at every level to make an effort to look beyond their day-to-day tasks and be attuned to personnel who may be at risk or pose a danger,” Defense Secretary Robert Gates said.

Separately, the FBI said it would revise its own procedures to make sure that when it investigates a member of the military, it notifies the Pentagon. In the Hasan case, a local joint terror task force run by the FBI with some military personnel examined Hasan but did not alert the Defense Department about the investigation.

The FBI said it would increase training for task force members to search bureau databases better when conducting investigations.

Lawmakers including Representative Ike Skelton, who chairs the House Armed Services Committee, and Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn called the findings unacceptable.

“We go to great lengths to keep our troops safe in overseas theaters of combat; when they return home, we cannot let our guard down,” said Cornyn, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

A separate White House assessment concluded the government does not do enough to share information on “disaffected individuals” and that closer scrutiny of some information is needed by intelligence and law enforcement officials.

“Self-radicalization” by individuals seeking out extremist views is a particular worry, said Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

“There is clearly more and more of that going on, and how much of it we have in the military is something that we ought to really understand,” Mullen said.

The Hasan case has taken on heightened importance in recent weeks because of its parallels to the attempted bombing of a Detroit-bound passenger jet. Both cases are linked by US officials to a radical cleric in Yemen and expose a failure by intelligence services to prevent the attacks.

Two officials familiar with the case said as many as eight Army officers could face discipline for failing to do anything when Hasan displayed erratic behavior early in his military career.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the information has not been made public.

The officers supervised Hasan when he was a medical student and during his early work as an Army psychiatrist at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington.

The review did not consider whether the shootings were an act of organized terror and did not delve into allegations that Hasan was in contact with the cleric. Those questions are part of the separate criminal case against Hasan.

Hasan was described as a loner with lazy work habits and a fixation on his Muslim religion. He was passed along from office to office and job to job despite professional failings that included missed or failed exams and physical fitness requirements.

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