Fort Hood Findings

Posted Feb. 06, 2011, at 6:45 p.m.

Different tragedy, same conclusion: Warning signs were missed. This time the report was about the 2009 shooting at Fort Hood in Texas. Previously, it was 9-11, the underwear bomber, the Times Square plot.

Is seems logical to ask when the government will stop missing the warning signs. Naturally, there have been plots that were foiled that never made the news; and the government never will be foolproof. But, hearing again and again that there was ample evidence that a group or individual was planning an attack or likely to go on a rampage and that the government misread or ignored the evidence is discouraging at best, deadly at worst.

This week, a report written by Sens. Susan Collins and Joe Lieberman, top members of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, found that “although both the public and the private signs of Hasan’s radicalization to violent Islamist extremism while on active duty were known to government officials, a string of failures prevented these officials from intervening against him prior to the attack.”

Maj. Nidal Hasan killed 13 people and wounded 32 others during a shooting spree at the Fort Hood Army base in November 2009.

“Our conclusion is alarming: The Department of Defense and the FBI collectively had sufficient information to have detected Major Hasan’s radicalization to violent Islamist extremism but they failed to act effectively on the many red flags signaling that he had become a potential threat,” Sen Collins said Thursday.

“Due to multiple misjudgments and failures to act, actions that might have prevented his attacks were not taken.”

The report praised the Department of Defense and the FBI for their work since 9-11 and acknowledged the difficulty of detecting “lone wolf” terrorists before chronicling a long list of failures.

For example, Maj. Hasan’s radical views were “on full display” during his military medical training, where some called him a “ticking time bomb.” Yet, his military records were “sanitized” to change his “obsession with violent Islamic extremism” into research on counterterrorism, according to the report.

Likewise, his communications with a suspected terrorist were dismissed as research by an FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force.

The report also was critical of the Defense Department for not making a distinction between “violent Islamic extremism” and violent extremism and the peaceful practice of Islam.

The committee has focused much time in recent years on Islamic radicalization inside and outside the United States. Its call for more training so military officials can identify when someone’s rhetoric and actions cross the line into threatening behavior should be heeded.

Beyond this, however, concrete recommendations are few, in part because the committee plans to hold more hearings to hear from the FBI and Defense Department about how they will address the problems.

Senators must ensure they don’t get the same assurances they did after the previous attacks and the resultant reports that found “warning signs were missed.”

There must be real changes that solve real problems.

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