Former U.S. Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey on Sunday called last week’s shooting at Fort Hood “the worst terrorist act carried out on U.S. soil since Sept. 11, 2001.”
Mukasey made his remarks in a little noticed speech to military families at a Veterans Day ceremony in central Pennsylvania. Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan is suspected of opening fire at the Texas military base last Thursday in an attack that killed 13 and wounded 30.
The former Attorney General criticized the New York Times and government officials for appearing to rule out the possibility that Hasan’s shooting spree was directed or inspired by any terrorist group. Mukasey told the military families that al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden has sought to create a “leaderless jihad” that promotes solo attacks, according to The Patriot-News newspaper.
“In that respect, there certainly are very close links to terrorism,” Mukasey said in the Sunday speech. “In that respect, this is, in fact, the worst terrorist act carried out on U.S. soil since Sept. 11, 2001.”
Mukasey, who is now a partner at the Debevoise & Plimpton law firm in New York, wasn’t available for comment on Monday.
Hasan was vocal about his opposition as a Muslim to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and had once worshiped at a Northern Virginia mosque with ties to radical Islam. But The New York Times on Nov. 7 published an article with the headline, “Little Evidence of Terror Plot in Base Killings.”
Instead, the Times and other news organizations have focused on the psychological strains associated with military service, depicting Hasan, an Army psychiatrist about to be deployed to Afghanistan, as having snapped under pressure. Today, however, The Associated Press and The Washington Post reported that federal authorities are looking into Hasan’s ties to an al-Qaeda linked imam.
Anwar al-Aulaqi, a former preacher at the Dar al-Hijrah Islamic Center in Falls Church, Va., praised Hasan on his personal blog today as a “hero” for opening fire on U.S. service members. Hasan worshiped at the Dar al-Hijrah mosque in 2001, when Aulaqi was its spiritual leader. Aulaqi, who now lives in Yemen, also counseled two of the Sept. 11, 2001 attackers in the months before they hijacked airplanes and crashed them into the World Trade Center and Pentagon. Federal authorities have said they suspect Aulaqi has been involved in plotting al-Qaeda attacks.
Mukasey, a former federal judge, presided over the 1995 trial of the “blind sheik” Omar Abdel Rahman, who led a precursor organization to al-Qaeda in Brooklyn in the 1990s. Rahman was tied to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and later convicted of a plot to blow up New York City landmarks.
On Sunday he told the military families that Hasan didn’t need to have formal ties to a foreign terrorist organization to have carried out a terrorist attack. ”To tell us to believe that someone has to have a membership card in al-Qaida or any other organization in order for them to act as a terrorist, and in order for us to call what he does an act of terrorism, is to tell us to refuse to look facts in the face, and to refuse to believe what we see and hear with our own eyes and ears,” Mukasey said, according to The Patriot-News.