Republican lawmakers asked Attorney General Eric Holder whether the Justice Department influenced the military’s decision to charge the suspect in the 2009 Fort Hood military base shooting with a “workplace crime” instead of “terrorism.”
“In the weeks immediately following the Fort Hood terrorist attack, with whom in the White House and Department of Defense did you or other Justice Department officials communicate?” Texas Rep. Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, asked in a March 15 letter to Holder. The letter was co-signed by fellow Republican Reps. Frank Wolf of Virginia, chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee that funds the department, and John Carter of Texas.
Nidal Malik Hasan was an Army psychiatrist in 2009 when he was accused of opening fire at Fort Hood, killing 13.
“Did you or any other Justice Department official provide any written or verbal guidance to the Department of Defense recommending charges for Maj. Hasan? If so, what was the nature of that communication and guidance?” the letter asked.
The three members of Congress drafted the letter in response to an ABC News report in which victims of the shooting expressed frustration that they were ineligible to receive a Purple Heart as a result of the “workplace violence” characterization of the crime.
“Basically, they’re treating us like I was downtown and I got hit by a car,” Shawn Manning, who was shot six times, told ABC.
Hasan’s military trial is to begin May 29 at Fort Hood. The former Army psychiatrist faces 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder in the attack on the Texas military base.
As Main Justice reported in July, a central issue in the Hasan case is whether the FBI should have moved sooner to investigate Hasan after members of the agency’s anti-terrorism task forces learned in December 2008 — almost a year before the Fort Hood killings — that he had been in touch with Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen and al-Qaeda propagandist then operating out of Yemen.
Awlaki was a former San Diego resident who had been under scrutiny for ties to 9/11 hijackers, two of whom intersected with him in the San Diego area and later worshiped at a northern Virginia mosque where Awlaki was then preaching.
Awlaki had been a familiar figure for years, largely because he created a website that churned out extremist, anti-Western views urging attacks against the West. After the Fort Hood attacks, it was revealed that Awlaki and Hasan had exchanged emails, and that Awlaki praised Hasan as a hero after the bloodshed.
Well before the Fort Hood killings, Washington FBI officials declined to interview Hasan’s superiors in the Defense Department. The FBI officials had reasoned that Hasan’s communications with Awlaki were not inappropriate for a military psychiatrist who was, in fact, writing a research paper about the effects of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.