: the Army valued Islamic diversity more than it cared about protecting America from Islamic jihadism and terrorism.
It can’t be said often enough: for modern people, to oppose diversity is a worse offense than to commit murder or to allow people to be murdered.
It occurs to me that in the years to come, that headline and lead could serve as an all-purpose template for reporting on the suicide of the West.
Ft. Hood suspect was Army dilemma
His extreme views possibly overlooked in favor of diversity
By Bryan Bender
Boston Globe, February 22, 2010
WASHINGTON—Army superiors were warned about the radicalization of Major Nidal Malik Hasan years before he allegedly massacred 13 soldiers at Fort Hood, Texas, but did not act in part because they valued the rare diversity of having a Muslim psychiatrist, military investigators wrote in previously undisclosed reports.
An obvious “problem child” spouting extremist views, Hasan made numerous statements that were not protected by the First Amendment and were grounds for discharge by violating his military oath, investigators found.
Examples of Hasan’s radical behavior have previously been disclosed in press accounts based on interviews with unnamed Army officials, including his defense of suicide bombings and assertions that Islamic law took priority over his allegiance to the United States.
But the Pentagon’s careful documentation of individual episodes dating back to 2005 and the subsequent inaction of his superiors have not been made public before.
The Globe was permitted to review the Army’s more complete findings on the condition that it not name supervisory officers who did not act, some of whom are facing possible disciplinary action.
In searching for explanations for why superiors did not move to revoke Hasan’s security clearances or expel him from the Army, the report portrays colleagues and superiors as possibly reluctant to lose one of the Army’s few Muslim mental health specialists.
The report concludes that because the Army had attracted only one Muslim psychiatrist in addition to Hasan since 2001, “it is possible some were afraid” of losing such diversity “and thus were willing to overlook Hasan’s deficiencies as an officer.”
“Several of his supervisors explicitly mentioned Hasan’s potential to inform our understanding of Islamic culture and how it relates to the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan,” the investigators found.
In one classroom incident not previously described by the Army—which parallels another episode around the same time that has received press attention—Hasan gave a presentation in August 2007 titled “Is the War on Terrorism a War on Islam: An Islamic Perspective.”
But the presentation was “shut down” by the instructor because Hasan appeared to be defending terrorism. Witnesses told investigators that Hasan became visibly upset as a result.
“The students reported his statements to superior officers, who took no action on the basis that Major Hasan’s statements were protected by the First Amendment,” the investigation found. “They did not counsel Hasan and consider administrative action, even though not all protected speech is compatible with continued military service.”
It added: “Soldiers have rights under the First Amendment, but they are not the same rights as civilians…. [T]hese statements violated the Army … standard to hold a security clearance.”
Hasan, 39, allegedly opened fire on fellow soldiers Nov. 5 at the Texas base, killing 13 and wounding 32 others. If convicted by a military court, he could face the death penalty.
Geoff Morrell, Pentagon press secretary, said yesterday that the complete findings were not included in the public report of the shooting released last month because Hasan is the focus of a criminal prosecution and Army Secretary John M. McHugh is still deciding what disciplinary action to take against Hasan’s supervisors.
But based on Army documents, interviews with witnesses, and sworn statements to the FBI, the review panel’s findings provide the most detailed picture yet of Hasan’s transformation from a bright prospect in the Army’s medical corps to a loner with increasingly extremist views.
They also contain the first official acknowledgement that superiors at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, where he began his residency in 2003, were repeatedly informed of Hasan’s radical statements but did not do anything about it.
“Major Hasan’s military superiors did not apply correct regulatory standards to evaluate and act on statements that may have been contrary to his oath of allegiance to the Constitution of the United States,” according to the findings. “As military officers, Major Hasan’s superiors had a duty to determine whether Major Hasan’s stated loyalties were compatible with continued military service.”
New details also emerge of Hasan’s pattern of radical behavior, the first signs of which were detected in 2005, according to at least four officers who worked with him at the time and spoke to the FBI and Pentagon investigators.
In 2006, Hasan met with an academic adviser to see whether he would qualify for conscientious objector status, saying he opposed the war in Iraq on religious grounds, according to a sworn statement from the adviser. But when he said he was not opposed to the war in Afghanistan it was agreed that he did not qualify because his religious views did not appear to conflict with all combat.
In 2007, when he was completing a two-year fellowship that included a master’s degree in public health, his extremist views grew deeper and his work performance also declined, officers told investigators.
In May of that year, one of Hasan’s advisers wrote a memorandum informing him that his proposed scholarly research project, titled “Koranic World View as It Relates to Muslims in the US Military,” should be postponed because it did not contain a strong psychiatry component and “had too many slides and had too many Koranic verses and seemed to lack focus and definable learning objectives.”
Yet when Hasan delivered the presentation a few weeks later—it was recorded on video and reviewed by the Pentagon investigators—he described “the internal conflicts of being a Muslim fighting against Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan,” according to the report.
“[H]e exhibited a single-minded fascination with religion that was inappropriate for an Army officer and one that intensified over time,” the investigators concluded.
The behavior continued as he entered the master’s degree program in public health later that summer, according to the testimony of multiple Army officers.
“Other officer students repeatedly raised concerns about Major Hasan’s preoccupation with Islam, including allegations by students that Major Hasan justified suicide bombing and stated Sharia law took precedence over the US Constitution,” the report said. “The class instructor did not recall all the statements alleged but acknowledged that a class presentation in August 2007 had to be ‘shut down’ due to the class reaction and that Major Hasan appeared quite distressed.”
It was during this period, one of his instructors told investigators, that he thought Hasan’s internal conflicts placed him at risk of developing psychosis.
For his second year of fellowship study, the findings also reveal, Hasan proposed conducting a survey of Muslim US soldiers to explore whether they believed their religious beliefs conflicted with their duties. The proposal was titled “Religious Conflicts Among US Muslim Soldiers” and was presented in June 2008.
Hasan wanted to pursue the research further, “but because of the sensitive nature of the topic he was unable to obtain approval from an institutional review board,” investigators wrote.
Indeed, Hasan’s views and behavior were so well known that before he was transferred to Fort Hood in July 2009 a senior health official at Walter Reed informed a counterpart at the Texas base, the investigation found.
In fact, the report says Hasan was assigned in July 2009 to the medical center at Fort Hood in the first place because at least two superiors expressed concern that he “should not be sent to an assignment where he would be the sole provider.”
Bryan Bender can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.