Leaders of the Senate’s principal oversight committee are accusing the Obama administration of stonewalling
an investigation they have been conducting into the background to the deadly shootings at the Ft. Hood military base last Nov. 5, for which Army psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Hasan was arrested and charged.
Sen. Joseph Lieberman
, the independent Democrat from Connecticut who chairs the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and the panel’s ranking Republican, Sen. Susan Collins
of Maine, are expected on Thursday to release correspondence with the administration requesting documents and witnesses who have information about how Defense and law- enforcement agencies, including the FBI, handled information about Hasan’s alleged erratic behavior and contacts with an Islamic extremist preacher in the months before his shooting rampage. The senators are expected to declare that unless the administration complies with their committee’s request for documentation and witnesses by next Monday (April 19), the committee will issue a subpoena
to force the administration to turn over the evidence.
In a letter they sent on March 23 to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, the contents of which were made available to NEWSWEEK, Lieberman and Collins complained that they had been trying for more than three months to persuade the Pentagon to cooperate
with their Ft. Hood investigation. Among the evidence they say they requested: Hassan’s personnel file, and witnesses and documents regarding Hasan’s alleged communications with Anwar al-Awlaki
, a notorious American-born jihadist preacher who is currently hiding out in Yemen. Awlaki, who recently became what is believed to be the first American citizen whose name has been placed on a list of terrorist operatives whom the CIA is authorized to kill (if they can find him), has said publicly that he exchanged e-mail correspondence with Hasan over period of about a year
before the Ft. Hood shootings. (As we reported here Awlaki claimed that in one of Hasan’s messages, he had asked the imam for religious advice on a Muslim soldier killing his colleagues
who serve with him in the American army.)
In their letter to Gates, Sens. Lieberman and Collins complain that even though their committee has “clear authority” to investigate the background to the Ft. Hood shootings, the Pentagon “continues to refuse to provide us with the material we need to do our job.”
All the Defense Department has done in response to the senators’ inquiries, they say, is to give the committee one secret briefing, an out-of-date report on Islamic extremists in the military the contents of which, the senators allege, had already been leaked to the media, a videotape of a presentation that Hasan had made at Walter Reed Army Medical Center (where he was once assigned) and several hundred pages of documents on Pentagon policies
, many of which, say the senators, are readily available to the public. All of this material, the senators say, adds up to little more than “a portion of what we requested.” The senators also complain that the Pentagon blacked out the names of Defense personnel from some documents, even though Congress is legally entitled to receive the redacted information.
The senators complain that the Pentagon has asserted “no basis, legal or otherwise” for refusing to turn over background documents on Hasan, and that it recently asserted that it “does not possess any [relevant] documents … related to Major Hasan’s contacts with violent extremists.” The senators say they find it hard to believe this Pentagon claim
“It is growing difficult not to reach the conclusion that the Department simply does not want to cooperate with our investigation.”