The heat turned up on the Pentagon Tuesday over revelations that the Fort Hood killer's contacts with an Al Qaeda associate were blown off by a military investigator.The NY Post and Wall Street Journal are reporting that while a Defense Department worker was informed of the suspicious e-mails while assigned to an FBI-led task force, the case was then closed -- without the Pentagon even being informed about the suspicious e-mails because the FBI didn't authorize the worker to tell his agency about it.
The agent was part of an FBI-run Joint Terrorism Task Force. But the bureau didn't have a legal reason to investigate Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan's communications with radical Imam Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen because there was no threat of violence.
The unnamed investigator for the Pentagon's Defense Criminal Investigative Service did review the contacts along with Hasan's personnel and academic records - and decided Hasan was no threat and took no action, officials said.
According to the WSJ, The Army only became aware of the emails after speaking with the extremist imam Awlaki after the attacks.
A top defense official said federal investigators didn't tell the Pentagon they were looking into months of contacts between Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan and Anwar al-Awlaki. The imam knew three of the Sept. 11 hijackers and hailed Maj. Hasan as a "hero" after the shooting last week at Fort Hood that left 13 people dead.
"Based on what we know now, neither the United States Army nor any other organization within the Department of Defense knew of Maj. Hasan's contacts with any Muslim extremists," the official said.
President Obama wants to know who knew what and when. That's the right question to ask, but also pertinent is why issues with Hasan's religious statements were overlooked or ignored. Contacts with an extremist should have raised red flags and opened an investigation into what precisely Hasan was up to. It's alleged that there were 10-20 emails sent and while the content of those emails is not yet known and are being characterized as "benign", that Hasan was seeking to converse with a known extremist who had been a spiritual mentor to 9/11 hijackers should have raised questions about why Hasan was seeking out Awlaki for correspondence.
Why did the FBI not give permission for the Army to proceed with their own investigation?
The sad thing is that all the relevant government agencies will engage in covering their own asses while trying to cast fault on others; the DC 2-step. Meanwhile, why the ball was dropped and how to prevent it from happening again gets short shrift despite the Obama Administration's demands that the government agencies get to the bottom of this.
Meanwhile, ABC News is reporting that there were more links between Hasan and extremists.
A senior government official tells ABC News that investigators have found that alleged Fort Hood shooter Nidal Malik Hasan had "more unexplained connections to people being tracked by the FBI" than just radical cleric Anwar al Awlaki. The official declined to name the individuals but Congressional sources said their names and countries of origin were likely to emerge soon.Yemeni authorities are now hunting for Awlaki.
Questions already surround Major Hasan's contact with Awlaki, a radical cleric based in Yemen whom authorities consider a recruiter for al Qaeda. U.S. officials now confirm Hasan sent as many as 20 e-mails to Awlaki. Authorities intercepted the e-mails but later deemed them innocent or protected by the first amendment.
The FBI said it turned over the information to the Army, but Defense Department officials today denied that. One military investigator on a joint terror task force with the FBI was shown the e-mails, but they were never forwarded in a formal way to more senior officials at the Pentagon, and the Army did not learn of the contacts until after the shootings.
Awlaki, an imam who has used his personal Web site to encourage Muslims around the world to kill U.S. troops in Iraq, disappeared eight months ago, his father said yesterday. Yemeni security officials said they believed he was hiding in a region of the mountainous nation that is a refuge for Islamist extremists.That's despite evidence showing that three of the 9/11 hijackers prayed at two mosques where Awlaki was the spiritual leader.
He was arrested in 2006 on suspicion of giving religious approval to extremists to conduct kidnappings, but investigators were unable to prove any links to al-Qaeda, and he was released in late 2007, according to two Yemeni counterterrorism officials and an Interior Ministry official.