WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Federal authorities ignored warnings that could have prevented a 2009 massacre at an Army base, two U.S. senators said in a report on Thursday that outlined intelligence failures similar to those in the September 11, 2001, attacks.
Major Nidal Malik Hasan -- an Army psychiatrist who had been dubbed by two colleagues as “a ticking time bomb” -- was charged with murder in the shooting rampage at Fort Hood, Texas that killed 13 and wounded 32.
Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, and Susan Collins, the panel’s top Republican, said in the probe that authorities had information indicating that Hasan, a Muslim born in the United States to immigrant parents, was a threat before the November 5, 2009, shootings.
“Although neither DoD (the Department of Defense) nor the FBI had specific information concerning the time, place or nature of the attack, they collectively had sufficient information to have detected Hasan’s radicalization to violent Islamist extremism but failed both to understand and to act on it,” they wrote.
The Army has received an assessment from experts on Hasan’s mental health and is considering whether he should face court martial and potentially the death penalty.
Intelligence agencies learned that Hasan had contacts with an Islamist sympathetic to al Qaeda and relayed the information to law enforcement, but no action was taken, the report noted.
The report identified the Islamist only as “Suspected Terrorist” and several portions of the report were redacted.
U.S. officials have said Hasan had exchanged e-mails with Anwar al-Awlaki, an al Qaeda figure based in Yemen.
The report said evidence of Hasan’s “radicalization to violent Islamist extremism” was on display to his colleagues during his military medical training and he was referred to as a “ticking time bomb” by two of them.
“Not only was no action taken to discharge him, but also his Officer Evaluation Reports sanitized his obsession with violent Islamist extremism into praiseworthy research on counterterrorism,” the report said.
The senators’ investigation found specific and systemic failures in the government’s handling of the case, and they recommended a number of corrective steps.
The FBI, in a statement, said it “recognizes the value of congressional oversight and agrees with much in the report and many of its recommendations.”
The senators said their investigation shows that despite improvements over the past decade, U.S. authorities still need to do a better in sharing and acting on information regarding possible terrorists.
“A lot of progress has been made in connecting the dots,” Lieberman, an independent, told a Capitol Hill news conference. “But this case, the Hasan case, shows the work is unfinished.”
Intelligence failures were blamed, in part, for the September 11 hijacked plane attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people.
Investigations uncovered a number of instances when U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies inadequately shared information.
In the wake of the September 11 attacks, a crush of federal actions were taken to better track suspected terrorists, including creation of the Department of Homeland Security.
Additional reporting by Jeremy Pelofsky; Editing by Deborah Charles and Cynthia Osterman