WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The shooting rampage at a U.S. Army base in November was “an act of terrorism,” an Obama administration official said on Friday, as the Pentagon ordered an overhaul of protocols to spot threats within the military.
Reviews ordered on Friday by the Pentagon and White House exposed shortcomings in both intelligence and oversight before the Nov. 5 shooting, which authorities blame on a military psychiatrist.
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said his department was still “burdened by 20th century processes and attitudes mostly rooted in the Cold War,” and needed to do more to combat self-radicalization.
“Our counterintelligence procedures are mostly designed to combat an external threat such as a foreign intelligence service,” Gates told reporters at the Pentagon, adding there was not enough focus “on internal threats.”
Major Nidal Malik Hasan faces 13 counts of murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder for the rampage at Fort Hood Army base in Texas.
The case has drawn criticism after it became known Hasan had been in contact with a Muslim figure sympathetic to al Qaeda.
A senior official in President Barack Obama’s administration declined to say whether Hasan might have been taking orders from abroad but did call the shooting “an act of terrorism.”
It was a rare use of the phrase by an administration official to describe the Fort Hood killing spree.
“It certainly in my mind was an act of terrorism as far as the tactic that was used,” the official, who declined to be named, told reporters.
“But we are still acquiring knowledge about different people involved, and whether or not there was any type of direction, control, inspiration that led to the events on that day,” the official said.
The Pentagon review did not delve into the accusations against Hasan, issues being raised in a separate criminal investigation. Gates declined to comment on whether he thought it was a terrorist act on Friday, citing the criminal case.
How exactly the military aim to spot self-radicalization among U.S. forces — the kind U.S. officials believe preceded the shooting — remains an open question.
Authors of the Pentagon-ordered review who recommended greater attention to any internal threat within the military ruled out sending spies into mosques, for example.
“Do we want commanders (eavesdropping) in the mosque? No. Do we want anybody there? No,” said Togo West, a former Army secretary who helped lead the review for the Pentagon.
“What we want is commanders’ awareness of what’s happening in their units and what’s happening with their people.”
A White House review called for greater information-sharing between U.S. government agencies.
Gates said he forwarded to the Army recommendations that some Army personnel responsible for supervising Hasan be held accountable.
Hasan was paralyzed by gunshots used to subdue him. He is being held at a military hospital in Texas and could face the death penalty.
The Hasan case is one of two major lapses acknowledged by U.S. authorities in recent months.
Earlier this month, U.S. President Barack Obama outlined new steps aimed at plugging security gaps exposed by a Dec. 25 bomb plot, in which a Nigerian man allegedly came close to blowing up a Detroit-bound flight from Amsterdam.
The U.S. intelligence community came under fierce criticism for failing to piece together information it had, which could have uncovered the plot.
Reporting by Phil Stewart; Editing by Philip Barbara