U.S. News

Pentagon to comply with only part of Fort Hood probe

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Pentagon said on Tuesday it agreed to provide some, but not all, information sought in a congressional probe of last year’s shooting rampage at Fort Hood, Texas, that left 13 soldiers dead and an Army psychiatrist charged with murder.

First responders prepare the wounded for transport in waiting ambulances outside Fort Hood's Soldier Readiness Processing Center, after a mass shooting at the base, November 5, 2009. REUTERS/Jeramie Sivley/U.S. Army/Handout

The Senate Homeland Security Committee, which subpoenaed the information, called the Department of Defense’s response insufficient and said it was considering its options.

In what he cast as a compromise, Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said the Defense Department would provide lawmakers with the personnel file of Major Nidal Malik Hasan, who has been charged in the shooting, but would not give them access to potential witnesses and internal investigative reports.

“We have made movement on some of the areas that we had originally objected to but we have held the line on those that we feel could potentially jeopardize the prosecution of Major Hasan,” Morrell told reporters.

Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, an independent, and Susan Collins, the panel’s top Republican, issued their subpoenas last week after the departments of Justice and Defense failed to provide the materials.

Committee spokeswoman Leslie Phillips called the Pentagon’s response “an affront to Congress’s constitutional obligation to conduct independent oversight of the Executive Branch.”

But she stopped short of saying whether the panel would pursue a contempt of Congress citation and a court fight with the administration. “Senators Lieberman and Collins are weighing their options for future action,” Phillips said.

The two senators have been trying for months to obtain documents and gain access to witnesses they say are critical to their investigation of November’s shooting spree at the Fort Hood Army base in which 13 soldiers were killed and dozens wounded.

In addition to Hasan’s personnel file, Morrell said the committee would be given access to sensitive information contained in an internal Pentagon investigation of the shooting that had previously been withheld from the committee.

Hasan, an Army psychiatrist, has been charged by the military with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted murder. The U.S. military drew heavy criticism for its oversight of Hasan after it became known he had been in contact with an anti-American Muslim figure sympathetic to al Qaeda.

Reporting by Adam Entous, Phil Stewart and Thomas Ferraro; editing by Eric Beech