WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama has ordered a high-level review of how U.S. officials handled warning signs that might have pointed to the eventual killing rampage at Fort Hood, Texas.
Obama ordered John Brennan, his adviser on homeland security and counterterrorism, to find out what various federal agencies knew about Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, how they treated the information and whether they shared it with other agencies.
Obama also told the Defense Department, the FBI and the director of national intelligence on Nov. 6 to turn over all files on Hasan to Brennan and that he wanted a preliminary report by Nov. 30. He issued the order the day after Hasan allegedly shot at least 42 people at the Army base, killing 13 of them.
The news media have reported on Hasan almost daily since the shootings, revealing a series of actions that analysts say could have alerted authorities to a possible threat, especially if knowledge of them had been shared within the government.
The failure to share intelligence was singled out as a factor that allowed the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to occur. Officials had hoped that such systemic failure had been remedied in part by creating the post of a director of national intelligence to coordinate the work of different agencies.
Perhaps more than most of Hasan's actions, it was the e-mail contact with Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki that had independent analysts and some members of Congress demanding an investigation.
U.S. government agents knew that Hasan had exchanged 10 to 20 e-mails starting last December with Awlaki, a New Mexico-born Muslim cleric who grew up in Yemen and was linked in the 9-11 Commission's final report to at least two of the 2001 hijackers.
Awlaki's response was limited — only two of Hasan's messages were returned — and didn't encourage violence. Lacking any clear threatening language, officials didn't pursue an investigation.
Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas, the senior Republican on the Homeland Security Intelligence Subcommittee, issued this statement Thursday:
"In addition to the e-mails to the imam in Yemen, I have confirmed through independent sources that there were communications and wire transfers made to Pakistan. This Pakistan connection just raises more red flags about this case and demonstrates why it's important for Congress to exercise its oversight authority."