Still, the military declined to call the 2009 attack an international terrorist attack, a decision that some lawmakers blamed on “political correctness.” Last April, a Pentagon position paper obtained by ABC News outlined the military’s reasoning: Giving the Fort Hood victims the Purple Heart could “irrevocably alter the fundamental character of this time-honored decoration” and “undermine the prosecution of Major Nidal Hasan by materially and directly compromising Major Hasan’s ability to receive a fair trial.” Hasan has been sentenced to death now, but the military’s position is unchanged.
In an email exchange with ABC News today, a spokesperson for the Army said the service had never called the 2009 attack “workplace violence,” but said evidence showed Hasan was a “lone wolf.” Therefore his actions did not fit the bill for an “international terrorist attack,” the spokesperson said, but “investigations into the 2009 shootings at Fort Hood concluded that Nidal Hasan committed the criminal acts of murder and attempted murder.”
“While there has been no intelligence or findings to date that indicate Hasan was under the direction or control of a foreign element, we stand ready to act accordingly should any evidence to the contrary be presented,” the spokesperson said.
The Defense Department’s comprehensive report following the attack, 2010’s “Lessons From Fort Hood [PDF]” repeatedly referenced the need for improving policies regarding workplace violence prevention – “including the potential for self-radicalization.” In their lawsuit, the survivors said they are suffering because of the military’s insistence on avoiding the term “terrorism.”
The FBI defines an international terrorist act as having three characteristics: It must involve acts dangerous to human life that violate federal or state law; it must appear to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population, government policy or conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination or kidnapping; and occur primarily outside the U.S. or “transcend national boundaries in terms of the means by which they are accomplished, the persons they appear intended to intimidate or coerce, or the locale in which their perpetrators operate or seek asylum.” Domestic terrorism shares the first two requirements, but the act must take place “primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the U.S.”
In a Congressional hearing last week, Attorney General Eric Holder said that had a similar attack taken place at his Department of Justice he “could see” how it would be classified a terrorist attack, though he said he did not know “all the factors that went into the [Department of Defense] designation.”
“They’re trying to shove it under the rug,” Rubinstein said. Rubinstein said his clients’ lawsuit against the government was put on hold during Hasan’s trial, but has still not been reopened since his conviction.
Lunsford wrote in his letter to the White House he was requesting a “brief meeting” with Obama Wednesday.
“We believe that if the President could hear, first-hand, our plight and our mistreatment at the hands of bureaucracy, that he would take the steps needed to set things right,” Lunsford wrote. “Therefore, we ask for ten minutes of his time.”
Caitlin Hayden, a spokesperson for the White House National Security Council, confirmed the White House had received the letter and said the administration plans to respond directly.
[This report was updated with further Army response 10:30 a.m. April 9.]