Apr. 17, 2010 -- Sen. Joseph Lieberman and Sen. Susan Collins today issued subpoenas to Attorney General Eric Holder and Defense Secretary Robert Gates, demanding information on what the government knew about accused Fort Hood shooter Maj. Nidal Hasan prior to the Nov. 5 incident.
In a letter accompanying the subpoenas, Lieberman, I.-Conn., and Collins, R.-Me., the chairman and ranking minority member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, said they had been forced to issue the subpoenas by a lack of cooperation from the Obama administration.
"We have repeatedly sought your departments' cooperation for more than five months," said the letter. "Our efforts have been met with delay, the production of little that was not already publicly available, and shifting reasons for why the departments are withholding the documents and witnesses that we have requested."
During a conference call with reporters, Lieberman said he wanted to learn what information the government had about Hasan's contacts with radical Muslim cleric Anwar Awlaki. "What were the signals, what was done to stop them," said Lieberman, "and why wasn't an investigation done then?"
"We think our request is quite reasonable," said Lieberman, ""Our goal is to look back and see what these two federal agencies could have done to stop this man from committing a massacre of 13 Americans."
The subpoenas demand information on contacts between Hasan and Awlaki in the months before the shooting spree. "Given the warning signs about Major Nidal Malik Hasan's extremist radicalism," asked the letter, "why was he not stopped before he took thirteen American lives?"
The subpoenas command Holder and Gates to appear before the committee on April 27 at 10:00 a.m., and to bring specified materials with them.
Holder is asked to provide the names of individuals on the Joint Terrorism Task Force in San Diego and Washington or the National Joint Terrorism Task Force who might have been familiar with emails between Nidal Hasan and Awlaki prior to the shooting.
Gates is ordered to produce Hasan's official personnel file and any performance evaluations. He is also commanded to provide the names of defense department intelligence and criminal investigation employees who had knowledge of Maj. Hasan prior to the shootings, or who may have worked with the Joint Terrorism Task Forces in D.C. and San Diego "during the period of time in which information linked to Major Hasan came to those entities."
Lieberman and Collins had been threatening to issue the subpoenas for nearly a month. On Thursday, they restated their intention to issue the subpoenas during a press conference.
On Friday, Secy. Gates told reporters that the administration was not seeking to hide information from Congress, but that its first priority was the prosecution of Maj. Hasan.
"Anything that does not have impact on that prosecution," said Gates, "we are more than willing to share."
The Homeland Security Committee has compiled a timeline on its attempts to secure information, beginning with a request on Nov. 13, eight days after the shooting, for the Defense Department to release its policies on how it "handles extremist personnel and information-sharing with other agencies."
On March 23, the Committee sent a letter to the Defense Department and the Justice Department warning that subpoenas would be issued if the Committee did not receive access to FBI and Defense personnel and documents from Hasan's personnel file and performance evaluations by Monday, April 19. Earlier Sen. Lieberman had criticized an 86-page report on the Ft. Hood incident released by the Defense Department in January, saying it did "not adequately recognize the specific threat posed by violent Islamist extremism to our military."
Said Lieberman, "I believe firmly that if DoD educates its personnel about violent Islamist extremism -- and how terrorists distort the Islamic faith to promote violence -- we will increase trust between the thousands of Muslim-Americans serving honorably in the military and their colleagues."
Hasan faces 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder for the Nov. 5 shooting at the Texas Army base. The 39-year-old major, the Virginia-born son of Palestinian immigrants, had exchanged numerous e-mails with Anwar Awlaki, described by American intelligence officials as a recruiter for al Qaeda, in the year prior to the shootings. According to an American official with access to the emails, Hasan asked Awlaki about jihad, whether it was acceptable to kill American soldiers, and whether it is acceptable if there are innocents killed in a suicide attack. Hasan was scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan when the Fort Hood shooting occurred.
Hasan, who was also wounded during the November shooting, was moved from the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio to the Bell County Texas jail on April 9. He remains paralyzed from the waist down. Hasan is set to be tried in military court.