Killeen’s congressman is demanding answers from U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder as to why Maj. Nidal Hasan has not been designated a terrorist.
U.S. Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock, co-authored a letter to Holder on Friday asking if the Justice Department meddled with Fort Hood officials in order to avoid having Hasan classified as a terrorist.
“Fourteen people, including an unborn child, were killed by Major Nidal Hasan, a man that was known to have terrorist ties,” Carter said in an emailed statement. “This was a terrorist attack and it’s time to step up to the plate and give these forgotten warriors the respect and attention they deserve.”
Hasan, a 42-year-old Army psychiatrist, had ties to slain al-Qaida operative Anwar al-Awlaki before the Nov. 5, 2009, mass shooting on post. Survivors have testified that Hasan yelled “Allahu akbar” — Arabic for “God is great” — during the shooting.
Several victims of the Nov. 5, 2009, shooting contend that the Defense Department’s labeling of the incident as “workplace violence” has diminished the amount of benefits available to them.
A group of survivors and their families banded together in a federal lawsuit against the Army and Department of Defense for their failure to prevent the mass shooting.
Carter referenced comments from Secretary of the Army John McHugh in the letter before asking whether Holder or any other Justice Department officials gave advice to the Army about Hasan’s charges.
McHugh said officially declaring Hasan a terrorist would adversely affect his upcoming court-martial.
One of the letter’s co-authors will ask Holder the same questions during an upcoming congressional committee meeting should the attorney general refuse to answer, Carter stated.
U.S. Rep. Frank R. Wolf, R-W.Va., serves on a subcommittee that is slated to question Holder in mid-April.
Former 1st Cavalry Staff Judge Advocate Richard Rosen on Monday said labeling Hasan as a terrorist would likely have little impact on the upcoming trial.
“This guy was taking direction from Anwar al-Awlaki, whom we thought was enough of a threat to kill with drones,” said Rosen, currently a law professor at Texas Tech University. “Ultimately when you talk about the baseline of the crimes he has been alleged to have committed, (it would have) no impact at all.”
Hasan is charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder. Jury selection is slated to begin May 29. The government is seeking the death penalty.
The government could have used terrorism as a factor in elevating Hasan’s charges to a capital offense. It chose to use a more conventional aggravator that he has been accused of multiple murders.
But despite the federal government’s aversion to the terrorist label, Fort Hood prosecutors have signaled they will refer to Hasan as a terrorist during his court-martial.
On Wednesday, the presiding Fort Hood court will hear testimony from Evan Kohlmann. Hasan’s lawyers have challenged the admissibility of Kohlmann’s testimony and a report he authored that calls Hasan a “home-grown terrorist.”
Rosen said the diverging approaches are “inconsistent.”
“It is interesting that the government will take that position considering the government as a whole will not,” Rosen said. “I think they serve two different purposes.”