Accused Fort Hood shooter Maj. Nidal Hasan has authorized the release of a piece of evidence in his case that describes his motivations in allegedly carrying out the Nov. 5, 2009, shooting spree that killed 13.
Hasan, 42, sent the Killeen Daily Herald a copy of an FBI transcript of a conversation between himself and an Al-Jazeera English reporter that appears to have never been published by the Qatar-based news organization.
Hasan also sent the transcript to Fox News, which framed the six-page document as a six-page exclusive statement to the news organization. Its report failed to mention the “statement” was actually a two-year-old conversation between Hasan and Al-Jazeera journalist Laila al-Arian.
Fox News Senior Executive Producer Pamela Browne and Chief Intelligence Correspondent Catherine Herridge, the authors of the report, emailed a statement indicating they were aware of the document's context, but were told its contents reflected Hasan's current state of mind.
"While Fox News was aware of the document's date in 2011 and the context, the documents provided were clearly defined as Hasan’s current statement to FOX on the eve of his military trial at Fort Hood by the attorney representing Hasan in civil matters," they stated, referring to Hasan's former defense attorney John Galligan.
The Al-Jazeera reporter was not reachable as of press time.
In a signed copy of the document, Hasan dictates an 884-word statement to the reporter calling military action by the U.S. in Iraq and Afghanistan an “illegal and immoral aggression against Muslims.”
“It has resulted in the death, destruction and deception of many innocent men, women and children,” Hasan told the reporter.
The document was entered as a piece of evidence in the government’s case against Hasan. It first came up in court last year when prosecutors appeared to be pursuing a strategy that would have framed Hasan as a “lone-wolf terrorist” with extremist Islamic viewpoints.
The government largely abandoned that strategy since presiding judge Col. Tara Osborn forbade it from using a terrorism expert during the trial.
Prosecutors also will not be allowed to mention the American-born al-Qaida cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, to whom Hasan sent emails in the months leading up to the Nov. 5, 2009, shooting. Al-Awlaki was killed by a U.S. drone strike in Yemen in 2011.
And at a July 18 hearing, the lead prosecutor told the military judge the government would refrain from using “the t-word” during trial.
In the transcript, Hasan said his assignment as an Army psychiatrist on the verge of deploying to Afghanistan would have contributed to a U.S. effort to “win the hearts and minds” of “naive and desperate Muslims.”
“I saw how we would give money to Muslim politicians and support projects like the building of schools and mosques so we could ultimately dictate what is said, read and done,” he told the reporter.
Hasan intended to tell jurors he carried out the shooting in order to prevent soldiers from attacking Taliban fighters in Afghanistan.
But with the judge’s ruling that his “defense of others” may not be presented, Hasan has started to reach out to the media.
He released a copy of his outline for a “defense of others” to the Killeen Daily Herald on July 2. But sending the transcript to Fox News last week was the first time the major had communicated with any nonregional media since his July 17, 2011, conversation with the Al-Jazeera reporter. The Herald received the same transcript Monday.
Terrorism law expert Jeffrey Addicott of the St. Mary’s University School of Law said Hasan may be using the media as a platform to communicate political messages he cannot present in court.
He called the media’s participation in presenting his message a “double-edged sword,” noting that Hasan, at least in part, inspired the would-be terrorist Naser Jason Abdo, who intended to detonate homemade bombs at a Killeen restaurant in 2011 to kill soldiers.
“He realizes that the media, it is like they’re watching a train wreck; you can’t help it,” Addicott said. “On the positive side, the media has to cover this. For many in the American public, they had hit the snooze button on the alarm clock.”
Despite dubious consequences, Addicott said Hasan’s motives must be publicized.
The threat of radical Islam is growing, the terrorism expert said.
“It is increasing in numbers, and we have to know how these people think,” Addicott said. “We need to know this to defeat them.”
Testimony in Hasan’s court-martial is set to start Aug. 6.