The Defense Department’s refusal to label the Nov. 5, 2009, Fort Hood shooting a terrorist attack has led to a giant legal suit that could cost the U.S. Army and FBI hundreds of millions of dollars.
On the third anniversary of the mass shooting, 125 plaintiffs filed a sweeping lawsuit against the Army, FBI and Defense Department seeking financial compensation for the alleged negligence that paved the way for the shooting to take place.
The suit names suspected Fort Hood shooter Maj. Nidal Hasan as a defendant along with the deceased al-Qaida operative Hasan contacted several times in the year leading up to the shooting, which left 32 injured and 13 dead. An unborn child also died as a result of the shooting.
It was the worst mass shooting on a military post in U.S. history, but a Washington, D.C., attorney representing the plaintiffs would rather the shooting be referred to as the worst terrorist attack since 9/11.
The Army labeled the shooting “workplace violence,” which prohibited active-duty victims from being awarded Purple Hearts, which are designated for those wounded or killed in war zones or by enemy combatants. It also would have entitled many to greater benefits.
One of the most public plaintiffs, former reservist Shawn Manning, estimated he would have received more than $40,000 in assistance for medical bills associated with the numerous gunshot wounds he sustained during the attack.
The lawsuit came about after the government provided a lack of response to an administrative claim for damages. Of the numerous plaintiffs, 28 reside in Killeen, Fort Hood, Harker Heights and Copperas Cove.
The suit asks for $75,000 for each plaintiff, though their counsel Reed Rubinstein said the awards could be far greater or lesser than that amount.
‘Ticking time bomb’
Rubinstein calls the government negligent, cynical and irresponsible in its actions leading up to and following the attack on post. He said the Army and FBI’s preoccupation with political correctness allowed Hasan to remain in the Army while he openly displayed an Islamic faith that had become radicalized.
“Hasan’s career, because of who he was, what his last name is, was more important to the powers that be than the lives of the soldiers, the civilians and the well being of their families,” Rubinstein said.
In their initial filing, lawyers included a memorandum from one of Hasan’s supervisors while the Army psychiatrist was a resident at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. His commanding officer states that Hasan, 42, was unprofessional and discussed inappropriate religious topics with patients.
Though the memorandum remained in Hasan’s file, it was accompanied by positive Officer Evaluation Reports. Hasan was eventually promoted.
A report from the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs also states that as early as 2006, a superior suggested Hasan leave the military after he openly questioned whether he could engage in combat against Muslims.
During a fellowship at the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences, Hasan gave multiple off-topic presentations that were sympathetic toward violent Islamist extremists, states the report, titled “A Ticking Time Bomb.”
In 2007, Hasan gave a presentation called “Is the War on Terror a War on Islam: An Islamic Perspective?” that created so much animosity in the classroom the instructor stopped Hasan after two minutes. It included a defense of Osama bin Laden.
“This is not a situation where (Hasan) fell through the cracks, where the FBI missed him or the Army didn’t know,” Rubinstein said. “The FBI found him, and the Army did know.”
On FBI radar
Hasan first showed up on the FBI’s radar in 2008 while the Joint Terrorism Task Force conducted secret surveillance of al-Qaida’s communications expert Anwar al-Awlaki, a deceased co-defendant in the suit.
Citing the FBI’s internal Webster Report, the suit states the FBI failed in its lack of response to numerous emailed communications between Hasan and al-Awlaki.
Hasan repeatedly referred to himself as a “Soldier of Allah,” offered al-Awlaki financial support and pondered whether killing fellow soldiers was acceptable. He also called the Muslim Army sergeant who killed two fellow soldiers in Kuwait in 2003 a religious martyr.
A Washington field agent opted to not interview Hasan after a review of “falsified” OERs. The agent later told another office the FBI, “doesn’t go out and interview every Muslim guy who visits extremist websites,” the Webster Report states.
After the shooting occurred, the lawsuit alleges the Army engaged in a “damage control” operation, pointing the media away from Hasan’s faith and refusing to refer to the attack as terrorism.
And perhaps the most egregious allegation made in the lawsuit is that FBI agents pulled a Fort Hood private shot in the neck out of a medivac helicopter in order to transport a wounded Hasan from the scene of the mass shooting. The soldier was “left to die,” but survived only because an Army nurse managed to secure him another helicopter.