WASHINGTON – Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., and Ranking Member Susan Collins, R-Me., said Wednesday they have launched an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the Fort Hood attack that killed 13 people and wounded 43 to determine whether the federal government failed to “connect the dots” that might have prevented the murders from occurring.
“Islamist terrorists who attacked us on 9/11 have opened up an unprecedented front within the U.S. from people living within the U.S.,” Lieberman said. “We know violent Islamist extremism is a threat here in the U.S. and we know the military is a target. We will conduct this investigation to determine what we can do to better protect our military service personnel and all of our citizens.
“We will focus on what the federal government knew and what it did concerning Major Hasan and whether action should have been taken to prevent him from carrying out his attack, as well as how the attack affects our understanding of and defenses against the threat posed by violent Islamist extremism and homegrown terrorism in this country on military bases and beyond.
“We intend to approach this investigation in the same manner that has marked all of our work together,” Lieberman continued. “We are not interested in political theater. We are interested in getting the facts and correcting the system so that our government can provide the best homeland security possible to the American people.”
Collins said: “Once again, in the wake of a mass murder, we must confront a troubling question: Was this once again a failure to connect the dots? Were there inexcusable gaps and communications failures and failures to act on compelling evidence that might have allowed us to prevent the attack at Fort Hood?”
Despite intelligence-sharing improvements made since the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, “the shootings at Fort Hood appear to demonstrate that communication failures and poor judgment calls can defeat systems intended to ensure that vital information is shared to protect our country and our citizens,” she continued. “The Fort Hood massacre also raises questions about whether there are unnecessary restrictions on information sharing, and whether those restrictions resulted in a failure to trigger a further inquiry. These are the questions that I expect and hope that our committee’s investigation and hearings will answer.”
“The questions are troubling,” she said, adding that the committee has an obligation to explore what led to the information failures and to examine the judgment calls that were made. Of particular interest is the effectiveness of the Joint Terrorism Task Forces. “One of the issues that we will explore is what did the task forces — there were two that were involved — know about Major Hasan’s activities and was that information shared? ”
Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan has been charged with first degree-murder in the shooting deaths of 12 service members and one civilian and the wounding of 43 more people on November 5, 2009. Lieberman said that, based on public evidence so far, he thinks the murderous rampage was the worst terrorist attack on America since September 11, 2001.
The Committee will hold a hearing Thursday with experts in terrorism, law enforcement, and the military. They are: General John M. Keane, retired former Vice Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army; Frances Fragos Townsend, former White House Homeland Security Advisor and now a partner at Baker Botts; Mitchell D. Silber, Director of Analysis at the Intelligence Division of the New York City Police Department; Juan C. Zarate, Senior Advisor at the Transnational Threats Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies; and Brian M. Jenkins, Senior Advisor at the RAND Corporation.
The Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee has been examining the threat of homegrown terrorism and Islamist radicalization of Americans since 2006, held 10 hearings on the subject, and issued a report on the role of the Internet in self radicalization in May 2008.
Lieberman and Collins have a proven record of working together across party lines to conduct thorough and non-political investigations of controversial subjects that have produced reports and legislative and administrative reforms. Those include investigations of the federal government’s failures on September 11, 2001, its response to Hurricane Katrina, and the reform legislation drafted by the Senators and passed by Congress after both incidents.