WASHINGTON – Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., and Ranking Member Susan Collins, R-Me., Friday said that the Department of Defense and the Department of Justice’s failure to provide critical information to the Committee concerning the November 5, 2009, terrorist attack at Fort Hood is inconsistent with the standard Secretary of Defense Robert Gates articulated Friday for sharing information with Congress.
In Barbados, Gates told reporters the Pentagon will supply information to Congress as long as it does not jeopardize the prosecution of alleged Fort Hood shooter Major Nidal Hassan.
“We too are concerned about protecting the prosecution of Major Hasan and have pledged to work with the Administration to do so,” the Senators said. “However, if that is your objection, we hope you will now turn over information we requested that clearly has no bearing on the prosecution – Major Hasan’s personnel file and performance evaluations, summaries of witnesses statements that were given to the DOD internal review of the shooting, and the restricted annex concerning Major Hasan that was produced by the DOD internal review.”
The Defense Department has already turned over the restricted annex to the Congressional Armed Services Committees, the Senators noted, and thus DOD cannot argue that turning the information over to HSGAC would interfere with Major Hasan’s prosecution. Moreover, DOD disclosed summaries of witness statements to two private citizens heading its internal review– former Secretary of the Army Togo West and retired Admiral Vern Clark. Finally, DOD would be required to disclose Major Hasan’s personnel file to his defense counsel upon request.
Lieberman and Collins also want to interview FBI and DOD agents who had information regarding Major Hasan long before he killed 13 Americans. The Administration has declined their request based on the fact that these agents may be called as witnesses in Major Hasan’s trial.
“There are many examples,” the Senators said, “for allowing Congress to interview FBI agents, even while a criminal prosecution was in progress for which they could be witnesses, so we view that argument as baseless. Clearly the FBI and DOD could permit us to interview their agents without jeopardizing the criminal prosecution, which is the standard that Secretary Gates himself has articulated.”
The Senators cited as precedents Congressional investigations in 1995 into the Ruby Ridge shooting, in 1999 regarding nuclear scientist Wen Ho Lee, and in 2002 regarding the September 11 terrorist attacks.
Furthermore, the Senators said that the prosecution of Major Hasan is focused on the crime of killing 13 people while their investigation is looking at government policies and procedures that might have alerted officials to stop Major Hasan before he committed murder.
Lieberman and Collins announced Thursday they would subpoena the Administration if it did not receive requested information by Monday, April 19.