Defense Secretary Robert Gates is promising a series of changes to military policies aimed at preventing a repeat of last fall's Fort Hood massacre by Army psychiatrist Nidal Malik Hasan. Yet, in detailing those changes, Gates never mentions Hasan by name, and he never mentions the threat of Islamist extremism that fueled Hasan's shooting spree that left 13 people dead and 30 others wounded.
That follows the tone set by an independent review which originally formulated the proposals in a report called, Protecting the Force: Lessons Learned from Fort Hood.
In a memorandum issued Friday, the Defense Department promises to better coordinate with the FBI and with Joint Terrorism Task Forces; clarify policy on prohibited Internet activity balancing personal expression "against actions that undermine good order and discipline." That means defining "what constitutes associational, advocating, supremacists and extremist behavior."
Hasan planned his attack after months of communication with American-born Yemeni cleric Anwar al-Awlaki. FBI agents knew about some of those e-mails, but the information was never flagged or investigated deeper. In one, Hasan asked whether Army Sgt Hasan Akbar, the soldier who killed two officers with a grenade on the eve of the Iraq war would be considered a shaheed — or martyr.
Hasan reportedly shouted "Allahu Akbar" as he opened fire November 5. Prior to that, Army officials also knew that Hasan had been reprimanded for proselytizing to patients, made presentations with radical ideology, including justifying jihad and defending the notion that the war on terror was a war on Islam.
Yet Hasan, Awlaki, and Islamic extremism are never mentioned in the report. It does include a recommendation to beef up scrutiny for people or groups who vet military chaplains. It calls for "periodic reviews of religious organizations seeking to endorse religious ministry professionals."