Hasan, who sat motionless as the jury president read the verdict, has said he acted to protect Islamic insurgents abroad from American aggression, never denied being the gunman. In opening statements, he acknowledged to the jury that he pulled the trigger in a crowded waiting room where troops were getting final medical checkups before deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan.Hasan acted as his own defense counsel throughout the trial, and his strategy consisted solely of admitting that he was the shooter and not challenging the prosecution's claims. The Virginia-born Muslim claimed the shooting was in retaliation for what he claims is an ongoing American war against Islamic nations.
Hasan had one final chance Wednesday to give a closing argument before his case went to the jury, but he declined -- continuing an absent defense that he has used since his trial began three weeks ago.
The Army psychiatrist's behavior has only stoked suspicion that his ultimate goal is martyrdom, in the form of a death sentence that would allow him to fulfill what prosecutors have described as a "jihad duty" under his Islamic faith.
The lead prosecutor, Col. Mike Mulligan, told jurors Wednesday morning that history was full of instances of death in the name of religion. But he said it would be "wrong and unsupportive" to tie Hasan's actions to a wider cause
To add insult to injury, the government has classified the terrorist sympathizer Hasan's religiously motivated killing spree as "workplace violence" instead of terrorism- denying survivors and family members certain benefits and awards.
Even worse, the FBI had reportedly intercepted communications between Hasan and radical cleric Anwar Al-Alwaki in Yemen nearly a year before the attack.
Hasan first appeared on the bureau's radar in December of 2008—nearly a year before the Fort Hood massacre—when he emailed Awlaki to ask him whether serving in the US military was compatible with the Muslim faith. He also asked whether Awlaki considered those who died attacking their fellow soldiers "shaheeds," or martyrs.
The FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force in San Diego, which was tracking Awlaki, intercepted Hasan's December email, along with another sent in January. A search of the Pentagon's personnel database turned up a man named Nidal Hasan who was on active military duty and was listed as a "Comm Officer" at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC.
Normally, when the FBI unearths this kind of raw intelligence, it issues an Intelligence Information Report (IIR), which is shared with law enforcement agencies and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. (This system was designed to prevent the kind of information bottlenecks that allowed the 9/11 plot to go undetected.) But the San Diego agents misinterpreted the "Comm Officer" label in Hasan's file to mean "communications officer" (in fact, it meant "commissioned officer") and believed that a person in this role might have access to IIRs. To avoid tipping him off, they skipped the report and sent a detailed memo requesting an investigation directly to the Washington, DC, Joint Terrorism Task Force, a multiagency team overseen by the FBI that investigates terrorism cases in the capital. The message noted that Hasan's "contact with [Awlaki] would be of concern if the writer is actually the individual identified above."
The file languished for nearly two months before it was assigned to an agent for the Defense Criminal Investigative Services, who was on the task force. According to a 2011 report on the Fort Hood shootings by the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, DCIS—a law enforcement agency within the Pentagon, which normally deals with fraud and cybercrime among military personnel and contractors—was ill-equipped to tackle a counterterrorism investigation.
Meanwhile, Hasan kept writing Awlaki. Between January and May 2009, he sent the radical cleric more than a dozen emails, and received two relatively benign responses. In one message, ostensibly about Palestinians firing unguided rockets into Israel, Hasan asked Awlaki whether "indiscriminately killing civilians" was acceptable. Two days later, he sent another message answering his own question: "Hamas and the Muslims hate to hurt the innocent but they have no choice if their going to have a chance to survive, flourish, and deter the zionist enemy. The recompense for an evil is an evil." (Hasan's emails contained a number of typos.)
The San Diego field office intercepted these missives, too. But the database where the FBI stored intercepted emails didn't automatically link messages from the same sender, so the staff didn't realize that Hasan's early 2009 emails were from the person who had set off alarms the previous December. Meanwhile, the Washington-based DCIS agent assigned to investigate Hasan put off his inquiry for another 90 days, the maximum allowed under joint task force rules, before conducting a cursory investigation. Over the course of four hours on May 27, 2009, he ran Hasan's name through several databases to see if the psychiatrist had been targeted in previous counterterrorism probes. He also reviewed Hasan's Pentagon personnel file. Hasan's officer evaluations were mostly positive, and the chair of psychiatry at Walter Reed had written that Hasan's research on Islamic beliefs regarding military service had "extraordinary potential to inform national policy and military strategy."
The Senate investigation later found these reports "bore no resemblance to the real Hasan, a barely competent psychiatrist whose radicalization toward violent Islamist extremism alarmed his colleagues and his superiors." Nevertheless, the DCIS investigator concluded, based on Hasan's file, that the Army psychiatrist had contacted Awlaki in connection with his academic research and "was not involved in terrorist activity." The DCIS investigator and a supervisory agent in the Washington field office debated interviewing Hasan or his superiors. They ultimately decided doing so could jeopardize the Awlaki investigation or harm Hasan's career.
Advocates for Fort Hood victims find this decision puzzling. "A US Army major is writing to this imam and essentially asking for religious sanction to kill American soldiers," said attorney Reed Rubinstein, who represents a group of victims who are suing the federal government. "And the FBI's Washington field office doesn't even interview the man or make a phone call to his superiors. It's utterly incomprehensible."
Hasan's superiors reportedly missed or ignored a number of red flags regarding Hasan's performance as an officer, including being overweight and stridently supporting Islamic law during his residency at Walter Reed Army hospital.
Should the Army follow through, this will be the first military execution since 1961.