(Paul Beatty/Associated Press
FORT HOOD, Texas - The Army psychiatrist in the Fort Hood massacre was charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder yesterday as he lay in a hospital bed, and as President Obama ordered a review to determine whether the government fumbled warning signs of the suspect’s contacts with a radical Islamic cleric.
Major Nidal Malik Hasan could face the death penalty if convicted.
Army officials said they believe Hasan acted alone when he jumped on a table with two handguns last week, shouted “Allahu akbar,’’ and opened fire. The dead included at least three other mental health professionals; 29 were injured.
Additional charges were possible, said Chris Grey, spokesman for the Army Criminal Investigation Command. It had not been decided whether to charge Hasan with the death of the unborn child of a pregnant soldier who died, officials said on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak about the case publicly.
Meanwhile, Obama ordered a review to determine whether all intelligence was properly shared and acted upon. John Brennan, assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism, will oversee the review. The first results are due Nov. 30. Obama also ordered the preservation of the intelligence.
Members of Congress are pressing for a full investigation to determine why Hasan was not detected and stopped. A Senate hearing on Hasan is scheduled for next week.
Representative Peter Hoekstra, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, and others have called for a full examination of what agencies knew about Hasan’s contacts with a radical imam and what they did with the information. Hoekstra confirmed this week that the US government knew of about 10 to 20 e-mails between Hasan and the imam, beginning in December 2008.
A joint terrorism task force overseen by the FBI learned late last year of Hasan’s repeated contact with a radical Muslim cleric who encouraged Muslims to kill US troops in Iraq. The FBI said the task force did not refer early information about Hasan to superiors because it concluded he was not linked to terrorism.
Hasan was charged in the hospital without his lawyers present, said John Galligan, his civilian lawyer.
“What I find disturbing is that my client is in ICU, and he’s 150 miles south of his defense counsel, and he’s being served with the charges,’’ Galligan said. “Given his status as a patient, I’m troubled by this procedure and that I’m not there. I’m in the dark, and that shouldn’t be the case. I am mad.’’
Months before the shootings, doctors and staff members overseeing Hasan’s training reported that the major was at times belligerent, defensive, and argumentative in his discussions of his Muslim faith, according to a military official familiar with several group discussions about Hasan. The official was not authorized to speak publicly about the meetings and spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Hasan was characterized as a mediocre student and lazy worker, which concerned the doctors and staff at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, a military medical school in Bethesda, Md., the official said.
Hasan’s behavior also drew attention outside the military. Golam Akhter, a civil engineer from Bethesda, Md., said yesterday that he had spoken with Hasan about 10 times at the Muslim Community Center in Silver Spring before Hasan left for Texas last summer.
“He used to not believe that 9/11 was solely the work of Middle East people,’’ Akhter said. “His main thing was, ‘America is killing Muslims in the Middle East.’ That made him very, very upset.’’
Akhter said he sensed that Hasan was a troubled man.
Inside Walter Reed, the concerns about Hasan’s performance and religious views were shared with military officials considering his next assignment, and the consensus was to send the 39-year-old psychiatrist to Fort Hood in Texas, the military official said.