Terrorism Plot Unlikely in Ft. Hood Massacre

By Matthew Harwood

There is no evidence that the rampage at Fort Hood orchestrated by the alleged shooter, Major Nidal Malik Hasan, was part of a larger terrorism plot, reports The New York Times.

Investigators have not ruled out the possibility that Major Hasan believed he was carrying out an extremist’s suicide mission.

But the investigators, working with behavioral experts, suggested that he might have long suffered from emotional problems that were exacerbated by the tensions of his work with veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who returned home with serious psychiatric problems.

They said his counseling activities with the veterans appear to have further fueled his anger and hardened his increasingly militant views as he was seeming to move toward more extreme religious beliefs — all of which boiled over as he faced being shipped overseas, an assignment he bitterly opposed.

According to the Times, so far there is no evidence Hasan conspired with other terrorists, received orders from extremists exploiting his anger and alienation, or traveled overseas to meet with or train with terrorist elements. ABC News, though, is reporting Hasan tried to reach out to people connected to al Qaeda and that U.S. intelligence knew about it.

Army and FBI investigators are still scouring Hasan's computer hard drive, e-mail accounts, and online trails to construct a better picture of Hasan, his mental state, and what led him to unleash such violence on fellow soldiers. The Los Angeles Times, ABC News, and The Washington Post all report that investigators are exploring Hasan's link to a Virginia mosque where a fiery Islamist imam preached. U.S.-born Anwar al-Aulaqi, who once preached at the Falls Church mosque Hasan attended, left the country in 2002 and settled in Yemen. According to the Post, al-Aulaqi's radical lectures promoting the strategies of an al Qaeda leader have been found on terrorism suspects' computers in the United States, Canada, and Britain. Al-Aulaqi has since called Hasan a hero on his Web site.

Evan Kohlmann, a terrorism consultant who runs the Web site, told the L.A. Times that al-Aulaqi's lecture, entitled "Constants on the Path of Jihad," is the  "virtual bible for lone-wolf Muslim extremists."

In other related news, The Dallas Morning News reports how Hasan's massacre has shattered the sense of security at Ft. Hood. "When you come home, you not only take off your helmet and put away your gun, but you take off that psychological Kevlar," Patrick Campbell, chief legislative counsel for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, and a former Army medic in Iraq, told the newspaper. "It's almost harder to lose someone when you're home than it is over there, because at least there, you expect it."

Other media outlets are discussing whether Hasan's shooting spree should be characterized as terrorism or mass murder. "There’s absolutely no evidence that the Fort Hood case is one of organized home-grown Islamic terrorism," writes Kansas City Star Columnist Arturo Mora . "But, even if it was just one crazed man, if his main motivation was Islamic resentment, then it is a form of home-grown terrorism, and an issue we have to deal with." The Atlantic Wire does a good job of rounding up various other pundits on the subject, here.

♦ Photo of Ft. Hood press conference with Army Secretary John McHugh and Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr. by Spc. Eric Martinez/U.S. Army


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