Chapter I. Purpose Of The Investigation
On November 5, 2009, 13 Americans — 12 servicemembers and one civilian employee of DoD — were killed and 32 were wounded in an attack at the military base at Fort Hood, Texas. This tragedy was the deadliest terrorist attack within the United States since September 11, 2001. Major Nidal Malik Hasan, a U.S. Army officer and psychiatrist, was arrested and is standing trial for murder and other charges in military court-martial proceedings.
On November 8, 2009, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs launched an investigation of the events preceding the attack pursuant to the Committee's authority under Rule XXV(k)(l) of the Standing Rules of the Senate, Section 101 of S. Res 445 (108 th Congress), and Section 12 of S. Res. 73 (11 I' ll Congress). Our jurisdiction includes legislative authority concerning the organization and reorganization of the Executive Branch and investigative authority related to "the efficiency and economy of operations of all branches and functions of the Government with particular reference to ... the effectiveness of present national security methods, staffing, and processes as tested against the requirements imposed by the rapidly mounting complexity of national security problems."
President Barack Obama himself acknowledged the importance of a congressional investigation of the government's performance. As he said during his weekly radio address on November 14, 2009, "1 know there will also be inquiries by Congress, and there should."2
The purpose of the Committee's investigation is two-fold: (1) to assess the information that the U.S. Government possessed prior to the attack and the actions that it took or failed to take in response to that information, and (2) to identify steps necessary to protect the United States against future acts of terrorism by homegrown violent Islamist extremists — that is, by terrorists radicalized largely within the United States to violent Islamist extremism.3 Notably, our investigation has not examined Hasan's culpability for the attack or the facts of what happened during the attack, which are the subject of an Army court-martial proceeding.
This investigation into the Hasan case flows from our Committee's four-year, bipartisan review of the threat of violent Islamist extremism to our homeland. This work has included 14 hearings, numerous briefings from the Executive Branch on threat trends and specific plots, extensive and sustained consultations with non-government experts and former government officials, and the 2008 release of a staff report, Violent Islamist Extremism, the Internet, and the Homegrown Terrorist Threat, which argues that the internet's exploitation by terrorists would lead to an increase in homegrown terrorism. In addition, our assessment of the government's counterterrorism capabilities builds upon the Committee's leadership in enacting the Homeland Security Act of 2002 (which created the Department of Homeland Security) and the Committee's authorship of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 (which created the Director of National Intelligence and the National Counterterrorism Center).
This investigation has centered on the actions of DoD and the FBI with respect to Hasan. In examining DoD and FBI actions, we have been cognizant of DoD's and the FBI's record of success in the nine years since 9/11. The FBI, in partnership with other federal agencies and state and local law enforcement, has achieved dramatic successes in protecting the United States against homegrown terrorism. The men and women of DoD and the FBI have taken aggressive action to undermine the capabilities of foreign terrorist networks. These efforts, both at home and abroad, have made our nation safer. Nonetheless, the tactics of our terrorist adversaries continue to evolve, and our nation's counterterrorism efforts must continue to improve in order to deter, detect, and disrupt future terrorist attacks.
In conducting our review, we have been cognizant of three risks confronting every investigation of government performance, particularly those relating to intelligence and law enforcement activities. First, hindsight can obscure the ambiguity that officials faced at the time. To avoid this pitfall, we focused our investigation on what information was readily available to and actually considered by the key government personnel at the time and whether their actions were reasonable based on that information. Second, hindsight can obscure the competing priorities that officials faced. Accordingly, we sought to determine what priority they placed on the information that they possessed and how conflicts over priorities were resolved. Third, to avoid the temptation to hold individual personnel to unrealistic standards, our investigation has focused primarily on what, if any, systemic problems were exposed by the government's performance in this particular incident. Nonetheless, we expect DOD and the FBI to hold individual personnel accountable for performance deficiencies identified in this and other reports on the Hasan case.
The findings and recommendations of our investigation require that the report explain violent Islamist extremism and the signs of Hasan's radicalization to violent Islamist extremism. We provide that information in this report with the explicit intention of distinguishing violent Islamist extremism from the millions of Muslim-Americans and Muslims around the world who reject that ideology and practice their faith in peace. We acknowledge with gratitude the contributions of Muslim-Americans to this nation and the patriotism of Muslim-American servicemembers in defending our freedoms.
Furthermore, our report's findings and recommendations should not be construed as implying that the Executive Branch has learned nothing from the Fort Hood attack. In fact, President Obama ordered a review after the attack, the FBI instituted several systemic changes, and DoD has been engaged in an extensive review effort involving an independent panel, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and the Military Services. Our conclusion is not that the Executive Branch has avoided learning lessons but rather there are more lessons to be learned and changes to be implemented.
2 - See http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2009/11/14/weekly-address-veterans-day-and-fort-hood. For a transcript of the address, see http://middleeastabout.com/od/documentl/qt/obama-fort-hood.htm.
3 - The Congressional Research Service defines homegrown violent Islamist extremism as "terrorist activity or plots perpetrated within the United States or abroad by American citizens, legal permanent residents, or visitors radicalized [to violent Islamist extremism] largely within the United States." John Rollins, American Jihadist Terrorism: Combating a Complex Threat, Congressional Research Service (2010).
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