The director of the National Counterterrorism Center called the 2009 Fort Hood terrorist attack a "hard lesson learned" and stated the need to "do better". He specifically referenced the failure of the FBI to warn the Department of Defense of U.S. Army Major Nidal Hasan's email correspondence with al Qaedacleric Anwar al Awlaki, in which Hasan expressed justification for suicide bombings.
"We need to continue to be vigilant to do better at spotting those types of indicators and sharing that information appropriately," NCTC Director Matthew Olsen responded to Congressman Michael McCaul (R-TX), Chairman of Homeland Security oversight, during today's full Homeland Security Committee hearing.
"I think that failure to contact the DOD resulted in the deaths of 13 soldiers and next to 9/11 the biggest terrorist attack on American soil," Rep. McCaul told Olsen.
"When you've got a Major on a major base in the United States talking to the number two terrorist in the world and that's not transmitted to the general and commanding officer in charge of Fort Hood, I think that is absolutely unacceptable," McCaul continued. "And in particular after reading these emails I feel that senior officials misled the congress by downplaying the extent and importance and significance of these emails."
The unclassified version of the Webster report on the Fort Hood shooting, released last week, for the first time publicly exposed details of Hasan's emails with Awlaki prior to the attack, and the FBI's unwillingness to investigate. The FBI's Washington Field Office (WFO), responding to urgent requests from the FBI in San Diego to investigate Hasan, expressed concerns that alerting Hasan's supervisors could ruin his career, and called the subject of a Muslim visiting extremist websites "politically sensitive for WFO".
"There is a huge red flag in this email," Congressman McCaul told Olsen, referencing Hasan's justification for suicide bombings against "enemy soldiers" in May 2009, nearly six months before Hasan killed 13 soldiers and wounded several others. "As a former DOJ prosecutor working with JTTF (Joint Terrorism Task Force) I can see San Diego's concern but I cannot imagine why WFO did not give that greater attention."
Olsen cited the Fort Hood shooting and the first underwear bomber's attempt to blow up a jet on approach to Detroit on Christmas Day 2009 as "seminal events" for lessons learned.