U.S officials intercepted a number of communications last year between an Army major who allegedly killed 13 people Thursday at his Texas military base and the radical, Al-Qaida-linked former imam of his Washington-area mosque, Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) said Monday.
"Somebody dropped the ball," King said in reference to the communications between Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, a psychiatrist, and Imam Anwar Al-Awlaki, who was known to have given fiery anti-U.S. sermons after he left the United States, first in Britain and then in Yemen.
King, who is ranking minority member on the Homeland Security Committee and a member of the intelligence committee, said he would like to know why an officer in the U.S. Army was allowed to continue in the service and bring a weapon onto a military base when he was known to have contact with a terrorist.
Al-Awlaki, a U.S. citizen who lives in Yemen, has long been monitored by U.S. and Yemeni authorities for potential radical activities and links to al-Qaida.
The FBI, in a statement released last night, said the 2008 intercepts by a federal Joint Terrorism Task Force were viewed as communications involving Hasan's research as a psychiatrist then at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, and did not indicate any potential threat to individuals or terrorist plots.
"At this point, there is no information to indicate Major Malik Nidal Hasan had any co-conspirators or was part of any of a broader terrorist plot," the statement said.
Sources familiar with the continuing investigation said that FBI and Army agents as of Monday had conducted dozens of interviews connected to the case and gone through the personal computer of the alleged killer, but said the conclusion by investigators was very tentative.
The sources added that because of the investigation's preliminary nature, nothing had been ruled out as to Hasan's motivation.
Possible motivations included: there was a relationship with the imam, two 9/11 hijackers also attended the mosque at the same time as Hasan or other terrorists; that Hasan had been influenced by terrorist writings by his former imam or others; or that he was motivated by general pro-terrorist sentiments, possibly coupled with a psychotic breakdown, but that he had acted on his own.