WASHINGTON — On Wednesday, the court-martial of accused Fort Hood gunman Major Nidal Hasan will creep forward at its glacial pace with a motions hearing to hear defense requests on a change of venue and the makeup of the panel that will potentially hear the case.
Facing 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder — and potentially the death penalty — Hasan’s trial has been delayed several months by his growth of a beard not permitted on service members.
Still, the movement in Hasan’s case is swifter than the move toward any resolution of the grievances of victims and survivors of the Nov. 5, 2009, mass slaying.
Rep. John Carter (R-Texas), whose district includes Fort Hood, told PJM the base is soldiering on, but a recent ABC News interview in which the officer who shot Hasan during the rampage says President Obama has “betrayed” the victims came as no surprise to him.
“Not to the least little bit have the victims been taken care of,” Kimberly Munley said. “In fact, they’ve been neglected.”
Carter just introduced yet again legislation to ensure that the victims and victims’ families in the Fort Hood attack are eligible for the same treatment, benefits, and honors as Americans killed or wounded in an overseas combat zone.
“I know I’ve got the votes if they bring it to the floor,” he said, adding he’s already talking with the majority leader about moving the bill forward. “The administration doesn’t want it to be bought to the floor.”
At issue is the Obama administration’s classification of the attack as “workplace violence” instead of terrorism, which the Pentagon said is vital terminology to not jeopardize the prosecution of Hasan.
Carter is called “Judge” up on the Hill because he served 21 years on the bench before coming to Washington. With seven death penalty cases and countless murder cases under his belt — and a longtime friendship with Army Secretary John McHugh, who has defended the classification — he’s not buying the Defense Department’s argument for avoiding the word terrorism.
“If I couldn’t try a case with somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 to 50 witnesses, I’d be a pretty lousy prosecutor,” Carter said.
His bill is not just about Purple Hearts for wounded soldiers, but opening eligibility for meritorious medals for those who protected others in the shooting rampage.
“It’s about time we meet obligations,” Carter said. “The enemy brought the battlefield to our own hometown.”
A co-sponsor of Carter’s bill, Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), slammed the administration in a one-minute floor speech in the House earlier this month, saying Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey, Attorney General Eric Holder, and Obama “have failed the people, and continue to fail the people that were wounded and killed and the families of Fort Hood.”
Today, Wolf told PJM that the proof of Hasan’s terrorist intent can be found in the administration’s own drone strikes.
Hasan had email communications with senior al-Qaeda recruiter and Yemen-based cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, and there are even indications that al-Awlaki was one of the imams at the funeral of Hasan’s mother.
“Major Hasan was connected, influenced by Alwaki,” Wolf said. “The administration thought Awlaki was dangerous enough that they killed him with a drone missile… It’s got to be fairly significant, the fact that they did this to an American citizen.”
“The people at Fort Hood, the wounded have been getting a very, very bad deal with Panetta,” the congressman continued. “It clearly is a terrorist attack. It is not workplace violence and by not calling it that, it’s a failure.”
Wolf called the dragged-out prosecution of Hasan “ridiculous.”
“This is being dictated by the attorney general and the White House,” he said.
Carter said he understands why the defense is trying to keep Hasan from getting to trial as long as possible — “that’s their job; they delay as long as they can” — but said “it’s time to get this thing over with.”
Along with Wolf, co-sponsors to Carter’s bill are Texas GOP Reps. Bill Flores and Michael Burgess.
Similar legislation introduced by the Fort Hood representative days after the attack reaped 97 co-sponsors. Wolf said “the media let this thing go,” and there’s barely any heat on the administration as a result.
“Just what my mom would always say — just do the right thing — and they won’t do the right thing unless the media holds them accountable,” he said.
Last May, Carter lauded the inclusion of language from a bill by Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) granting Purple Hearts to Fort Hood victims in the National Defense Authorization Act. In dozens of concerns cited in the Office of Management and Budget’s veto threat was this language, which also included Purple Heart eligibility for the 2009 Little Rock military recruiting office shooting.
“The Administration objects to section 552, which would grant Purple Hearts to the victims of the shooting incidents in Fort Hood, Texas, and Little Rock, Arkansas,” the OMB wrote. “The criminal acts that occurred in Little Rock were tried by the State of Arkansas as violations of the State criminal code rather than as acts of terrorism; as a result, this provision could create appellate issues.”
Carter knows Obama will likely be poised with his veto pen if this long-overdue bill even gets to the Senate floor.
“I wouldn’t put anything past the president,” he said. “The right thing to do is award that medal to the people who were wounded in that particular skirmish.”
The Texan has another bill this Congress that would amend Title X of the U.S. Code “to extend whistleblower protections to a member of the Armed Forces who alerts Department of Defense investigation or law enforcement organizations, a person or organization in the member’s chain of command, and certain other persons or entities about the potentially dangerous ideologically based threats or actions of another member against United States interests or security.”
Carter said he wants members of the military to feel they can report extremism regardless of rank, without fear of a black mark on their records.
Hundreds have reported witnessing bizarre behavior or hearing questionable Islamist statements from Hasan, yet congressional probes since the Fort Hood shooting determined that political correctness was a factor that stood in the way of addressing the threat.
Hasan completed his psychiatric residency at Walter Reed, where he told Army physicians in a senior-year presentation “it’s getting harder and harder for Muslims in the service to morally justify being in a military that seems constantly engaged against fellow Muslims.”
In the slideshow presentation, called “The Koranic World View As It Relates to Muslims in the U.S. Military,” he warned of “adverse events” if Muslim soldiers didn’t have the option of being released as conscientious objectors.
“If we’d have known that, maybe we wouldn’t have spent all that money on his medical training,” Carter said.