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Potential Clues in Fort Hood Report on FBI’s Treatment of Tsarnaev Lead

Did politically correct "sensitivities" damn another probe into extremism with deadly results? PLUS: Napolitano says system "ping" caught Tsarnaev departure, but not return

by
Bridget Johnson

Bio

April 23, 2013 - 8:23 pm

Lawmakers questioning the FBI’s treatment of a tip about the radicalization of Tamerlan Tsarnaev may begin to find some answers in last year’s review of another case in which known extremism was downplayed with fatal results.

That was the case of Army Maj. Nidal Hasan, accused of shooting 13 people to death and wounding 42 on Nov. 5, 2009, at the Fort Hood deployment center after jumping on a desk and shouting “Allahu Akbar!”

The Final Report of the William H. Webster Commission on the FBI, Counterterrorism Intelligence, and the Events at Fort Hood, Texas was released last July without much attention as the suspect sat in perennial pretrial motions. It detailed a Bureau that brushed aside warning signs of a known extremist as he grew more radical and communicated with Yemeni cleric and al-Qaeda recruiter Anwar al-Awlaki.

The 173-page report containing sporadic redactions relayed conversations of agents just months before the Fort Hood attack arguing that they don’t “go out and interview every Muslim guy who visits extremist websites,” with the Washington, D.C., field office also advising the San Diego field office that the subject of probing someone like Hasan is “politically sensitive.”

One email determined that “Hasan was conducting US Army sponsored research that was online with the questions he sent Aulaqi.”

“If you have additional information regarding Hasan’s links to terrorism or request any specific action, please share and we will re-assess,” Washington told San Diego.

The FBI decided not to even interview Hasan and failed to consider searching for messages from al-Awlaki. “Their assessment of Hasan was belated, incomplete, and rushed,” the Webster report states.

Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce-Justice-Science, said in August at a hearing on the report that it raised serious concerns about the FBI choosing the path of least resistance when confronted with a potentially controversial investigation.

“I am concerned that there were warning signs, and that with more aggressive investigation, there is a chance that this incident could have been prevented,” Wolf said. “I am further concerned that the reason for less aggressive investigation may have been political sensitivities in the Washington Field Office, and maybe even the FBI’s own investigating guidelines.”

“An active duty member of the military communicating with a known radicalizer and recruiter should have been taken more seriously than it was. The report shows that the San Diego field office believed that at the time, as is shown by their unusual reaction to how the lead was handled by the Washington Field Office.”

Wolf asked FBI Director Robert Mueller to come testify at that hearing, but the Bureau sent Mark Giuliano, executive assistant director for national security.

In a lengthy letter to Mueller after the hearing, Wolf raised concerns that Giuliano “made comments to the committee that I believe were misleading or incorrect with regard to the nature of findings in the Webster Commission report and the FBI’s understanding of Anwar Aulaqi at various points over the last decade.”

In all, Wolf singled out six troubling statements from the FBI official as “potentially misleading, uninformed or incomplete.”

At the hearing, Wolf grilled Giuliano on whether political correctness led to agents being gun-shy about aggressively pursing Hasan’s links with Islamic extremists.

“The report did not find political correctness was in any way, shape, or form responsible for his lack of going forward with the interview,” Giuliano responded, countering the pair of noted concerns in the report about “political sensitivities” being a factor in Washington’s decision not to investigate Hasan further.

“I repeatedly asked Mr. Giuiliano to cite the section of the report that found that there was no political correctness ‘in any way, shape, or form,’ but he refused. When I confronted him about misleading the committee, he admitted that I was correct on that point,” Wolf wrote in the letter to Mueller. “Later in the hearing reversed again and said that he and I just ‘disagree’ on that point.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) met Sunday evening with an unnamed assistant director at the FBI who told him that the FBI missed Tsarnaev’s six-month trip to Russia last year because of a misspelling by the airline.

The referral of Tsarnaev to the FBI was likely tainted by incredulity, as the Kremlin will happily persecute and accuse anyone seen as an enemy of the state even if they’re as harmless as a human-rights activist.

But the revelations in the Webster report about how “political sensitivities” played into a scant investigation of one terrorist should surface in determining whether this time the FBI “dropped the ball,” as lawmakers are describing the dismissal of the Chechen immigrant’s extremism after following up on Russia’s tip and interviewing Tsarnaev in 2011.

Senate Intelligence Committee members learned today that Russia delivered not one but “multiple” warnings that Tsarnaev was a radical Islamist preparing to head overseas to join with an illicit group.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano even contradicted Graham’s source at a hearing on the immigration bill today, saying there was indeed notification when the elder Tsarnaev brother hopped a flight to Russia.

“The system pinged when he was leaving the United States. By the time he returned, all investigations had been — the matter had been closed,” she said.

“Is it true that his identity document did not match his airline ticket? And if so, why did TSA miss the discrepancy?” asked Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa).

“There was a mismatch there,” Napolitano said. “By the way, the bill will help with this because it requires that passports be electronically readable, as opposed to having to be manually input. It really does a good job of getting human error, to the extent it exists, out of the process. But even under — even with the misspelling, under our current system, there are redundancies, and so the system did ping when he was leaving the United States.”

She clarified later in the hearing to Graham that the FBI alert on Tsarnaev upon his return “was more than a year old and had expired.”

“The point I’m trying to make is after having talked to the FBI, they told me they had no knowledge of him leaving or coming back. The name was misspelled,” Graham said. “…And when we say there was no broader plot here, I just don’t know how in the world we know that at this early stage.”

The House and Senate Intelligence committees received a closed-door briefing from the FBI today about agents’ questioning of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev at the 19-year-old’s hospital bed. The surviving suspect’s condition was upgraded today from serious to fair.

“I’ll be honest, it is not clear even after the interview of the suspect in custody has been conducted, it’s still not clear exactly why they did this,” committee member Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) told CNN afterward. “…There are lots of inconsistencies that the FBI is going to have to ferret out.”

“You have a young man who’s coming and going with respect to the sedation that he’s been under and very traumatic experience for any 19-year-old and he’s obviously shown some emotion about his involvement and the facts leading up to this taking place,” he added.

Asked if that “emotion” included feeling sorry for what he’d done, Chambliss said, “I don’t think there’s been any indication of remorse.”

Two days ago, al-Qaeda affiliated Somali terror group Al-Shabaab tweeted that the Boston attack showed the West is oblivious to the “jihadi siren blasts.”

“There is a Nidal Hasan in every sincere Muslims in the West. When their wrath exceeds the tolerable threshold, be worried.”

Bridget Johnson is a veteran journalist whose news articles and opinion columns have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe. Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor at The Hill, where she wrote The World from The Hill column on foreign policy. Previously she was an opinion writer and editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. She is an NPR contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, Politico and more, and has myriad television and radio credits as a commentator. Bridget is Washington Editor for PJ Media.

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Top Rated Comments   
Igude is correct. Identity politics has overtaken almost every government bureaucracy at all levels. To bring equality women who can't lift a fire hose become lieutenants after a short time to fulfill quotas. The FBI has been gutted by promoting special classes of people to the detriment of the white male. This brings discouragement by the white males who realize they cannot advance because quotas have to be filled. As in most government jobs the former backbones of the organizations simply give up because it now becomes what identity group you belong to is more important than how you do your job. San Francisco Police Department is another fine example.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The Major is not an extremeist. He was following Muhammad. The only extremists within Islam are the Apostates.

His connection to terrorism is the koran.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (17)
All Comments   (17)
Sort: Newest Oldest Top Rated
Muslims will continue to come to America&kill us unless a stops put to them.Unfortunately!Obama doesn't see&realize he is dangering citizens.Liz
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Think about this for one minute.
The Koran requires all Muslims to kill the Infidels, we are the infidels, by the way. Are we allowing Islamic people to come to our Nation because we want of live in a more dangerous neighborhood?

Now, why are we, not only letting more of these people immigrate, but the Obama administration brought a hundred thousand Arabs from Palestine at the taxpayers expense, and they are now legal residents of this Nation, of course they are also on welfare and food stamps. This was done as a consequence of the Cast Lead offensive by Israel in retaliation for a thousand rockets shot into Israel.
Does anyone notice that no country is safe from Islam, it makes no difference what country you wish to look at, Islam is in the process of killing off the citizens and forcing Shariah into the society.
I see a patteren and we had better start pushing back and very soon or we will be destroyed from within.
We have some seven million Muslims in our Nation, how many does it take till we decide it is time to protect ourselves from this barbaric horde?
Soon we will all have to recognize just how deep this problem is in our society.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Can't anyone in this Democratic controlled bureaucracy speak plainly and honestly. Where do they get this endless stream of hacks to appear before congress, the press and the public to be continually covering up either their ineptitude or their socialist agenda or both.

Side comment to PJ Media: Consider making the default sorting for comments "oldest" first. Then it would read more like an ongoing discussion among site members like it used to. They way i is now, you have to re-select "oldest" every time you navigate away and then back to an article
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
“You have a young man who’s coming and going with respect to the sedation that he’s been under and very traumatic experience for any 19-year-old and he’s obviously shown some emotion about his involvement and the facts leading up to this taking place,” he added."

At 19 I was in a fun place called Vietnam. The government didn't seem all that worried about my having a very traumatic experience at the time even though there were a bunch of people running around trying to kill me.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
FBI investigations of reports of muslim suspicious activities start with a bucket of white out and a fast paper shuffle, and end up in a case closed file.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"The referral of Tsarnaev to the FBI was likely tainted by incredulity, as the Kremlin will happily persecute and accuse anyone seen as an enemy of the state even if they’re as harmless as a human-rights activist."

Exactly. How much spying do you want on an American citizen and his brother who has stated a dream of boxing for the US Olympic team and has applied for American citizenship, based on the vindictive Putin regime?

Now, I would look into the funding of a six month trip to the Caucuses by a guy living on welfare.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Do you know how much our careers would suffer if we looked at a suspect based on his Islamic religious extremism?

Gentlemen, I give you the FBI.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The administration fears slandering a "religion" in the name of diversity. When the soviet communists sought world domination, they blundered by explicitly renouncing religion. Hence, they were vulnerable to being labeled "enemy." Islam can seek domination and destruction of non-islamic cultures in the name of religion, and demand that their "religion" be respected.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
When you have an administration more worried about reelection and maintaining control of it's citizens, political correctness is the order of the day. Do not offend the people that are responsible for you and your party being in power regardless of what disasters occur within the borders.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Igude is correct. Identity politics has overtaken almost every government bureaucracy at all levels. To bring equality women who can't lift a fire hose become lieutenants after a short time to fulfill quotas. The FBI has been gutted by promoting special classes of people to the detriment of the white male. This brings discouragement by the white males who realize they cannot advance because quotas have to be filled. As in most government jobs the former backbones of the organizations simply give up because it now becomes what identity group you belong to is more important than how you do your job. San Francisco Police Department is another fine example.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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