More than a year before the massacre at Fort Hood, a Senate panel conducting an extensive investigation into the threat of homegrown terrorism warned that "radicalization" had spread beyond Afghanistan training camps to the United States and that lone wolves fueled by Internet propaganda would present a growing threat.
The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which produced the report, is the same panel set to conduct what one lawmaker called a "no-holds-barred" investigation into Fort Hood, with hearings scheduled to begin next Thursday. Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., has said he sees signs that alleged shooter Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan was an "Islamist extremist."
But the panel has been looking at the issue of homegrown threats for years, and its May 2008 report served up startling warnings, describing scenarios eerily similar to the mass shooting at the Texas military post last week, which left 13 dead and 29 wounded.
"Radicalization is no longer confined to training camps in Afghanistan or other locations far from our shores; it is also occurring right here in the United States," the report stated.
Hasan is accused of reaching out to an Al Qaeda associate via e-mail. Officials say he communicated 10 to 20 times with a radical cleric overseas who had used his own Web site to incite Muslim violence against U.S. troops.
The Senate committee report warned that the Internet was serving as a "virtual terrorist training camp," and cited that as a contributing factor in the United States becoming more and more susceptible to homegrown extremists.
Though the report said that the lack of a "sympathetic audience" and presence of an integrated Muslim community historically has made homegrown terrorism less likely in the United States, it cited recent homegrown plots -- like a foiled plot against Fort Dix, N.J. -- as an "early warning" that the trend is reversing.
"No longer is the threat just from abroad, as was the case with the attacks of September 11, 2001; the threat is now increasingly from within, from homegrown terrorists who are inspired by violent Islamist ideology to plan and execute attacks where they live," it said.
Though there is ongoing debate over whether the Fort Hood shooting should be considered a terrorist act, some have called it the worst since Sept. 11.
Neil Livingstone, terrorism analyst and chairman of GlobalOptions, said Hasan was a "walking time bomb" who showed "all the signs" of instability. Livingstone said "political correctness" may have prevented other officials from taking action against him, but that his actions fit the "definition" of terrorism.
"He was a loner. ... He was in contact with radical elements overseas. He was obsessed with his Muslim faith. And I think nothing was done," Livingstone told Fox News. "I think we have to face up to the fact that this guy was killing innocent people because of his Muslim faith, and we need to say that, and I think that's going to come out in the hearings and in the trial."
Mike Baker, a former CIA covert operations officer, said Hasan -- particularly as a member of the U.S. military -- would have made an "attractive candidate" for radicals overseas. If he was influenced by such elements, Baker said, Hasan would be more than just an "unhinged fellow" accused of going on a shooting rampage.
If so, the attack certainly did not follow the Sept. 11 model, where hijackers were recruited from overseas in the Middle East. As the 2008 report detailed, "the violent Islamist threat to the homeland has evolved and expanded."
The committee cited the acts of "homegrown terrorists" in the 2004 Madrid and 2005 London attacks as examples of the evolving trend. FBI Director Robert Mueller previously warned of a similar threat in the United States.
But top senators on the homeland security panel, which has held nine hearings since late 2006 on the topic of homegrown extremism, are suggesting that when it came to Hasan, warning signs may have been missed or ignored. The Washington Post reported Monday that in a slide presentation delivered by Hasan, he suggested that Muslim soldiers should be allowed to leave the military as 'conscientious objectors' in part to avoid "adverse events."
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, ranking Republican on the Homeland Security Committee, told Fox News that it appears the "red flags" surrounding Hasan should have prompted an investigation.
"Certainly it's worrisome if red flags were ignored, if behavior issues were not targeted for further review," Collins said Tuesday. "This is something we have to have a no-holds-barred investigation of."
A Lieberman spokeswoman told Fox News that the upcoming investigation will be a continuation of the homegrown terrorism probe the Connecticut senator has conducted for years.