Published January 20, 2010
WASHINGTON -- Lawmakers on Wednesday criticized leaders of an internal Pentagon inquiry into the deadly Fort Hood shootings for refusing to discuss why the accused gunman moved through the U.S military's ranks despite repeated concerns over his performance and behavior.
During a House Armed Services Committee hearing, Togo West and Vern Clark said Defense Department attorneys told them that they could not delve into a restricted portion of the review about Army psychiatrist Nidal Hasan's official personnel records.
Doing so in a public setting would compromise "the integrity of the ongoing military justice process," West, a former Army secretary, and Clark, a retired Navy admiral, told the committee.
But several members of the panel disputed that. "When is the right time to have this discussion?" said Rep. Vic Snyder, a Demoicrat.
"I read the classified portion of the report and it was a finding of facts prior to the tragedy," added Rep. Mike Coffman, a Republican. "It ought to be available to the American public."
Hasan's supervisors sanitized his performance appraisals in the years prior to the shootings, according to government documents obtained by The Associated Press that reveal concerns about him at almost every stage of his Army education.
Officers in charge of Hasan loaded praise into the alleged gunman's record despite knowing he was chronically late for work, saw few patients, disappeared when he was on call and confronted those around him with his Islamic views.
The materials also disclose concerns that the psychiatrist-in-training might have been developing a psychosis, according to the documents, yet no mental health evaluation was done.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates last week released the results of the review led by West and Clark that found several unidentified medical officers failed to use "appropriate judgment and standards of officership" when reviewing Hasan's performance as a student, internist and psychiatric resident.
Gates withheld details, noting disciplinary action is possible.
The disjointed picture emerges through the information gathered during the internal review. The material shows that the same supervisor who meticulously catalogued Hasan's problems suddenly swept them under the rug when graduation arrived.
Nothing in this record points specifically to a risk Hasan would turn violent.
On Nov. 5, according to witnesses, Hasan walked into a processing center at Fort Hood where troops undergo medical screening and opened fire with a pair of handguns. Thirteen people were killed and many more were wounded.
Hasan has been charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder. Authorities have not said whether they plan to seek the death penalty.
After the Fort Hood shootings, Gates appointed West and Clark to examine the procedures and policies for identifying threats within the military services.