- The Washington Times - Friday, April 16, 2010

The Pentagon on Thursday said it will adopt a broad policy governing how privately owned guns can be carried or stored at military installations in the aftermath of the shooting deaths of 13 people last year at Fort Hood, Texas.

The disgruntled Army psychiatrist charged in the deaths, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, 39, had little or no access to military firearms in his job as a psychologist, but was able to buy two handguns and bring them to the base.

As Congress launched its investigation into the shooting five months ago, Sens. Joe Lieberman, Connecticut independent, and Susan Collins, Maine Republican, said they will send subpoenas to the Pentagon and Justice Department if the administration doesn’t provide more information about the Fort Hood case by Monday.

Mr. Lieberman and Ms. Collins - the two top senators on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee - in a hearing Thursday said the administration is stonewalling their requests for access to FBI agents, documents and the personnel file of Maj. Hasan from the Defense Department.

The administration said it does not want to generate pretrial publicity that could taint a jury pool or make witnesses reluctant to cooperate, and wants to avoid a barrage of defense lawyer requests that could force the government to reveal information it wants to save for a criminal trial.

Earlier this week, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates ordered a new comprehensive policy be developed to cover all branches of the military and its bases and offices. The standardized policy would replace or buttress a patchwork of regulations adopted by each service or individual military installation.

The weapons policy is among recommendations for security and administrative upgrades released by the Pentagon on Thursday. Mr. Gates ordered that an interim weapons policy be in force by June, and a permanent one is anticipated early next year.

The new policy is expected to mirror restrictions already in place at some military installations that, for example, require guns brought to a base to be registered with military police.

Mr. Gates also ordered changes in the way tips and information in criminal investigations are shared, and directed an internal review of personnel policies on health care records. An outside panel said those policies can prevent higher-ups from knowing about behavior or other problems that might be alarming.

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