Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, charged in the Fort Hood shootings, was too fat and “chronically” unprofessional during his psychiatric training, according to internal e-mails exchanged by his superiors.
The communications are the latest in a series of early signs that showed officers had reason to suspend Maj. Hasan’s training, and perhaps re-evaluate his suitability as a military physician, but failed to do so.
Yet, his bosses at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington allowed him to complete his residency in 2007, enter an advanced fellowship program, win promotion to major and transfer to Fort Hood, Texas, in 2009.
It was there on Nov. 5, while shouting “God is great,” Maj. Hasan fatally shot 13 Army colleagues, according to witnesses.
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The e-mails highlight another point at which the U.S. military government could have intervened to stop Maj. Hasan’s career before the shooting. The FBI and other intelligence agencies learned that Maj. Hasan had sent e-mail messages to Anwar al-Awlaki, an al Qaeda-affiliated radical imam in Yemen who urged followers to join the terrorist group and kill Americans.
However, the FBI said in a statement that it dismissed the e-mails as apparently part of Maj. Hasan’s work as a psychiatric counselor. The bureau did not share the intercepted communications with the military people who could have stopped Maj. Hasan, nor did the FBI question the major.
An Army inquiry released in January recommended the service look at disciplining Maj. Hasan’s medical superiors who failed to raise red flags about his conduct, and instead passed him along to the next program and command. The e-mails reviewed by The Washington Times were among the report’s restricted annex material not released to the public.
Maj. Hasan, who was wounded by police during the shooting, has been charged with 13 counts of murder and faces the death penalty if convicted. He is awaiting a court martial. His attorney could not be reached for comment.
The e-mails show superior officers had plenty of problems with Maj. Hasan.
In May 2007, as a then-Capt. Hasan approached a June 30 date to complete his residency in psychiatry, his direct supervisor warned higher-ups he had failed a physical by being overweight.
“He is a chronically somewhat unprofessional officer with a somewhat poor work ethic,” Maj. Scott Moran, residency director, wrote in e-mail to a superior.
Maj. Moran said he was preparing to put Maj. Hasan on probation and extend his residency.
But the superior rejected the idea, saying it would prompt a total re-evaluation of Maj. Hasan.
The superior wrote back to Maj. Moran: “Please don’t go forward on anything yet. If you put him on probation, even administrative, will require me to convene a relook board.”
A source close to the Army investigation said Maj. Hasan was counseled about his substandard high body-fat reading. The source said he thinks Maj. Hasan lost weight, but the fact an officer had to be told to slim down is not consistent with good officership.
In addition to the weight issue, another development could have slowed or stopped Maj. Hasan’s advancement.
“There is another twist,” Maj. Moran wrote on May 11, 2007. He told a second superior that Maj. Hasan did not have sufficient months in a psychiatric clinic to complete his residency.
“I am not trying to hose this guy, but keep everything on the up and up,” Maj. Moran wrote.
This superior dismissed Maj. Moran’s concerns. “We discussed his situation or one like it at the time and decided that the distinction between year levels was arbitrary as long as he got the requisite number of months doing the necessary things,” the superior wrote.
Then came Maj. Hasan’s research project that was required for completing the residency. Walter Reed calls the practice, “Psychiatry Scholarly Activity Oral Presentation at the Psychiatry Regularly Scheduled Conference.” Maj. Hasan chose not a psychiatric topic, per se, but one titled, “Koranic World View as it Relates to Muslims in the U.S. Military.” The slide presentation promoted Islamic law over the U.S. Constitution.
At first, Maj. Moran was appalled. “This is not scholarly project level,” he e-mailed other staff members. “[We] are going to meet with him this AM and counsel him.”
A Moran colleague e-mailed Maj. Hasan to say, “Can you tie this presentation more fully into the GWOT [global war on terrorism]? Your last few slides begin that process. Maybe you could rebalance this presentation with more on how the religion and sectarian violence develops.”
Maj. Hasan e-mailed back, “Here are some revision [sic].” He eventually delivered the slide show June 20, and graduated 10 days later.
One staff supervisor was ecstatic. “Dr. Hasan does an excellent job speaking without ‘reading’ slides!” he wrote on a “resident evaluation.”
“His balance of academic knowledge and personal awareness is remarkable.”
But there was a dissenter among the graders.
“I must admit that I am confused as to how this is acceptable as a scholarly activity,” the supervisor wrote. “While information about Islam, this seems to be a history/religious class report rather than a psychiatric scholarly activity. I would expect better academic efforts from a graduating resident.”
Charles Gittins, attorney for Maj. Moran, said the e-mails show his client was trying to hold Maj. Hasan to Army standards.
“He did everything he could to hold the guy to standards, and he was only with the guy for 14 weeks before Hasan graduated from the residency program,” Mr. Gittins said.
The Army has yet to take any disciplinary action against Maj. Moran or other supervisors, as recommended by the inquiry.
The inquiry, led by former Army Secretary Togo West and former Chief of Naval Operations Vern Clark, concluded: “We believe that some medical officers failed to apply appropriate judgment and standards of officership with respect to the alleged perpetrator. These individuals failed to demonstrate that officership is the essence of being a member of the military profession, regardless of the officer’s specialty.”