WASHINGTON — Several officers failed to use "appropriate judgment and standards" in overseeing the career of U.S. Army Maj. Nidal Hasan and their actions should be investigated immediately, according to the military's investigation into the November Fort Hood massacre.
A report released Friday says that commanders must be encouraged to look for cues that could prevent a similar attack.
"The report raises serious questions about the degree to which the entire Department of Defense is prepared for similar incidents in the future, especially multiple simultaneous incidents," Defense Secretary Robert Gates said.
According to two officials familiar with the case, as many as eight Army officers could face discipline for failing to do anything when Hasan displayed erratic behavior early in his military career. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because that information has not been publicly released.
Hasan, 39, is accused of murdering 13 people on Nov. 5 at Fort Hood, the worst killing spree on a U.S. military base.
Retired Adm. Vernon E. Clark and former Army secretary Togo D. West Jr., who led the investigation, told reporters that there were discrepancies between Hasan's performance and his personnel records.
Their investigation also found that his top-level security clearance hadn't been properly investigated. Had policies been properly followed, investigators say his clearance may have been revoked "and his continued service and pending deployment would have been subject to increased scrutiny."
A separate White House assessment concluded that the Defense and Justice departments should improve communications on "disaffected individuals." It also found that intelligence and law enforcement personnel should conduct a more thorough analysis of certain information, according to a summary released Friday.
Gates said the findings were unacceptable and directed Army Secretary John McHugh to put new procedures in place by summer.
"It is clear that as a department we have not done enough to adapt to the evolving internal security threat" and the military "is burdened by 20th century processes and attitudes mostly rooted in the Cold War," Gates said.
Officials say that several midlevel officers overlooked or failed to act on red flags in Hasan's lax work habits and his fixation on religion. Hasan was seen by the reviews as a loner who was passed along from office to office and job to job despite professional failings that included missed or failed exams and physical fitness requirements.
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Findings about Hasan and those who supervised him are contained in a confidential addendum to a larger report about the Pentagon's handling of potential extremism in the ranks and readiness to handle the sort of mass casualties Hasan allegedly inflicted.
The officers supervised Hasan when he was a medical student and during his early work as an Army psychiatrist at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington.
The report, called "Protecting the Force," concludes that the Defense Department had outdated and ineffective means to identify threats from inside as opposed to outside the military. It also says the department's means of sharing and collating information about a potential troublemaker are inadequate, one official said.
The inquiry also questions whether the Pentagon is fully committed to FBI-run Joint Terrorism Task Forces. The report calls on the Defense Department to fully staff those teams of investigators, analysts, linguists and others so the Pentagon can quickly see information collected across government agencies about potential links between troops and terrorist or extremist groups.
The report found that although emergency response at Fort Hood was generally good, there are gaps elsewhere and sometimes a failure to link emergency response operations on military installations with those in the surrounding communities.
The findings are the result of two months of work by a panel convened by Gates to look for holes in Pentagon policies and procedures revealed by the Hasan case.
Hasan often late, absent
The review did not consider whether the shootings were an act of terrorism and did not delve into allegations that Hasan was in contact with a radical cleric in Yemen. Those questions are part of the separate criminal case against Hasan.
Hasan was often late or absent, sometimes appeared disheveled and performed to minimum requirements. The pattern was obvious to many around him, yet not fully reflected where it counted in the Army's bureaucratic system of evaluation and promotion, investigators found.
Hasan nonetheless earned some good reviews from patients and colleagues. His promotion to major was based on an incomplete personnel file, one official said, but also on performance markers that Hasan had met, if barely.
Hasan showed no signs of being violent or a threat. But parallels have been drawn between the missed signals in his case and those preceding the thwarted Christmas attempt to blow up a Detroit-bound U.S. airliner. President Barack Obama and his top national security aides have acknowledged they had intelligence about the alleged bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, but failed to connect the dots.
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