Fort Hood Shooter: Passing the Buck
A Defense Department Review has found that doctors overseeing the training of the Fort Hood shooter continually voiced complaints concerning his strident views on Islam and inappropriate behavior. At the same time Nidal Hasan was promoted and received positive performance evaluations.
In telling episodes from the latter stages of Hasan’s lengthy medical education in the Washington, D.C., area, he gave a class presentation questioning whether the U.S.-led war on terror was actually a war on Islam. And fellow students said he suggested that Shariah (shah-REE’-yuh), or Islamic law, trumped the Constitution and he attempted to justify suicide bombings.
Yet no one in Hasan’s chain of command appears to have challenged his eligibility to hold a secret security clearance even though they could have because the statements raised doubt about his loyalty to the United States. Had they, Hasan’s fitness to serve as an Army officer may have been called into question long before he reported to Fort Hood.
Instead, in July 2009, Hasan arrived in central Texas, his secret clearance intact, his reputation as a weak performer well known, and Army authorities believing that posting him at such a large facility would mask his shortcomings.
The Army knew not only that Hassan was a Jihadist sympathizer, but that he was also a substandard doctor:
While in medical school at the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences from 1997 to 2003, Hasan received a string of below average and failing grades, was put on academic probation and showed little motivation to learn.
He took six years to graduate from the university in Bethesda, Md., instead of the customary four, according to the school. The delays were due in part to the deaths of his father in 1998 and his mother in 2001. Yet the information about his academic probation and bad grades wasn’t included in his military personnel file, leaving the impression he was ready for more intense instruction.
In June 2003, Hasan started a four-year psychiatry internship and residency at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., and he was counseled frequently for deficiencies in his performance. Teachers and colleagues described him as a below average student.
Between 2003 and 2007, Hasan’s supervisors expressed their concerns with him in memos, meeting notes and counseling sessions. He needed steady monitoring, especially in the emergency room, had difficulty communicating and working with colleagues, his attendance was spotty and he saw few patients.
Still, Hasan’s officer evaluation reports were consistently more positive, usually describing his performance as satisfactory and at least twice as outstanding. Known as “OERs,” the reports are used to determine promotions and assignments. The Army promoted Hasan to captain in 2003 and to major in 2009.
At Walter Reed, Hasan’s conflict with his Islamic faith and his military service became more apparent to superiors and colleagues, according to the information. He made a pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia, a trip expected of all Muslims at least once. But he was also cited for inappropriately engaging patients in discussions about religious issues.
Early in 2007, Maj. Scott Moran became director of psychiatry residency and took a much firmer line with Hasan. Moran reprimanded him for not being reachable when he was supposed to be on-call, developed a plan to improve his performance, and informed him his research project about the internal conflicts of Muslim soldiers was inappropriate.
Nonetheless, Hasan presented the project, entitled “Koranic World View as It Relates to Muslims in the U.S. Military,” and it was approved as meeting a residency program requirement, according to the information.
This report merely confirms what we already knew: there were plenty of red flags about Hasan and no one did anything. No one in Hasan’s chain of command had the courage to step up to the plate and take the necessary steps to get rid of a doctor who was not only manifestly incompetent but who was potentially dangerous. To do so against a Muslim doctor would have risked their careers, and they valued their careers ahead of the troops who would come into contact with Hasan. They gave Hasan glowing reviews so he would be promoted, transferred and be someone else’s problem. Completely contemptible.