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Ft. Hood Shooter Should Have Been Interviewed, FBI Official Says

U.S. Government Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- A top FBI official testified Wednesday that Ft. Hood shooter Army Major Nidal Hasan should have been interviewed by FBI and Defense Department investigators before the deadly shooting, based on reports from a field office about the major’s activities.

Dressed in traditional Islamic garb, Hasan entered a facility filled with unarmed U.S. service members on November 5, 2009, reportedly screaming "Allahu Akbar" -- "God Is Great" in Arabic -- as he opened fire with a pair of pistols. He killed 13 people, including a pregnant soldier, and wounded dozens more before security personnel shot Hasan, rendering him paralyzed.

FBI Executive Assistant Director Mark Giuliano appeared before the House Appropriations Committee to testify about an investigative report by former FBI Director William Webster over how the FBI handled intelligence information and communications between Maj. Hasan and Anwar al Alawki, the now deceased American-Yemeni cleric who played an operational planning role for al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

“It’s easy to go back and second guess. I believe an interview would have been prudent in this case,” Giuliano told Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., chairman of the Appropriations Commerce-Justice-Science subcommittee.

“I am concerned that there were warning signs, and that with more aggressive investigation, there is a chance that this incident could have been prevented.  I am further concerned that the reason for less-aggressive investigation may have been political sensitivities in the Washington Field Office, and maybe even the FBI’s own investigating guidelines,” Wolf said in his opening statement at the hearing.

The Webster report found shortcomings with FBI policies, technology and training in how FBI agents handled a review into Maj. Hasan before the Ft. Hood terror attack, which killed 13 and left 42 wounded.

Also revealed in Webster’s report were concerns from FBI Agents on the San Diego Joint Terrorism Task Force who were investigating Awlaki who passed leads onto the FBI Washington Field Office (WFO) about Hasan’s communications with the terrorist.

A task force agent wrote that, "… WFO doesn’t go out and interview every Muslim guy who visits extremist websites."  The report cited a paraphrased email from a Washington Field Office Agent to San Diego.

“Besides, this guy has a legitimate work related reasons to be going to these sites and engaging these extremists in dialogue. WFO did not assess this guy as a terrorism threat.” The email cited in the report noted about Maj. Hasan who was conducting research on Islamic beliefs and military service at Walter Reed Medical Center.

FBI agents in Washington only conducted a cursory records check of Maj. Hasan and saw that he had recently been promoted and that officials at Walter Reed believed his research was significant. The agents also believed that tipping off Hasan may have jeopardized the investigation into Awlaki.

Webster’s review also noted that agents in San Diego recalled that someone in the Washington Field Office noted that the inquiry into Hasan was “politically sensitive for WFO.”

“I personally do not believe political correctness had anything to do with this determination,” Giuliano testified before the committee.  ”I don’t believe political correctness -- nor does the report believe political correctness was the reason for that.”

Critics have claimed just the opposite, that Hasan's growing Islamic extremism wasn't a secret with his colleagues, but nobody was willing to report him for fear of appearing biased. Hasan made no secret of where his loyaties ultimately lay. His business cards made no mention of his military affiliation, but underneath his name he listed himself as SoA (SWT). SoA is commonly used on jihadist Web sites as the acronym for "Soldier of Allah" while "SWT" is commonly used to stand for "Subhanahu Wa Ta'ala," or "Glory to God."

“This was a judgment call. And unfortunately we make these judgment calls every single day, and we have to be right every single time,” Giuliano told the committee.  "As you look through it, an interview would have been prudent in this time. It’s hard to tell whether it would have changed things.”

Webster’s review ultimately concluded that no one was responsible for mistakes in how the Hasan case was handled, writing to FBI Director Robert Mueller: “We do not find, and do not believe, that anyone is solely responsible for mistakes in handling the information. We do not believe it would be fair to hold these dedicated personnel, who work in a context of constant threats and limited resources, responsible for the tragedy that occurred months later at Fort Hood.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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