The Army today held out the possibility that after Ft. Hood gunman Maj. Nidal Hasan is convicted in the November 2009 shooting, it may reclassify the incident as an act of terrorism, 1200 WOAI news reports.
In a letter to several members of Congress obtained by 1200 WOAI news, Lt. Gen Dana Chipman, the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General, states that for now, the shooting was 'the alleged criminal act of a single individual.' But he says 'the Army is willing to reconsider this decision if it is warranted at a later time.'
13 people died and 32 were injured when Hasan started firing in a billeting center at Ft. Hood. It is the worst mass shooting ever on a U.S. military post. Hasan is set to stand trial this summer, with panel selection set to begin June 5.
Chipman's letter was in response to the demands of three members of Congress that the shooting be designated as an act of terrorism so the victims can receive health care, benefits, and military decorations which are made available to those who are wounded in 'the war on terrorism.'
Chipman said the Army has never classified the shooting as 'workplace violence,' a claim which Neal Sher, the attorney for the victims, rejected as 'nauseating.'
"It is very odd indeed that only now, in the face of persistent Congressional inquiries to both DoD and DoJ regarding the genesis of this classification and the identities of those responsible for it, does the Army 'walk back' from the dishonest 'workplace violence' determination," Sher said.
Sher said the 'workplace violence' term was used by the Army to describe the Ft. Hood shooting in an August 2010 memo from then Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, saying the Pentagon's response to the Ft. Hood attack would be to 'strengthen its policies, programs, and procedures in workplace violence.' He says the Defense Department repeatedly used the phrase in memos regarding the Ft. Hood attack.
General Chipman, in his letter to three Congressmen who earlier this month urged the Pentagon to change its designation, said 'there has been no factual basis or precedent that would support designating this event as combat.'
"The available evidence in this case does not, at this time, support a finding that the shooting at Ft. Hood as an act of international terrorism," Chipman wrote.
Hasan was in contact via e-mail with Anwar al-Awlaki, the U.S. born al-Qaeda theorist who was killed by a U.S. drone strike in Yemen in 2011.
About nine months before the shooting, an FBI investigation revealed that Hasan had sent al-Awlaki an e-mail reading: "There are... many Muslims who join the armed forces for a myriad of different reasons. Some appear to have internal conflicts and have even killed or tried to kill other us soldiers in the name of Islam i.e. Hasan Akbar."
"Gen. Chipman's letter is just the latest example of the damage that an arrogant and unaccountable bureaucracy can do to the innocent people who are unlucky enough to get in its way," Sher said. "These people died and scores were wounded because the government gave Hasan preferential treatment due to his religion and ethnicity."