Who Is Nidal Malik Hasan? The Picture Becomes (Slightly) Clearer

November 9, 2009 1:01 p.m.

The *tentative* picture emerging of Nidal Malik Hasan is of a man who likely subscribed to radical Islamic beliefs, but who was not acting on behalf of any group in allegedly carrying out the shootings in which 13 died at Fort Hood last week.

The leaks are coming fast and furious in the investigation of the shootings, so we thought we’d put together a digest of the recent coverage.

Bear in mind that what’s missing from many of these reports are named sources, and that many of the initial stories about the case were [totally wrong](http://www.cjr.org/campaign_desk/jumping_to_confusion.php).

Here we go:* Investigators searching Hasan’s computer have found “no evidence of any connection to terror groups or conspirators,” CBS [reports](http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2009/11/08/national/main5578580.shtml). They say he did, however, visit sites promoting a radical Muslim ideology.

* Hasan communicated this year and last year with radical Yemen-based cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, once a leader at a mosque in Viriginia visited by Hasan, the *New York Times* [reports](http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/10/us/10inquire.html), citing anonymous government officials. Intelligence agencies were aware of the communications, but decided “the messages warranted no further action.” Not publicly known is what exactly was in said in the communications. Awklaki reportedly left Virginia for Yemen in 2002.

But as to Hasan’s motivation, the Times [reports](http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/10/us/10inquire.html):

The officials said the communications did not alter the prevailing theory that Major Hasan acted by himself, lashing out as a result of a combination of factors, among them his outspoken opposition to American policy in Iraq and Afghanistan and his deepening religious fervor as a Muslim.

* Awlaki hailed Hasan today in a blog post [titled](http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2009/11/radical-imam-blogs-his-support-of-ft-hood-shooter/), “Nidal Hasan Did the Right Thing.”

* A senior former counterterrorism official [told](http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/11/08/AR2009110818405_pf.html) the *Washington Post* that plenty of people attended the same Virginia mosque “who are not terrorist suspects.”

* Awlaki reportedly had a relationship with two of the Sept. 11 hijackers, and makes an appearance in the 9/11 Commission report, Seth Hettena [explains](http://sethhettena.com/blog/?p=403). The *New York Post* took that link and [ran with it](http://www.newseum.org/todaysfrontpages/pop_up.asp?fpVname=NY_NYP&ref_pge=map&tfp_map=USA) today.

* ABC has a much-cited story that [leads with](http://abcnews.go.com/print?id=9030873):
“U.S. intelligence agencies were aware months ago that Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan was attempting to make contact with people associated with al Qaeda, two American officials briefed on classified material in the case told ABC News.” Note the use of “people,” plural, one of whom could be Awlaki. The ABC story notably does not flesh out its own lead.

* Relatives [say](http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/09/us/09reconstruct.html?_r=2&hp=&pagewanted=all) Hasan was taunted for being a Muslim and desperately wanted out from the military.

* Michael Isikoff [talks to](http://blog.newsweek.com/blogs/declassified/archive/2009/11/07/official-timing-of-hasan-s-gun-purchase-shows-of-course-he-planned-this.aspx) a (unnamed) law enforcement official who believes the timing of Hasan’s gun purchase shows he planned the shooting for some time.

* Were the shootings an act of terrorism? Many still-unknown facts about Hasan and his motivation bear on that question, but [Matt Duss](http://wonkroom.thinkprogress.org/2009/11/09/was-it-terrorism/), [Glenn Greenwald](http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2009/11/09/terrorism/index.html), and [James Taranto](http://online.wsj.com/article/best_of_the_web_today.html) each weigh in with serious points. Meanwhile, [Michael Mukasey](http://www.mainjustice.com/2009/11/09/mukasey-says-fort-hood-attack-was-terrorism/) and [Joseph Lieberman](http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,573056,00.html) answer the question in the affirmative.

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