Pentagon to monitor 'internal threats' after Fort Hood

Maj Nidal Hasan - 2007 file photo Maj Hasan is alleged to have had contact with a radical Muslim cleric before the shootings

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The US military has pledged that it will take steps to avoid "internal threats", in the Pentagon's final report on the Fort Hood shootings.

Maj Nidal Hasan has been charged with murdering 13 of his colleagues and attempting to murder 32 others at the army base in Texas last November.

The report recommends giving commanders access to soldiers' records and upping emergency response capabilities.

An earlier report said several officers did not properly supervise Maj Hasan.

A military court is to decide in October if the case against the psychiatrist will proceed to trial. He faces a possible death sentence if convicted.

Analysis

The Fort Hood shootings shocked America - not just the large number of casualties but also the nature of the suspect: a US-born Muslim army major.

Nidal Malik Hasan was born in Virginia. After high school, the army paid for his psychiatric training. Later he treated soldiers returning from combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He is said to have been devout and committed to the army, but increasingly distressed at the injuries he saw and wanting to leave the military ahead of an imminent deployment.

He is accused of opening fire on colleagues at Fort Hood in Texas last November, killing 13 and wounding more than forty.

Americans were shocked that in the supposed safety of an army base, such an incident could take place.

In October a military judge will decide if there is enough evidence to move to trial - a process known as an Article 32 hearing.

If a trial goes ahead, it will surely garner equal attention. Major Hasan has yet to enter a plea. It is possible he may face the death penalty.

When he first appeared in court in June, security was increased at the courthouse in Texas. He wore military uniform and manoeuvred his wheelchair into the venue: he is paralysed after being wounded by military police officers during the shooting spree.

"These initiatives will significantly improve the Department's ability to mitigate internal threats, ensure force protection, enable emergency response, and provide care for victims and families," Defence Secretary Robert Gates wrote in the introduction to the report published on Friday.

He said "every effort to safeguard civil liberties" would be made in carrying out the report's recommendations.

'Violence indicators'

But Maj Hasan's lawyer, John Galligan, said the recommendations were too vague and would threaten people's rights.

"This whole report is designed to tell people we need to start looking for internal threats, but it doesn't say what those threats are," he said.

"The idea of looking inward for threats calls into question people's privacy and constitutional rights."

The report highlights failings in medical and mental-health screening practices because they "do not provide a comprehensive assessment of violence indicators".

There is also a lack of "clarity necessary to help commanders distinguish appropriate religious practices from those that might indicate a potential for violence or self-radicalisation".

Maj Hasan is alleged to have had contact with a radical Muslim cleric in Yemen months before the shootings.

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