If the extraordinary interview-by-proxy of radical Muslim cleric Anwar al-Aulaqi in today’s WaPo is to be believed, accused Ford Hood murderer Nidal Malik Hasan made contact with him last December, and emails between the two followed from there–including “two or three” responses from al-Aulaqi. The Yemeni journalist who conducted the interview–a man with close ties to Aulaqi–“declined to comment” when asked “whether Hasan mentioned Fort Hood as a target.”
Did he or didn’t he? Whatever, it’s hard to believe that the FBI was as blithe or asleep at the switch as it now claims about the connection. Al-Aulaqi is, as the Post makes clear, a very well known figure–one of a handful native English-speaking radicals capable of influencing susceptible American Muslims to engage in acts of violence. And Hasan had given more than sufficient indiciation that he was susceptible.
But: Did Hasan pretend to the FBI that he was just pretending to be susceptible? In the reporting on his background, there are various stray remarks that people thought he was conducting research on the impact of Islamic teachings on Muslims in the military. It seems less and less plausible that what was going on here was nothing more than a troubled man increasingly drawn into a radical version of his faith and pushed over the edge by assignment to an overseas combat zone.
In its summary of the Hasan evidence to date yesterday, the NYT states that it all
will be studied by Army and Federal Bureau of Investigation agents trying to answer the same questions that many Americans have debated over the last 10 days:
Major Hasan a terrorist, driven by religious extremism to attack fellow
soldiers he had come to see as the enemy? Was he a troubled loner, a
misfit who cracked when ordered sent to a war zone whose gruesome
casualties he had spent the last six years caring for? Or was he both?
Or, in addition, was he a man whom the FBI and/or the Army thought they were using for their own counter-terrorism purposes? And who will be looking into that question?