Military to Discipline at Least 6 Officers in Ft. Hood Case

The military will formally discipline at least six officers, mostly from Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, for failing to take action against the officer accused of carrying out last year's deadly shooting rampage at Fort Hood, according to people familiar with the matter.

Senior Army officials said the decision to punish so many officers reflects the military's belief that the November assault, which killed 13 people at the Army base in central Texas, could have been prevented if Maj. Nidal Hasan's superiors had alerted authorities to his increasing Islamist radicalization.

The officials said that as many as eight officers could ultimately be censured over Maj. Hasan, mostly with letters of reprimand that effectively end their military careers. The punishments will be detailed in an "accountability review" that Army Gen. Carter Ham, who has been investigating the shootings for several months, will deliver to top Army officials as early as Friday.

An Army spokesman said that Gen. Ham's accountability review would be submitted within days, but declined to comment further on the inquiry.

People familiar with the matter said the Army had earlier notified eight officers that they were under investigation, including Col. John Bradley, who until recently ran Walter Reed's psychiatry department, and Col. Charles Engel, a psychiatrist who supervised Maj. Hasan when he was doing a fellowship at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences.

Col. Bradley didn't reply to emails seeking comment. Gary Myers, the attorney representing Col. Engel, said the military was blaming a handful of officers for a broader institutional failing.

"The history of the Department of Defense, when dealing with broad-based problems within the department, is to isolate and vilify a few individuals," said Mr. Myers, who served as an Army lawyer during the Vietnam War. "The idea that anyone could predict future violence by a person who has never engaged in violence before is absurd."

A senior Army official said the investigation found evidence that military doctors at Walter Reed were so focused on their teaching and clinical work that they failed to adequately supervise Maj. Hasan or alert authorities when he began to express extremist religious views and harshly criticize the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"What you generally see is that some officers who were aware of his shortcomings didn't take appropriate actions in response," the senior Army official said.

"Sometimes, when you have specialists who are also officers, they can be more specialist than officer."

Maj. Hasan, the sole suspect in the shootings, arrived at Walter Reed in 2003 and spent six years there training to be an Army psychiatrist. He was transferred to Fort Hood in July 2009, less than four months before allegedly opening fire on dozens of his fellow soldiers. He has pleaded not guilty to 13 counts of premeditated murder.

Walter Reed officials have acknowledged that Army investigators made repeated visits to the hospital to interview former colleagues of Maj. Hasan in the aftermath of the shootings. A senior Walter Reed official said this week that the hospital hadn't yet been notified of pending disciplinary actions against any staffers.

"Due to the nature of the investigation, there has been little communication with anyone other than those specific officers subject to the investigation," the Walter Reed official said.

For the Army, the decision to punish the officers caps a long period of institutional soul-searching set off by the rampage at Fort Hood, one of the deadliest acts of military fratricide in U.S. history.

A Pentagon review last month concluded the military was overly focused on threats from external enemies, such as foreign intelligence services, and didn't devote enough attention to the growing problem of soldiers who adopt radical religious or political views on their own.

In announcing the findings, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he had directed Army Secretary John McHugh to take "appropriate action" against Maj. Hasan's past supervisors. Mr. McHugh, in turn, appointed Gen. Ham to investigate whether specific officers should be punished for failing to raise the alarm about Maj. Hasan.



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