WASHINGTON - Eighty-three victims and family members in the worst-ever mass shooting at a U.S. military installation are seeking $750 million in compensation from the Army, alleging that willful negligence enabled psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Hasan to carry out a terrorist attack at Fort Hood, Texas.
The administrative claims filed last week said the government had clear warnings that Hasan, who is scheduled to go on trial in March, posed a grave danger to the lives of soldiers and civilians.
The government bowed to political correctness and not only ignored the threat Hasan presented but actually promoted him to the rank of major five months before the massacre, according to the administrative claims against the Defense Department, the Justice Department and the FBI. Thirteen soldiers and civilians were killed and more than two dozen soldiers and civilians were injured in the Nov. 5, 2009, shooting spree.
Fifty-four relatives of eight of the murdered soldiers have filed claims. One civilian police officer and nine of the injured soldiers have filed claims along with 19 family members of those 10.
"It was unconscionable that Hasan was allowed to continue in the military and ultimately be in the position to perpetrate the only terror attack committed on U.S. soil since 9/11," attorney Neal Sher, who represents the claimants, told The Associated Press.
"We're aware claims have been filed, but we're not going to comment on it," Christopher Haug, chief of media relations for the public affairs office at Fort Hood, said Thursday. "They'll be taken seriously and they'll go through the legal process."
Among the claimants is a civilian police officer who shot Hasan, Sgt. Kimberly Munley, who was hit in the leg and hand in an exchange of gunfire that has cut short her law enforcement career. She underwent a series of surgeries for her wounds and is on unpaid leave from her post as a civilian police officer with the Army.
"I brought this claim because I strongly believe this tragedy was totally preventable and that the Army swept under the rug what they knew about Hasan," Munley said in a statement.
Munley and her partner, Sgt. Mark Todd, another civilian officer in Fort Hood's police force, are credited with shooting Hasan, ending the violence.
Hasan, an American-born Muslim, faces the death penalty or life in prison without parole if convicted of 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder.
U.S. officials have said they believe Hasan's attack was inspired by the radical U.S.-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki and that the two men exchanged as many as 20 emails. Al-Awlaki was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Yemen in late September. His name has not yet been mentioned in any hearings in the criminal case against Hasan.
"It is a tragic irony that our government sought out and killed al-Awlaki, while Hasan was promoted in the Army which enabled him to carry out his murderous terror attack," said Sher, who for many years ran the Justice Department's Office of Special Investigations that hunted Nazi criminals living illegally in the United States. He also is a former executive director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a pro-Israel lobbying group.
Evidence of Hasan's radicalization to violent Islamist extremism was on full display to his superiors and colleagues during military medical training, according to a Senate report issued in February and included as an exhibit accompanying the claims.
In the events leading up to the shooting, an instructor and a colleague each referred to Hasan as a "ticking time bomb," according to the report by Sens. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., and Susan Collins of Maine, the chairman and ranking Republican, respectively, on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
In classroom presentations, Hasan repeatedly spoke of violent Islamist extremism instead of medical subjects and justified suicide bombings, said the report, which concluded that Hasan's superiors failed to discipline him, refer him to counterintelligence officials or seek to discharge him.