Senators Say Obama Administration Fails to Comply With Fort Hood Subpoenas

The leaders of the Senate's most powerful oversight committee say the Obama administration has "failed to comply" with subpoenas the committee sent to the Justice and Defense departments demanding access to records and witnesses the committee says it needs to pursue an investigation into the background to the mass shootings at Fort Hood last Nov. 5 by accused killer Army psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan. In a statement released on Tuesday, Connecticut independent Sen. Joe Lieberman, chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and the panel's ranking Republican, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, said that in response to subpoenas they sent out last week, the administration had provided some documents, including Hasan's official Pentagon personnel file, an "official use only" annex to a Pentagon inquiry into the shootings, and what the senators described as Justice Department documents "concerning the review of Hasan's communications." A Senate source, who asked for anonymity when discussing sensitive information, indicated that the latter documents were internal government memos discussing and evaluating the contents of e-mails that Hasan exchanged before the shootings with Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born, Yemen-based extremist Islamic preacher. As we have previously reported, in the months before the shootings, U.S. government agencies monitored this exchange of messages, examined their contents, and ultimately deemed them to be harmless.

The senators said in their statement that the administration had produced what limited material it was willing to hand over "at the last moment," but argued that "more information—in particular witnesses—must be made available for the Committee to investigate whether the government could have taken steps" that might have stopped Hasan from embarking on his alleged shooting spree. The administration, the senators complained, "still refuse[s] to provide access to ... agents who reportedly reviewed Major Hasan's communications with ... al-Awlaki and to transcripts of prosecution interviews with Hasan's associates and superiors." The senators noted that the Pentagon had already made such material available to a panel that conducted an in-house Defense Department probe of the background to the shootings.

Depending on how much discomfort they want to cause the administration, the senators can now seek a vote by their full committee membership to enforce the subpoenas. Any such resolution would then have to be ratified by the full Senate. However, if the full Senate voted to enforce the subpoenas, the matter would then be turned over for further action to the Justice Department, which would have discretion about whether to take further action. Given that the Justice Department itself is one of the agencies that senators say are resisting their subpoenas, the senators may be out of luck in trying to enforce the subpoenas even if they win overwhelming support from their legislative colleagues.

Geoff Morrell, a spokesman for Defense Secretary Robert Gates, told Declassified: "The secretary has been very clear that he wants the Department to be as cooperative as possible with the committee ... short of doing anything that could possibly jeopardize the prosecution of Maj. Hasan ... What we presented to the committee today was a very forward leaning letter offering them access to Maj. Hasan's personnel file and the restricted annex to [the Pentagon's internal report]. Those are not items which would normally be shared with anyone other than the Senate Armed Services Committee." Morrell added that the administration was giving the committee "access" to the documents, rather than handing over copies, and that sensitive portions of the documents would be blacked out. He insisted: "Even that is very forward leaning for us. This is material which is not normally shared with any committee other than the [Armed Services Committee]. We would be jeopardizing the prosecution [of Hasan] by providing access to witnesses and investigative summaries. We have drawn the line there. We have made what we believe to be a very good faith effort to the requests made in the subpoena."

Senators Say Obama Administration Fails to Comply With Fort Hood Subpoenas | U.S.