More information out today have added shades of gray to the story of Major Nidal Malik Hasan, the fervent Muslim Fort Hood shooter who took thirteen of his fellow soldiers lives — after a week where media accounts had turned it into a black-and-white tale of a disgruntled Muslim fundamentalist whose warning signs were ignored by the Army and FBI, and who was taken down single-handedly by a heroic female civilian police officer. According to the Washington Post, Army psychiatrists had picked up on signals that Hasan’s increasing devotion to Islam, and alienation from American involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, could be a future problem. “Hasan was initially considered a good medical school candidate because he had spent time as an enlisted soldier and had cared for his siblings after his parents died, both attributes that supervisors believed indicated he had a healthy work ethic,” the paper reported. Colleagues suggested that he attend a university lecture series on Islam, the Middle East, and terrorism in order to guide his interests in a direction sympathetic to the Army. “You’re at an institution of higher learning. He seems to want to do work in an area no one knows anything about,” said a colleague. “You don’t want to close him down just because it’s different.”
Army psychiatrists even discussed whether Hasan’s interests could prove a danger to his fellow soldiers one day, and concluded that they wouldn’t. He was never psychologically evaluated directly.
Elsewhere, the New York Times reports that a new witness to the shootings themselves discredits the Army’s original story that female civilian police officer Kimberly Munley single-handedly took down Hasan in the midst of his shooting spree:
The witness, who asked not to be identified, said Major Hasan wheeled on Sergeant Munley as she rounded the corner of a building and shot her, putting her on the ground. Then Major Hasan turned his back on her and started putting another magazine into his semiautomatic pistol. It was at that moment that Senior Sgt. Mark Todd, a veteran police officer, rounded another corner of the building, found Major Hasan fumbling with his weapon and shot him.
Army information officials refused to comment on Todd’s participation, but his wife told the paper he’d initially hoped to be left out of reports on the incident. Of course, these two reports don’t have much of an effect on the whole debate over whether this was an act of terrorism — but they are an important reminder of how little we actually know for sure about the series of events that led up to this tragedy, and just how many people are running their mouths on TV and theorizing in print without full knowledge of the truth. There is still so much to be learned, and Hasan himself hasn’t even been heard from yet.