Senior Administration Official – Fort Hood Shootings Were “An Act of Terrorism”

ABC News’ Karen Travers reports:

A senior administration official said today that the shootings at Fort Hood by Major Nidal Hasan were “an act of terrorism.”

Asked if the shootings were a “terrorist attack,” this official (who was briefing on background) told reporters on a conference call: “It certainly in my mind was an act of terrorism as far as the tactic that was used there.”

The senior administration official later seemed to walk back from that strong language, calling the shootings “a terrorizing event” and the tactic used “a terrorist tactic.”

“The wanton slaughter of US service people in my mind was certainly a terrorizing event and something now for the appropriate authorities to determine the motivation and factors that lead to the decisions or his action on that day,” this official said. “The tactic itself was a terrorist tactic and there are different definitions and criteria associated with terrorism. To me what Major Hassan did was an act of murder and as we’re learning more about it and as the investigation continues I think we’re going to have a better sense of the motivating factors there.”

The senior administration official was briefing about the findings of a review ordered by President Obama after the Nov. 5 shooting. This review is separate from the one done by the Pentagon and another by the FBI.

The senior administration official did not want to say if Hasan’s actions were inspired by extremists in Yemen, noting only that they were “very concerned about many things that are coming out of Yemen, and many of the actions and statements, as well as the very extremist views being distributed by individuals associated with Al Qaida.

“Al Qaida on the Arabian Peninsula has a particularly strong extremist bent, as well as a dedication to carrying out terrorist acts. So any interaction with these extremist elements and terrorist elements in Yemen cause me great concern,” this official said. ““Motivation is always a difficult thing to determine as far as what was actually behind a decision to commit an act.”

This official said it was difficult to say whether there could have been steps taken by the government to prevent the Fort Hood shootings.

“What I think we have identified in both of these instances are places where there could have been a more rigorous review, more rigorous actions taken that might have, in fact, altered the course of events, but we don't know whether or not that would have been then to change the -- the events on those fateful days”

The White House ordered all relevant agencies and departments to conduct a review of the information the government had on Major Hasan and determine how that information was handled, shared, and acted upon within and across departments and agencies, with a deadline of Nov. 30. The president was presented a report on Dec. 1 and the administration said today that the appropriate Members and Committees of Congress were briefed.

The administration released the following key points on the review’s findings:

• Processes and Protocols: Though information sharing between agencies and departments has improved dramatically since September 2001, there is still room for improvement in certain areas. Communication protocols between DOD and the Department of Justice regarding disaffected individuals, in particular, need to be improved, and the policies governing information sharing and cooperation between the two departments on investigative matters require additional clarification and re-calibration.

• Intelligence and Law Enforcement Analysis: A more thorough and layered analysis of certain information available to intelligence and law enforcement personnel must be conducted, along with ensuring the appropriate allocation of resources to accomplish that goal.

• Information Technology: The United States Government must continue to enhance its information technology in order to better and more readily identify relevant data.

• Training: The Joint Terrorism Task Forces should improve their personnel training, including of detailees from other departments and agencies, to ensure that those assigned are both adequately equipped and fully aware of all available tools to perform the critical tasks they are called upon to complete

-Karen Travers

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