by Sara Carter
March 13, 2014
[Editor’s Note: This story is one in a multi-part series telling the stories of the Fort Hood victims, revealing the hardships they have faced in the shooting’s aftermath and the small victories they have found in survival. Hear from the victims themselves on TheBlaze TV’s “For The Record” episode “Broken Heart,” now available for free.]
The chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee is planning to hold a hearing into why victims of the 2009 Fort Hood shooting have not been awarded the Purple Heart and why the Obama administration has refused to classify the attack as an act of terror, TheBlaze has learned, while at the same time, efforts by the victims to seek civil damages have been placed on hold.
Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, plans to seek answers about the Obama administration’s handling of the aftermath of the Fort Hood shooting. (Getty Images/Alex Wong)
Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) says the Obama administration and the Army need to explain why they have been reluctant to reclassify the incident from “workplace violence” to terrorism, despite significant evidence to the contrary. Former Army psychiatrist Nidal Hasan, who was sentenced to death last year for killing 13 people and wounding dozens more during his rampage at the Texas base, admitted that his actions were to defend Taliban leaders from the American military.
McCaul told TheBlaze his committee is prepared to seek answers from both the White House and the Army.
“The charges against Nidal Hasan did not fit his crime,” McCaul said. “He committed a horrific terrorist attack against this country and our military in the name of the Taliban and Al Qaeda, and he sought to continue their mission on our homeland. The administration’s refusal to call this attack what it is, and instead labeling it ‘workplace violence,’ denies proper recognition to the victims and does not do justice to those who were killed that day and those who continue to suffer because of Hasan’s rampage.”
Texas Republican Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz have been pursing legislation to award the Purple Heart to the military victims and to provide benefits for all survivors and families of the victims affected by the attack. Cruz told TheBlaze he will continue to advocate for the victims.
Last month, TheBlaze TV’s For The Record and TheBlaze.com told some of the stories of the Fort Hood survivors. In response to the overwhelming reception, TheBlaze is making the full For The Record episode available for free.
Waiting For Justice
The victims say they feel abandoned by the U.S. government and by their military. The Pentagon last year fought efforts to award the Purple Heart out of concern that doing so could harm Hasan’s chance at receiving a fair trial.
For The Record contacted the Army 15 times since December requesting an on-camera interview, but was given only an emailed statement saying that while the Army has no “intelligence or findings to date that indicate Hasan was under the direction or control of a foreign element, we stand ready to act accordingly should any evidence to the contrary be presented. If the U.S. Congress acts to change the standard, we will adhere to that direction.”
Retired Army Staff Sgt. Alonzo Lunsford Jr., who was injured in the shooting, said he’s looking forward to testifying at the House Homeland Security Committee hearing, even though it might not happen for several more months. He said he’s been frustrated by the delays in allowing the survivors to speak out.
“I’m tired of this wait-and-see game we’ve been playing,” Lunsford said. “Are they waiting until after the elections, or maybe until this administration is replaced by another administration. Maybe they believe we’ll get tired and stop fighting for change, but I tell you this: We will not go away and we will not stop fighting. We’re a stubborn group of people bonded by something stronger than anyone can ever imagine and we want the American people to know the truth.”
Fort Hood Shooting
The photograph represents the 13 people killed by former Army Maj. Nidal Hasan on Nov. 5, 2009 at Fort Hood. Hasan was convicted last year of first-degree murder in a court martial trial and was sentenced to death. More than 80 victims and surviving family members are suing in civil court to be compensated in their quest to have the killings listed as terrorism and not “workplace violence.” (AP)
Kimberly Munley was one of those survivors. In 2009, she was a civilian police sergeant and confronted Hasan in a shootout before he was ultimately taken down by her partner, Sgt. Mark Todd. Munley was shot multiple times by Hasan and almost lost her life, and has made it her mission to help the victims and fight for recognition of the attack as a terrorist act.
“I can’t even explain the frustration, anger and confusion we all feel,” she said. “Since the initial labeling of ‘workplace violence,’ the victims have tirelessly fought to change this. Extensive evidence began to develop and still develops to this day that tied the whole incident to foreign terrorism. Numerous congressional representatives have supported, sponsored and cosponsored legislative bills that have been either pushed to the corner or blocked completely.”
Munley is among the more than 80 survivors and victims’ family members who have filed a civil suit against high-ranking government officials, including the heads of the Army, Defense Department and the FBI, seeking financial compensation, but also as an opportunity to present terror-related evidence not allowed at Hasan’s trial and to give themselves a chance to be heard — but even that’s on hold.
The victims and the attorneys who represent them say their civil suit has been blocked from proceeding by numerous excuses and legal motions set in to place by the Army and the Department of Defense. They say the current motion to stay the civil case and temporarily halt the proceedings is to give the base commander the opportunity to review the transcripts of Hasan’s trial. In a federal court, transcripts are immediately made available at the end of a trial, but that’s not the case in a military court martial like Hasan had.
“Now we’re roadblocked,” said Neal Sher, one of the attorneys representing the victims in the civil case.
Helen-Louise Hunter, another attorney for the victims, said only when the commander “finishes the review of the transcript of the criminal trial and certifies it, can the victims proceed with their case. Then it becomes public information and our people will get a copy of the transcript.”
“We’re at a disadvantage because we can’t get it until the commanding general reviews it,” she said. “This would not have happened if it was in a federal court, but in a court martial it can. It can take as long as the commander needs, possibly even a year before we can view the transcripts.”
Even more debilitating and outrageous, victims said, was the decision last year by military judge Col. Tara Osborn to not allow information regarding Hasan’s correspondence and connection to radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki to be revealed in court. FBI documents show Awlaki, who was connected to three of the 9/11 hijackers and was killed by a U.S. drone strike in 2011, had been in email contact with Hasan for more than a year before the rampage.
Victims of Fort Hood Hit Yet Another Roadblock for Justice
In this Aug. 28, 2013, file photo, Kerry Cahill, right, comforts her mother, Joleen, as they join other family members to talk about Michael Cahill, who was killed during the Fort Hood shootings, during a news conference outside the the Lawrence William Judicial Center following the sentencing phase for Maj. Nidal Hasan in Fort Hood, Texas. (AP)
Documents show the FBI was actually monitoring the email correspondence between Hasan and Awlaki a year before the attack on Fort Hood. Then-acting FBI Director Robert Mueller told CBS’ “60 Minutes” that the FBI could have done a few things better but that his agents, “given the context of the discussions and the situation … took appropriate steps.”
Osborn also barred the prosecutors from disclosing Hassan’s constant complaints to his superiors that Muslims should not be fighting Muslims and his requests to seek conscientious objector status.
“The judge justified her actions by saying the evidence on Awlaki was too old to be introduced,” Sher said.
“This was a first-degree murder trial and the judge did not allow prosecutors to introduce evidence that directly proved motive and premeditation in this case,” Sher said. “It’s absolutely heartbreaking what’s happened to the victims and their families. But I think [Osborn’s] failure to allow prosecutors to disclose this evidence will make a big difference in the civil case when we go to trial.”
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