USA — DoD Agrees to Submit Some Fort Hood Documents to Senate

WASHINGTON, April 27, 2010 — The Defense Depart­ment today agreed to pro­vide access to some of the doc­u­ments sub­poe­naed by the Sen­ate Home­land Secu­ri­ty and Gov­ern­men­tal Affairs Com­mit­tee last week relat­ed to the Nov. 5 Fort Hood shoot­ing inves­ti­ga­tion.

A let­ter sent to the com­mit­tee today agrees to allow the com­mit­tee access to the per­son­nel file of Maj. Nidal Hasan’s per­son­nel file, the Army psy­chi­a­trist charged with the shoot­ings. Pen­ta­gon offi­cials also agreed to allow the com­mit­tee access to a restrict­ed annex to the report stem­ming from the ini­tial inves­ti­ga­tion by for­mer Army Sec­re­tary Togo D. West Jr. and retired Navy Adm. Vern E. Clark, a for­mer chief of naval oper­a­tions.

The depart­ment pre­vi­ous­ly had object­ed to giv­ing the com­mit­tee access to these doc­u­ments on the grounds that doing so could endan­ger Hasan’s pros­e­cu­tion. Hasan has been charged with 13 counts of mur­der and 32 counts of attempt­ed mur­der.

“We believe we have made a very good-faith effort to try to find a mid­dle ground … to sat­is­fy their request,” Pen­ta­gon Press Sec­re­tary Geoff Mor­rell said today.

“We are pre­pared to bend over back­wards at least on two of the four issues that were the sub­ject of the sub­poe­na,” he added.

Mor­rell said that the depart­ment has been in “con­stant com­mu­ni­ca­tion” with the com­mit­tee even before last week’s Sen­ate sub­poe­nas.

Deputy Defense Sec­re­tary William J. Lynn III had a “lengthy” phone con­ver­sa­tion April 23 with Sens. Joe Lieber­man and Susan Collins, the chair­man and rank­ing mem­ber of the Home­land Secu­ri­ty and Gov­ern­men­tal Affairs Com­mit­tee, Mor­rell said.

The depart­ment declined, how­ev­er, to pro­vide access to its wit­ness­es or to the inves­tiga­tive sum­maries of the event.

“We have made move­ment on some of the areas that we had orig­i­nal­ly object­ed to,” Mor­rell said. “But we have held the line on those that we feel could poten­tial­ly jeop­ar­dize the pros­e­cu­tion of Major Hasan.

“That, in the judg­ment of the gen­er­al coun­sel and our career pros­e­cu­tors here, is a bridge too far,” he con­tin­ued. “They real­ly feel as though that could poten­tial­ly jeop­ar­dize the pros­e­cu­tion of Major Hasan, and that’s the risk that they, and now the sec­re­tary, are not will­ing to take.”

Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates had direct­ed the depart­ment to be as accom­mo­dat­ing to the com­mit­tee as pos­si­ble with­out poten­tial­ly jeop­ar­diz­ing Hasan’s pros­e­cu­tion. Gates recent­ly denied hid­ing any doc­u­ments from the com­mit­tee.

“We have no inter­est in hid­ing any­thing,” Gates said while on a recent trip to South Amer­i­ca.

“We will coop­er­ate with the com­mit­tee in every way with that sin­gle caveat — that what­ev­er we pro­vide does not impact the pros­e­cu­tion. That is the only thing in which we have an inter­est,” he said. “Our pri­or­i­ty is in ensur­ing we don’t do any­thing that would poten­tial­ly impact the pros­e­cu­tion of Major Hasan.”

Mor­rell said the com­mit­tee will not be allowed to keep the doc­u­ments, but will have the chance to review them. This comes even as the Army’s review is still under way, he said, and the doc­u­ments con­tain “high­ly sen­si­tive mate­r­i­al” involv­ing the careers of sev­er­al mil­i­tary per­son­nel.

Mor­rell char­ac­ter­ized the agree­ment as “break­ing new ground” in terms of how the depart­ment tra­di­tion­al­ly has coop­er­at­ed with com­mit­tees that do not have direct over­sight of its per­son­nel mat­ters.

“We feel as though we have leaned very far for­ward, and we have made what we believe to be a con­sid­er­able accom­mo­da­tion of the committee’s request,” he said.

Mor­rell empha­sized that this is an accom­mo­da­tion made based sole­ly on this request and does not sig­nal a change in depart­ment pol­i­cy.

“We do not view [this] as prece­dent set­ting,” he said. “This is a unique cir­cum­stance, and based upon this par­tic­u­lar sit­u­a­tion, we are will­ing to do it in this instance, but it should not be viewed in any way as the new norm.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)