(CNSNews.com) - Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) said he was “startled” that the Pentagon does not mention “radical Islamist extremism or violent Islamist terrorism” in its report about the Ft. Hood massacre. Lieberman says many Americans know the incident was incited by radical Muslim ideology.
Lieberman’s comments came at a press conference on Thursday, where he and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), the ranking member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, accused the Obama administration of obstructing the committee’s probe into the Ft. Hood shooting.
The two senators said they would subpoena the Pentagon and the Federal Bureau of Investigation if the documents they seek are not provided by Monday, April 19.
During the press conference on Capitol Hill, CNSNews.com asked Lieberman to comment on whether the Obama administration is “deliberately ignoring or playing down that the Ft. Hood shooting was a radical-Islamic motivated act of terrorism.”
“I was startled and really upset that in the whole report that Secretary [Togo] West and Adm. [Vernon] Clark did on this Ft. Hood massacre, they never used the terms radical Islamist extremism or violent Islamic terrorism,” said Lieberman, who caucuses with Democrats.
Secretary West, the former secretary of the Army, and Adm. Clark, the former chief of Naval Operations, are the co-chairs of the Pentagon’s independent review board dealing with the Ft. Hood incident.
“It’s known to anybody following your media outlets … [that] this was not just a random killing,” Lieberman said, adding that the Ft. Hood shooter, Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, “was motivated ideologically and shouted out such words as he committed these, these murders.”
While the Obama White House has not referred to the Ft. Hood massacre as an act of terrorism, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and other public officials have done so.
On Nov. 5, 2009, Maj. Hasan, a psychiatrist, opened fired at the military base. He shouted "Allahu Akbar,” which is Arabic for “God is Great,” before going on a rampage, killing 13 soldiers and injuring 32 other people.
During his first speech on the issue, President Obama, without mentioning the word “terrorist,” warned that Americans should not jump to conclusions about the reason behind the shooting.
"This morning I met with FBI Director Mueller and the relevant agencies to discuss their ongoing investigation into what caused one individual to turn his gun on fellow servicemen and women," Obama said on Nov. 6, 2009. "We don't know all of the answers yet, and I would caution against jumping to conclusions until we have all of the facts.”
The FBI, on Nov. 9, issued a statement saying that, at the time, the investigation indicated “that the alleged gunman acted alone and was not part of a broader terrorist plot” despite Hasan reportedly communicating with Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born Muslim cleric now in Yemen who is believed to be affiliated with al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
Lieberman is one of many public officials who has argued from the start that Ft. Hood attack was an act of terrorism and should be officially recognized as such. In his prepared statement for the press conference, Lieberman referred to Hasan as an “Islamist terrorist.”
Also, Lieberman highlighted that the administration’s reaction to his committee’s investigation into the Ft. Hood incident has been “insufficient and poorly reasoned.”
“We have been met with much foot dragging, limited direct assistance, and changing reasons why the Administration cannot provide us with the information we have requested,” said Lieberman.
He also said, “We do not reach the decision to issue subpoenas and do so only as the last way to obtain the information our committee needs to fulfill its responsibility to protect America’s homeland security.”
Lieberman further said, “We believe we must have access to the FBI and DOD documents and witnesses related to information those agencies had about Major Hasan before the shootings, as well as Major Hasan’s official personnel file and performance evaluations.”
In answering CNSNews.com’s questions, Lieberman noted that the administration’s stonewalling of the investigation into Ft. Hood by the Senate Homeland Security panel is an example of a “recurring conflict” between the executive and legislative branch.
“One guess is that this is a, an example of a recurring conflict between the executive branch and congressional branch which has occurred with, with both parties in control of either or both,” Lieberman told CNSNews.com.
Providing the Senate Homeland Security panel with the information it is seeking could jeopardize its prosecution of Hasan, claims the Obama administration.
The Department of Defense denied on Thursday that it was withholding information on the Ft. Hood shooting, adding that it plans to cooperate with Lieberman’s committee as long as Hasan's prosecution is not jeopardized.
"We have no interest in hiding anything," Department of Defense Secretary Robert Gates told reporters.
"But what [is] most important," he said, "is this prosecution, and 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."
Hasan is currently facing 32 counts of attempted and premeditated murder and13 counts of murder.
A transcript of CNSNews.com’s interview of Sen. Lieberman follows below:
CNSNews.com: “Senator Lieberman, do you think the administration is deliberately ignoring or playing down that the Ft. Hood shooting was a radical Islamic motivated act of terrorism as you indicated in your prepared statement?”
Sen. Lieberman: “I don’t know that, I don’t think that motive -- I think what’s involved here is two things. I don’t have, I don’t have, if you ask me why do I think they’re not co-operating I’ll give you a couple of guesses. But, I, my answer is I really don’t know. The one guess is that this is an example of a recurring conflict between the executive branch and congressional branch, which has occurred with both parties in control of either or both. The second is that the people involved in a case with such catastrophic consequences where their clearly was some, were some failures on the part of people and government, which is just as well not, that they’re not being an independent investigation.”
Sen. Lieberman: “I don’t know that the, that this fact you mentioned has any relevance to this. As you know, from previous statements that I’ve made, I was startled and really upset that in the whole report that Secretary West and Adm. Clark did on this Ft. Hood massacre, they never used the terms radical Islamist extremism or violent Islamist terrorism when it’s known to anybody following your media outlets -- based on the work that you’ve done -- that he was, this was not just a random killing. He had, he was motivated ideologically and shouted out such words as he committed these, these murders. So, we’re certainly going to consider that, but I doubt that’s exactly why they’re opposing our investigation.”