(CNSNews.com) – More than six years after a Muslim army major shot dead 13 people at Fort Hood, President Obama on Sunday night – for what may be the first time – publicly identified it as a terrorist attack.
In his primetime Oval Office address on the threat of terrorism in the wake of last week’s attack in San Bernardino, California, Obama said the threat had evolved in the years since 9/11.
“As we’ve become better at preventing complex attacks like 9/11, terrorists turn to less complicated acts of violence like the mass shootings that are all too common in our society,” he said. “It is this type of attack that we saw at Fort Hood in 2009, in Chattanooga earlier this year and now in San Bernardino.”
The administration long shied away from calling Major Nidal Malik Hasan’s killing of 13 people at Fort Hood, Texas an act of terrorism – the deadliest on U.S. soil since 9/11until last week’s attack in San Bernardino set a new grim milestone -- and the Pentagon categorized it as workplace violence.
In a presidential proclamation honoring the victims, Obama referred only to “the tragic events at Fort Hood,” and when he delivered a eulogy at the base days later he did not use the word “terrorist.”
The closest he came in that speech to identifying the cause that drove Hasan was the statement that “no faith justifies these murderous and craven acts; no just and loving God looks upon them with favor.”
The Obama administration was criticized for not calling Fort Hood an act of terror, even though a Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs investigation called it in a 2011 report “the deadliest terrorist attack within the United States since September 11, 2001.”
One Washington Times editorial called the White House response to the attack “a textbook study in denial and cover-up.”
“The Obama administration refused to admit it was a terrorist attack, calling it instead an example of ‘violence in the workplace,’” it said. “Radical Islam is the hatred that dare not speak its name.”
During his trial Hasan, a former Army psychiatrist, said he acted in defense of the Taliban. He was sentenced to death by a military jury in 2013 for the attack, and is imprisoned on military death row in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
Military personnel among those killed and wounded by him were disqualified from receiving the Purple Heart since eligibility required death or injury by an attacker acting “at the direction” of a foreign terrorist organization.
Congress then passed legislation changing the criteria to cover instances where an attacker was in contact with foreign terrorists before an attack and was inspired by the foreign group – paving the way early this year for a decision to award Purple Hearts, and the equivalent civilian medal to civilian victims.
“In a review of the Fort Hood incident and the new provisions of law, the Army determined that there was sufficient evidence to conclude Hasan ‘was in communication with the foreign terrorist organization before the attack,’ and that his radicalization and subsequent acts could reasonably be considered to have been ‘inspired or motivated by the foreign terrorist organization,’” the Pentagon said last February.
Hasan was found to have communicated on numerous occasions with the Yemeni-American cleric and al-Qaeda propagandist Anwar al-Awlaki. Awlaki was killed in a Sept. 2011 drone strike in Yemen.
Until his Oval Office address on Sunday, the nearest Obama is believed to have come to acknowledging publicly – if indirectly – that the Fort Hood attacks was terrorism occurred during a joint press appearance with French President Francois Hollande last month, following the Paris terror attacks.
“The good news is Americans are resilient,” Obama said then. “We mourned the lives lost at Fort Hood, the Boston Marathon, at Chattanooga. But we did not waver. Our communities have come together.”
The Chattanooga attack Obama referenced in both his Oval Office address on Sunday and alongside Hollande last month took place last July 16, when a gunman identified as Muhammad Abdulazeez, 24, shot and killed four Marines at a Navy operations support center before being killed himself. A fifth victim, a sailor, died of his wounds two days later.
The administration initially did not classify that attack as terrorism either. Obama on the night of the shooting asked Americans to await more facts and did not use the word “terrorism.”
But the FBI said from the outset it was investigating the case “as an act of terrorism,” and at a eulogy for the victims a month later, Vice-President Joe Biden called the killer a “perverted jihadist.”
Kuwaiti-born Abdulazeez was a naturalized American citizen.
Nidal Malik Hasan was the U.S.-born child of Palestinian migrants
The San Bernardino killers were Syed Rizwan Farook, the U.S.-born son of Pakistani migrants, and his Pakistani-born wife, Tafsheen Malik.