(CNSNews.com) – The Pentagon on Monday refused to classify the 2009 shootings at Fort Hood as terrorism and said it will not further classify the incident in any way -- other than as murder, according to a spokesman.
“The Department of Defense is committed to the integrity of the ongoing court martial proceedings of Major Nadal Hasan and for that reason will not at this time further characterize the incident that occurred at Fort Hood on November 5, 2009,” DoD Press Secretary George Little told CNSNews.com in a statement.
Last week, a coalition of 160 victims and their family members issued a video calling on the Pentagon and President Obama to classify the shootings as an act of terrorism.
Major Nidal Malik Hasan, who is currently on trial in a military court, allegedly opened fire on a room full of soldiers at the Texas base, killing 13 service members (and an unborn baby), and wounding 32 others. He faces the death penalty, if convicted.
Though the Defense Department has officially labeled the shootings as an incidence of “workplace violence,” the surviving victims of the shootings say that Hasan, an American-born Muslim and Army psychiatrist, shouted “Allahu Akbar” (“God is Great” in Arabic) before launching an attack.
In the video – “The Truth About Fort Hood” – the victims also accuse the government of “political correctness”and turning a blind eye to the fact that the alleged shooter consulted by e-mail with then-top al-Qaeda leader Anwar al-Awlaki about whether an attack against American soldiers was justified to “protect our brothers.”
One victim, Staff Sgt. Shawn Manning, said in the video that the U.S. soldiers who were killed and wounded at Fort Hood were attacked “by a domestic enemy, someone who was there that day to kill soldiers to prevent them from deploying.”
“If that's not an act of war or an act of terrorism, I don't know what is,” Manning, a former Army staff sergeant, said.
Reps. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) and John Carter sent a letter this month to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, citing testimony from a congressional hearing in September that cited former National Counter Terrorism Center director Michael Leiter had already concluded that the attack was an instance of terrorism.
“Based on all the facts, it is inconceivable to us that the DoD and the Army continue to label this attack ‘workplace violence’ in spite of all the evidence that clearly proves the Fort Hood shooting was an act of terror,” McCaul and Carter wrote.
McCaul, a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, also raised the issue with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and National Counter Terrorism Center director Matthew Olsen in a July 25 congressional hearing chaired by Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.)
The producers of the video say that because the Fort Hood shootings are not deemed to be terrorism, the victims cannot get combat-related special compensation that provides disability pay for wounded service members who were forced to retire for medical reasons.
For instance, Sgt. Manning, who was shot six times, was recently denied benefits, according to the video, even though he was forced to retire from the military due to medical conditions.
If the Fort Hood shootings Manning and other victims and their families could be eligible for compensation and benefits similar to what the 9-11 families received, according to the shooting victims.
The Defense Department, however, denies that any benefits are being withheld.
“Survivors of the incident at Ft. Hood are eligible for the same medical benefits as any service member,” the Pentagon’s Little told CNSNews.com. “The Department of Defense is committed to the highest care of those in our military family.”