There are many unknowns about Nidal Malik Hasan, the man authorities say is
responsible for the worst mass killing on a US military base. Most of all,
his motive. But details of his life and mindset, emerging from official
sources and personal acquaintances, are troubling.
For six years before reporting for duty at Fort Hood, Texas, in July, the
39-year-old Army major worked at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center
pursuing his career in psychiatry, as an intern, a resident and, last year,
a fellow in disaster and preventive psychiatry. He received his medical
degree from the military’s Uniformed Services University of the Health
Sciences in Bethesda, Md., in 2001.
While an intern at Walter Reed, Hasan had some “difficulties” that
required counseling and extra supervision, said Dr. Thomas Grieger, who was
the training director at the time.
Grieger said privacy laws prevented him from going into details but noted that
the problems had to do with Hasan’s interactions with patients. He recalled
Hasan as a “mostly very quiet” person who never spoke ill of the
military or his country.
“He swore an oath of loyalty to the military,” Grieger said. “I
didn’t hear anything contrary to those oaths.”
But, more recently, federal agents grew suspicious.
At least six months ago, Hasan came to the attention of law enforcement
officials because of Internet postings about suicide bombings and other
threats, including posts that equated suicide bombers to soldiers who throw
themselves on a grenade to save the lives of their comrades.
They had not determined for certain whether Hasan is the author of the
posting, and a formal investigation had not been opened before the shooting,
said law enforcement officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because
they are not authorized to discuss the case.
In an interview with The Washington Post, Hasan’s aunt, Noel Hasan of Falls
Church, Virginia, said he had been harassed about being a Muslim in the
years after the September 11, 2001, terror attacks and he wanted out of the
“Some people can take it and some people cannot,” she said. “He
had listened to all of that and he wanted out of the military.”
She said he had sought a discharge from the military for several years, and
even offered to repay the cost of his medical training.
A spokesman for the Army, Lt. Col. George Wright, told the Post he could not
confirm that Hasan had sought a discharge.
Noel Hasan said her nephew “did not make many friends” and would say “the
military was his life.”
A cousin, Nader Hasan, told The New York Times that after counseling soldiers
returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with post-traumatic stress disorder,
Hasan knew war firsthand.
“He was mortified by the idea of having to deploy,” Nader Hasan
said. “He had people telling him on a daily basis the horrors they saw
Federal law-enforcement agents ordered an evacuation of the apartment complex
where Hasan lived in Killeen, Texas, Thursday night and conducted a search
of his home, said Hilary Shine, director of public information for the city.
She didn’t say what was found during the search.
Officials said earlier that federal search warrants were being drawn up to
authorize the seizure of his computer.
Retired Army Col. Terry Lee, who said he worked with Hasan, told Fox News that
Hasan had hoped President Barack Obama would pull troops out of Afghanistan
and Iraq. Lee said Hasan got into frequent arguments with others in the
military who supported the wars, and had tried hard to prevent his pending
Hasan attended prayers regularly when he lived outside Washington, often in
his Army uniform, said Faizul Khan, a former imam at a mosque Hasan attended
in Silver Spring, Maryland. He said Hasan was a lifelong Muslim.
“I got the impression that he was a committed soldier,” Khan said.
He spoke often with Hasan about Hasan’s desire for a wife.
On a form filled out by those seeking spouses through a program at the mosque,
Hasan listed his birthplace as Arlington, Virginia, but his nationality as
Palestinian, Khan said.
“I don’t know why he listed Palestinian,” Khan said, “He was
not born in Palestine.”
Nothing stood out about Hasan as radical or extremist, Khan said.
“We hardly ever got to discussing politics,” Khan said. “Mostly
we were discussing religious matters, nothing too controversial, nothing
like an extremist.”
Hasan earned his rank of major in April 2008, according to a July 2008 Army
He served eight years as an enlisted soldier. He also served in the ROTC as an
undergraduate at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. He received a bachelor’s
degree in biochemistry there in 1997.
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