Thursday, November 19, 2009

What the military knew about Nidal Hasan

NPR has obtained a memo that was written about Nidal Hasan two years ago by a top psychiatrist at Walter Reed who worried about Hasan's professional abilities.
Two years ago, a top psychiatrist at Walter Reed Army Medical Center was so concerned about what he saw as Nidal Hasan's incompetence and reckless behavior that he put those concerns in writing. NPR has obtained a copy of the memo, the first evaluation that has surfaced from Hasan's file.

Officials at Walter Reed sent that memo to Fort Hood this year when Hasan was transferred there.

Nevertheless, commanders still assigned Hasan — accused of killing 13 people in a mass shooting at Fort Hood on Nov. 5 — to work with some of the Army's most troubled and vulnerable soldiers.
Usually a memo like this in someone's professional file would have been a career-killer.
More than a page long, the document warns that: "The Faculty has serious concerns about CPT Hasan's professionalism and work ethic. ... He demonstrates a pattern of poor judgment and a lack of professionalism." It is signed by the chief of psychiatric residents at Walter Reed, Maj. Scott Moran.

When shown the memo, two leading psychiatrists said it was so damning, it might have sunk Hasan's career if he had applied for a job outside the Army.
Here are some of the points made in that memo.
The memo ticks off numerous problems over the course of Hasan's training, including proselytizing to his patients. It says he mistreated a homicidal patient and allowed her to escape from the emergency room, and that he blew off an important exam.

According to the memo, Hasan hardly did any work: He saw only 30 patients in 38 weeks. Sources at Walter Reed say most psychiatrists see at least 10 times that many patients. When Hasan was supposed to be on call for emergencies, he didn't even answer the phone.

An undated handout photo of Maj. Nidal Hasan, who is accused of killing 13 people at Fort Hood, Texas, earlier this month.
An undated handout photo of Maj. Nidal Hasan
U.S. Government Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences/Getty Images

An undated handout photo of Maj. Nidal Hasan, who is accused of killing 13 people at Fort Hood, Texas, earlier this month.

Sharfstein says the memo doesn't suggest that Hasan would end up shooting people, but it warns that Hasan was "somebody who could potentially put patients in danger."

"There are all kinds of warning signs, flashing red lights, that, in terms of just this paragraph, you'd say, 'Oh, no, this is not somebody that we would take a chance on.' "

Sharfstein says that in the 25 years he has been supervising and hiring psychiatrists, he has seen only a half-dozen evaluations this bad.
So the guy was clearly not professionally qualified to treat troubled patients. So what did the military do? They shipped him off to Fort Hood, but sent the damning memo along with him?

This needs a thorough investigation as to why this guy was kept around. The White House needs to stop stonewalling a true investigation of why this guy was kept around and allowed to interact with troubled soldiers.


QuestRepublic said...

This is not just a momentary lapse in judgement by Walter Reed officers, or the Army Promotion Board officers who are instructed by the Pentagon heads to promote virtually all officers in critical billets.

This is the natural result of the DOD, politicians and the American Electorate using knee-jerk responses to huge global problems involving the use of miitary force.

There is always some self-serving politician or corporate leader who can easily sell to the Electorate, an apparantly cheaper way to solve a huge complex problem like the Global War on Terror. Metrics get involved, just like in Vietnam with Body Counts and Tons of Bombs dropped on mostly vacant jungle.

The Army is painfully short of Captains and Majors in most specialties and especially short of qualified mental health workers to help the injured soldiers. Solving this and other problems caused by two long-running wars requires leadership, tax dollars and committment by the Electorate to hold politicians' feet to the fire.

People who think there is a simplistic answer to tragedies like the Fort Hood terrorism/murders should look in the mirror more closely.

LarryD said...

I Rather think the problem is Political Correctness. Hasan was treated with kid gloves because he was Muslim and Middle Eastern.

If he'd been White or a Christian, he'd been out of there.

tfhr said...

The actions, or lack thereof, by Hasan's leadership at Walter Reed Army Medical Center prior to his promotion and transfer to FT Hood is nothing less than appalling. Their failure may be shared at other levels of the command and through other branches of the Army.

Despite the comments of QuestRepublic regarding the Army's shortage of medical personnel, there is no acceptable reason that a letter outlining Hasan's deficiencies, such as this letter did, could have been considered as anything less than a career-ender. My question is whether or not the promotion board viewed that letter and if not, why not?

Other questions arise regarding the contents of the letter and the events described within:

Did the escaped homicidal patient cause harm to anyone or herself? What action was taken as a result of this incident? What did the command at WRAMC know of that incident and what actions did they take?

Both Hasan's failure to respond while on call and proselytizing to his patients were two other incidents that would have provided grounds for formal counseling. Such counseling generates a written record that would have been essential in any action to remove Hasan. Was he formally counseled and what happened to that record if he was?

"What was done to this end?" and "Why wasn't this pursued?", are two additional questions for the Army to answer. His skills as a physician were obviously poor enough to evoke concern by his colleagues but his conduct was also a glaring question mark.

The Subversion And Espionage Directed against the Army (SAEDA) program should have been very familiar to Hasan's leadership and co-workers. They should have alerted the SAEDA point of contact for WRAMC regarding Hasan's actions and statements. An investigation should have been launched. We don't yet know if anyone pursued that course of action but whether they did or did not, that SAEDA did not result in an investigation that would have removed Hasan as a threat is a completely unacceptable point of failure.

Hasan had a secret clearance. You cannot engage in correspondence with a member of a terrorist organization and maintain a clearance. It's that simple. His failure to report his contact with an al Qaeda member also would have resulted in his clearance being yanked. His inability to hold a clearance would have resulted in his removal from the Army.

I would add here that his removal from the Army would not have necessarily deterred Hasan from carrying out a terrorist attack but it may have changed the venue. He never should have been allowed to stay in the Army long enough to PCS to FT Hood.

It will be very interesting to watch the Army attempt to conduct a thorough investigation into this matter while trying to maintain the difficult balancing act of tip-toeing along the PC line that has skewered my beloved branch of the Armed Services. Appointed investigating officers and the Army IG will have to be ruthless in their pursuit of the facts.

Somewhere along the line we have become accepting of the fact that political correctness can and does prevent us from doing our jobs. It is quite clear that leadership failed at WRAMC because of this and the same can be said almost certainly for other commands within the Army and probably within the intelligence community as well.

The most important hurdle will be crossed when it is universally understood that political correctness not only prevents us from doing our jobs but that it also results in lost lives.

Pat Patterson said...

At least five years ago the DOD and the Air Force sent investigating teams to Colorado Springs to look into charges that Brig Gen Weida was using his position as head of the academy to proselytize. He had and was eventually replaced after being told that he would not get promoted. The point is that the USAF and DOD did not allow this charge to fester for years before acting.

At the very least it seems that exediency has replaced the toleration edicts of the UMCJ. Hasan by proselytizing and the Army by allowing one religion to be treated differently than any other religion.

QuestRepublic said...

** The Army's suicide rate is the highest in many years ***

However, if someone can cure the "Political Correctness" problem in this country, that's fine with me. Unfortunately I suspect it will not solve the Army's bigger problems.

There is a shortage of skilled senior non-coms and mid-level officers in most Army specialties, but especially mental health. As a result of that, lots of people get retained and promoted that normally would not make the cut. These people are White, Brown, Muslim and Christian, etc.

Of course the Army should have discharged Hasan long ago. But over the last six years I think they would have had a problem discharging any white, Christian psychiatrist even if he performed poorly.

As a veterans counselor, I have gotten a rash of complaints about the availability of mental health practitioners in the Armed Services; not so much about their quality. That was one of the complaints voiced in the hearings about Walter Reed; it was almost impossible to see a shrink. So that may make it a little easier for us to see why Hasan's superiors at Walter Reed were reluctant to stick their necks out and make the obvious move to get rid of him.

Instead of spending enough money to hire competant psychiatrists and psychologists, there is this happy talk by the Pentagon that "..we can do the job with the resources we have been given". Then the soldiers suffer because the medical care available does not meet the mission.

So Cal Jim said...

13 American soldiers were sacrificed on the bloody alter of political correctness. And the Left STILL demands that we worship their false god. It's disgusting.

Bachbone said...

This PC has been an ongoing battle since at least the Reagan years. It got especially sticky during the Clinton years when St. Hillary and her "feminists" were pushing their agenda. I recall a female pilot being killed in a carrier accident and a subsequent inquiry finding she and another female pilot having been pushed forward when male pilots with similar records would have been washed out. The Left is still pushing similar agendas. Now it's for females on nuclear subs, females in Marine combat units, and many other areas. Only the Marines are standing up against the onslaught.

Anyone wanting to keep up with such millitary matters should go to Elaine Donnelly's: Center for Military Readiness. It's a free site.

Pat Patterson said...

But why ship Hasan to one of the two army bases in the US where the need for counseling is diminished due to the decline in the number of homicides? Plus I can't really take the claim of the military having a higher rate of suicide seriously when one considers that the highest at risk group for suicide, mainly 20-45 are precisely the ages of most military personnel. That's like arguing that the army causes prostate cancer because so many of the personnel get that condition.