Fort Hood suspect sought war-crimes charges against patients, military officer says

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DALLAS — Fort Hood, Texas, massacre suspect Nidal Malik
Hasan sought to have some of his patients prosecuted for war crimes based on
statements they made during psychiatric sessions with him, a captain who served
on the base said Monday.

Other psychiatrists learned what he was doing and complained
to superiors that it violated doctor-patient confidentiality, Capt. Shannon
Meehan told The Dallas Morning News.

One day after the Nov. 5 attack that killed 13 and wounded
29, a Fort Hood official said she had never received complaints about Hasan’s
job performance. Col. Kimberly Kesling, deputy commander of clinical services
at the base’s Darnall Army Medical Center, also described him as a
“hardworking, dedicated young man who gave great care to his
patients.”

Fort Hood officials did not respond to interview requests
late Monday. They have declined in recent days to say anything about the major,
citing the ongoing investigation. .

Meehan said he learned of Hasan’s prosecution requests from
another base psychiatrist. That psychiatrist could not be reached for comment
Monday.

The revelations add to a portrait of Hasan as a man who was
at odds with many of the people around him — emotionally, religiously and
ideologically. He was, by various accounts, lonely, paranoid and increasingly
zealous in his fundamentalist Islamic beliefs. He had been writing e-mails to a
radical cleric in Yemen who called the U.S. war on terror a “war against Muslims”
and advocated killing soldiers.

It wasn’t clear Monday what information Hasan received from
patients and what became of his requests for prosecution. ABC News, citing
anonymous sources, reported that his superiors rejected the requests, and that
investigators suspect this triggered the shootings.

Hasan may have been legally justified in reporting what
patients disclosed, said Patrick McLain, a Dallas lawyer who specializes in
military defense work and is not involved in the Hasan case. But it’s impossible
to be sure without knowing exactly what they said, he added.

“He was right on his authority to report it,” said
the ex-Marine, who formerly served as a court-martial judge. The Army teaches
all service members that they have a duty to report evidence of war crimes.

Hasan’s civilian lawyer in Central Texas, retired Col. John
P. Galligan, did not respond to interview requests Monday. His client remains
in a San Antonio military hospital, paralyzed from the waist down by police
gunfire and facing premeditated murder charges.

Meehan, the Fort Hood captain, expressed skepticism with
Hasan’s requests that patients be prosecuted. “They’re going in there
confessing their pain and their guilt,” he said, describing soldiers’
post-war visits to therapists. “He’s trying to turn it into a war
crime.”

Meehan recently wrote a book called “Beyond Duty,”
depicting his traumatic experience as a tank platoon leader in Iraq. It
describes a strike he ordered that accidentally killed an Iraqi family with six
children — the sort of “collateral damage” that McLain said was
clearly distinct from a war crime.

Later, an improvised explosive device left him with a
traumatic brain injury. He received therapy at Fort Hood from people other than
Hasan, which he credits with saving him from crippling depression. He is
retiring from the military, effective next week.

Meehan said one of his doctors tried to give Hasan a copy of
the book last month. Hasan refused.

The captain said he had previously avoided Hasan, who was
one of a small crew responsible for interviewing soldiers and writing up
summaries of their condition.

“I heard he was not one you wanted to go to”
because he didn’t finish his work promptly, Meehan said. “Apparently the
reason it took so long is he was turning it over to legal.”

Meehan said one little-known consequence of the massacre is
that Hasan’s colleagues must re-evaluate every case he handled. Another
challenge, he said, is persuading patients to keep opening up to therapists.

“I really hope Nidal’s horrific actions do not give
soldiers pause when considering (whether) to tell their given stories,”
Meehan said.

President Barack Obama vowed Saturday to examine all the
events leading up to Hasan’s attack, including reports that the Army and FBI
missed warning signs about his extremist sympathies. Several Congressional
leaders have promised their own inquiries.

A closed-door briefing Monday for the Senate Armed Services
Committee was canceled at the administration’s request, said committee
spokesman Bryan Thomas.

Senate leaders and several other senior lawmakers are
scheduled to receive a classified briefing Tuesday morning, said Sen. Patrick
Leahy, D-Vt., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

On Wednesday, Attorney General Eric Holder is expected to
testify publicly before Leahy’s committee.

Sen. Jeff Sessions, the top Republican on the panel, said he
would ask whether there was evidence Hasan was disloyal to the United States
and should have been removed from the Army.

“Nobody should be advanced in rank and no one should be
kept in the military if their loyalty is to anything other than the United
States,” the Alabama senator said.

Via McClatchy-Tribune News Service.

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