By Larry Shaughnessy
One part of the prosecution's case against Maj. Nidal Hasan, the accused Fort Hood, Texas, shooter, is a series of e-mails between the Army psychiatrist and the now dead radical Muslim cleric, Anwar al-Awlaki.
An unclassified FBI report released Thursday includes those e-mails.
Former CIA officer Bruce Riedel told the Dallas Morning News shortly after the shooting, "E-mailing a known al-Qaeda sympathizer should have set off alarm bells."
While the content of the e-mails was varied, ranging from Islamic theocracy to the search for a wife for Hasan, it was not always alarming. However, the very first one was.
On December 17, 2008, about 11 months before the shooting, Hasan sent his first e-mail to al-Awlaki, to the cleric's website. In it he wrote: "There are... many Muslims who join the armed forces for a myriad of different reasons. Some appear to have internal conflicts and have even killed or tried to kill other us soldiers in the name of Islam i.e. Hasan Akbar."
(The FBI report notes that Hasan's e-mails contained many errors and typos. They did not correct them, nor has CNN.)
Akbar was an American Army soldier who killed two fellow soldiers and wounded 14 others in an attack in Kuwait at the start of the Iraq invasion in 2003.
Akbar wrote in a diary before the attack, "I may not have killed any Muslims, but being in the army is the same thing. I may have to make a choice very soon on who to kill."
Hasan went on to write in that first e-mail:
"Would you consider someone like Hasan Akbar or other soldiers that have committed such acts with the goal of helping Muslims/Islam (Lets just assume this for now) fighting Jihad and if they did die would you consider them shaheeds (martyrs)?"
Hasan's second e-mail was a question regarding whether Muslims should identify themselves as Sunni or Shiite.
At that point al-Awlaki had not responded.
But an FBI agent in San Diego who was investigating the e-mails wrote to his colleagues:
"While e-mail contact with (al-Awlaki) does not necessarily indicate participation in terrorist-related matters, (al-Awlaki's) reputation, background and anti-U.S. sentiments are well known. Although the content of these messages was not overtly nefarious, this type of contact with (al-Awlaki) would be of concern if the writer is actually the individual identified above."
By then, the FBI was trying determine if the e-mailer "Nidal Hasan" was as an American military officer as he hinted in his first message to al-Awlaki. The e-mails were written when Hasan was stationed at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center near Washington, before he was transferred to Fort Hood.
Hasan's next two e-mails focused on Israel and Palestine and the concept of an "eye for an eye."
The two e-mails after that focused on a very different issue: money.
"Please have alternative to donate to your web site. For example, checks/money orders may be sent to. This can assure privacy for some who are concerned."
The next e-mail was nearly identical; a third e-mail sent the same day addressed a different financial question: "A $5,000.00 scholarship prize is being awarded for the best essay/piece entitled "Why is Anwar al-Awlaki a great activist and leader"
Also in that message, for the first time, Hasan reminded al-Awlaki that they had met when the cleric was still in the United States:
"PS-We met briefly a very long time ago when you were the Imam at Dar al Hijra. I doubt if you remember me."
After seven messages from Hasan to al-Awlaki, who by then was in hiding in Yemen, al-Awlaki wrote back.
"I pray this message reaches you at the best state of emaan and health. Jazakum Allahu khairan for thinking good of me. I don't travel so I wont be able to physically award the prize and I am too 'embarrassed' for a lack of the better word to award it anyway."
Within hours of al-Awlaki's reply, Hasan wrote back saying the scholarship contest was running into problems, but he promised to be a help to al-Awlaki.
"If you need any assistance, Allah willing I will be able to help. I believe my biggest strength is my financial situation. Of course, and this goes without saying, that everything should be legal and in accordance with the u.s. Law."
At the end of that e-mail he also wrote for some dating advice.
"I'm looking for a wife that is willing to strive with me to please Allah (SWT). I will strongly consider a recommendation coming from you."
Three days later, al-Awlaki wrote his second and final e-mail to Hasan.
"I kind of felt that the contest would end up running into red tape. People in that part of the world are becoming very timid and it doesn't look it's getting any better.
Thanks for the offer for help."
Al-Awlaki's final thought was about the search for a wife for Hasan.
"Tell more about yourself. I will keep an eye for a sister."
Hasan wrote back with an e-mail that might be confused with a profile for an online dating site.
"In regards to a sister for marriage. My name is Nidal Hasan. If you google 'CSTS and Nidal Hasan' you will see a picture of me. I currently reside in Silver Sping MD; 301-XXX-XXXX. I was born and raised in the U.S. Both, of my parents are from Palestine... If you know someone that you feel that will be compatible and complement my endeavors to please Allah (SWT) please let me know."
Hasan continued to write al-Awlaki. He discussed Muslims in the news in America, more about how to safely send al-Awlaki money, suggesting using PayPal, and he asked al-Awlaki to keep Hasan's information in his Rolodex and suggested that he call collect if need be.
Hasan's next e-mail, on May 25, 2009, seems more ominous in hindsight.
"Allah (SWT) makes it clear that most wont believe and of those that do; the ones who struggle for his cause are greater in his sight then those who sit back and pray."
Six days later, his next e-mail specifically addressed violence, mentioning "a recent incident were an American Soldier jumped who on a grenade that was thrown at a group of soldiers. In doing so he saved 7 soldiers but killed himself. He consciously made a decision to kill himself but his intention was to save his comrades and indeed he was successful. So, he says this proves that suicide is permissible in this example because he is a hero. Then he compares this to a soldier who sneaks into an enemy camp during dinner and detonates his suicide vest to prevent an attack that is know to be planned the following day. The suicide bombers intention is to kill numerous soldliers to prevent the attack to save his fellow people the following day."
On June 16, 2009, Hasan wrote his final e-mail to al-Awlaki, writing in part: "If we ignore Allah (SWT) like Adam we will have no exuse if we end up in hell fire."
Less than six months later, 13 people died at Fort Hood. Hasan will be tried on murder charges in August.
He faces the death penalty if convicted.
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