DALLAS — Both Hosam “Sam” Smadi and Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan attracted attention from federal agents long before their high-profile arrests.
But the two Texas cases, just six weeks apart, resulted in spectacularly different outcomes — one in the prevention of a large-scale terrorist attack in Dallas, the other in a deadly shooting rampage of soldiers and civilians at Fort Hood.
The Sept. 24 arrest of Smadi in Dallas came after he allegedly tried to detonate a vehicle with government-supplied fake explosives at a downtown skyscraper. Smadi was the object of a months-long FBI sting involving Arabic-speaking undercover agents.
The FBI chose not to take the same approach with Hasan, who is charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder after the Nov. 5 attack at a base processing center filled with soldiers preparing for deployment to Afghanistan.
An FBI-run terrorism task force knew last December that Hasan, an Army psychiatrist, sent 16 e-mails to Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical Muslim cleric in Yemen who supports violence against the West. “Why didn’t someone intervene before this man picked up a gun?” asked David Cid, who retired from the FBI after 20 years and is executive director of the Memorial Institute for Prevention of Terrorism in Oklahoma City. “Had the FBI perceived him as a threat, they absolutely would have intervened. So the fundamental question is: Why they didn’t see him as a threat? I’m puzzled and concerned.”
The FBI has said that analysts decided that Hasan’s e-mails had to do with his research on Muslim U.S. soldiers’ feelings about the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and were not a red flag signaling a threat.