Maj. Nidal M. Hasan was charged by the Army with 13 counts of premeditated murder. To the chagrin of conservative commentators, he is not charged with terrorism, a controversy I discussed last night on this segment of Rachel Maddow.
While many have been calling for a terrorism charge in the military trial, the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) does not actually have a terrorism provision. Such a charge would be handled in a military tribunal or more likely by waiving jurisdiction in favor of a federal prosecution.
As discussed previously, we have a growing habit of calling every shocking killing a terrorist act today. Many killers are unstable and kill strangers. Many often associate themselves with religious or ideological views, as with George Tiller. However, this does not make them terrorists. You can intend to make a statement with a crime or “go out in a blaze of glory” without being part of an effort to coerce or intimidate a government or society. The parents of Balloon Boy wanted to scare a nation, but they are not terrorists. There is no question that you have a legitimate concern over terrorism with a mass shooting at a military base. However, motivation is central to such a distinction. At the moment, Hasan looks much like other rage killers in recent years. For a prior column on this issue, click here.
At the moment, there is no evidence that this was an act of terrorism, defined by the U.S. Army manual as the “calculated use of unlawful violence or threat of unlawful violence to inculcate fear. It is intended to coerce or intimidate governments or societies … [to attain] political, religious, or ideological goals.” At the moment, the crime has many of the same characteristics as a workplace rage shooting. It is true that there is evidence that Hasan was becoming radicalized in his views, but there is even more evidence that he was losing his mind. These killings could easily have more to do with rage than religion. The Army is approaching the case with commendable restraint and not jumping to conclusions. At the moment, it is a murder case.
In the meantime, Obama is calling for an inventory of intelligence on Hasan, as accounts grow of indicators of potential violence, here.
Here is the background facts on Hasan from the Post:
Maj. Nidal M. Hasan
– 39 years old.
– U.S. Army psychiatrist.
– 1997 graduate of Virginia Tech University.
– Received doctorate in psychiatry from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda.
– From 2003 through this summer, was an intern, a resident and then a fellow at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in the District.
– Army records show his last address in the 11300 block of Connecticut Avenue in Kensington.
– Commissioned as a captain, he was promoted to major in May.
– He is single and has no children, and he showed no sign of physical or mental problems in examinations as recently as September.
– He is listed by the Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress as a fellow for disaster and preventive psychology.
– As of Oct. 13, he had less than a year of clinical practice.
– He attended the Muslim Community Center in Silver Spring and is a devout, according to Faizul Khan, former imam at the center. He attended prayers at least once a day, seven days a week, often in his Army fatigues, Khan said.
For the full story, click here.