Obama Stonewalling Senate Fort Hood Investigation

President Obama is refusing to allow serving police, military, or intelligence officials to testify before the Senate investigation into the Fort Hood massacre.

Senate Seal

The first public congressional hearing on the Fort Hood attack will not include testimony from any current federal law enforcement, military or intelligence officials because the Obama administration “declined to provide any” such witnesses, according to a Senate committee source.

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee has released the witness list for its hearing “The Fort Hood Attack: A Preliminary Assessment,” scheduled for Thursday at 10 a.m. ET. The list includes four experts on terrorism and intelligence issues: retired Gen. Jack Keane, the former U.S. Army vice chief of staff; Brian Jenkins, a senior advisor at the Rand Corp.; Mitchell Silber, the director of analysis for the New York City Police Department’s Intelligence Division; and Juan Zarate, a senior advisor for the Transnational Threats Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

But the list does not include anyone actively involved in investigating the Fort Hood attack, or anyone who might have been responsible for decisions made by various government agencies before the attack about whether to investigate the shooting suspect, Nidal Hasan. The Senate committee source said HSGAC Chairman Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) had hoped to have witnesses from the FBI and the U.S. Army, but was rebuffed in his requests.

Asked for comment Monday, White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said: “Tomorrow morning, an inter-agency briefing team will go to the Hill to brief House and Senate leaders and committee chairs and ranking members. This is the latest in a series of engagements with the Hill since the horrific events at Fort Hood, and further evidence of the Administration’s commitment to appropriately inform Congress without interfering in the prosecution of this case.” Vietor did not address the specific question of why witnesses would not be provided for Thursday’s hearing.

President Obama has already ordered a federal review of the circumstances that led up to the Fort Hood attack, and how government agencies handled intelligence related to Hasan. But in his weekly radio and Internet address Saturday, Obama urged caution on Capitol Hill. “I know there will also be inquiries by Congress, and there should,” Obama said. “But all of us should resist the temptation to turn this tragic event into the political theater that sometimes dominates the discussion here in Washington. The stakes are far too high.”

I agree with the president that it would be better for Congress to stay out of this until the internal investigations are complete.  The incident just occurred and there’s no evidence of which I’m aware that the executive agencies in question aren’t doing their job appropriately and expeditiously.  And, let’s face it, these sorts of Congressional hearings usually turn into occasions for grandstanding.

All that said, there’s simply no question but that the Senate has every right to conduct a circus if it so desires.  It’s a co-equal branch of government and has the power to exercise oversight over executive agencies.  The president can deny polite requests.  If it wishes, however, the Senate can simply issue subpoenas and force the testimony of any government employee aside from select members of the president’s personal staff.

The ball’s in Lieberman’s court.

Hat tips:  Dan Spencer and Bill Dupray

FILED UNDER: Congress, US Politics, , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Patrick T. McGuire says:

    I agree with the president that it would be better for Congress to stay out of this until the internal investigations are complete.

    And when do you suppose that may be? Sometime after the ACORN investigation concludes perhaps?

  2. odograph says:

    Grandstanding this would be easier than fixing the TARP mess.

  3. odograph says:

    I’ve also mentioned that some of our unemployment might be structural. Roubini is on the same page. There’s another thing that’s harder to face than some angry-making soundbites.

  4. Eric Florack says:

    And, let’s face it, these sorts of Congressional hearings usually turn into occasions for grandstanding.

    True. But let’s also be honest enough to point out that had John McCain won, Obama would be on the front lines of the Senate “Investigation” into the matter.

  5. odograph says:

    I thought he was in league with the terrorists Eric … remember your talking points.

  6. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Odo, if you follow the news about this incident, and I do not mean MSNBC, you will find this guy was in contact with some pretty radical muslims. The Army and the FBI knew about this stuff and did nothing about it. The director of the FBI said there was no terrorist involvement right after it happened. Obama’s administration could not find a communist in the midst (Van Jones) how would they deal with a time bomb soldier who had SOA on his business card? You are going to tolerate these killers until they come to your house.

  7. odograph says:

    By “he” I meant Obama and was harkening back to the last election cycle, Zelsdorf. If you want to say the Army and the FBI were in league as well … more power to you! And good luck on the next election cycle.

  8. JVB says:

    Interesting how liberals fall in line with what ever Obama requests, questions aside. Bush didn’t have this kind of unconditional support…even from his own party. And Obama knows HE wouldn’t be sitting this out if he was still a Senator. This is beyond politics.

  9. Wayne says:

    Re “and there’s no evidence of which I’m aware that the executive agencies in question aren’t doing their job appropriately and expeditiously”

    As ZRIII points out this isn’t true. I do agree these things often in up in a dog and pony show. My problem with Congress is they do way too many of them when the POTUS is the opposite party and not enough of them when the POTUS is of their party. Also when they do hold them the majority party tends to stack the witnesses in their favor and limit the minorities choices in who they want to call.

    In other words they place politics first and our country second.

  10. odograph says:

    Interesting how liberals fall in line with what ever Obama requests, questions aside.

    James, you crazy liberal.

  11. So, you agree with the President? What that really means is that you agree that the Army, the FBI and the CIA will be given enough time to “woodshed” all witnesses, so that they and the “Executive Branch” will not be embarrassed by any investigation(s). And when the “investigators” finally get to the “lick-log”, a claim of “National Security” will preclude the testimony of certain witnesses. Do all of us a favor: Agree with the President, but have him order the Army and the FBI to give lie detector tests to every Muslim in uniform without delay, and have him order a “loyalty” investigation for every Muslim in uniform. As a former Army Officer, I wouldn’t want a Muslim soldier, armed with a gun, BEHIND me in battle.