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Gates: Fort Hood Probe Raises ‘Troubling Questions’ on Warning Signs

As a Senate Committee began the first hearing into the shooting attack at Fort Hood, Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced the launch of a Pentagon review of the circumstances around the shootings. Judy Woodruff speaks with two reporters for an update.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    Next tonight: the Fort Hood story.

    Defense Secretary Gates today announced the Pentagon would launch several investigations into the killing of 13 soldiers and civilians two weeks ago. An Army psychiatrist has been charged in the murders.

    ROBERT GATES, U.S. Secretary of Defense: The shootings at Fort Hood raise a number of troubling questions that demand complete but prompt answers.

    We do not enter this process with any preconceived notions. However, it is prudent to determine immediately whether there are internal weaknesses or procedural shortcomings in the department that could make us vulnerable in the future.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    Gates said the investigations could last six months. And he cautioned Pentagon officials not to talk publicly about the case against Major Nidal Hasan.

    Judy Woodruff has more on the story.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    And, for that, we turn to two reporters who have been covering the story, Yochi Dreazen of "The Wall Street Journal" and Daniel Zwerdling of National Public Radio.

    Thank you both for being with us.

    Yochi Dreazen, to you first.

    They announced several different investigations, different timetables. Help us understand what the time — what the differences are.

    YOCHI DREAZEN, "The Wall Street Journal": Sure. They basically announced two investigations. One is a 45-day investigation looking at the immediate causes of this particular attack, whether violent extremists in the ranks of the military could be better identified, whether U.S. bases are sufficiently secure.

    That's going to be a 45-day review. As part of that, there will be a fairly significant Army review looking at how Major Hasan's career was handled from the beginning pretty much until the Fort Hood assault that he's allegedly responsible for. That will look very heavily at whether officials at Walter Reed who had concerns about Major Hasan should have done more to raise alarms about him to others in the military.

    Separately from that, there will be a four- to six-month long-term review that looks at systemic flaws within the Pentagon. This is not necessarily tied to this case specifically, but will look at whether there's too much stress on mental health practitioners like Major Hasan, whether the medical system within the military is good enough at rating its people.

    So, this will be not specifically tied to this, but, rather, trying to find other flaws that are not necessarily a short-term immediate problem, but could be a problem if left untreated for a long time.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    And, Yochi Dreazen, who's doing the investigation? Who's running all this?

  • YOCHI DREAZEN:

    It's interesting. They chose two insiders. They chose Togo West, who had been a former secretary of the Army and then later secretary of veterans affairs, and a Navy admiral named Vernon Clark, who had ran the Navy from 2000 to 2005, very much people who are well-versed in the military culture, well-versed in the Pentagon bureaucracy, kind of quintessential insiders in many ways.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    And the question one is already hearing about whether the military can investigate itself, what do they say about that?

  • YOCHI DREAZEN:

    This — they would say that this is one part of that investigation. Congress is investigating the military's handling of it. The White House is doing a broader information of the way every branch of the government, including the military, worked.

    This one is meant to be a self-assessment. There will also be assessments from outside the military, but that's not the point of this probe.

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