As the long delayed trial of alleged Fort Hood shooter, Major Nidal Hasan, gets under way, congressional supporters of Hasan's victims are introducing new legislation to get them the benefits they say the Army has denied them.
The Justice for Fort Hood Heroes Act, introduced Friday, would ensure that the victims of the Fort Hood attack receive the same benefits as Purple Heart recipients, including combat-related special compensation.
The attack left 13 dead and more than 30 injured.
Many of the Fort Hood victims say they've been denied Purple Hearts, as well as some financial and medical benefits due to the military's refusal to categorize the massacre as an act of terrorism, instead discussing it as "workplace violence."
The designation came despite evidence showing that Hasan was in communication with al Qaeda leader Anwar al-Awlaki prior to the attack. In a letter in late May, a top Army attorney said that "the available evidence in this case does not, at this time, support a finding that the shooting at Fort Hood was an act of international terrorism."
Meanwhile, in a new development, Hasan has released seven pages of handwritten and typed documents in which he appears to renounce his U.S. citizenship, abandons his military oath and further discusses his relationship with Awlaki.
According to Fox News, the documents were delivered to them this week by Hasan's attorney for civil matters, John Galligan.
In one, posted by Fox News, Hasan writes, "I, Nidal Malik Hasan, am compelled to renounce any oaths of allegiances that require me to support/defend [any] man made constitution (like the constitution of the United States) over the commandments mandated in Islam ... I therefore formally renounce my oath of office ... this includes my oath of U.S. citizenship."
Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Fla., a sponsor for the new legislation, told ABC News the recently released letters were just further evidence that the military is incorrect in their designation of the Fort Hood attack.
"There is no doubt that the Fort Hood massacre was an act of terror. Hasan's statements and writings have repeatedly confirmed that he believed he was carrying out an act of war against the United States," Rooney said. "President Obama himself listed the attack as an act of terror, and the National Counterterrorism Center, the State Department, the current Director of the Central Intelligence Agency have recognized this as well. It's time for the Administration to confirm officially that the Fort Hood attack was in fact terrorism."
Rooney said in response to previous legislative proposals designed to provide benefits to the victims, the Department of Defense has objected to designating the attack as an act of terror and has denied requests to award the victims with the Purple Heart.
"I disagree with the Army's concerns and firmly believe we should designate the Fort Hood shooting as a terrorist attack. However, with this bill we have found a way to set that debate aside, work together and make sure the victims and their families get the care they need," Rooney added.
A spokesman for Rooney says the Congressman still supports efforts to award victims Purple Hearts.
It's unclear what impact the new legislation could have on a lawsuit filed by most of the victims of the attack.
One of their attorneys, Reed Rubinstein says, "We appreciate the support and it's a nice first step, but, ultimately, it's the government's responsibility to treat the victims of the Fort Hood terrorist attack in the same way as the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon."
In addition to Rooney, who served at Fort Hood before entering politics, the legislation was co-sponsored by John Carter, R-Texas, Tim Griffin R-Ark., Michael McCaul, R-Texas, Roger Williams, R-Texas, and Frank Wolf, R-Virg.
The bill would also provide the same benefits to the victims of the 2009 Little Rock recruiting office shooting in 2009 which left one soldier dead and another wounded. An American convert to Islam, Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammed, claimed he was sent out on the attacks by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. He pleaded guilty, but was not charged with terrorism in the case.
Explaining the military's decision not to call the Fort Hood attack terrorism, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little told ABC News earlier this year, "The Department of Defense is also committed to the integrity of the ongoing court martial proceedings of Major Nidal Hasan and for that reason will not at this time further characterize the incident."
- Politics & Government
- Act Of Terror
- Nidal Hasan
- Fort Hood
- Tom Rooney