By Roxana Tiron - 04/27/10 11:22 PM EDT
The Obama administration has only partially complied with congressional
subpoenas for information on the deadly November shootings at Fort
The failure by the Defense and Justice departments to turn over all the requested documentation — which they say they do not intend to do — is not likely to ease the growing tension between some key senators and the Obama administration over the incident at the Army base on Nov. 5, 2009.
Lieberman and Collins last week issued the first congressional subpoenas of the Obama administration. They were issued to Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Attorney General Eric Holder.
Lieberman’s committee is looking into whether the government could have taken steps to prevent the deaths of 13 people on the Army base. Maj. Nidal Hasan, an Army psychiatrist, is the accused gunman.
The Defense and Justice departments “have produced a limited set of documents in response to the subpoenas, which we appreciate,” Lieberman and Collins said in a statement. “However, they still refuse to provide access to their agents who reportedly reviewed Maj. Hasan’s communications with radical extremist cleric Anwar al-Awlaki and to transcripts of prosecution interviews with Hasan’s associates and superiors, which DOD [the Department of Defense] already provided to its internal review.”
The Pentagon has been concerned that releasing the information requested by Lieberman’s committee would jeopardize the integrity of the military justice process and the criminal prosecution of Hasan. Gates, who recently denied that the Pentagon was hiding any documents from the committee, has directed his department to be as responsive as possible without jeopardizing Hasan’s prosecution.
In response to the subpoenas, the administration agreed to provide access to Hasan’s Defense Department personnel file and performance evaluations and Department of Justice documents concerning the review of Hasan’s communications. The administration provided the “For Office Use Only” annex to the Fort Hood report completed by former Army Secretary Togo West and retired Adm. Vernon Clark in January.
Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell stressed that the Pentagon was willing to provide access to the personnel file and annex to the Homeland Security Committee members and staff directors, but won’t give them to the committee. The documents will also be redacted, he said.
Morrell said both issues are sensitive, because the Army accountability review into whether Hasan’s supervisors acted appropriately is still under way.
According to the committee, the administration refused to provide transcripts or summaries of transcripts of interviews conducted by the prosecution that were provided to the West/Clark review as well as interviews of FBI and Defense Department agents who reportedly discovered Hasan’s communications with al-Awlaki.
Morrell said that providing access to witnesses and investigative summaries was “a bridge too far.” The Pentagon’s general counsel and veteran prosecutors determined that yielding on those requests would present too high a risk of jeopardizing the prosecution of Hasan, Morrell explained.
“We have been in constant communication with the committee,” Morrell said. “We think we have been very accommodating. We have leaned very far forward. This is a very good-faith effort that is responsive to many of their requests.”
Morrell added that he hoped the new information provided to the committee would be “satisfactory” and would assist the panel in its “very crucial oversight responsibilities.”