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THE SITUATION ROOM
FBI Probes Fort Hood Rampage Suspect; New Details of Rampage Suspect; "She Probably Saved A Lot of Lives;" Deadly Office Shooting Spree; Rampage Sparks Security Questions
Aired November 6, 2009 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BLITZER: New details are emerging right now about the suspect and a possible motive.
And two American paratroopers missing in Afghanistan -- we're learning more about the mission they were on and the intense search for them underway for them right now.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We're following new developments this hour -- another deadly shooting spree, this one inside an engineering firm in a high rise office building in Orlando, Florida. One person is dead, five injured. The suspect is a man who was fired from the firm more than two years ago. He's now in custody.
It all comes less than 24 hours after the massacre at Fort Hood, Texas. Among the latest developments in that case, the suspect, 39- year-old Army psychiatrist, Major Nidal Hasan, is hospitalized. He's said to be in a coma in stable condition.
He was shot by a female police officer who is now being called a hero. Twenty-eight victims are also hospitalized. About half required surgery, according to Fort Hood's hospital commander.
President Obama has ordered flags at the White House and federal buildings nationwide to be flown at half staff in honor of the 13 people killed.
The FBI is certainly playing a critical role in this investigation, examining a computer Hasan used and scouring Internet postings he may have made.
CNN's Kate Bolduan is working that part of the story for us -- Kate, a very sensitive part of the story.
What are you picking up?
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Wolf.
Well, we're picking up on a lot of stuff. We actually have a little bit of new information that's coming out from our producer, Carol Cratty. She's learned from a law enforcement source that one of the weapons used in this shooting was an FN 5.7 millimeter, a semi- automatic pistol. It was purchased legally at a place called Guns Galore in Killeen, Texas. There was a second weapon involved in the shooting, but that second weapon, we're told, is a revolver of some sort. But they don't have a lot of information coming back on that yet.
But even with that information, Wolf, there are so many unknowns remaining here. Law enforcement are working around the clock, collecting information from Texas to here in Washington, D.C. As they now try to piece together the motive behind the shooting.
BOLDUAN (voice-over): Law enforcement in search of evidence removed a trash dumpster near the Texas apartment of alleged shooter, Major Nidal Malik Hasan. Neighbors say FBI agents took a computer which Hasan frequently used. All part of the ongoing investigation into just what happened at Fort Hood and why.
FRANCES FRAGOS TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: What they were doing overnight was looking at all his -- sort of the things you would imagine -- his communications, his Internet postings, his cell phone usage. They're looking for connections. The real question is one of intent.
BOLDUAN: CNN obtained surveillance footage from a convenience store showing Hasan just hours before the shooting.
COL. JOHN ROSSI, FORT HOOD DEPUTY COMMANDING GENERAL: At this point, we have one suspect, as we said, a -- a lone shooter. That's all the indications it was a lone shooter and he's the suspect.
BOLDUAN: But Fran Townsend, former homeland security adviser to President Bush, says finding out whether anyone else was involved remains a focus.
TOWNSEND: Whether or not there are co-conspirators -- because you want to get them into custody and you want to interview them. No question, that's first and foremost in their mind.
BOLDUAN: According to the Associated Press, law enforcement were aware of Internet activity under the screen name "Nidal Hasan." One online posting compared a soldier jumping on a grenade to suicide bombers. The FBI would not comment on the posting or who wrote it.
A former FBI official says tracing the origins of such messages may be an impossible task.
TOM FUENTES, FORMER FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: It's very easy for someone to use the computer anonymously to send messages or to use someone else's name to post a message. And -- and it would be very difficult to absolutely identify the individual in this case.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
BOLDUAN: Now, investigators, Wolf, they simply face more questions than answers at this point. For example, was any one person or group targeted here?
We still don't know the answer to that.
We are told that law enforcement are being very meticulous in their work here, as it is a criminal case. The alleged shooter is in stable condition in the hospital and they want to carefully preserve their ability to prosecute him.
BLITZER: Kate, thanks very much for that story.
Joining us now on the phone is Dr. Yahya Hendi.
He's the chaplain at the naval hospital in Bethesda, Maryland.
He also knows the suspect, Major Nidal Malik Hasan.
Dr. Hendi, thanks very much for joining us.
You are the -- the Navy chaplain, but you got to know Major Hasan, even though he's in the Army, because he used to come see you on Fridays, which is the Muslim holy day, is that right?
IMAM YAHYA HENDI, NAVY HOSPITAL CHAPLAIN: Yes, indeed. I mean he did not come every week, but he came a few times to attend the Friday services, you are right.
BLITZER: And Walter Reed, where he was based, the Army medical center is Washington, D.C. is not very far away from Bethesda, Maryland, where the naval hospital is.
HENDI: Recently, Walter Reed and the Navy hospital merged. They became somehow the same installation. So if you work here, you are also working on the other hospital.
BLITZER: Well, you -- you know Dr. Hasan -- Major Hasan. Tell us about him.
HENDI: You know, I don't know about if I know him, but I met him a few times. And I saw him during services and after services. Every time I met with him and when he came to services, he appeared to be a very loyal American. He loved his country. I know he told me once that he joined the military because he wanted to do something for America in the aftermath of September 11.
He also told me once that he believed that Muslims who speak a language of exclusivity should not have room in the Muslim community -- that we must reject them.
This is why, for me, when I saw the footage yesterday about him, I said, wait a minute, is this the first guy the same guy I met a few years ago?
BLITZER: Because what you're saying is that what you saw yesterday at Fort Hood, Texas was totally different than the impression you received over the years when he would come to pray with you on Fridays?
HENDI: A completely different picture -- a completely a different person from the person I met a few times, from the person I counseled, from the person I sat with. Completely different.
BLITZER: You know, some -- some suggested that he was, perhaps, tormented because he is a Muslim and he was made fun of by others in the U.S. military, even though he was a physician, a psychiatrist, a major, which is a high rank.
Did he say anything to you along those lines, about discrimination against Muslims in the military?
HENDI: Honestly, he never did that. I know he spoke about how painful it was to listen to stories of soldiers coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan and how that was very painful on him personally. But this is why he was happy doing what he was doing. He felt that it was his duty toward -- toward his country and toward America.
BLITZER: Some have also suggested that he was opposed to what the U.S. is doing in Iraq and Afghanistan, he didn't want to have anything to do with it and he really tried to get out of the military, even willing to repay the U.S. government for the medical education he received in Bethesda, Maryland at the -- at the U.S. Navy hospital there.
Did he talk to you at all about that?
HENDI: Honestly, I -- I heard that yesterday and I saw it on the news. He never told me anything about that. Every time we spoke, we spoke about spiritual issues, religious issues, as to, you know, how he can be a better person helping his -- his -- his soldiers and the people he comes -- comes across.
BLITZER: So what is -- what possibly, from your perspective -- and you knew and you know Major Hasan. From your perspective, what possibly could have could have tormented him or created this -- this image that we all have of him now, someone who would randomly go out and murder 13 soldiers and injure 30 others?
And some have pointed to either he went mentally ill and -- and some others have suggested this could have been an act of terrorism.
What do you think?
HENDI: You know, I -- I do believe we have to wait to see what the investigations tell us -- what the FBI and the -- they will tell us from the intelligence they will be collecting. However, in my first initial thought is that I believe it was a psychiatric breakout from what he has been facing. He was not married. He did not have family support around him. He left the city where he grew up in the Washington, D.C. area. He ended up in Texas, away from home. Seeing all of these stories, hearing all of these stories, I believe he could not take it anymore.
BLITZER: So he never -- he never spoke to you about politics? HENDI: He never mentioned anything to me about being unhappy with the war in Iraq or Afghanistan or anything like that, no.
BLITZER: And did he ever say anything about posting comments on the Internet?
So all that is a total surprise to you, if, in fact, it's true?
HENDI: Believe me, it's a big shock. This is why I am still trying to recover from the whole news of -- of is he the right person or not?
And I know he is.
BLITZER: And one final question. I know today is Friday, the Muslim holy day. And you had your prayers. You delivered a sermon.
What are you telling Muslims serving in the United States military right now?
HENDI: You know, today I spoke about a story where someone came to Prophet Muhammad and asked him to advise him of something he will keep in mind until the rest of his life. And the Prophet Muhammad said, do not allow your anger to control you.
And I said how when you become angry, you allow anger to control yourself, your behavior, what comes out of your mouth and what comes out of your hand.
In other words, I told our Muslim soldiers today be patient, no matter what you face, no matter what you go through, have faith in God. However, when you do go through some tough moments, come to us and see chaplains.
BLITZER: I think that's good advice.
The chaplain at U.S. naval hospital in Bethesda, the imam, Yayha Hendi.
Thanks so much for joining us and good luck.
HENDI: Thank you for having us.
BLITZER: We're also learning more about the Fort Hood police officer who brought the rampage to a sudden end -- a woman now being called a national hero.
CNN's Ed Lavandera is at Fort Hood.
He's got some details -- you've spoken, Ed, to people who know this remarkable woman.
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it was interesting, yesterday, throughout most of the day, we had been told that there was a civilian police officer who had been killed in this attack. We presumed that that was Kimberley Munley.
We've learned that she survived the attack. And many people around here calling her a hero today.
LAVANDERA: (voice-over): It took just three minutes for civilian police officer Kimberley Munley and her partner to arrive on the terrifying scene, as Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan allegedly unleashed dozens of shots on defenseless soldiers. Munley shot Hasan four times, ending the deadly attack.
GEN. GEORGE CASEY, ARMY CHIEF OF STAFF: She was one of the first to arrive on scene and to take the suspect under fire. So she probably saved a lot of lives with her actions.
LAVANDERA: But Munley did not escape unharmed, wounded by gunfire herself. She was rushed into surgery and is now in stable condition and recovering. Family members from around the country are rushing to be with her.
The neighborhood where Munley lives sits mostly quiet, because so many of its residents are deployed overseas. But here no one is surprised that this tough woman acted the way she did in a moment of crisis.
SGT. 1ST CLASS WILLIAM BARBROW, U.S. ARMY: I know we sleep a lot safer knowing she's on the block, just because she is a police officer. And if anything does break out, we can go knock on her door and say, hey, get them.
LAVANDERA: Neighbors tell the story of burglars who tried to break into her home a year ago. She ran them off and then patrolled the neighborhood to make sure no one else was in danger.
Erin Houston says that's one of the reasons she looks up to her.
ERIN HOUSTON, KIMBERLY MUNLEY'S NEIGHBOR: I just felt more protected, you know, having her in the neighborhood -- you know, knowing that she was, you know, that strong of a woman. And a lot of us on this neighborhood, we're single military moms, you know, alone. Our husbands are deployed. So having her in the neighborhood, you know, really made us feel more safe.
LAVANDERA: Munley is the mother of a 3-year-old daughter. Her husband is in the military, but was in Pennsylvania visiting family when the rampage occurred. Admirers have set up a fan page on Facebook, ere she's hailed as a hero.
BARBROW: She did what her job called her to do. She stepped up, took charge and made it happen. (END VIDEO TAPE)
LAVANDERA: You know, Wolf, it's interesting, throughout much of the day, we didn't know Kimberley Munley's name yesterday. But as we spoke with the neighbors in -- in neighborhood today, her neighbors, they said that as soon as they discovered the name and they put two and two together about what happened here at Fort Hood, almost no one says that no one was surprised by what had happened -- Wolf.
BLITZER: What an amazing story and what an amazing woman.
Ed Lavandera, thanks very much for that.
Let's go right back to Jack Cafferty for The Cafferty File -- Jack.
CAFFERTY: Well, it's great stuff. You know, people rise to the occasion.
Census takers in 2010 -- next year -- will not be allowed to ask people if they are citizens of this country. That's because Senate Democrats have blocked a Republican attempt that would have required census forms to inquire about citizenship.
Louisiana Republican Senator David Vitter -- yes, that David Vitter -- had introduced the measure, meant to exclude illegal aliens from the population count. Vitter says including illegals in the census is wrong and goes against the idea of the Congress as an institution that represents citizens.
The census carries a lot of weight. It's used both as the basis for apportioning Congressional districts for the following 10 years and it serves as a guide for distributing billions and billions of dollars in federal aid.
Critics say the plan would discourage immigrants from participating in the census. They insist the law states that Congressional seats are determined by the number of people living in each state, regardless of whether they're citizens or not.
The census director also opposes the proposal. He says asking about U.S. citizenship is "just not doable" and would mean delaying the entire census.
Not counting illegal aliens in the census could potentially hit states like California and Texas the hardest when it comes to apportioning Congressional districts. Those two states are where there is a high concentration of undocumented immigrants. It's estimated there are 12 million illegal aliens in the United States.
So here's the question -- should the U.S. Census Bureau be allowed to ask you if you're a citizen?
Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and let us know what you're thinking -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Get ready, Jack. Keep -- keep...
CAFFERTY: Are you a citizen Wolf?
BLITZER: Yes, I am. But a lot of people...
CAFFERTY: All right. Just checking.
BLITZER: A lot of people will react.
Thank you very much.
BLITZER: Serious new questions about security on U.S. military bases in the wake of the Fort Hood massacre -- there are now some reasons why the bases simply can't be locked up.
And we're following the breaking news in Florida, as well, that deadly office shooting. New details of a cryptic remark by the suspect.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why did you do it?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why did you do it?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They left me to dry.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Military leaders are taking a close look at base security in the wake of the Fort Hood rampage. And many installations are closely into -- integrated with nearby communities and security is much more complicated than a lot of folks out there realize.
Let's go to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr.
She's been on a lot of bases around the country, including Fort Hood. This is not an easy subject to discuss.
BARBARA STARR, PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: It is not, Wolf. Base security is a very tough issue.
But let me start with a little piece of news first. We have learned that earlier today, U.S. Army officials held a teleconference with officials at Virginia Tech. You will remember that university suffering a similar tragedy a couple of years ago, where they had a mass shooting. Both parties sat down to talk about lessons learned -- just part of what went on the day after. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, please join us in a moment of silence.
STARR: (voice-over): At the Pentagon, at Fort Hood and bases across the country, a moment of silence for the victims of Thursday's massacre.
CASEY: Across the Army in the last 24 hours, I've asked our leaders to come together behind the victims, their families and the Fort Hood community. I've asked them to examine their force protection measures and to take appropriate action.
STARR: Since 9/11, base security has been increased, but bases here are not war zones.
Mark Kimmitt served in Iraq, where security is at the highest levels, and at a number of installations stateside, where he says military bases are part of the community.
BRIG. GEN. MARK KIMMITT, U.S. ARMY (RET.): There is a significant amount of traffic from soldiers coming into the base in the daytime and leaving in the evening, from commercial vendors, from local authorities coming in and out of the base. And while there may be some checks at the front of the base and passes that are required, it's a very open process going in and out of base on a day to day basis.
STARR: While security may be questioned at Fort Hood, the emergency response plan appeared to work. Law enforcement and medical personnel were on the scene within minutes of the shooting.
SGT. ANDREW HAGERMAN, FORT HOOD FIRST RESPONDER: It was just people to treat wounded -- I mean, getting ambulances in and everything like that to get them out to the hospitals.
STARR: Fort Hood, like many military installations, had several means of letting people on base know quickly what was going on. Broadcast announcements were heard around the post.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Attention. Seek shelter immediately.
COL. BEN DANNER, FORT HOOD PUBLIC AFFAIRS OFFICER: We used several of the methods available to us, including some traditional ones, like the Web site that we scrolled. We used the capability of our reader boards. We have a number of them -- sort of JumboTrons that are around the post -- to post messages on those, both about the post being locked down and the alert for folks to stay where they were.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
STARR: General Mark Kimmitt kept making the point, Wolf, that, you know, in this country, military bases -- of course, they have to be secure, but they have to co-exist in the communities and towns across America in which they are located. And the bottom line is certainly, they're going to look at security measures, but nobody expects a U.S. soldier to be the enemy at the gate -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes. That's absolutely true. And especially at Fort Hood, which is right near Killeen. So many bases near cities, they -- they try to get one community going, if possible.
Thanks very much, Barbara, for that.
Two American soldiers now missing in Afghanistan. We're learning more about where they disappeared and the all-out effort to find them right now.
Plus, what drives a person to commit mass murder like what we saw at Fort Hood yesterday?
We have a panel of experts standing by with some valuable insight.
BLITZER: Fredericka Whitfield is monitoring some other important stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM -- Fred, what's going on?
WHITFIELD: Hello again, Wolf.
Well, nearly 16 million people now can't find a job. The nation's 10.2 percent jobless rate for October is the worst since 1983 and the first time it's hit double digits in 26-and-a-half years. And if you count those who have settled for part-time jobs or stopped looking for work altogether, the unemployment rate would actually be 17.5 percent.
And concern for H1N1 not just in this country. Muslims leaving Gaza get swine flu shots as they cross into Egypt, on their way to Mecca. Saudi Arabia is requiring all those attending the Hajj to be vaccinated. Saudi Arabia is already battling a swine flu outbreak and is concerned that H1N1 will spread further as millions flood Mecca for this year's pilgrimage.
And a Florida lawmaker is leading an effort to ban pythons. Congressman Kendrick Meek introduced a bill which would prevent import and export of the dangerous snakes. In the US, a government report has found a growing population of the large snakes is a threat, to Florida especially -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Fred, thanks very much.
I don't like those pythons.
In less than 24 hours, killing sprees in two American cities.
Why did the attackers do it?
How could they be stopped?
We're going to get some answers. And was religious intolerance behind the massacre at Fort Hood?
I'll speak with a Muslim, a veteran of the U.S. armed forces who wants American Muslims to speak out more assertively.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rather than victimology, rather than just condemning something, say, you know what, we are not only going to celebrate American armed forces, but we're going to show that the ideology of Americanism, which separates mosque and state or church and state, is exactly why we're here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: We're now learning more about what suspect in the Fort Hood massacre was doing in the hours just before the rampage began.
Let's go to CNN's Sean Callebs.
He's joining us from Killeen, Texas.
You're actually on the base or just outside the base at Fort Hood -- is that right, Sean?
SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We are actually on the base. We've been here all day -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. And Killeen is the town right nearby.
What are you picking up about what the suspect was doing in the hours leading up to this rampage?
CALLEBS: Yes. We've been able to gather quite a bit of information, rally -- really. It begins in the wee hours of the morning, long before the shooting occurred. A neighbor first heard some banging in a common wall that the two shared in an apartment complex. Well, it turns out Hasan -- Major Hasan decided to give away his furniture to a neighbor, telling that neighbor that he was going to be deploying and would not be coming back.
Later on, at about 2:47 in the morning, according to information we have, the neighbor said that Hasan called him and asked him to turn on his wireless service so he could use his computer. He did it then and then he did it again several hours later.
Now, later on that morning, the neighbor, named Willie Bell, who is a maintenance worker here on base, did not show up for work. And we know that Bell was questioned for four hours by authorities and Bell has told CNN that the authorities wanted to know more than just about the wireless service.
Now, what happened to Major Hasan that morning?
Well, we have some CNN exclusive pictures. Here we see him dressed in what could be traditional Middle Eastern garb. He's walking into a 7-Eleven, apparently somewhat of a creature of habit. The store operator there said that Major Hasan frequently came inside. He got coffee, as well as hash browns, as he did that morning. And then later on there's a picture showing him in a tan coat, apparently wearing hospital scrubs, something not uncommon for somebody who was a physician and Hasan was a psychiatrist and then about 1:30 central time, 2:30 eastern time, that is when the massacre ensued. Authorities here are still trying to determine exactly what triggered that outbreak.
We do know, Wolf, that some of Hasan's family said he was harassed by other soldiers and we talked to some people that are on base and first responders say they find that hard to believe because he was a major. They certainly don't believe someone of that rank could have been taunted that easily and if he was there are certain procedures in effect. First you try to confront the individual and then you go through with formal charges and there's no indication that that happened.
We do know Hasan was shot four times. He's unconscious at a hospital. We don't know if he's being medically sedated or if he's in a coma, but that's where we stand now. No charges have been brought yet. No information, but investigators haven't been able to speak with him yet, either.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Do we know for sure if he cried out Allah Akbar, god in great in Arab, just before the shooting started?
CALLEBS: That is the explosive issue. We don't know for sure. We do know that eyewitnesses said he did and we do know some commanders here at the base have also backed that up, but we cannot confirm for a fact that he has indeed -- that he did yell out Allah Akbar ahead of time. We do know about two -- the two handguns that were used, one was a revolver. The other was an FN pistol, 5.7 millimeter pistol, and the kind of bullets it typically fires are called cop killers. It was purchased at a store in Killeen, Texas, as you mentioned Wolf the town right here just outside the base, a place called guns galore. We're checking there. It was purchased back in August apparently very legally but certainly we're getting a lot more information and insight into perhaps the 12 hours leading up to this shooting.
BLITZER: Sean Callebs, thanks very much. We're going to get back to you. He's digging and getting more information all the time.
In Afghanistan right now, two U.S. soldiers are confirmed to be missing, and now NATO and Afghan troops searching for them have come under fire. More than two dozen have been wounded. Let's get some more from CNN's pentagon correspondent Chris Lawrence. He's in Kabul, Afghanistan, right now.
Chris? CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we've now confirmed that the missing Americans are two U.S. army paratroopers. They are part of the 82nd airborne based out of Ft. Braque, North Carolina, but they had been working down in southern Afghanistan in Kandahar province. In fact, they are part of the larger unit of which I embedded with just last week. Now we're told that these soldiers were on a routine re-supply mission in the western part of Afghanistan when they disappeared on Wednesday and have not been seen since. But the police chief from the province where this occurred is telling us that the soldiers disappeared in the Morghab River, one of the major waterways of that area. Now this is an area that up until a few years ago had very little Taliban presence, but that has changed in recent years. More Taliban have moved into the area, and we're now told that this intense search and rescue effort that went on to try to find and locate and rescue these soldiers, we're now told that at least 25 coalition and Afghan troops were injured or wounded in the process of trying to locate and rescue these missing paratroopers. We don't know exactly how they were hurt, but we do know that they were treated at the scene and then medevaced to another medical facility for further treatment of their injuries. Wolf?
BLITZER: Chris Lawrence in Kabul, Afghanistan, working that part of the story for us. Thank you.
Inside the mind of a mass murderer. What could drive someone to open fire and kill a dozen colleagues? It's an entire field of study. We have experts standing by to give us some important information.
BLITZER: We're just getting a new statement in from the cousin of Major Hasan, the suspect in the killings over at Ft. Hood, Texas. Nader Hasan, the cousin has just issued this statement. I'll read it to you. "Our family is filled with grief for the victims and their families involved in yesterday's tragedy. We are mortified with what has unfolded, and there is no justification whatsoever for what happened. We are all asking why this happened, and the answer is that we simply do not know. We cannot explain, nor do we excuse what happened yesterday. Yesterday's violence in no way reflects the feelings, beliefs or principles of our family. We have spoken with the FBI, answered all of their questions, provided them with all of the information we have. We will continue to provide information and cooperate with law enforcement until this is resolved and explained to all of us. We are humbled by this overwhelming support from friends and colleagues who know our family, know our values, know our commitment to our community and know our love for America." That statement coming in from the cousin of Major Hasan. This is from Nader Hasan issuing that statement.
Joining us now on the phone is Dr. Val Finnell a former classmate of Major Hasan's. They went to medical school together in Bethesda, Maryland, at the uniformed services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda.
Dr. Finnell, tell us about your former classmate. What was he like? DR. VAL FINNELL, FORMER CLASSMATE OF SUSPECT: Well, he was a very outspoken opponent of the war. He equated the war against terror with a war against Islam.
BLITZER: Did he often talk about that kind of political stuff with you?
FINNELL: Yes, openly and in the classroom environment with other people.
BLITZER: And he was questioning the U.S. commitment to the -- to what we call the war on terror, is that what you're saying?
FINNELL: Yes, and other things, and -- but that -- but that specifically, and, you know, other people were questioning, you know, here's a military officer who is standing up there who has sworn to defend the constitution of the United States and the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, and then he has these kind of extreme views so everyone sort of questioned, you know, well, what's going on here?
BLITZER: I know that at the end of the classes, all of the medical students were asked to make a presentation, and a lot of the students did it on scientific or medical issues, but he had something else in mind. Tell us about that.
FINNELL: Yeah. These were actually public health students. He was in a program of public health at that point, and it was at the end of an environmental health class when most students, you know, were presenting environmental health topics, you know, like water quality and mold and things like that. Well, Major Hasan presented the topic on is the war against terror a war against Islam, and it was a thinly veiled attempt at objectivity, and it was really Major Hasan giving his opinion to everybody about, you know, how the U.S. was warring against Islam.
BLITZER: So -- so did that raise any alarm bells to you, Dr. Finnell, when you heard that?
FINNELL: Yeah. Myself and, you know, several other people, you know. We questioned that immediately, and, you know, the presentation was allowed to continue. The faculty decided that they would just let him go and let him continue and finish his presentation.
BLITZER: When you heard yesterday he was the suspect in this massacre at Ft. Hood, what did you think?
FINNELL: Well, Wolf, I was shocked, you know. I think with everybody else out there, we certainly have, you know, condolences to the family and just totally shocked by that. However, that said, given the things that Major Hasan has said to me in the past and to other people, I am not surprised.
BLITZER: Not surprised at all. Well, that's pretty chilling stuff that you're presenting us, Dr. Val Finnell. Thank you so much for helping us better understand this suspect in this case from your perspective. We appreciate it.
FINNELL: You're welcome.
BLITZER: In less than 24 hours, 13 dead and dozens wounded in Ft. Hood, Texas. One dead and five wounded in Orlando, Florida. We know the facts, the statistics of dead and wounded, the names of the accused killers. The reasons for those spasms of violence are much harder to determine. Let's discuss with our panel. Joining us our CNN national security analyst Fran Townsend, former homeland security adviser to President Bush, Pat Brown the CEO of Pat Brown Criminal Profiling Agency and Tom Fuentes, former assistant director of the FBI and a CNN contributor. Thanks so much for coming in.
Fran, let me start with you. You just heard some chilling words from Dr. Val Finnell who took this course with Major Hasan suggesting that this was someone who was passionate -- passionately opposed to the U.S. war on terror.
FRAN FRAGOS TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: You know, Wolf, these are the sorts of dots that we talk about connecting. You know, this may not -- this may have been disturbing in the classroom, but the real question is did anybody report this into the base commander, into base security? Was there anyone looking to see if there were other signs, other dots that could be connected that indicated that this was someone who was becoming radicalized, not clear, and that's certainly what the FBI will be looking for and investigators and the real question becomes what is the military doing to make sure that they are looking for these sorts of signs in order to prevent such a tragedy?
BLITZER: Tom, you're a former FBI agent, it shouldn't take long to determine if those postings on these Islamic websites which defend suicide bombings and have his name attached to it, to determine if in fact this is the same individual as the individual that actually posted those comments on the internet?
TOM FUENTES, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Right. So far the people I had spoken with have not been able to confirm. That's a fairly common name. It's very easy to use an internet cafe or a third-party internet source to access those kind of websites, so as of, you know, at the time those were being made, it's not clear that it was identified directly to him.
BLITZER: But if in fact it is him, that would certainly help us better appreciate his mind et cetera.
FUENTES: Certainly. But you have to realize there's thousands of these messages going out every single day and they have to cross quite a threshold before the FBI about k pursue it further in terms of investigations.
BLITZER: But not thousands coming from a U.S. army major?
FUENTES: That wouldn't know necessarily that it is a United States major.
BLITZER: Well, that's the shocking thing here.
FUENTES: Well, that's the part that's being verified now.
BLITZER: We don't know that these postings are his because as you say Nidal Hasan is a relatively common name in the Arab world. It could be another Nidal Hasan although what we just heard from his colleague of his Val Finnell did suggest he had this mindset that may have propelled him in a certain direction. What motivates someone to go ahead and commit mass murder like this?
PATRICIA BROWN, CEO PAT BROWN CRIMINAL PROFILING AGENCY: I think there's a little bit of confusion between the difference between justification and motivation. The Islamic thing is justification for what he wanted to do, but I don't believe that's his motivation. I think his motivation is what we typically have with a mass murderer especially there's two groups of them, teenagers who don't like where they are at, bullied at school but they're really just angry at society and middle aged men who are starting to go downhill in their careers, not finding girlfriends or wives, they're just not successful in the social lives, they became very angry with everyone and they want to get back at everybody and they want to come up a justification and if you happen to be Muslim and have some concerns it's the thing to become the Muslim who takes everybody out. But I don't think that's his true motive. I think his motive was to get back at everyone.
BLITZER: Because it's one thing if this was just a lone gunman who either went crazy or had a grievance, it's another thing that he was inspired directly or indirectly by elements around the world.
BROWN: That's exactly right, Wolf, and the most important thing being focused is what were his cell phone communications, his computer communications and his travel to see whether or not he was influenced by others outside and whether or not he was part of some larger conspiracy. That will be an incredibly important factor.
BLITZER: Tom, we'll know that soon enough, right?
FUENTES: It will take a while to get those records and begin the analysis and start doing the interviews of the people that he called, that he e-mailed and that could be all over the world.
BLITZER: And FBI agents are working on that?
BROWN: But psychopaths look to be influenced so we can't say he's part of a cell. If he looked to be influenced can I go online to find violence online and mayhem and say that influenced me so this guy could want to have that justification, goes online and gets that justification and goes out and does what he wants to do so I'm not entirely sure he's hooked up with anything specific, just his own mind was trapped there.
BLITZER: Which is one thing and another thing if he is hooked up with something else.
BROWN: Clearly different. BLITZER: Guys, thanks very much for coming in.
BROWN: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: We've heard a lot about the killers. What about the victims, their hopes, their dreams, the people they loved. We're going to tell you about them right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: The Ft. Hood rampage suspect, the psychiatrist Major Nidal Malik Hasan is one of under 2,000 Muslims in the U.S. Army right now, that according to army statistics. What will his alleged actions mean for them?
And joining us now, Dr. Jasser. He's a former U.S. navy physician and lieutenant commander in the navy, now retired, joining us from Phoenix. Dr. Zuhdi Jasser is the founder of a group called the American Islamic Forum for Democracy.
Dr. Jasser, thanks very much for coming in.
DR. ZUHDI JASSER, AMERICAN ISLAMIC FORUM FOR DEMOCRACY: Thanks for having me, Wolf.
BLITZER: I know you're a devout Muslim. How worried are you about the potential backlash over what happened the potential backlash about the events at Ft. Hood affecting other military personnel who are Muslim?
JASSER: Well I think it's important that we - you know as we see more of these happening week to week, it's repeatedly unending now, I'm concerned and I think it's important for the Muslim community to start to say, you know what? We need to show that we're leading the fight against this so that we can the ideologies that create individuals like this and I have never met a Muslim who would do such a thing, but I certainly believe it's time for us to start to create a reform movement that stops the ideologies that influence people like this doctor.
BLITZER: There were reports that Dr. Hasan, Major Hasan, the suspect in this case was taunted because of his Muslim religion. Did you ever experience anything like that in the navy?
JASSER: You know, I served 11 years, I always felt unit cohesion. I never once felt that I was ostracized or that my faith played any role, I served with Mormons, Buddhists, Jews, Christians. It was a representative of what my parents came to this country. The reason I joined the navy is that my parents told me I could practice my faith more freely in America than anywhere else and that's why these shootings were just horrific for me as a Muslim and a physician who trained at Bethesda because you know you see this guy and you go, what happened? How could we have prevented this? It just hit too close to home.
BLITZER: You believe that the military does enough to make sure there isn't this kind of taunting going on?
JASSER: Absolutely. I can tell you, you know, when I joined my ship when they were returning from Operation Restore Hope and they were going to have sort of a celebration and the CO knew what I was of Arabic origin when I joined them and he made sure that none of that happened. I think the military goes way beyond what they should to make sure there's unit cohesion and now in a post-9/11 environment, I think that may have changed a bit as far as the pressure on that. But the military is a representation of the rest of America and I think there's no more of a tolerant pleural nation than the United States.
BLITZER: I know your family, your parents immigrated from Syria to the United States. When you say you're worried about a backlash, what needs to be done to make sure that U.S. military personnel who are Muslim aren't -- aren't affected negatively by this?
JASSER: I think it's important, one of the things we do when I think of the joint staff college in Norfolk or I have spoken at Ft. Benning and other places, one of the things that's important I convey the message if we're going to prevent future Dr. Hasans, the source of solution is going to come from Muslims, devout conservative family oriented Muslims like my family who are going to teach about the separation of mosque and state, to teach that countries like America that have a constitution that's pluralistic and not theocratic, where we can truly be free Muslims and as we start to see that that's the solution, we will realize that Muslims are our greatest asset and thus a backlash will not happen because American will realize that homeland security's intimately related to a vibrant, connective, front line Muslim community.
BLITZER: What I'm hearing you saying, correct me if I'm wrong Dr. Jasser, is that you want the American Muslim leadership, the American Arab leadership to be more outspoken and to take a more assertive stance in making these points that you are making, is that right?
JASSER: Absolutely, rather than victimology, rather than just condemning something, say you know what? We're not only going to celebrate the American armed forces, but we're going to show that the ideology of Americanism which separates mosque and state or church and state is exactly why we're here and work against global movements like the Muslim Brotherhood and political Islamist movements that have a cyber jihad that is feeding the minds of oriented Muslims like the radicals that will end up showing Americans that truly we are on the side of freedom and liberty and not on the side of political Islam and radicalism.
BLITZER: There is one report out there that Major Hasan, who was about to be deployed to Afghanistan, didn't want to go to Afghanistan and fight and potentially kill fellow Muslims. In your experience with your fellow Muslims in the military, did you ever come across a fear like that?
JASSER: Absolutely not. You know, I joined the military because I swore to uphold an oath to the constitution and as an officer and I never had a conflict between being a Muslim and being an American. Because that is the concept of the Islamic state I never adhered to and my parents never taught me because I was first an American citizen because I was free to have a relationship with god and I never had that conflict. There is Muslims out there that do have that conflict and we need to reform that concept of the theocratic Islamic state that is in conflict with American citizenship.
BLITZER: Dr. Jasser, thanks very much for coming in.
JASSER: Thank you for having me, Wolf.
BLITZER: We're tracking all the latest developments in the Ft. Hood shooting massacre, we're going to take you live there in a few minutes for additional new details we're getting in about the investigation and more information about the suspect. Stand by for that.
Also unemployment soaring to double digits, are Americans losing patience with the president? Is there anything he can really do right now? We'll go live to the white house.
BLITZER: We're right back to Jack Cafferty for "the Cafferty File." Jack?
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The question this hour is should the U.S. Census Bureau be allowed to ask if you're a citizen of the United States?
David writes, "If the census results are used to determine the makeup of congress then the Census Bureau must be able to discern citizens from non-citizens. The idea of accidentally counting 12 million illegals and then creating more seats in congress from those districts would do nothing more than massively stack the deck against any kind of meaningful resolution to the illegal immigration problem." You don't suppose that's the idea, do you?
J. in Florida writes, "The census taker should be required to ask for proof of citizenship with all non-citizens being reported to local authorities. If we're paying to do the survey, we should get the benefit of identifying illegals. What's go bad about multitasking?"
Scott says, "Does it really matter if they're American or not? They live here, it would be an injustice to leave any one person out. This country was founded by immigrants and any person living here should be counted."
Heather says, "Yes, people should be asked if they are citizens of the U.S. or not. However I doubt if many illegals will want to fill out the forms as they are not supposed to be here. They should be counted for information purposes but since they cannot vote anyway, they should not be counted for population of voting congressional districts. How utterly ridiculous when you think about it."
Sukumar writes, "The census asks many questions, I don't see what the big deal is in asking one more question on citizenship, yes or no. The data is useful whether they are or not. What's wrong with the bozos against it?"
Jim in Colorado says, "You don't seem naive but just how many illegal aliens would say they're not citizens."
Vickie says, "They can ask whatever they want just like I can answer however I want."
If you didn't see your e-mail here, go to my blog where you find all these answers, CNN.com/Caffertyfile. Wolf?
BLITZER: You find a lot of good stuff on that blog, Jack. Indeed I learn something every day from there. Jack Cafferty, we'll be back shortly. Thank you.