Ft. Hood shooter's jihad emails excluded from court

The very odd trial of Ft. Hood shooter Nidal Hasan has seen the prosecution hamstrung at every turn, while Hasan merrily goes about prosecuting himself, loudly declaring he’s a jihad killer whose only real regret was not shooting a few more American troops before the cops took him down.  Every tidbit of news about this trial is positively surreal.

The final indignity came just before the prosecution rested its case today, as ABC News reports the Army judge “limited prosecutors from introducing evidence, including emails to a known Al Qaeda operative, that would establish accused shooter Maj. Nidal Hasan’s ‘jihadi’ motives.”

The judge’s rulings could inhibit the ability of the victims’ families to claim in a civil suit that the shootings were an act of terror. Federal lawyers involved in the civil suit claim that the people shot during Hasan’s murderous rage were victims of workplace violence, a designation that could sharply limit the damages in a civil suit.

“This is first degree mass murder case and motive is absolutely relevant to prove premeditation,” said Neal Sher, a lawyer representing many of the victims and their family members in a separate civil suit against the government.

Prosecutors have sought to portray Hasan as a Muslim extremist, motivated by Islamist ideology and in touch with known al Qaeda member Anwar Alwaki.

“He didn’t want to deploy and he came to believe he had a jihad duty to murder soldiers,” lead prosecutor Col. Steve Henricks said in his opening statements. He wanted to “kill as many soldiers as he could.”

The judge, Col. Tara Osborn, ruled today that prosecutors could not mention Hasan’s correspondence with Alwaki, an American born al Qaeda recruiter and organizer. Osborn also barred prosecutors from mentioning Hassan’s interest in seeking conscientious objector status and drawing parallels to a 2003 incident in which another Muslim American soldier attacked U.S. troops in Kuwait, according to the Associated Press.

Also excluded from the trial was Major Hasan’s infamous PowerPoint presentation on Islam and the military, described by the Washington Post in 2009 as follows:

As a senior-year psychiatric resident at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Maj. Nidal M. Hasan was supposed to make a presentation on a medical topic of his choosing as a culminating exercise of the residency program.

Instead, in late June 2007, he stood before his supervisors and about 25 other mental health staff members and lectured on Islam, suicide bombers and threats the military could encounter from Muslims conflicted about fighting in the Muslim countries of Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a copy of the presentation obtained by The Washington Post.

“It’s getting harder and harder for Muslims in the service to morally justify being in a military that seems constantly engaged against fellow Muslims,” he said in the presentation.

“It was really strange,” said one staff member who attended the presentation and spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the investigation of Hasan. “The senior doctors looked really upset” at the end. These medical presentations occurred each Wednesday afternoon, and other students had lectured on new medications and treatment of specific mental illnesses.

Evidently the judge felt all of this information was too old to be relevant, but the prosecution was allowed to use more current data from Hasan’s Internet search history.  It seems strange to declare that evidence so obviously and unambiguously relevant to Hasan’s motivation would be judged past its sell-by date.  The man described himself as a “mujahadeen” holy warrior, in court.  Former Rep. Allen West, an Army veteran, wonders why Hasan hasn’t been charged with treason.  It’s tough to think of a more clear-cut example.  Hasan actually said he “was on the wrong side” so he “switched sides.”

This fuels suspicions that the government wants to preserve its designation of the Ft. Hood attack as “workplace violence,” as well as avoiding discussion of how political correctness blinded it to so many obvious warning signs.  “The government is talking from both sides of its mouth,” said Neal Sher, the lawyer representing Ft. Hood victims in their civil suit.  “Our view is pretty basic: It’s obvious that the government knew he had jihadist leanings years before the attack.”

Whatever the motives for the government’s handling of the case, there’s not much chance they’ll blow it altogether.  Hasan does a fine job of prosecuting himself.  As CNN observes, he seems primarily interested in securing martyrdom for himself, so we’re in for quite a show.  The big question is just how absurd he can make the government’s “workplace violence” designation look before he’s finished.