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Fort Hood shootings were terrorism, says Senate Armed Services Committee chair Carl Levin

November 21, 2009 |  3:52 am

Sen. Carl Levin, the Michigan Democrat who heads the powerful Senate Armed Services Committee, which will investigate the deadly Ft. Hood shootings, calls them an act of terrorism.

Although some officials, including fellow Democrat President Obama in the early post-shooting hours, have urged caution in characterizing the shocking shootings that caused the deaths of 13 and wounding of 29 on the Texas Army base, Levin tells C-SPAN's "Newsmakers" program in a taped interview, "It sure looks like that." Nidal Malik Hasan, accused Ft. Hood shooter

Levin has already been briefed by investigators.

The Ticket has obtained video excerpts (see below) of the cable program to be broadcast Sunday at 7 a.m. Pacific time (10 a.m. Eastern).

Today the man accused of the Nov. 5 killings, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, will undergo a pretrial confinement hearing in Killeen, Texas, at his bedside in a heavily guarded hospital room.

The precise schedule for the unusual hearing is unannounced for security reasons, but prosecutors seek a judicial ruling that their existing pretrial confinement is appropriate. They have announced they will seek the death penalty in this case.

Hasan's civilian attorney, John Galligan, says he will argue that proceedings are moving too hastily.

On the C-SPAN video, Levin says the Armed Services Committee is undergoing briefings by military investigators and has two more scheduled. When they are completed, he says, he will schedule full Senate committee hearings on the military aspect of the deadly fusillade that broke out on the military base and shocked the nation with soldiers being killed allegedly by another soldier, a Muslim officer.

Americans themselves apparently have mixed feelings over characterizing the rampage as terrorism. A Fox News poll released Friday found that 49% of those interviewed preferred to describe the incident as "a killing spree" and that 44% thought "act of terrorism" was more accurate.

The older the respondent, the more likely he or she was to call it terrorism.

Forty-five percent believe the outburst involved the shooter mentally snapping, and 38% consider him a Muslim extremist protesting American foreign policies.

Levin said his committee would be careful in its hearing to avoid complicating either the military investigation or the upcoming prosecution. But he said he intends to pursue all leads, including such questions as why e-mails between Hasan and a radical Muslim cleric in Yemen were not taken more seriously by federal anti-terrorism investigators who knew of them before Nov. 5.

But even before those hearings, Levin added, "I'm not uncomfortable with thinking that's [terrorism] the likely outcome here and a likely accurate description."

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo credit: U.S. Army