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Hasan's supervising doctors questioned his fitness for service

Doctors who oversaw Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan's medical training at Walter Reed Army Medical Center had discussed concerns about his proselytizing and other behavior, a Pentagon official says.

November 12, 2009|Tom Hamburger

WASHINGTON — Doctors supervising Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan's medical training at Walter Reed Army Medical Center frequently discussed concerns about the Muslim psychiatrist's behavior, including his aggressive proselytizing of patients, a Defense Department official said Wednesday.

The problems led the doctors to question Hasan's fitness for military service, but no action was taken in the months before he was transferred from Washington to Ft. Hood, Texas, where he is suspected of opening fire last week on military and civilian personnel, killing 13 and wounding dozens.

The Pentagon official, who is familiar with Hasan's record as a medical resident, said his behavior was discussed during monthly meetings of top training officials at Walter Reed and the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the review sessions, said Hasan's name often came up because of his sometimes aggressive and argumentative behavior.

Although he once was known as a promising psychiatrist, Hasan's reputation deteriorated as complaints about his behavior emerged from patients and colleagues, the official said.

Supervisors of the residency program received complaints about Hasan's preaching about Islam to patients, the official said, adding that Hasan was reprimanded and told that his job was to treat patients, not indoctrinate them about religion.

Relatives have said Hasan became more religious after the death of his parents, who were Muslims but not observant. His parents died in Virginia in 1998 and 2001.

Rafik Ismail Hamad, an uncle who lives in the West Bank, said he noticed the change when Hasan visited last year. He said his nephew urged him to accompany him to pray at a mosque.

Supervisors also were concerned with Hasan's chronic failure to show up for physical fitness training, in which military officers' weight and conditioning are reviewed, the official said.

Citing other sources, National Public Radio reported Wednesday that supervisors at one point questioned whether Hasan was psychotic or whether he was mentally fit to be an Army psychiatrist.

The network quoted an unidentified official who worked closely with the review committee as saying: "Put it this way. Everybody felt that if you were deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan, you would not want Nidal Hasan in your foxhole."

The Defense Department official familiar with the proceedings said he was not aware that had been expressed in the review meetings and did not recall Hasan being described as psychotic.

The Washington Post, citing a Walter Reed staff member, reported that Hasan's supervisors tried to turn his preoccupation with religion and war into something productive by ordering him to attend a university lecture series on Islam, the Middle East and terrorism.

The psychiatric staff at Walter Reed did not discuss kicking him out of the service, the staff member told the Post.

And an Army official told the newspaper that Hasan did not formally seek to leave the military as a conscientious objector or for any other reason.

Hasan's aunt has said that he tried to leave the military.

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tom.hamburger@latimes.com

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