Thursday, January 18 , 2018, 8:04 pm | Fair 58º


Harris Sherline: Justice Long Delayed in Fort Hood Massacre

Whether 'workplace violence' or act of terrorism, the distinction is significant

A United Press International news story carried the headline, “Fort Hood hearing to resume,” noting that “Attorneys for U.S. Army Major Nidal Hasan say they won’t present evidence during a hearing on whether to court-martial Hasan for the Fort Hood, Texas, massacre.”

How much money did the government spend to care for Hasan after he was severely wounded when he was shooting people at Fort Hood only to put him on trial in a case that could result in the death penalty?

Fox News reported: “Thirteen people were killed and dozens more wounded at Fort Hood in 2009. ... Major Nidal Hasan, a former Army psychiatrist, who is being held for the attacks, allegedly was inspired by radical U.S.-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Yemen in late September. The two men exchanged as many as 20 emails, according to U.S. officials, and Awlaki declared Hasan a hero.”

David Horowitz noted that, as the case moves toward trial, “The Department of Defense has classified the 2009 Fort Hood massacre that claimed 13 Americans and wounded 29 more as ‘workplace violence,’” observing that “the Obama administration is sacrificing American security in favor of political correctness.”

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration defines “workplace violence” as “violence or the threat of violence against workers. It can occur at or outside the workplace and can range from threats and verbal abuse to physical assaults and homicide, one of the leading causes of job-related deaths. However it manifests itself, workplace violence is a growing concern for employers and employees nationwide. ... Some 2 million American workers are victims of workplace violence each year.”

OSHA further notes, “Workplace violence can strike anywhere, and no one is immune. Some workers, however, are at increased risk. Among them are workers who exchange money with the public; deliver passengers, goods or services; or work alone or in small groups, during late night or early morning hours, in high-crime areas, or in community settings and homes where they have extensive contact with the public. This group includes health-care and social service workers such as visiting nurses, psychiatric evaluators and probation officers; community workers such as gas and water utility employees, phone and cable TV installers, and letter carriers; retail workers; and taxi drivers.”

If the ultimate penalty for killing someone is the same no matter the reason, why should we be concerned about how it’s labeled? After all, murder is murder, right?

The difference is found in the distinction between an employee who goes off the rails and terrorism. In my opinion, Hasan’s action was an act of terrorism, which calls for an entirely different response.

Fox News also reported that “Sen. Susan Collins ... blasted the Defense Department for classifying the Fort Hood massacre as workplace violence and suggested political correctness is being placed above the security of the nation’s Armed Forces at home. During a joint session of the Senate and House Homeland Security Committee on Wednesday, the Maine Republican referenced a letter from the Defense Department depicting the Fort Hood shootings as workplace violence. She criticized the Obama administration for failing to identify the threat as radical Islam.”

This is more than just a distinction without a difference. It is significant because of the type of trial that will be involved. The ultimate punishment could be very different. If it’s “workplace violence,” Hasan will be tried in a civilian court, probably in New York. If it’s a terrorist act, he could be tried by a military tribunal.

Thomas Defrank, the Daily News Washington Bureau chief, noted: “‘No matter how heinous his crimes, the Army psychiatrist is entitled to two separate appeals to the Supreme Court. Under the rules of military justice, his execution would require the personal approval of the commander in chief. ‘He’s got an array of protections which in some respects exceed those he’d get from a civilian court,’ said Yale Law School professor Eugene Fidell, president of the National Institute of Military Justice.’”

Unfortunately, we’re still a long way from seeing justice done in this case.

— Harris R. Sherline is a retired CPA and former chairman and CEO of Santa Ynez Valley Hospital who as lived in Santa Barbara County for more than 30 years. He stays active writing opinion columns and his blog,

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