In determining the true nature of the crime, the US must consider Al Qaeda's "organized endeavor to radicalize individuals" and the extent to which Hasan had a political motive, says Bruce Hoffman, a professor at Georgetown University and author of "Inside Terrorism." (Hasan, wounded during the rampage and recuperating in the hospital, has not yet been charged.)
Terrorism is "violence designed to register some protest and/or to change the outcome of some political issue," says Professor Hoffman. "Certainly this type of leaderless terrorism is not an organic phenomenon. Terrorist organizations are actively encouraging people – through the Internet and other means – to engage in violence of their own."
Senator Lieberman's Homeland Security committee has "looked closely at the role of the Internet in radicalization," Hoffman adds.
Reports surfaced Monday that the unmarried, 30-something psychiatrist had kept up contact with Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born radical cleric now living in Yemen who, for a time, presided over a mosque in Virginia where Hasan had worshipped. The New York Times reported that FBI and Army investigators knew Hasan had communicated with Mr. Awlaki last year and this year, but dropped an inquiry "after deciding that the messages warranted no further action."