The FBI knew for nearly a year before his murderous Fort Hood rampage that psycho Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan had repeatedly contacted al Qaeda -- but the blundering agency last night admitted it dismissed the lead.
The clueless G-men said that at the time, they simply chalked up the chilling e-mails between Hasan and a radical imam and other terror-tied Islamic figures to his "research" as an Army shrink.
Outraged congressional leaders immediately called for a probe into the debacle -- and the red-faced agency vowed to get to the bottom of things itself.
The FBI said Hasan -- who faces a court-martial -- first turned up on its radar in December 2008.
That's when he sent 10 to 20 e-mails to several terror-related Islamic figures, including Anwar Aulaqi, a radical imam from Virginia who has been openly propagandizing for al Qaeda in Yemen and who had ties to several of the 9/11 hijackers, sources told the LA Times.
Those messages were intercepted by a Joint Terrorism Task Force during an unrelated investigation and later referred to FBI and Army investigators in Washington, officials said.
But no alarm bells went off because the communications were consistent with Hasan's research into how US combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan affect civilians, officials insisted.
The e-mails never made explicit threats or discussed plots, they added.
Less than a year later, last Thursday, Hasan went on a shooting spree at the Army base in Fort Hood in Texas, killing 13 and injuring 29.
Even if US authorities regarded Aulaqi's responses to Hasan as "relatively innocuous," Hoekstra told the LA Times, "I think the fact that you're getting responses should have set off red flags, regardless of the content."
Federal sources admitted that Hasan was so off their radar by that point that they hadn't even been aware of his gun purchases in Texas in August.