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NBC Analyst Unsure Ft. Hood Shooting Was Terrorism

Appearing on the Dr. Nancy program on MSNBC Friday, NBC News terrorism analyst Roger Cressy warned against labeling the mass shooting at Ft. Hood as terrorism, despite the apparent radical views of the shooter: "We've heard some family references that he was being criticized for his Muslim faith, that's all we know right now....It's still premature to draw the terrorism conclusion."

Prior to Cressy's assessment, host Dr. Nancy Snyderman spoke with Dr. Stevan Hobfoll, director of the Traumatic Stress Center at Rush University Medical Center and asked about the mental health of the attacker, Major Nidal Hasan. Hobfoll made no hesitation describing the shooting as a terrorist act: "Strangely enough, terrorism is not in itself an area - an act of mental illness. I think this was a Jihadist act, it's certainly psychologically abnormal what he did, but that doesn't mean that he had any psychological disorder, per se."

Snyderman then turned to Cressy, citing his unwillingness to use the terrorism label: "Roger, I have heard you express caution that we not say this is terrorism, but that there was, obviously, despaired anger." She went on to compare Hasan to Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh: "I'm thinking of Timothy McVeigh, an American born on this soil, filled with despair, full of anger, but nonetheless, we labeled him a terrorist pretty darn early."

Cressy argued that the two situations were not analogous: "Well Nancy, we did, because his was a political act. I mean the - the traditional definition of terrorism is premeditated violence for political purposes against noncombatants. And what McVeigh did in Oklahoma City was, he was trying to send a political message with attacking the Murrah building. What we don't know yet with Major Hasan is whether or not he was trying to do the same."

Another NBC analyst, former FBI profiler Clint Van Zandt, was more willing to acknowledge the terrorism aspect of the attack: "I appreciate that we haven't yet identified these internet postings to him....one posting that said if a suicide bomber can kill 100 enemy soldiers because they were caught off guard, that would be considered a significant victory. Should these postings ultimately be attributed to him, that sounds like some ongoing planning that he actually acted out yesterday."

Here is a full transcript of the discussion:

12:03PM

NANCY SNYDERMAN: Well, today Major Nidal Hasan's family is expressing grief over the shootings, just releasing this statement, quote, 'We are shocked and saddened by the terrible events at Ft. Hood. We send the families of the victims our most heartfelt sympathies. We are filled with grief for the families of today's victims. Our family loves America. We are proud of our country, and saddened by today's tragedy.'

Investigators have learned that Major Hasan cleaned out his apartment days ago, telling a neighbor that he was being deployed today. And that has certainly raised questions about the attack. Let's bring in our team of experts. Dr. Stevan Hobfoll, he is the director of the Traumatic Stress Center at Rush University Medical Center. Retired Army Colonel and military analyst Jack Jacobs will be with us. NBC terrorism analyst Roger Cressy and NBC analyst Clint Van Zandt, he's a former FBI profiler and author of 'Facing Down Evil.'

I think I want to sort of start with the basics, and Stevan, I'm going to start with you. Physicians in the military are, in many ways, sort of the top rung. And as a major, certainly an officer. Who guards, who profiles, who makes sure that the physicians taking care of people are, themselves, mentally healthy?

STEVAN HOBFOLL: Well, they are guarded and they are checked for mental health and it's a part of the process. But strangely enough, terrorism is not in itself an area - an act of mental illness. I think this was a Jihadist act, it's certainly psychologically abnormal what he did, but that doesn't mean that he had any psychological disorder, per se. And that's always a difficulty that we have that we think there must be a psychological disorder involved with doing something that is - the act is so abnormal.

SNYDERMAN: Roger, I have heard you express caution that we not say this is terrorism, but that there was, obviously, despaired anger. But then let me ask you about what the obvious is when we talk about domestic terrorism. And I'm thinking of Timothy McVeigh, an American born on this soil, filled with despair, full of anger, but nonetheless, we labeled him a terrorist pretty darn early.

ROGER CRESSY: Well Nancy, we did, because his was a political act. I mean the - the traditional definition of terrorism is premeditated violence for political purposes against noncombatants. And what McVeigh did in Oklahoma City was, he was trying to send a political message with attacking the Murrah building. What we don't know yet with Major Hasan is whether or not he was trying to do the same.

We're hearing contradictory and uncorroborated reports about potential postings on the internet. We've heard some family references that he was being criticized for his Muslim faith, that's all we know right now. So until the investigators can determine through their analysis of his cell phone calls, his computers, some of his other things, the data, they'll determine whether or not there was something that politically motivated him to commit mass murder. It's still premature to draw the terrorism conclusion.

SNYDERMAN: Clint, as we look at someone who was motivated enough to plan this out, he had to have some forethought to walk in, armed, knowing that there was a mission that he individually wanted to accomplish. And, you know, as a doctor, I know dumb doctors, but you have to have some smarts to get through medical school and through residency. Does he fit a different kind of profile?

CLINT VAN ZANDT: Well, when we look at suicidal ideation, many times we'll see someone who will give away their belongings before they commit some type of terrible act. In this case, what you just pointed Dr. Nancy, about him giving away furniture and personal belongings at least two full weeks before he was going to deploy, suggests there may have been some ongoing - ongoing planning.

Relatives have said, you know, he really didn't like to be around weapons and firearms and yet this is someone who appears to have had two personal handguns, a semiautomatic and some other weapon, that he was able to use and with the number of people that he shot, he had to reload two, three times perhaps. That takes a little bit of planning, too. It takes a little bit of practice, Dr. Nancy, to understand how to use a weapon in that regard.

And, although I appreciate that we haven't yet identified these internet postings to him, we only know that there's somebody who uses his name, there is one, should this be him, there was one posting that said if a suicide bomber can kill 100 enemy soldiers because they were caught off guard, that would be considered a significant victory. Should these postings ultimately be attributed to him, that sounds like some ongoing planning that he actually acted out yesterday.

-Kyle Drennen is a news analyst at the Media Research Center.