III. PERSONAL ACCOUNTABILITY.
a. Section III expands the discussion of the facts and standards from section II and examines the reasonableness of the actions taken by those responsible for force protection and readiness at Khobar Towers. The Deputy Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of the Air Force and the Air Force Chief of Staff accepted Lieutenant General Records conclusion that no action under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) is appropriate. This investigative team was tasked to determine whether actions or omissions of any Air Force member merit administrative sanctions.
b. This section describes the applicable standards of performance and analyzes the facts as applied to those standards. It is divided into three major topic areas. They are Adequacy of Force Protection Measures Taken, Readiness Issues, and Chain of Command Responsibilities. Topics of special interest and importance are discussed under these general areas.
2. General Discussion of Standards.
a. Even though UCMJ sanctions have been determined not to be appropriate, the analysis begins with the provisions of Article 92(3), derelictions, which is the most relevant standard.
b. To establish a dereliction under Article 92(3), UCMJ, it must be shown, that: (1) an individual had a certain duty, (2) the individual knew or reasonably should have known of the duty, and (3) the individual willfully, or through culpable neglect or culpable inefficiency was derelict in the performance of that duty. A duty may be imposed by treaty, statute, regulation, lawful order, standard operating procedure, or custom of the Air Force. The third element of dereliction can be established by showing that an individual having a duty exhibited a lack of that degree of care that a reasonably prudent person would have exercised under the same or similar circumstances, or the individual performed inefficiently without reasonable or justifiable excuse. Under either analysis, individual performance must be evaluated in the context of all the surrounding circumstances.
3. General Background.
a. On a daily basis, the Commander, 4404th Wing (P) was responsible for personnel and facilities at eleven different sites in four countries. His span of control was further expanded when air expeditionary forces (AEFs) were deployed to the theater. Between mid-1995 and mid-1996, three AEFs were deployed - to Bahrain, Jordan and Qatar. In addition to the wings normal personnel strength of approximately 5,000, the AEFs would increase the size of the force by one to two thousand. The wings mission was to support Operation SOUTHERN WATCH, the enforcement of the UN sanctions against Iraq. The wing routinely flew about 100 sorties a day, involving up to 15 different types of aircraft, operating from several air bases throughout the area of responsibility (AOR).
b. The Commander, JTF-SWA, commanded the joint forces dedicated to the task force, and served as liaison for the host nation, allies and headquarters. The commanders of USCENTCOM and USCENTAF were engaged in commanding, planning, and coordinating the joint forces dedicated to Operation SOUTHERN WATCH.
c. Khobar Towers is a large, 14 city-block residential section located in a suburb of Dhahran called Al-Khobar. The buildings are primarily eight story apartment complexes interspersed with four story apartment buildings, underground garages and other multi-purpose buildings. The US controlled portion of Khobar Towers encompassed approximately two city-blocks, oriented on a north-south line, located in the northwest corner of the overall Khobar Towers section. It contained approximately 40 buildings. The compound is located in an urban environment, separated from Saudi civilian occupied portions and the Saudi military occupied portion by city streets (other separation measures are enumerated below). Options to provide separation between the US compound and other sections were limited by its proximity to other apartment buildings, city streets, private homes, mosques, and a city park. The northern perimeter abuts a parking lot serving a mosque and a city park. The western side of the compound overlooks primarily open space with a small number of Saudi houses near the northwest corner. To the east, the complex is separated from the civilian housing by parallel city streets separated by an earthen median approximately 250 feet wide. On the southern edge of the compound, a street separates the US and Saudi military housing areas with a fence precluding access.
d. Khobar Towers Occupants. In addition to US Air Force personnel, the US compound was occupied by US Army personnel and British and French members of the coalition force. The four British and French apartment towers were located in the southwest corner of the compound.
e. Security Responsibility. The responsibility for security within the Khobar Towers compound was shared jointly between the Saudi military police and US Air Force security police. Security outside the compounds perimeter was the responsibility of the Saudi civil police. Direct coordination between US security forces and the Saudi civil police was not permitted by the Saudis. Any coordination between the two agencies had to be effected through the Saudi military police. The wing leadership would communicate their concerns or make their requests through their Saudi military counterparts. US and coalition security forces were frequently reminded of this arrangement by the Saudis eastern province commander. Saudi civil police security procedures for the exterior of the compound consisted of periodic patrols, which were augmented with undercover operatives in the Spring of 1996.
f. Pre Office of Program Manager Saudi Arabian National Guard (OPM SANG) Bombing (13 November 1995). Until the Fall of 1995, force protection was not a major consideration within the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The last serious incident, in February 1991, was considered an anomaly. The country was viewed as secure and stable with the government in firm control of any potential threats. This was a common view shared by both the US State Department and the Department of Defense. In July 1995, the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI) detachment at Dhahran performed a Vulnerability Assessment of the Khobar Towers compound which pointed to several potential vulnerabilities with the defensive posture at the compound. The report was provided to the wing commander in September 1995. The assessment made 20 recommendations, several of which pertained to the state of the perimeter fence, barriers and security checks. Among them was a recommendation to repair the barbed wire that had been removed from portions of the fence, repositioning many of the barriers that could be used as step stones to climb over the fence, removal or repositioning of construction equipment, materials and debris that was stacked up against the fence, and cutting back vegetation along the fence line. These recommendations were being acted upon in November 1995 when the OPM SANG bombing occurred in Riyadh.
g. Bombing of OPM SANG. On 13 November 1995, a terrorist bomb exploded in the parking lot of the building housing OPM SANG. The explosion was sufficient to bow the outer concrete walls of the building. Five Americans and two Saudis died of blunt force and penetration injuries. The bomb was the equivalent of 200 to 250 pounds of TNT. The explosives were most likely encased in galvanized water containers and transported to the parking lot in the cargo bed of a small pickup. There were two distinct craters approximately 39 feet from the front of the building. The parking lot was approximately six to eight feet below the level of the building, mitigating some damage and most likely saving some lives. For all locales within Saudi Arabia, the OPM SANG terrorist attack opened a new chapter with respect to the threat.
h. Bombing of Khobar Towers. On 25 June 1996, shortly before 2200 hours, a tank truck pulled into the public parking lot abutting the northern perimeter of the Khobar Towers complex. USAF security police sentries on the roof of building 131 saw the truck pull into the parking area, and then back into the hedges along the perimeter. Two men got out of the truck and got into the car, which sped away. One of the sentries radioed the situation into the security desk. The three sentries immediately began to evacuate the building, using a procedure known as the "waterfall." The three ran door-to-door, beginning at the top floor, knocking loudly on the doors and yelling for the occupants to evacuate. The occupants alerted on the top floors were to help notify the residents on the floors below. About three to four minutes after the truck had backed up to the perimeter, it exploded. The blast ripped off the entire front facade of Building 131, nearest to the parked truck, and damaged five adjacent buildings. Nineteen American service members were killed, eighteen in Building 131 and one in Building 133, and hundreds of others were wounded. Saudis and third-country nationals living in the area were also injured. The bomb blew out windows throughout the compound, and left a crater 60 feet wide and 16 feet deep. The blast was heard in Bahrain 20 miles away.
B. ADEQUACY OF FORCE PROTECTION MEASURES TAKEN.
1. Introduction. This section addresses whether Air Force members met their obligations in the area of force protection. It begins with an evaluation of the assessment of the threat to Khobar Towers. It then discusses the adequacy of force protection efforts, with particular focus on the timing of the installation of Mylar window treatments and the extension of the perimeter. It ends with a discussion of the adequacy of security arrangements for transportation.
2. Assessment of the Threat.
(1) The Downing Assessment found that, "while intelligence did not provide the tactical details of date, time, place, and exact method of attack on Khobar Towers, a considerable body of information was available that indicated terrorists had the capability and intention to target U.S. interests in Saudi Arabia, and that Khobar Towers was a potential target (emphasis in original)." The Downing Assessment noted the unconfirmed report [Classified material omitted] of explosives had been shipped into the AOR, and concluded that the commander "was aware of a considerable body of information," indicating terrorists had the "capability to target U.S. interests." This conclusion was used to support Finding 7 that, "Intelligence provided warning of the terrorist threat to U.S. forces in Saudi Arabia," and Finding 20 that, "the Commander, 4404th Wing (P) did not adequately protect his forces from a terrorist attack." Brigadier General Terryl J. Schwalier, the commander of the 4404th Wing (P), recognized the potential for a terrorist attack using a stand-off weapon, such as a car-bomb, from the parking lot on the northern perimeter of the Khobar Towers compound. Brigadier General Schwalier estimated the size of a potential stand-off bomb to be no larger than the bomb at OPM SANG. This section examines the adequacy of the commanders assessment concerning the nature of the attack, specifically the size of the potential weapon. This issue also bears on the adequacy of other force protection measures, discussed later in this report.
(2) Historically, within Saudi Arabia there has been no substantial threat from terrorism. The Saudi government was in control. On November 13, 1995, that changed with the bombing of OPM SANG in Riyadh. There was no forewarning of the OPM SANG terrorist attack, although it became a benchmark with respect to the evolution of intelligence gathering and defensive measures within the AOR.
(3) Following the November bombing, intelligence continued to actively gather and report any indications that US personnel or assets might be the object of surveillance or terrorist action. In the first half of 1996, there were numerous terrorist incidents involving small bombs in the country of Bahrain, which borders Saudi Arabia. None of these incidents involved Americans, or American targets.
(4) Between April and 23 June 1996, ten events occurred in the vicinity of Khobar Towers that may have indicated surveillance and/or interest in the Americans or coalition forces stationed there.
(a) Of six incidents in April, two involved Arab men taking photographs, two involved Arab men watching the compound, one involved four Arab males hiding near the perimeter fence and the last involved an Arab male accosting a British airman driving to Khobar Towers.
(b) The three incidents in May included a vehicle spinning its tires in the north parking lot, an unconfirmed report of a sniper attack against a Frenchman within the Khobar Towers compound, and a vehicle moving one of the barriers on the eastern perimeter.
(c) The lone incident in June involved two Arab males firing a handgun in the air.
(5) The wing looked into all of these incidents and determined they were most likely unrelated to terrorist activity. For example, the June incident involved two young men who had just purchased the gun and decided to test it by firing it into the air; the sniper incident was investigated extensively, but no evidence was found confirming the reported sniping; those observing and photographing the compound could have been visitors to Dhahran during the Hajj who were merely curious about Americans or they could have been undercover members of the civil police doing their job; and, the incident involving the British member was most likely a traffic dispute. Another explanation was that many of the incidents were normal, but were reported just because of the heightened sensitivity of the wings members and the emphasis placed on reporting any suspected incidents.
(6) The most serious incident involved the car moving the barrier. The incident was fully investigated. The car slowly approached a row of barriers on the eastern perimeter, hit the barrier at approximately four to six miles per hour and displaced the barrier two to three feet. The car then backed up and drove off. The investigation was inconclusive, with explanations ranging from the possibility of an accident to the more serious concern that it may have been a test of the perimeter. Whatever the explanation, the incident revealed that the barriers could be moved which caused the wing to respond by taking the initiative to have them spiked down.
(7) As to intelligence reports on the likelihood of a bomb and the size of a bomb, there was only one intelligence report suggesting that terrorists may have had access to a large quantity of explosives. [Classified material omitted]. [Classified material omitted] Lieutenant General Franklin, then the commander of JTF-SWA, was provided a copy of this message, and it was discussed during force protection meetings. The AFOSI at the wing had been briefed on the report. [Classified material omitted]. In the course of a briefing on intelligence in general, Brigadier General Schwalier was briefed on the report. [Classified material omitted]. There was no other information confirming this message. [Classified material omitted].
(8) US intelligence agencies recognized the likelihood of another terrorist attack in the AOR. According to Mr. David Winn, the Consul General, Dhahran, "Everyone assumed ... there would be another bombing," and, the "Focus was Riyadh. No one really thought anything was going to happen in Dhahran." Nonetheless, intelligence estimates recognized Khobar Towers as one of the more likely points of attack.
(9) The Defense Intelligence Agency prepared an article for the Military Intelligence Digest (MID), dated 17 June 1996, which indicated there was an increased threat of terrorist attack at Khobar Towers. The, MID merely summarized information that the AFOSI at the wing had sent up for consideration and relied heavily on the ten incidents in April, May and June as discussed above. The local AFOSI offices had more information about each individual occurrence, which suggested the incidents did not present as threatening a picture as reported by the MID. Also, national intelligence advisories were thought to be of limited value because they did not provide new information. The MID was dated 17 June 1996. Brigadier General Schwalier never saw it prior to the bombing on 25 June 1996. He had been briefed on the information on which it was based.
(10) Other US authorities in Dhahran considered the intelligence reports. The general belief was that the size of a terrorist bomb would be similar to that employed in the OPM SANG bombing. The US Consul General in Dhahran stated, "the thought of a 20,000 or even a 5,000 pound bomb driving up was pretty inconceivable." The Chief of the National Intelligence Support Team (NIST), located in Riyadh indicated, "the reports... didnt give a target ... there werent many specifics ... we didnt have a specific [threat] ... whether it would be [a] ... truck bomb ... kidnapping, assassination." He also stated that intelligence considered the threat to be a bomb about the size of the one that exploded in Riyadh (200-250 lbs.), "maybe 500 pounds but ... we never went above 1,000 pounds." Major General Sultan and Colonel Qahtani, Saudi Military Officials, indicated they had received no threats against Khobar Towers, and that it was a high priority security area for them. Major General Hurd, the Director of Operations at USCENTCOM, stated he would never have guessed terrorists would go from a 200 pound bomb to a 3,000 pound bomb. Colonel Boyle, the 4404th Support Group commander, assessed the threat from a car bomb at a size comparable to the OPM SANG bomb. Major Patenaude, an AFOSI officer assigned as the force protection officer for the JTF-SWA, stated that the general impression was that they had to defend against "an OPM/SANG type bomb."
(11) In summary, officials reviewing the available intelligence recognized the threat of a vehicle-carried bomb, and estimated the size as being comparable to the OPM SANG bomb. They were aware Khobar Towers was a possible target, but had no intelligence indicating the specifics of a planned attack. There was no information available to indicate that the threat was any different than that experienced numerous times in the preceding months in Bahrain or that the size of a bomb would exceed the capabilities demonstrated in-country by the perpetrators of the OPM SANG attack.
(1) DoD 0-2000.12, DoD Combating Terrorism Program (Aug 27, 1990), requires the development, publication and maintenance of DoD 0-2000.12-H to provide guidance on means to assess general threat levels. The directive does not provide guidance on methods for commanders to predict a specific type of terrorist attack.
(2) DoD 0-2000.12-H, Protection of DoD Personnel and Activities Against Acts of Terrorism and Political Turbulence (February 1993), specifically applies to unified and specified commands, and defense agencies. It is intended to be a reference document, and provides general guidance to commanders on assessing threat levels. It does not provide guidance in predicting the specific nature of threats.
(3) Joint Publication 3-07.2, Joint Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures for Antiterrorism (25 June 1993) provides general guidance on force protection. Joint doctrine is authoritative but not directive. "Commanders will exercise judgment in applying the procedures herein to accomplish their missions." The joint publication restates the general rule that "every commander, regardless of echelon of command ..., has an inherent responsibility for planning, resourcing ..., and executing antiterrorism measures to provide for the security of the command." The publication specifically provides that theater combatant commanders are required, among other things, to "assess the terrorist threat for the theater" as a first step in the continuing process of improving force protection. The commander must then prioritize critical personnel, facilities and equipment, conduct a vulnerability survey, take corrective action to correct or reduce vulnerabilities, and review the vulnerability at least annually. It is recommended that these tasks be performed by a committee made up of staff members with specialized training, including security police, intelligence, engineers and public affairs.
(4) Air Force Instruction 31-210, The Air Force Antiterrorism (AT) Program (1 July 1995), prescribes broad areas of responsibility for antiterrorism efforts for higher headquarters. The instruction implements DoD 0-2000.12 and DoD 0-2000.12-H.
(1) This section focuses specifically on the wing commanders assessment of the size of the potential weapon. This assessment must be distinguished from the general threat level for the AOR established by USCINCCENT pursuant to DoD O-2000.12, or the local threat condition (ALPHA, BRAVO, etc.) set by the wing commander. There is an abundance of guidance on methods and formulas for use in assessing a general threat level in a region. However, none of this guidance assists commanders in assessing the size or specific type of attack they might face. In other words, these formulas are helpful in providing an overall framework for the evaluation of the general threat level, but do not and cannot predict whether an attack will be by a sniper, a vehicle ambush, or a stand-off bomb of a certain size.
(2) As noted above, DoD O-2000.12, DoD O-2000.12-H and Joint Pub 3.07.2 indicate a commander has an obligation to assess the threat facing his forces. There are no objective standards by which to measure the adequacy of a commanders evaluation of the size or specific type of threat which faces his installation. Therefore, this analysis examines the basis for the commanders determination, based upon all the facts and circumstances.
(3) The assessment of the size of the bomb must be placed in context. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia enjoyed a long period of calm in an otherwise turbulent region of the world. The OPM SANG bombing in Riyadh set a new benchmark for the region involving a bomb in the range of 200-250 lbs. The commanders were generally aware of the penetration bomb used in Beirut in 1983. The Beirut bombing was remote in time and appeared to have been done for a specific political reason that did not apply in Saudi Arabia. The terrorist attacks closest to Dhahran occurred in the neighboring country of Bahrain. They consisted of small explosives in the range of 15 lbs., and were not targeted at US personnel or facilities. The most proximate terrorist incidents indicated the likely threat was from a small bomb.
(4) The wing commander knew the general threat level for the AOR had been set at HIGH after the OPM SANG bombing. He received regular intelligence briefings from the AFOSI agents at Khobar Towers, and additional intelligence from the NIST. He was provided an AFOSI Vulnerability Assessment in September 1995, followed by a second Vulnerability Assessment in January 1996 that included 39 specific recommendations for corrective action to remedy perceived weaknesses. He had implemented 36 of the 39 recommendations, and programmed 2 more for inclusion in the wings first five-year plan. The final recommendation was considered but not implemented. It recommended dispersal of members of individual units throughout the compound. The purpose was to mitigate the effects of an attack on any unit so that if a bomb or another attack were made, not all personnel of a given skill would be at risk. The recommendation complicated squadron integrity and operations. It was considered and not adopted in order to maintain unit cohesiveness. The vulnerability assessments were part of the discussions of the weekly force protection committee for the wing.
(5) The commander was aware of the intelligence report suggesting a plan to smuggle a large amount of explosives into the AOR. The report focused the time frame of a possible attack on the period around the Hajj--that time passed without incident. No other intelligence source confirmed the February report from the CIA. Major General Hurd, Director of Operations, USCENTCOM, recalled the intelligence reports concerning movements of explosives into the AOR, and noted, "we never had a report that was verified ... its a one-hit intel, not from a source thats been reliable, maybe ... an unknown source ... from no direction, and no timing and you find nothing about it ... I think you cant make a prediction off of that type of intel."
(6) A commander is expected to rely upon the advice and opinions of experts in this area. [Classified material omitted], the Chief of the NIST stated there was no specific indication that the potential threat was larger than the bomb at OPM SANG. Capt Weyerstrass, Joint Intelligence Center Analyst, USCENTCOM, indicated there was no specific information on the size of the bomb. The JTF-SWA Joint Intelligence Center prepared for a 200 lb. bomb.
(7) The wing commanders assessment was in the same general range as the assessments and conclusions of others reviewing the same information. Other commanders and senior staff officers perceived the threat at Khobar Towers as a 200-250 lb. bomb. Lt Gen Neal, USMC, reviewed the intelligence reports and "couldnt create a mosaic that would give me indications Khobar Towers was going down." General Peay, USCINCCENTCOM, testified that intelligence showed no clear indication of an impending major terrorist attack. Indeed, if USCINCCENT or the Commander, USCENTAF, had perceived the threat to be 20,000 lbs. of TNT at the perimeter, they likely would have decided that the urban site was indefensible.
(8) The wing commander recognized the north perimeter was vulnerable to a stand-off weapon. His assessment of the threat to Khobar Towers from a stand-off bomb was "smaller" than the 200-250 pound bomb used at OPM SANG. Other commanders in the AOR collectively estimated the size of the bomb to be no more than 200-250 lbs. Brigadier General Schwaliers estimate generally was consistent with these estimates.
(1) Commanders at all levels have an inherent responsibility for force protection. Part of that duty includes the responsibility to assess the nature of the threat. The wing commander, in conjunction with his staff, had the responsibility to set the local threat condition for Khobar Towers. He expended considerable resources to protect personnel at Khobar Towers from potential threats. He considered the one previous bombing in Saudi Arabia at OPM SANG (estimated between 200 and 250 pound of TNT) and the bombings in neighboring Bahrain (estimated between 10 and 15 pounds of TNT). In addition, he received routine intelligence briefings, one of which reported that there could be a large amount of explosives being smuggled into Saudi Arabia. No subsequent report confirmed or elaborated on this information. He considered his AFOSI vulnerability estimate from January 1996. Based on this information, the commander determined that the most likely threat to Khobar Towers was from a bomb no larger than the OPM SANG bomb. Measuring his decision against others in similar circumstances, commanders above and below the wing level as well as senior government officials in the area receiving their own intelligence reports and forming their own opinions of the nature of the threat, uniformly expressed the opinion that an OPM SANG size bomb was the most likely. None expected a bomb of the magnitude of the one that exploded on 25 June 1996.
(2) Based on the intelligence he was receiving, the nature of other observed threats in the area and the assessment of the threat by others in the AOR in positions to appreciate the threat, the commanders assessment of the threat was reasonable and consistent with the estimate for the area. Subordinate commanders in the wing and the AFOSI had responsibilities to advise the wing commander. Their assessments were also reasonable based on the intelligence and facts known to them at the time.
3. Defense Against Stand-Off Attack.
a. General Force Protection Efforts.
(a) In Finding 20 the Downing Assessment concludes that, "The Commander, 4404th Wing (P) did not adequately protect his forces from a terrorist attack." This section will review whether the commanders efforts at force protection met standards.
(b) As discussed in the preceding section on Assessment of the Threat, the OPM SANG attack in November 1995 significantly altered the attention paid to the potential for terrorist attack. Within the wing, the commander used battle staff directives (BSDs) to implement various personnel and installation security measures. These measures covered a range of activities including THREATCON changes, building checks, deploying physical barriers and restricting personnel travel. The OPM SANG bombing also provided an impetus to implement the remaining recommendations from the September 1995 Vulnerability Assessment. Overall, the bombing aftermath saw the beginning of a continuing effort to improve the security posture of the wing, especially at the Khobar Towers compound.
(c) January Vulnerability Assessment.
1. In January 1996, another Vulnerability Assessment was conducted. It specifically included the parking lot facing Building 131 as a vulnerable or weak point. This assessment made 39 recommendations to improve security. Many of the recommendations were directed at perimeter security, to include cutting vegetation near the fence, repair of the fence and reinforcing barriers by placing dumpsters at strategic locations. The Assessment also recommended the installation of Mylar, a window film designed to minimize the effects of flying glass in explosions (see separate discussion of Mylar), and the installation of a fire alarm system in the buildings (see separate discussion of fire alarm systems in discussion of communications, alarms, radio links and translators). The Assessment did not recommend that the perimeter be extended.
2. During preparation of the January 1996 Assessment the AFOSI detachment commander had discussions with the wing commander concerning security for Khobar Towers. The AFOSI detachment commander indicated that during these discussions the wing commander stated "dont turn this place into Fortress America, give me things I can implement." The wing commander testified that he remembered discussing the Vulnerability Assessment with the detachment commander, but did not recall using the term "Fortress America," nor did he intend to restrict the detachment commanders recommendations. In follow-on testimony, the detachment commander stated that his earlier comment may have been misunderstood. He made clear that he felt he "could put whatever [he] felt was appropriate in that document."
(d) Security Improvements. Through April 1996 the wing initiated several programs and projects to improve overall security. The threat against stand-off attack was one of many threats faced by the wing. The threat from a penetration bomb and a suicide bomber, as well as security during personnel travel, were among the issues of importance. Specific actions taken included:
1. Redesign and strengthening of the access route into the compound through the main gate, including the installation of machine gun positions and the use of trucks as blocking vehicles;
2. Repair and reinforcement of the perimeter fence line with concertina wire to preclude personnel access;
3. Barriers on the east west and south perimeters were placed five feet outside the fence line and inside the fence line on the north perimeter to enhance the protection against penetration;
4. Portions of the fence line adjacent to streets were further reinforced with dumpsters along the interior of the fence line to offer additional protection against high speed penetration;
5. BSDs instituted more thorough identification checks and vehicle inspection procedures;
6. BSDs used to alter personnel travel patterns to avoid unnecessary exposure or to prevent lucrative targets;
7. Discussions with the Saudis concerning the perimeter of the complex met with mixed results: the north perimeter was not extended but alternate measures were initiated such as increased Saudi patrols, Saudi undercover surveillance, roof top lookouts/sentries, trimming of vegetation along the fence line.
8. Saudis stated that they would provide increased patrols to satisfy the US concerns; this was subsequently confirmed by the observation of increased Saudi patrols both inside and outside the perimeter fence line;
9. Wing established and manned rooftop observation posts to provide warning of any problems around the perimeter of the compound. This initiative addressed the concern identified by SA Reddecliff in a 4 April 1996 message to Headquarters, Air Force Office of Special Investigations in which he suggested that evacuation be initiated immediately if a truck parks close to the fence line, and the driver makes a quick getaway. Although the wing commander did not see the message, he was briefed on the recommendation. This was the procedure initiated by the security police in response to the bomb threat on 25 June 1996.
10. In April, the Saudis confirmed that they had undercover agents monitoring the compounds exterior and the north parking lot.
11. In April the AFOSI detachment suggested that evacuation plans be developed for the Rescue Squadron (one of the units occupying building 131); this prompted the evacuation plans be prepared/updated by all units; this was to be accomplished by the first sergeants of each squadron and reviewed by the civil engineering readiness flight.
(e) Third-Country Nationals. The wing staff was aware of the threat posed by third-country nationals (TCN). The support group commander went so far as to ask his Saudi counterpart, Col Qahtani, if he could facilitate the removal of all TCN employees that worked at Khobar Towers. It was not possible to exclude the TCNs because of a contract with the Ministry of Defense and Aviation that required TCN presence at Khobar Towers. The wing commander did issue several Battle Staff Directives that addressed the threat posed by TCNs. Among them was the requirement that all vehicles driven by TCNs be searched. Personnel were advised to be suspicious and inquisitive about strangers, especially those carrying suitcases or other containers. The identity of unannounced or suspicious visitors was to be verified. They were to be visually inspected, and any hand-carried items were to be searched. Security police were instructed to perform 100% identification checks of those entering the installation during evening hours and to be prepared to do the same at other times.
(f) Actions In Response to the Vulnerability Assessment. By the 25th of June 1996, the wing leadership had addressed each of the 39 issues raised in the assessment. Thirty-six had been accepted and implemented. Of the remaining three, one had been considered and dismissed and two had been placed in the outyears of the wings five-year facilities improvement plan. Specifically, the three issues not immediately implemented were:
1. The dispersal of mission essential personnel such as aircrews and key maintenance personnel throughout the compound rather than concentrating them in any one dormitory. The recommendation was considered, but in weighing the estimated threat against the benefits of maintaining unit integrity/crew rest considerations, the wing commander opted for maintaining squadron integrity. A plan was generated for the dispersal of the senior wing leadership. Brigadier General Schwaliers successor was to be the first to occupy the new "dispersed" quarters identified for the wing commander. The group commanders would have followed a similar procedure, in that their successors would move into new, dispersed quarters as the positions turned over.
2. The planned installation of Mylar (see separate section on Mylar).
3. The planned installation of fire alarms (see separate section on fire alarms).
(g) Installation Five-Year Plan. The wings five-year facilities improvement plan, Vision 2000, its first long-term budget plan, provided for several other force protection upgrades in addition to those previously addressed. For example: in FY97, $200K was earmarked for fence line improvements; in FY98, $150K was identified for perimeter lighting; and in FY00, $125K was set aside for establishing clear zones, $220K for a perimeter sensor system, $300K for the installation of fire alarms and $50K for the installation of Mylar.
(h) Wing Preparation. Wing senior leaders were confident that the wing was adequately prepared for a myriad of threats. For example:
1. Penetration of the perimeter by a car or truck.
a. Main gate. A serpentine ingress route, barriers, increased security police presence, methods to block the roads and heavy weaponry convinced them that penetration through the main gate would have been virtually impossible.
b. The fence line. There were areas of the fence line that were exposed to high speed approach routes from the various city streets surrounding the compound. In the preceding months, these "avenues" had been bolstered with heavier barriers, and additionally had been reinforced with dumpsters to assist in thwarting a high speed penetration attempt.
2. Suicide bomber.
a. Extensive repairs were made to the perimeter fence and barriers were positioned to preclude an easy stepping stone for scaling the fence.
b. Additional concertina wire was strung along the top and bottom of the perimeter fence to thwart a potential intruder.
c. Identification checks at the main gate refined to preclude unauthorized access.
3. Satchel Charge: The wing leadership was confident that it had provided adequate separation between the fence line and facilities or exercise areas to preclude serious impact from a thrown satchel charge.
4. Sniper, mortar, other standoff weapon: The wing leadership understood the threat posed by these weapons, and concluded that the urban environment, to include the close proximity (100 meters) of adjacent high-rises, did not permit further mitigation. The risk was weighed, and considered to be within acceptable parameters.
5. Personnel Travel.
a. The wing leadership was concerned with the threat to individuals traveling off base and weighed the risks against the probability of a problem and the inconvenience of an indefinite "lockdown" of the base.
b. The decision to allow personnel to depart the base was caveated with the admonition that they were to do so in small groups, and to avoid congregating so as to not provide a lucrative target.
c. At times, travel to various locations was restricted altogether.
6. Perimeter Car/Truck Bomb.
a. The wing had worked the perimeter problem on numerous occasions because they were well aware of the threat posed by a car/truck bomb.
b. The Saudis responded to US concerns by increasing civil police patrols and providing undercover operatives to monitor perimeter activities.
c. To provide additional measures to forewarn of potential problems, the wing leadership installed observation posts on the rooftops of selected buildings. The purpose was to provide additional warning of any difficulties along any portion of the perimeter fence line or outside the compound in general.
d. The wing requested authority to trim the vegetation to increase visibility along the fence line.
e. The wing tracked and reported suspicious vehicle license plates to Saudi police
f. The support group commander was advised, following the OPM SANG investigation, that the vehicle carrying the explosives had been parked 20-30 minutes prior to the explosion. Based on this experience, the wing believed that it would have some unspecified length of time, perhaps 10 to 15 minutes, certainly more than the 3 or 4 minutes it actually had to respond to a threat.
g. A double barrier was added around the entire perimeter.
(i) Recurring Meetings. The commander used a number of forums to make known his direction for the wing and to receive information concerning its operations, including its potential problems. He met on a daily basis with his group commanders, those senior members of his staff responsible for the various functional areas within the wing such as operations, logistics, support, medical, security police, civil engineering, etc. He held a staff meeting each Friday that included not only key personnel located in Dhahran, but those commanders or supervisors from the wings separate units, whenever they could attend. He developed a follow-on to the wings Wednesday "cops and robbers" meeting--normally a review of ongoing security police, AFOSI and legal matters--into an overall wing security meeting complete with intelligence briefings and discussions of current security plans and concerns. A weekly operations scheduling meeting held on Fridays provided the "big-picture" for SOUTHERN WATCH flying operations, and allowed the commander to identify problems and make the decisions necessary to accomplish the mission, yet maintain the high readiness status of his assigned aircraft.
(j) The first meeting of the wing (installation) security council was held on 30 Oct 95, approximately four months after the arrival of Brigadier General Schwalier. The council was chaired by successive vice commanders and met on a recurring basis. The recorder for the council was the chief of security police and attendees included the group commanders, selected squadron commanders and key staff members.
(k) Security Plans. As permitted under AFI 31-209, the Installation Security Plan (ISP) was developed as a single source document, embracing resource protection requirements as well as antiterrorism. The chief, security police, appointed the superintendent, security police administration, to be responsible for the resource protection program. The wing security council also provided the forum for the Resource Protection Executive Committee (RPEC). The office of primary responsibility for both the wing instruction and the ISP was the chief of security police. Both laid out specific responsibilities and procedures for resource protection, to include armed response procedures and quick reaction checklists within the ISP.
(l) The wings ISP was also the local source document for the wing commanders antiterrorism program. The plan employed a building block approach for reacting to potential problems, ranging from normal law enforcement activities to immediate detection and armed response to hostile acts.
(m) Threat Conditions. Additionally, a menu, or checklist, of potential threat condition (THREATCON) options provided considerations in advance of potential wing responses to various acts.
(n) The ISP included a specific annex which described the role of intelligence in various scenarios. The importance ascribed to the intelligence function carried over to the wing security council and the weekly (Wednesday) security meetings as each began with a detailed intelligence update.
(o) Contact with Assigned Personnel. The commander made his goals, objectives and priorities for the wing known to all members. He started with the Right Start newcomers briefing, held weekly and mandatory for all newly arrived personnel. In addition to the normal wing commanders welcoming comments, he used this opportunity to talk about potential threats. The topic of potential threats were then expanded by the AFOSI detachment commander, who followed the wing commander. The wing commander also used the base newspaper and the commanders channel (on-base cable television) to reinforce his current interests and concerns for members of the wing. With respect to readiness and personnel protection issues, he published numerous battle staff directives (BSDs) which outlined specific requirements for members of the wing based on the current threat.
(p) Manning. On 30 August 1995, Brigadier General Schwalier requested that seven billets under the 4404th Wing (P) be converted to one year tours. These included the following positions at Dhahran: the services squadron commander; the transportation squadron commander; the chief of the wing operations center; the medical group commander; and the vice wing commander. USCENTAF added two additional one-year tours for intelligence officers. The seven additional one-year tours were approved.
(q) Wing Commanders End-of-Tour Report. The Downing Assessment commented that despite the significant change in the terrorist threat, the wing commander did not mention force protection in his two-page end-of-tour report. The report was written shortly before the Khobar Towers bombing and highlighted areas for future improvements. These included lengthening tours of key personnel, putting more money into operations and maintenance, and continuing to improve relations with the Saudis. The report was addressed to USCENTAF who was aware of the force protection improvements that had already been made.
(a) AFPD 31-3, Air Base Defense, March 2, 1995, established policy for base defense operations, and, addressed: Air Force components of joint commands responsibilities in ensuring force protection; and outlined installation commanders responsibilities for the defense of assets under their control. Following are the specific references:
2.3 USAF components of joint commands will provide planning support to ensure adequate forces and intelligence are dedicated to protect USAF resources. The Air Force component, in coordination with the joint command, will ... tailor defense force structure and equipment to match force protection needs for Air Force war-fighting resources.
2.4 Installation commanders are responsible for the defense of assets under their control. The installation chief of security police is normally the defense force commander (DFC) and will plan and execute base defense operations. The DFC will lead those forces provided by the installation commander and other defense forces in the air base tactical area of responsibility (TAOR).
(b) AFI 31-209, The Resource Protection Program,
November 10, 1994, sets requirements for the physical security of Air Force personnel, installations, operations, and assets, and identifies the requirements of the Resource Protection Program (RPP). Of the four primary objectives of the RPP highlighted in the this AFI, two applied to perimeter defense.
1. These included: (1) Maintain the Air Force war fighting capability by reducing damage to Air Force resources, and (2) Safeguard Air Force property by reducing the opportunity for theft or terrorist attack by making a potential target inaccessible or unattractive.
2. Specific wing level responsibilities contained in this AFI are limited to Chapters 1 and 2, Responsibilities and Program Management, respectively. Installation commanders:
1.7. Develop and implement either an installation RPP (IRPP) or installation security plan (merging is acceptable).
2.5.6. Installation Entry Point Checks. The installation commander determines when, where, and how to implement random checks of vehicles or pedestrians.
(c) AFI 31-210, The Air Force Antiterrorism (AT) Program, July 1, 1995, established responsibilities and guidance for the Air Force Antiterrorism Program, provides guidance on how to establish a local Antiterrorism Program. Specific wing level responsibilities contained in this AFI are contained in Chapter 2, Responsibilities. Following is the specific reference:
2.14. Installation Commanders. Establish an antiterrorism program, tailored to local mission, conditions, and terrorist threat using the publications listed in attachment 1.
2.15. Commanders At All Echelons.
2.15.2. Plan, train, exercise, and execute antiterrorism measures as specified in DoD 0-2000.12, where appropriate. Each organization implements physical security procedures to protect against terrorism by installing physical security equipment, implementing THREATCONs, employing Random Antiterrorism Measures (RAMs), and responding to terrorist acts.
(a) The evidence establishes that the wing leadership, to include the wing commander, support group commander, security police commander and AFOSI detachment commander, were aware of and engaged in fulfilling their responsibilities under AFPD 31-3, Air Base Defense; AFI 31-209, The Resource Protection Program: and AFI 31-210, The Air Force Antiterrorism (AT) Program.
(b) Security Improvements. The force protection measures taken are listed in the facts of this subsection. Briefly, these included implementation of 36 of the 39 recommendations in the January Vulnerability Assessment; scheduling two of the remaining three for the future; and improving overall security, by repairing and reinforcing the fence line and perimeter (double barriers on all sides, trimming vegetation, repairing fence line, concertina wire, etc.). Brigadier General Schwaliers Battle Staff Directives placed restrictions on travel, instituted identification checks and elaborated on vehicle inspection procedures in response to the threat. Improvements were primarily directed at minimizing or eliminating the threat from penetration attack, a suicide bomber, perimeter attack, or satchel charge. The wing commander also expanded the scope of formal and informal meetings in which security concerns and measures were addressed.
(c) Specific efforts to extend the fence line and protect the installation from an attack from outside the perimeter are discussed separately below. The wing made numerous improvements to the perimeter, and the wing leadership actively engaged their Saudi counterparts regarding perimeter defense, causing the Saudis to make improvements of their own. The support group, security police and AFOSI detachment commander all asked their Saudi counterparts to extend the perimeter a short distance. The AFOSI detachment commanders also asked to have the north parking lot closed. Alternate measures, including increased Saudi security patrols, increased Saudi undercover surveillance, rooftop lookouts/sentries, and trimming the vegetation were implemented.
(d) The wing complied with the requirement found in AFI 31-209 by developing and implementing an Installation Security Plan (ISP) and an installation Resource Protection Plan (RPP). The wing published the 4404th Wing (P) Installation Security Plan to execute its force protection mission. Provisions of the plan included aspects of physical security, law enforcement, resource protection, antiterrorism, and base defense. The plan established the wings antiterrorism program and adapted it to the local mission, conditions, and terrorist threat. In preparation for perimeter attack, the plans annexes included: Intelligence (including a terrorist threat appendix); and operations (including entry control procedures and security measures addressing THREATCON ALPHA, BRAVO, CHARLIE, AND DELTA). The ISP served as the source document for the commanders antiterrorism program. The plan addressed threats including attack from outside the perimeter, penetration of the perimeter by car or truck, suicide bombers, and satchel charge thrown over the perimeter. While the threat from a sniper, mortar, or other stand-off weapon existed, the urban setting made counter-measures difficult.
(e) The antiterrorism program was tailored to local mission conditions and known terrorist threats as required by AFI 31-210. The security police squadron commander conducted several exercises and desk top scenarios to address concerns. Senior leaders in the AOR, from the Air Force, other services, [Classified material omitted] and the State Department, commented on the defenses established by the wing. Mr. David Winn, a 25-year State Department veteran of the Middle East and frequent visitor to Khobar Towers, commented that General Schwaliers force protection initiatives "were so stringent, so draconian, so professional that I thought he almost overreacted." Mr. Winn further commented that Khobar Towers was "in a league by itself" in comparison to other facilities in the AOR. Mr. Theodore Kattouf, the Deputy Chief of Mission in Riyadh, when interviewed, was emphatic that General Schwalier took numerous and timely actions to protect people and resources in his command. Colonel James R. Ward, the Army Commander with several hundred members living at Khobar Towers, said, "there was a real sense of urgency;" "[w]e were worried about a car bomb;" [g]iven what we had done, we thought we had done a good job of presenting a hardened area that was not accessible."
(f) Members of the chain of command, from the wing commander down, and the AFOSI detachment commander were actively engaged in force protection either in terms of initiating new and/or improved measures, requesting increased Saudi participation, drafting and implementing antiterrorism and security plans or involved in increasing base population awareness to the threat of terrorist attack.
(g) Wing Commanders End-of-Tour Report. As discussed throughout this report, the wing initiated numerous force protection measures under the wing commanders leadership. The USCENTAF commander was very much aware of these measures. The end-of-tour report was not a comprehensive account, but simply highlighted areas for future improvement. Although force protection was not directly addressed, tour lengths, relations with the Saudis, and operation and maintenance funding all indirectly related to force protection. The end-of-tour report does not reflect that the wing commander was unconcerned with force protection.
(4) Conclusion. Commanders at all levels have an inherent responsibility for force protection tailored to local conditions and threats. It includes taking measures to protect against acts of terrorism. After assessing the nature of the threat at Khobar Towers, based on intelligence, the history of the region, recent events and vulnerability assessments, the wing leadership made a substantial number of force protection improvements to the Khobar Towers compound. Among them were measures to stop a penetrating bomb, to protect against a manned bomber and to strengthen the perimeter against a stand-off attack. Because the Saudi government was responsible for force protection outside the perimeter of the compound, efforts were made to extend the perimeter by increasing Saudi surveillance and patrols outside the compound. The efforts made at Khobar Towers were generally recognized by senior U.S. officials and commanders in the AOR as exceeding the efforts made at other installations. Commanders at all levels at Khobar Towers were actively engaged in force protection, taking reasonable measures and meeting their general force protection obligations.
(a) The January 1996 Vulnerability Assessment of Khobar Towers made 39 recommendations to improve security. One recommendation called for the installation of Mylar, a window film designed to minimize the effects of flying glass in explosions. Specifically, recommendation 36 stated,
Install 4 mil SRWF (Shatter Resistant Window Film) on all perimeter glass. ... If the cost of upgrading all perimeter windows is deemed too great, begin with the perimeter faces of Buildings 133 and 131 and then work roughly clockwise around KT [Khobar Towers] through to building 117.
The explosive ordnance disposal personnel (EOD) told the wing commander and the operations group commander that the benefits of Mylar were inconclusive.
(b) Estimated Cost. The estimate quoted in the vulnerability assessment indicated the cost of Mylar to be on the order of $50 per square meter. The AFOSI detachment commander obtained the estimate from informal discussions. The support group commander recalled that he had asked one of his civil engineering officers to develop an estimate for the entire Khobar Towers compound. The wing commander testified that he received the overall estimate of $4 million from the support group commander. No additional evidence was located to pinpoint who developed the estimate or how the figure was derived. The civil engineering squadron commander indicated that he was not personally involved in any discussions involving Mylar until after the June bombing. The figure may have been based on a rough estimate of the amount of glass to be covered and the $50 per square meter estimate. The $4 million cost was a factor in deciding to include the Mylar installation in the five-year plan.
(c) Alternative Measures. The decision on Mylar not only affected Khobar Towers but was also a consideration for the 10 other installations for which the wing was responsible for force protection. The wing commander believed, based on the estimate of the probable nature of the threat, the new barriers and active surveillance that Khobar Towers could withstand a blast of 200 to 300 pounds without suffering major damage or loss of life. The wing commander took alternative steps to achieve force protection instead of installing Mylar immediately. Among them were:
1. Sentries were posted on the roofs of key buildings including Building 131.
2. The Saudis increased their patrols.
3. Double Jersey barriers were installed.
4. Blackout curtains were installed in October 1995. It was believed the curtains would provide some protection from flying glass. One witness, MSgt Howard, explained that he believed the blackout curtains saved his roommate from getting badly cut-up.
(d) Other Installations/Facilities. As of June 1996, most other installations/commands within Saudi Arabia had not installed Mylar on windows. Lieutenant General Record observed that other U.S. Armed Forces potential targets in Saudi Arabia (e.g., the International School, USMTM, and the commissary at Riyadh) did not have Mylar at the time of the Khobar Towers bombing. The American Embassy in Saudi Arabia did not have Mylar on its windows. Also, there was no Mylar installed on windows in Qatar. After the OPM SANG bombing, the American Embassy requested Mylar for some of its buildings, such as the school. According to the Consul General, the State Department denied the request because the threat level was not high enough. Only two installations in the region were known to have installed Mylar. Buildings at OPM SANG had just had Mylar installed when Brigadier General Smith was interviewed by the Downing Assessment on 24 July 1996. One Navy unit in Bahrain had Mylar on the ground floor only; the evidence as to whether it had been installed before or after the Khobar Towers bombing was unclear.
(e) Following the bombing, Mylar was obtained through USCENTAF at a cost of approximately $16 per square meter and installed by teams of wing members trained by civil engineers.
(a) A search of directives failed to reveal any requirement for the installation of Mylar.
(b) As mentioned previously, AFI 31-209, The Resource Protection Program, 10 November 1994, sets requirements for the physical security of Air Force personnel, installations, operations, and assets, and identifies the requirements of the Resource Protection Program (RPP). The instruction contains general guidance regarding the maintenance of Air Force war fighting capability by reducing damage to Air Force resources, and reducing the opportunity for terrorist attack by making a potential target inaccessible or unattractive. It contains no guidance specific to Mylar.
(c) Similarly, AFI 31-210, The Air Force Antiterrorism (AT) Program, 1 July 1995, established responsibilities and guidance for the Air Force Antiterrorism Program. In paragraph 2.15.2., it requires commanders at all echelons to "Plan, train, exercise, and execute antiterrorism measures as specified in DoDD O-2000.12, where appropriate." DoD Handbook O-2000.12-H, February 1993, was published under the authority of DoDD O-2000.12. Although the following language by its express terms, applies only to buildings other than dwellings, it provides:
1. Several steps can be taken to harden windows in offices and residences. (The reference to "residences" here is not clear; residences are addressed in a later chapter of the Handbook.)
2. Among these are the following:
INSTALL SHATTER RESISTANT SECURITY WINDOW FILM. Installation of thousands of square feet of polycarbonite and/or glass safety glazing may not always be practical or cost effective. An alternative approach is to install a safety film on the inside of windows. A polyester film applied in a 4-mil thickness can substantially increase penetration time for cutting or smashing attacks, and will reduce concrete spalling (to break into chips) and flying glass injuries from explosive attacks.
(a) Standard. There is no objective standard against which General Schwaliers decision to forego immediate installation of Mylar can be judged. While the above guidance is relevant as a consideration, nothing requires commanders to install Mylar. The wing commander delayed the installation of Mylar in light of the perceived threat at the time. It was programmed into the budget.
(b) According to the Defense Special Weapons Agency:
Every potential terrorist target is unique, making "cookbook" mitigation measures potentially ineffective, and possibly counterproductive. For example, simply placing Mylar on windows, without improving the window frames may result in trading shard injuries for blunt trauma injuries when the entire window frame is blown into the room. There are powerful calculation and design tools available for improving a structures ... response to a terrorist bombing, but these must be applied by professionals who not only understand the engineering implications, but also the threat implications of the retrofits and new construction they propose to implement.
(c) Threat Assessment. The threat from a stand-off bomb (discussed in the previous section on Assessment of the Threat) was acknowledged throughout the AOR. However, the magnitude of the threats, i.e., the size of bomb, was also perceived throughout the AOR and by the commander to be from a bomb significantly smaller than the one that detonated on the 25th of June. The commander assessed the threat to be from a bomb not larger than the bomb at OPM SANG detonating outside the perimeter. He believed Khobar Towers could withstand such an attack.
(d) Circumstances. The wing commanders decision was made in the context of what was known at the time and under the circumstances then existing. The OPM SANG bombing was a seminal event shattering the many years of peacefulness within Saudi Arabia. In the aftermath of the OPM SANG bombing, it was evident that much needed to be done based on the heightened threat. The facts establish that a number of force protection initiatives and improvements were made at Khobar Towers (see discussion in previous section on Adequacy of Force Protection Efforts). Many of the improvements, such as placing sentries on the roof, increased patrols by the Saudis, and installation of double jersey barriers were specifically designed to deter or mitigate the effects of a bomb attack from outside the perimeter.
(e) The commander made an assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of Khobar Towers and allocated his resources accordingly. Based on the best estimate available, the commander believed the cost of installing Mylar to be approximately four million dollars. Believing the compound could withstand the perceived threat, he placed the installation of Mylar into the long range budget.
(f) Actions of Others in the AOR. It appears that the commander considered installation of Mylar to be appropriate at some time in the future. His conduct was consistent with the actions being taken by other commanders and government officials in the AOR. Additionally, his assessment of the threat was consistent with that of other commanders and senior government officials. Other installations in Saudi Arabia and Qatar, as well as the American Embassy in Saudi Arabia had not installed Mylar and the Embassys request to do so after the OPM SANG bombing was denied by the State Department in part because the threat level in Saudi Arabia was not high enough to justify the expense.
(4) Conclusion. There was no specific directive requiring the installation of Mylar at Khobar Towers. The wing accomplished numerous force protection measures, many designed to mitigate the effects of a stand-off bomb similar in size to the one that detonated at OPM SANG. Based on the lack of specific guidance or directives, the other measures taken, the perceived threat, and finite resources, the wing commanders decision to delay the installation of Mylar was reasonable.
c. Extending the Perimeter.
(a) This section will address whether efforts to extend or improve the perimeter were reasonable. In Finding 20 of his Task Force Report, General Downing found that the wing commander never raised to his superiors force protection matters that were beyond his capability to correct. More specifically, the report stated, "Nor did he raise the issue of expanding the perimeter or security outside of the fence with his Saudi counterparts in the Eastern Province."
(b) Requests to Extend the Perimeter. Although the wing commander recognized the vulnerability associated with the perimeter fence, he did not personally direct a request to his Saudi counterpart to extend the perimeter, nor did he specifically direct his subordinates to do so. Senior members of his wing staff did address the issue with their Saudi counterparts.
(c) After the OPM SANG bombing, the support group commander, Colonel Boyle, along with Colonel Abdullah al-Qahtani, the Saudi Royal Air Force liaison officer, inspected the condition of the perimeter of Khobar Towers. Colonel Boyle pointed out numerous deficiencies, drew special attention to the closeness of the perimeters, and indicated he would like them "moved back." No specific distance was mentioned, but considering the potential threat of an OPM SANG size bomb, Colonel Boyle explained that he would have been happy to get a 100 or 150 foot distance from the building. The existing perimeter setback was about 60 feet to the fence plus approximately another 20 feet to the curb of the parking lot, with vegetation in between. According to Col Boyle, Colonel Qahtani explained that although he did not have the authority, he did not think it was possible to move the perimeters out any further. He explained to Colonel Boyle that the parking lot on the north perimeter was for the public park, one of the few parks available to the Saudis. In addition, the parking lot serviced a mosque on the other side. Colonel Qahtani also advised Colonel Boyle that a strip mall was about to be constructed next to the lot. According to Colonel Boyle, Colonel Qahtani expressed the opinion that the parking lot was essential for the recreation facility and the eventual mall, because it was the only place people could park. Colonel Qahtani opined that the distance was adequate for an OPM SANG size bomb. According to Col Boyle, Colonel Qahtani believed that moving the perimeter was not possible and recommended they concentrate on other active security measures.
(d) Others also requested extension of the perimeter. SA McDonald addressed the issue with the 2-star general in the Saudi equivalent to the FBI. The request was denied. SA Reddecliffs request to close the north parking lot was also refused. Not only did the Saudis consistently deny requests to move the perimeter, they asked for a screen to block vision into the Khobar Towers complex in the area of the north fence. According to Lt Colonel Traister, Lieutenant Badr of the Royal Saudi Military Police refused to agree to trimming the vegetation along the fence line. The purpose of trimming the vegetation was to allow better observation of the perimeter. Lieutenant Badr explained that the vegetation served as a barrier to prevent local Saudis from viewing what Americans were doing inside the compound. Lt Colonel Traister renewed both his request to extend the perimeter and trim the vegetation outside the perimeter to Colonel Qahtani in March of 1996. Again, both requests were denied. Lt Colonel Traister had civil engineering trim the vegetation inside the perimeter.
(e) Saudi Refusal to Extend Perimeters. The Saudis concerns regarding matters that impacted on daily Saudi life were mirrored in other denials and limitations placed on exercises and tests of warning systems. Colonel Boyle concluded that repeated requests would damage host nation relations.
(f) There were other indications that suggested that the Saudis would never agree to move the perimeter. For example, according to the Saudi commander of the Eastern Province, about two years earlier, the Saudi government had moved a portion of the perimeter in as a result of complaints from Saudi families who were concerned about access to their homes. The difficulty in moving the fence was illustrated by the Consul General in Dhahran who stated, "Now for them (the wing) to have extended the perimeter, I think it would have required moving heaven and earth."
(g) The CENTAF commander said he seriously doubted anyone in the chain of command above Brigadier General Schwalier could have gotten the perimeter extended. He further explained that in his opinion, it was necessary to take measured steps to progress with the Saudis.
(h) Mr. Theodore Kattouf, the Deputy Chief of Mission, Riyadh, explained that it is a poorly understood fact that in a foreign country [Classified material omitted] United States forces have very limited capability to take actions outside those areas specifically reserved for United States forces control. [Classified material omitted]. Mr. Kattouf opined that even if Brigadier General Schwalier had asked for the fence to be moved, it is very improbable the Saudis would have agreed. [Classified material omitted].
(i) Alternate Measures. Instead of pursuing the issue of the location of the perimeter, the wing leadership concentrated its efforts on alternate measures to protect the perimeter. These have been fully detailed in previous portions of this section. Among other measures, these included:
1. Installing concertina wire along the top of the perimeter fence to preclude personnel access
2. Doubling up the barriers on the east, south and west perimeter and placing them 5 feet outside the fence line, and on the north perimeter inside the fence line, to enhance the protection against penetration.
3. Repositioning the existing barrier line along the west perimeter which had sunk into the sand.
4. Reinforcing portions of the fence line adjacent to streets reinforced with dumpsters along the interior of the fence line to offer additional protection against high speed penetration.
5. Posting sentries on the roofs of key buildings including Building 131 on a 24 hour a day basis and equipping them with radios and binoculars.
6. Increasing security police manning at static posts. This included building two sandbagged defensive fighting positions to use M-60 machine guns at the Khobar Towers main gate.
7. Increasing security police vehicle and foot roving patrols inside the compound.
8. Convincing the Saudis to increase their civil patrols and undercover surveillance to monitor perimeter activities.
9. It was believed that previously installed blackout curtains would provide some protection from flying glass.
(j) The wing believed the above measures were a reasonable approach to protecting the perimeter under the circumstances. Others in the AOR expressed the same belief about the position of the perimeter. At its narrowest point on the north perimeter, the setback was approximately 80 feet: 60 feet from the buildings to the fence and 20 feet, covered with heavy vegetation, from the perimeter fence to the parking lot curb. The bomb crater was about 80 feet from building 131. Major General Hurd testified that a 25 meter setback (approximately 82 feet) was not unreasonable for the perceived threat. According to Lieutenant General Franklin, a 25 meter setback was accepted as sufficient. The Regional Security Officer (RSO) at the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh related that a representative of his office had visited Khobar Towers prior to the bombing and was satisfied that the existing stand-off distance was adequate. EOD had previously advised AFOSI that damage would be kept to a minimum if vehicles were kept at least 25 yards from the building. The distance from the building to the curb of the parking lot met the EOD recommended distance.
(a) There was no mandatory standard regarding the appropriate stand-off distance at the time of the bombing. DoD Handbook O-2000.12-H, Protection of DoD Personnel and Activities Against Acts of Terrorism and Political Turbulence, February 1993, recommended, "100-foot minimum setback between perimeter and building exterior whenever possible" when siting for new construction (emphasis added). With regard to existing facilities, the DoD Handbook states the following:
Para 9 (C)(1)a. An unobstructed area or clear zone should be maintained on both sides of and between permanent physical barriers. Vegetation should not exceed 8 inches in height in these areas. The inside clear zone should be at least 30 feet. The outside clear zone should be at least 20 feet.
(b) A review of applicable instructions and guidance failed to reveal any standards for commanders to apply in determining when to escalate force protection issues up the chain of command. In these areas, commanders make such determinations depending on the totality of the circumstances, using their experience, training and judgment as officers and commanders to guide them.
(a) At the time of the Khobar Towers bombing, there were no objective standards establishing a fixed standoff distance for existing buildings. The total standoff distance of approximately 80 feet met the guidance suggested by the DoD Handbook for clear zones. The guidance suggested a minimum total distance of 50 feet: 30 feet of clear zone inside a fixed barrier, such as a fence, and 20 feet beyond the fixed barrier. In this case, there was a distance of 60 feet between the buildings and the perimeter fence and an additional approximately 20 feet covered with heavy vegetation that the Saudis were reluctant to clear, outside the perimeter fence. This created a total standoff distance of about 80 feet. This was consistent with the standoff distances at other US buildings in the AOR. Nevertheless, the wing commander, support group commander, security police commander, and AFOSI detachment commander remained concerned about the stand-off distance, especially at the north perimeter.
(b) The support group commander, security police commander and AFOSI detachment commander asked their Saudi counterparts either to extend the perimeter or, at the north perimeter, to close the parking lot. When those efforts failed, they initiated alternate force protection measures to increase the security of the perimeter.
(c) Brigadier General Schwalier was aware of the fact that the requests to move the fence had been denied by the Saudis. He was satisfied that the "work-arounds" to overcome the vulnerability were progressing well.
(d) The wing concentrated on the "work-arounds" such as trimming the vegetation, roof top sentries, double barriers, increased Saudi patrols and undercover surveillance. They did not focus on a penetration bomb to the exclusion of preparing for a stand-off weapon. The efforts were designed with an OPM SANG bomb in mind, a belief that was pervasive throughout the AOR.
(4) Conclusion. While there was no mandatory stand-off distance, the perimeter at Khobar Towers met the guidance for existing facilities. The wing commander and his staff recognized the vulnerability of the perimeter and initiated multiple efforts to improve perimeter security. The actions were taken considering the refusal of the Saudis to extend the perimeter, the stand-off distance at other facilities, the perceived threat, and other force protection measures implemented. These actions of the wing commander, support group commander, security police commander, and AFOSI detachment commander were reasonable under the circumstances.
4. Transportation Security (Convoy).
(1) This section analyzes the adequacy of the security provided for the transportation of personnel. In Finding 5 of the Downing Assessment, it was observed that force protection practices were inconsistent in Saudi Arabia and the Arabian Gulf Region. This finding was consistent with Finding 1 of the Downing Assessment: "There are ... [no] published DoD physical security standards for force protection of fixed facilities." Elaborating on this, the Assessment went on to say, "Because no directive provides formal force protection standards with which the service components must comply, commanders are left to a subjective determination of what is safe or unsafe." Relevant to the 4404th Wing (P), the Assessment stated, "Security for travel of U.S. service members between housing and work areas was inconsistent." The specific observations follow.
"In Dhahran, unarmed pilots and other key persons traveled to and from King Abdul Aziz Air Base and Khobar Towers in commercial vehicles."
(2) The trip from the gate at Khobar Towers to the gate at King Abdul Aziz Air Base (KAAAB) was approximately one kilometer (6/10ths of a mile) and took about three minutes. The remainder of the trip was within the Khobar Towers compound or the guarded areas of the air base. Alternate routes would have taken up to 30 minutes through populated sections of the suburbs of Dhahran. The roadway between Khobar Towers and the airfield was heavily traveled by security police and armed Army personnel. There was some concern that the overpass on the route to KAAAB might be a target for attack, and vigilance and the security police presence on the road was increased after the OPM SANG bombing. Other travel security precautions at Khobar Towers included route surveillance provided by security police in an "over-watch" capacity. Posted on top of a building in the Khobar Towers complex, security police personnel were able to visually observe the route between Khobar Towers and KAAAB. Equipped with radios, these rooftop personnel were to monitor traffic movement and sound the alarm, if necessary. Traffic was not allowed to back up on the route between Khobar Towers and KAAAB, to give commuting personnel a "straight shot" back and forth. The security police squadron would have considered placing armed guards in vehicles, had conditions warranted, and discussed this possibility. The wing commander was asked if he ever considered arming pilots on the trip between Khobar Towers and the airfield prior to the bombing, and indicated, "I would not have entertained that." Neither the 1995 nor the 1996 Vulnerability Assessments identified the need for additional security precautions on this route.
(3) In contrast, the trip between Eskan Village and King Fahd Air Base in Riyadh took approximately 30 minutes. The procedures for force protection there included varying the routes and staggering the times of trips between the housing area and the air base. No evidence was observed that the routes were varied. Armed security police were either in the buses or followed the buses. Passengers in the buses wore civilian clothes. The trip from Abu Dhabi to Al Dhafra Air Base took 30 or more minutes and involved a choice of any of six routes. The route selection was made immediately before the trip.
(4) The only guidance on transportation security was in the installation security plan and consisted of the following recommendations: "Advise all base personnel to limit all travel to the installation except for mission essential and emergency situations" during THREATCON CHARLIE, and "Consult local authorities about closing public (and military) roads and buildings that might make sites vulnerable to terrorist attacks" during THREATCON DELTA. Other wing travel precautions and restrictions were addressed frequently in various wing commander Battle Staff Directives (BSDs), published between November 1995 and June 1996. The emphasis of the BSDs was on limiting and/or prohibiting the movement of wing members off base, decreasing their visibility and avoiding their concentration. At times, off base travel to specific areas was prohibited (Bahrain, Qatif and Hofuf), intermediate stops between Dhahran and Bahrain were prohibited, travel was required in groups of at least two but no more than four, travel was required to be by "low profile" vehicles, use of other than chartered buses was prohibited (at times, buses of any kind were prohibited) and travel was to be in civilian clothing, or overshirts, except when on official business and at specified locations.
(1) Applicable regulatory guidance at the time of the Khobar Towers bombing included: Department of Defense Directive (DoDD) 0-2000.12, DoD Combating Terrorism Program, August 27, 1990; DoD 0-2000H, Protection of DoD Personnel and Activities Against Acts of Terrorism and Political Turbulence; Air Force Instruction (AFI) 31-210, The Air Force Antiterrorism (AT) Program, July 1, 1995; Air Combat Command Supplement 1 (ACC - Sup 1), The Antiterrorism (AT) Program, July 25, 1995; 4404th Wing (P) Installation Security Plan, King Abdul Aziz Air Base, Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, May 24, 1995; 4404th Wing (P) Instruction 31-101, Security Police, June 1, 1996; and 4404th Wing (P)/CC Battle Staff Directives (various dates).
(2) Most of these publications touch on transportation of personnel. None, however, set out requirements or mandate the use of specific force protection measures, with the exception of the wing commanders own Battle Staff Directives (BSDs), as described earlier. For example, DoDD 0-2000.12 refers to "suggested" security measures associated with various THREATCONs. Specific references to transportation considerations are found under Measure 24 of THREATCON BRAVO and Measure 49 of THREATCON CHARLIE. They read, respectively: "Protect off-base military personnel and military transport in accordance with prepared plans. Remind drivers to lock parked vehicles and to institute a positive system of checking before they enter and drive a car, and minimize all administrative journeys and visits." References to transportation security in the wings "prepared plan"--the 4404th WG(P) Installation Security Plan--consisted of two suggested measures in THREATCONs CHARLIE and DELTA.
(3) DoD 0-2000.12-H, Protection of DoD Personnel and Activities Against Acts of Terrorism and Political Turbulence, listed a number of suggested ways to increase the security of transportation of personnel. The general guidance includes such suggested measures as avoiding dangerous areas, avoiding the establishment of regular patterns of movement, never traveling in a single vehicle, avoiding travel at night, using vehicles that do not stand out, planning alternate routes, planning communications requirements, planning in advance, and a catchall, providing adequate security.
(4) AFI 31-210 refers commanders to DoDD 2000.12 for "guidance" in implementing threat condition measures. ACC Supplement 1 to this instruction makes recommendations on steps Americans could take to lower their profile while traveling.
(5) Wing Operating Instruction 31-101 identified the chief of security police as the single focal point for security issues within the wing and required all security police supporting wing units to functionally report to him. The chief of security police is also the security police squadron commander.
(1) There are no written objective standards for force protection regarding the transportation of personnel. The general guidance provided by DoDD 2000.12, DoD Combating Terrorism Program and DoD 0-2000.12H, Protection of DoD Personnel and Activities against Acts of Terrorism and Political Turbulence, requires commanders to consider such measures as avoiding dangerous areas, avoiding the establishment of regular patterns of movement, never traveling in a single vehicle, avoiding travel at night, using vehicles that dont stand out, planning alternate routes, planning communications requirements, planning in advance and "providing adequate security." It appears from the measures taken that the wing took such factors into consideration. The measures for force protection of personnel employed some of the suggested measures, and the Battle Staff Directives (BSDs) published periodically by the wing, addressed avoiding high threat areas, the wear of unobtrusive clothing, travel in small groups, and avoiding concentration of personnel.
(2) Similarly, there is no requirement that force protection practices be the same at all locations within the AOR, as local conditions, threats, alternatives and resources vary from place to place. At Khobar Towers, the route between the gate and the gate to King Abdul Aziz Air Base was short, approximately one kilometer (.62 miles), heavily traveled by military personnel, frequently traveled by security police and armed Army personnel and overseen by a sentry on a roof top within Khobar Towers. Alternate routes would have increased exposure of personnel to attack by increasing the travel time up to 30 minutes and routing vehicles through urban areas. Traffic was not allowed to back up on the route to reduce exposure of personnel. The route had not been identified as a weakness in earlier vulnerability assessments conducted in 1995 and January 1996. Given these circumstances, the actions of the wing commander not to arm pilots or important persons for the one kilometer trip or to use armed guards were reasonable.
(3) That the force protection measures at Khobar Towers differed from more stringent measures at other locations does not necessarily indicate these precautions were not reasonable. Other locations used additional measures such as alternate routes, armed guards, armed scout vehicles, travel by commercial buses and travel in civilian clothing, depending on the local threat and circumstances. Procedures were established based on the perceived threat at Khobar Towers, the absence of any indicated vulnerability in the threat assessments, the short distance involved, and the conditions that existed prior to the bombing at Khobar Towers.
(4) The measures taken show that the wing commander, as well as other commanders within the AOR, were taking into consideration and employing different facets of the measures suggested by the general guidance. The security police squadron commander at Khobar Towers was engaged in reviewing the route between Khobar Towers and KAAAB and taking precautions such as placing a sentry in a position to overwatch the route.
d. Conclusion. Transportation security is a part of force protection. There are no set standards for transportation security. Applicable guidance requires consideration of a number of factors beginning with an assessment of the local threat and conditions. Commanders are told to consider a number of different measures and to tailor their measures to the conditions and threat. Because local conditions vary from installation to installation and country to country in the AOR, so did the precautions taken at those locations vary. The adequacy of a locations measures does not depend on what other locations, with different threats and conditions, are doing. The transportation of personnel from Khobar Towers to King Abdul Aziz Air Base was short (one kilometer from gate to gate), heavily traveled by security police personnel, and observed from a vantage point within Khobar Towers. Alternate routes exposed personnel to urban areas for a considerably longer time than the two to three minutes it took to travel the most direct route. The route had not been identified as a vulnerability in the past two vulnerability assessments. Under the circumstances, the security measures employed by the wing were reasonable for the threat conditions existing at the time.