Bacon and Admiral Henry Brief on USS Cole Blast
DoD News Briefing
Friday, October 13, 2000, 2:30 p.m. EDT Presenter: Mr. Kenneth H.
(Special briefing on the USS Cole incident. Also participating was
Rear Adm. Joseph G. Henry, Director, Military Personnel Plans & Policy
Bacon: Good afternoon.
The pictures of the coffins arriving at Ramstein remind us that this
is a moment of sorrow and a moment of gratitude for the sacrifices
that not only these sailors have made but that our military men and
women make around the world every day, that they perform duty in our
I'd like to bring you up to date on several aspects of this: first,
the disposition of the sailors who were hurt or killed; second, what's
happening in Aden with the ship, the USS Cole; third, the progress we
have -- we are making in terms of bringing people into Aden to perform
the investigation of how this was caused and to provide enhanced force
security in the area.
And then I'm going to have Rear Admiral Joe Henry, who's the director
of Navy Military Plans and Policy in the Bureau of Personnel, come up
here and talk to you some about the efforts that the Navy is making to
stay in touch with the families and to deal with the needs of the
families of the sailors on the USS Cole.
First, the latest figures are seven dead, 10 missing, and 38 wounded.
We are in the process of moving -- five of the wounded sailors have
already been returned to duty. Their wounds were superficial, and
they're back at work.
The balance of the wounded sailors should be moved to Ramstein over
the next 12 hours or so. One plane is under way, and another plane
should arrive early tomorrow morning. So with that, we will have moved
all of the injured sailors, according to my current information, from
Aden or Djibouti, where many of them were in hospital, to Ramstein.
The plans for bringing the deceased sailors home are still being
worked out. It depends where the forensic work is going to be
performed, whether it's performed in Ramstein, Landstuhl, or performed
back here at Dover. But we do not have the details on that right now.
We should have the details relatively soon.
It is my expectation that there will be a memorial service for the
sailors in Norfolk, probably on Wednesday. And we're currently working
on the plans for that, and that -- we'll give you the final details as
soon as we have those.
Q: Will Secretary Cohen be there?
Bacon: I believe that -- yes, Secretary Cohen will be there. And I
anticipate that the president will attend as well. But there will be a
final announcement when we have the details worked out.
In terms of the status of the USS Cole itself, she is stable. Some
power has been restored. She is generating some power. And she has
some communications capability through satellite communications now.
Navy divers have examined her keel, and it appears that her keel is in
good shape, but that examination is continuing.
There are two other Navy ships in Aden now. The USS Hawes, an FFG
[frigate], is moored near the -- Aden. And the USS Donald Cook, which
is a destroyer, is also in the area. This is significant because,
obviously, the crew left on the USS Cole is tired and distraught, and
so the crews of the new ships can help do some of the work that's
required to keep the ship afloat and to deal with the damaged hull. So
it's important that they have reinforcements there.
The -- so far, we have moved in a number of teams, and these numbers
change, of course, but let me tell you what I believe has happened so
A NavCent [Naval Forces Central Command] medical assessment team
arrived yesterday. That included a doctor, some medical technicians,
some nurses, security personnel, communications personnel, and some
Naval Criminal Investigative Service agents. Also, a medical trauma
team came in from Saudi Arabia, two surgeons, two nurses, and three
technicians. The Marine FAST team has arrived; about 50 Marines. FAST
stands for Fleet Antiterrorism Support Team, I believe. Security team.
Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team.
Q: Fifty, five-zero?
Bacon: Five-zero, right. And there are also the FEST team, which
stands for Federal Emergency Security Team, has also arrived, and that
involves State Department personnel, FBI and Justice Department
personnel and others; about 50 people. They have arrived as well.
[Correction: FEST stands for Foreign Emergency Support Team.]
Bacon: Five-oh. There are other FBI teams on the way -- over 100
additional people in two groups coming with equipment -- and they will
arrive in the next day or two, maybe a little later, depending on what
arrangements are made for them when they get there.
We have received very, very solid support from two allies: the French
and the British. The French have been instrumental in helping us
transport injured sailors from the hospital in Aden to the hospital in
Djibouti. The British arrived with a ship; the HMS Marlborough had a
doctor on board, and they have also been extremely helpful. The French
had an aircraft, a C-160 aircraft with eight medics, and they provided
not only immediate medical assistance, but as I said, the
transportation to Djibouti.
We have also, of course, received a wonderful outpouring of support
from Americans all across the country, a list way too long to mention,
but I will say that the VFW has provided phone cards, or is in the
process of providing phone cards to the families and also to the
sailors. Unfortunately, they can't use the phone cards on the ship
right now because of the reduced communications capabilities, but
those in Ramstein can use them and this will help the families
communicate later with their family members who are part of the crew.
With that, let me turn it over to Admiral Henry and then we'll take
Bacon: Ken, just a clarification on the first team, the federal one,
are they -- do they look like, are they like cops or are they like
security guards? Do they have the same firepower as Marines?
Bacon: The Marines are providing the main security at this stage. The
FEST team has some security capability. It's a combination of
investigators, security people, communications people. It's a sort of
a self-contained, quickly moveable team that can go into an emergency
situation abroad, set up communications, set up an operations center,
do some of the initial investigative work. And then they will pave the
way for the other FBI teams that will be coming on very quickly.
Q: The physical security is with the Marines, then?
Q: And was that FEST set up -- is that since the embassy bombings that
that kind of thing has been established?
Bacon: I think the FEST teams were around before the embassy bombing,
but we have -- both the State Department and the Defense Department
have done a lot to improve, one, the on-site security over the last
few years, and then also our emergency response capabilities in a
situation like this.
Q: What's "FEST" stand for again?
Bacon: I believe it stands for "Federal Emergency Support Team."
Q: Could you --
Bacon: Foreign. Foreign Emergency Support Team. Foreign.
Q: Could you tell us something about whether or not you're getting
cooperation from the government of Yemen?
Bacon: Yes, we're getting very significant cooperation right now from
the government of Yemen, in several respects. First, they have helped
us with the medical care. And second, they have -- they are providing
a lot of security around the port in the city of Aden. And third, they
have vowed to be cooperative in the investigation. And to the best of
my knowledge, they are being cooperative at this stage, although
probably the questions about the investigation are better directed to
the always forthcoming FBI.
Q: Ken, on this subject, there have been reports alleging that the
government of Yemen had been infiltrated by agents of Osama bin Laden
or others, and once they got the advance notice of 10 or 12 days, they
were able to move forward and put their own men on the boats. Any
indication that there was any of that that happened?
Bacon: I think it's premature to comment on that now. That's exactly
what the FBI and other investigators are trying to determine. And I
think that in due time, the FBI will be able to report on its
findings, but it's obviously way too early for any definitive report
Q: Ken, as it was explained yesterday, the U.S. Navy informs the
embassy they're coming into a port where they don't have their
standing military presence, and the embassy arranges for any kind of
contracted assistance they may need. Do you know if the embassy vets
these firms or if they go one step further and vets the individual
employees of these firms? Conducts any kind of background security
Bacon: Throughout the Middle East and, indeed, throughout the world,
the military and the embassies work very closely together on security
issues. I think that's clear, and anybody who has traveled around the
world knows that to be the case. In terms of that specific question,
which deals with contracting and logistics, I can't answer that
question now, and it's the type of thing that we will be looking into,
obviously, later on. Right now, we're concentrating primarily on
taking care of the wounded and getting the bodies of the loved ones
home and stabilizing the ship.
Q: Do you anticipate either a Navy or a DoD investigation into the
security arrangements that were in place there at Yemen? And for
example, after Khobar Towers, there were a number of new security
steps that were instituted after that bombing. Do you anticipate that
kind of tightening of security around naval vessels?
Bacon: Well, I think it's premature to predict. I mean, every -- every
tragedy like this provokes a period of reflection, and there will
certainly be review and reflection after this one, and we will look at
our security -- our security procedures.
Security is sort of like health. You can always be healthier. You can
always be more secure. No matter how secure you are, you can be more
secure. The Navy, like every branch of the military, has to balance
security with doing its job. And the job of the Navy is to provide
worldwide forward presence. The Navy could be perfectly secure if it
stayed in Norfolk all the time, but obviously it can't do that and
meet its goal of providing a worldwide presence for the United States.
There will be reviews. The Navy has already started a so-called JAG
Manual investigation. It's very standard. It's not unusual. It happens
all the time after a situation like this that there would be an
investigation. I'm sure there will be other reviews in the coming
days, and I think we'll be able to announce something soon.
Q: Has the Navy decided whether or not it's going to send ships back
for refueling in Aden? Has it been suspended or cancelled?
Bacon: I don't think they've reached that decision yet. I'm not aware
that that decision has been made.
(To staff.) Do you know, Steve?
Staff: (Off mike.)
Bacon: What he's saying is, off the microphone, in his raspy voice,
that it's -- these decisions are made by the commander in chief of the
Central Command, now General Franks, and his staff, obviously. I don't
think General Franks signs off on every refueling request throughout
the theater. But these are made by the NAVCENT, the Navy Central
Command authorities. And obviously, they'll look at the conditions in
Aden and elsewhere in making these decisions.
Q: Ken, what is the status of the ship that you referred to early on?
What's the calculations being made about what to do next with either
eventually towing it somewhere or getting it back under its power?
Bacon: Well, clearly, they have to do two things. They have to patch
it, and they have to get it -- enough power restored so she could
move. I'm -- I don't know whether you could tow a ship of this size.
The ship could be towed. And I don't think this will be sorted out
immediately, but I would expect in the next week or so they will be
able to, one, know what they have to do to fix it, and perhaps even
have completed the repairs enough to move it to a more substantial
Q: Ken, a follow-up on the same question. A lot has to do not just
with patching, but the seaworthiness of this ship, depending on the
weather conditions. Can you check for us, if you don't know, what
repair facilities are in that part of the world suitable to handle a
ship of this size? You need dry docking facilities. Would they
consider bringing in a floating dry dock and escorting or transporting
the ship on a floating dry dock somewhere else, or any idea -- will
they have to bring it back to CONUS or to Europe or the Far East?
Bacon: I'll ask the Navy to check that, and we'll get back to you.
Q: You had said that the crew aboard the Cole was tired and
distraught. Could you just elaborate a little on that? The families
might be wondering.
Bacon: Well, the crew has been through a tragedy. And it's -- I think
that -- (pause) -- this note says that they are certainly quite
fatigued. I think that Admiral Henry, who will take over now, can tell
you about a conversation that he's had with the captain or the skipper
of the ship that will shed some light on this. What I mean is that
obviously they've been through a tragedy.
They have done a superb job in keeping the ship going, in keeping it
afloat, in dealing with the flooding, in restoring some power, in
restoring some communications, and in dealing with the wounded. They
have done a wonderful job, and I think Admiral Clark talked about that
some yesterday. But they have been through a shock. And therefore,
it's very helpful to them to have reinforcements in other sailors to
bear some of the burden and to help them with the pumping and the
other tasks going on now.
Let me turn this over to Admiral Henry, and then I'll come back and --
Q: (Off mike.)
Q: Ken, you've said that the individual decisions to refuel are made
at the CINC level. What is the degree of OSD involvement in the
monitoring and assessment of the engagement policy with Yemen prior to
this incident? And is there now a review at the OSD level of the
policy of having troops or ships, you know, in Yemeni territory?
Bacon: The Middle East is an area that is filled with risks, not just
in Yemen but in other countries as well. That's one of the reasons we
have such a large military presence -- to help stabilize an area that
has been unstable in the past. I think everybody appreciates that, and
everybody appreciates that working in the Middle East is a process of
balancing risks with the need to do our job. We evaluate and try to
balance the risks with the need to do the job in every single port we
enter, in the Middle East and elsewhere. That balancing is
particularly delicate in the Middle East, obviously. We will continue
to do that. I'm not aware that any formal decision has been made yet
about Aden, but obviously that's the type of thing we'll look at in
the future, and the not-too-distant future.
In terms of the policy of engagement with Yemen or any other country
in the Middle East, I think it's very important to realize that these
decisions are not made by just the Defense Department. They are
government-wide policies. They involve a number of departments, and
this is how we operate around the world. The Defense Department is not
an independent agency, nor is the State Department. We operate as a
team, and we operate under the guidance provided by the government.
And I think that, you know, whether we go to Kuwait or Australia or
Thailand or Yemen, those rules apply.
Q: You said that we evaluate the risks and benefits in each port. Were
you saying -- were you speaking for OSD then, or -- or who is it that
does that process of evaluating the risks and benefits in the approach
to each port?
Bacon: The decisions to go to ports are based on a wide range of
information gathered by every agency in the government in charge with
gathering information. I don't think I could be clearer about it than
Q: Ken, will you come back at the end to answer --
Bacon: I will.
Henry: Good afternoon. The commanding officer of the USS Cole did talk
to Vice Admiral Ryan, the chief of naval personnel, approximately two
hours ago. The commanding officer called to thank Admiral Ryan for the
efforts of the people at the Bureau of Naval Personnel and also the
efforts that are going on in Norfolk, and called them a Godsend, with
the help that they were giving the families.
He said the crew was fatigued but in good spirits and that phone calls
were being made from the crewmembers home, and they were getting in
touch with their families.
What I'd like to do is explain to you the process that's been ongoing
to notify those families, and that process, on a whole, has been going
very well. It started at approximately 0730 yesterday when the Bureau
of Naval Personnel at headquarters here in Washington was first
notified of the incident. Immediately, Vice Admiral Ryan stood up the
Emergency Crisis Center down in Millington, Tennessee. Within a half
hour, a 1-800 number was made available for the families to call.
Within an hour, the center was fully stood up, with 32 phones manned.
During the day, in the first 20 hours, we received over 6300 phone
calls. Today, we've received approximately 1600 phone calls.
Because of the damage to the communications equipment on the ship, we
did not immediately know the crew members that were dead, missing or
injured. Approximately 11:30 yesterday, via telephone, we found out
the name of those crewmembers and it was passed to us verbally. Those
names were immediately relayed to Millington, Tennessee, where they
began pulling the emergency data, the record of the primary
next-of-kin and the secondary next-of-kin, to notify those personnel.
It's Navy policy that in the case of a dead or missing service member,
we personally, face to face, notify both the primary and the secondary
next-of-kin before releasing those names, and that process began.
We had fifty names to start with, and it was quite an extensive
process. In fact, yesterday we had to notify over 90 people in 24
states, a very extensive process. The first injured personnel --
family of an injured personnel was notified at about 1400, or 2:00
p.m. yesterday. The first death notification was made about 1530, or
3:30 yesterday afternoon, so, fairly quickly after we had the list.
That continued through the night.
The original notifications to the injured, we didn't have the details
of their injuries, so all we could tell the families were that they
were injured but alive. And I know it was very difficult just to
receive that small bit of news, but we felt it was important to let
them know right away that their sailor was alive but injured. And now
that we've received more details with regard to the injuries, we've
been going back to those families and notifying them. In addition,
we're trying to keep in close contact with the families of the
missing, so any change in status, we will be able to immediately
notify them, and an Emergency Notification Officer has been assigned
to each one of those families to notify them.
Q: Admiral, you said your men, or people, worked through the night
last night -- what kind of naval officer/enlisted person makes up the
notification team? It'd seem, if you come knocking on somebody's door
in the middle of the night, that's pretty shocking.
Henry: There's people already trained in each region of the Navy -- in
fact, when we find out we have to notify someone, the regional
commander is notified. He then has trained personnel to make this
notification to the family, and a chaplain and the person who's
trained in that area then go personally to the family. Now, this is
not an easy process, because the family may be away on vacation and
not have told anybody, so we may take a while to find out where they
were. Some of the notifications we had to drive over a few hundred
miles to make. So it isn't a process that happens very quickly. Even
though we do have a name and an address of where to locate the next of
kin, that process is time-consuming.
Q: But there would be a chaplain along in every case?
Henry: I don't know the answer to that. I think there is a chaplain in
Q: Is there a time limit? I mean, would you do this at 3:00 in the
Henry: Yes, there is. "As quickly as possible" is the answer, because
we know people are just waiting for this. And so we would like to do
it immediately, but it just can't happen that fast. And so as fast as
can -- I think we very quickly stood up the control center, got the
800 number out, and pulled the emergency data. And as soon as we had
that, we immediately attempted to notify the personnel. So I say "as
quickly as possible."
Q: Have you told the families of the missing that they are presumed
Henry: We have not told the families of the missing that they're
presumed dead. We're not extremely optimistic that we're going to find
anything else but that, but we are still hopeful, as we attempt to
locate these personnel. So we have not presumed that they're dead at
Q: Can I follow up with that? I mean, you have a contained area, you
have a ship. You know where the damage took place. It's now been the
better part of two days. I mean, it would seem to a logical person
there was no hope for the missing. Where would they be?
Henry: This is a very damaged ship. There are flooded compartments in
this ship. We're working our way through those. Before we notify a
family that their loved one is deceased, we want to positively
identify that family. It would be another tragedy if we made a
mistake. Okay. So we're trying very hard to do this correctly.
Q: Admiral, you mentioned calls were going to the ship and the family
members were -- are they actually able to --
Henry: The calls are going from the ship to the family --
Henry: -- from the ship to the family member.
Q: How about e-mail? Are the crisis crew able to do any e-mails?
Henry: I don't know the answer to that. I do not think they are at
Staff: Because they're on limited -- very limited communications now,
the communications part is okay, but the power is disrupted, so they
use stand-alone communications.
Q: Will the crew remain with the ship now until it is either taken
someplace or -- now this crew, I guess -- apparently they were on a
six-month deployment. Normally, I guess, they would be back somewhere
around December or something.
Henry: The crew will absolutely remain with their ship -- all that
aren't injured. And I think we'd have to drag them away. They just
saved the ship, so they want to stay there.
Q: And will they -- is there any chance they'll get home about the
time that they would normally have come back, or is that --
Henry: I don't have an answer for that.
Q: (Off mike) -- power from the other ships?
Staff: She's got power. She's got -- (off mike).
Q: Enough to do what she needs?
Staff: She's got power. She's got -- (off mike) -- in the ship.
Q: Is it believed that all the bodies or the missing, shall we say,
are on the ship itself? Is there any suspicion that they were washed
away in the --
Henry: We don't have that suspicion, but until we find every single
body, I can't definitively answer that question.
Q: Can you give us a little bit of detail on where on the ship the
injuries took place?
Henry: I can't. I'm sorry. I just know that it was very near the
explosion, that's where the majority of the injuries were, and I don't
have further details than that.
Q: Do you have any unidentified bodies?
Henry: No. We do not have any unidentified bodies.
Q: Did the CO say anything about what he thinks happened? Did he
explain his view of what --
Henry: I think -- I think it's been explained that there was a ship
that originally handled one of the Cole's lines and that that tending
ship then came alongside and while it was alongside, the explosion
Q: Did he add anything to the understanding of what happened?
Henry: No, he didn't. That's a very normal occurrence, when you pull
into port, for a tending ship to come up and take the lines and take
it over to the dolphin, so --
Q: Did he personally witness those events as have been described?
Henry: I do not know the answer to that.
Q: (Off mike) -- the communications were -- (inaudible) -- and this is
probably going to sound dumb, but for somebody living in this age with
all the cell phones around, isn't there some way of getting a bunch of
cell phones out to the people on the ship so they can make contact
Henry: It's in process, as far as I know. It's in process. And from
talking to the to CO, they are getting in touch with their families
and that has been a big boost to the morale of the crew on board, and
certainly to the families that were contacted.
Q: But, I mean, is more being done, I mean, to get --
Henry: We are doing everything we can to get communications from the
ship to those families. We would like all the sailors to be able to
talk to their families as soon as possible, and arrest any of their
Q: Admiral, yesterday the Pentagon asked the news stations not to put
-- use Yemeni television footage showing wounded sailors.
Q: Was the effort done in time, or did you get feedback from families
saying, "Jesus, I saw my son on CNN," or one of the stations --
Henry: We have not gotten personal feedback, although we know there
was a number of pictures on the TV where you could identify a sailor
from. We certainly prefer to get to the family first so they don't see
it on TV before we've seen it. That's why we have preferred not to
have those pictures shown.
Q: But you haven't got any outraged families at this point?
Henry: No, not that I know of.
Q: Admiral, just to clarify, all the injured have now been moved to
Germany, is that correct?
Henry: They're moved or en route. They've all been certified for
movement and I think by this evening they should all be, as Mr. Bacon
said, within 12 hours.
Q: And are any of their injuries considered life-threatening?
Henry: There are some seriously injured personnel that we're dealing
with. The majority of the injuries are minor.
Q: How many --
Q: (Off mike) -- that there are some with life-threatening injuries?
Henry: "Seriously injured" is the word I have, so I can't --
Q: (Inaudible word) -- but serious.
Henry: Seriously --
Q: What -- what kind of injuries?
Q: Yeah, lacerations --
Henry: I do not know the answer to that.
Q: Do you know how many "some" is?
Henry: I don't know. And I think the number is small. In the
conversations, the number I heard was three. I don't know if that's
the exact number or not. I'm sure it'll change as time goes on.
Q: Thank you very much.
Q: Ken, can I go back to the theme of some of the --
Bacon: I was hoping that the Admiral answered all your questions.
Q: I just want to go back to the theme of some of the previous
questions, because there seemed to be an implied criticism here about
the decision to allow the Cole to refuel in Yemen. And so let me just
sort of state what I'm sensing that people are asking you, get you to
react to it.
It seems to be that people are implying that perhaps the sailors on
this ship were put into a dangerous situation because of a policy,
perhaps not by the Pentagon, of engagement with Yemen that -- so in
order for -- to advance, perhaps, a foreign policy goal of better
relations, that the sailors on the ship were put in a situation that
was perhaps more dangerous or a threat level that was unacceptable.
Can you just sort of address that? Because that seems to be what the
underlying criticism is.
Bacon: Yes, I reject that criticism. I think that these decisions are
made in a corporate way by the government -- by a number of government
agencies at once. They are not based entirely on any one piece of
information or any one policy plan by one agency in the government. So
the government made a government-wide decision to use Aden and to
engage with the country of Yemen in a variety of ways, one of which
involved port visits to Aden.
Now there was a liberty call in Aden once, within the last year or so,
I believe, and there have been a number of refuelings in Aden. There
have been other types of engagement. There's a de-mining program going
on in Yemen -- a U.S.-sponsored de-mining program. So was an
interagency decision that was made at an interagency level and
reviewed at an interagency level.
Q: Ken, going back to yesterday, the CNO told us that the threat level
had been raised to threat level bravo when the Cole pulled into the
harbor, and they had armed people up on deck. If that was the case,
these -- vessels like a destroyer carry small boats which can handle
their own lines, and in parts of the world, they do that. Wouldn't it
have been perhaps more prudent to allow the ship to put boats over the
side and handle its own lines, rather than allow foreign nationals to
come up that close?
Bacon: Well, this is related to the question earlier about contracting
and how this contract was made. It's a question that I can't answer,
one, because it draws on naval procedures that I'm -- on which I'm not
an expert, but also because it involves some of the details of this
particular decision, and that's what will be reviewed over time.
Q: Can you say who the contractor was?
Bacon: I cannot. No.
Q: The Navy said earlier that divers -- or explosive ordnance disposal
experts, I believe, is the right term -- took a look at the blast area
in the ship. Do you know whether they came up within any physical
evidence or indications of the remains of the small boat or its
Bacon: I do not know that question. That would be in the area of the
investigation, but the -- being supervised by the FBI.
Q: Is there any evidence whether this small boat was in fact from the
contractor or the company it was supposed to be from, or is there any
evidence that it was posing as a boat or it was an imposter of some
Bacon: That, again, is exactly the type of question the FBI will be
Q: Have we moved on any further towards determination that it was
definitely terrorism, or are you still saying it's possible terrorism,
apparent terrorism? How are you categorizing it?
Bacon: Oh, I think "apparent terrorism" characterizes it. As the chief
of Naval Operations said yesterday, there's no -- there are many
reasons to believe it was terrorism and few reasons to believe that it
wasn't. But we have not made a final decision on that, and that will
require some inputs from the FBI.
Q: Could you talk a little bit about the strategic importance of the
port in Aden to the Navy? Is this the only fueling point it has
between the Red Sea and Oman or Qatar? What benefits come from using
this, or is there something someplace else that they can go to?
Bacon: Well, there are a variety of fueling points. One -- obviously,
one thing that commanders like to have is choice, so they're not
forced to go to the same place on a regular schedule, particularly in
an area like the Middle East. So we have worked hard to develop a way
to use a number of ports throughout the Middle East that best supports
our operations and that best supports our diplomacy in the area. And
so not every ship that refuels in the Middle East refuels in Aden,
obviously. There are other places to go.
Q: Ken, there are reports that an opposition group in Aden last year
-- in Yemen -- had been -- had publicly warned against the use by
American vessels of Aden. I'm wondering if you're aware of that
warning, and whether or not it figured into any kind of increased
apprehensions about using that particular port.
Bacon: I'm certainly aware of the published report. There --
throughout the world, we receive warnings frequently, and one of the
things intelligence people do is evaluate the seriousness of the
warnings, and they use a number of standards for deciding how
seriously to take a warning and whether to change our procedures based
on the warnings. One of the aspects they consider is the specificity
of the information and the source of the information, and the
likelihood that a described event could take place.
Without casting any information on this particular published report or
any sort of credibility, without shrouding it in any credibility, I'd
just like to say that we are constantly evaluating information. Some
is rumor and some is more significant, determined to be more
significant by our intelligence agencies. So this is something that
goes on all the time.
Q: Going back just for a moment to the eyewitness yesterday, the Army
major with the State Department, with the embassy over there, can you
clarify what he says he saw? As we understand it, two men stood up in
the boat shortly before the explosion. Did they stand at attention,
did they put their hands in the air, do we know if two men did stand
up and if so what they did? And were they the only two men aboard the
Bacon: I don't have anything to add to the reports on that yesterday.
Obviously, one of the things the FBI is going to do is talk to
everybody in a position to have seen what happened and try to put
together the best possible report. There's a -- I'm not casting any
aspersions on the major, but there are a lot of data points that have
to be checked, and the information has to be correlated before we can
make a -- give a full picture.
Q: Ken, I understand your previous comment about the collective
judgment that goes into a decision like engagement with a country like
Yemen, but asking you as a spokesman for the Pentagon, when was the
last time that policy was reviewed internally, and when was the last
time that the Pentagon made an opinion known on the risk-benefit
analysis of port calls in Yemen to the interagency process that
Bacon: I don't know the answer to that question.
Q: Do you have even a ballpark knowledge?
Bacon: I do not. Q: Can you take the question?
Bacon: No, I don't think that -- I don't think it's appropriate for me
to answer that question now, and I won't take it. I think that this is
the type of issue that will be sorted out in due time. But I don't
think it benefits anybody right now to answer that question. I don't
know the answer, and I'm not sure that --
Q: This is -- (inaudible) -- fact, Ken. This is not --
Bacon: Not necessarily. You know, there are a lot of ways to evaluate
this, and I don't have the information now.
Q: Let me ask a similar one, related though. For how many years did we
not do port calls or brief refueling stops in Yemen before we resumed
15 months ago?
Bacon: Well, the two Yemens mated, I guess is the way to say it,
joined together in 1990, as I understand it, and we had been working
with the country over a period of time. So I don't believe that there
had been port calls prior to the 15 to 18 months previous to this.
Q: And what --
Q: Ken --
Bacon: But I will double-check on that.
Q: When --
Bacon: (Aside.) Do you know that answer to that, Steve?
Staff: I believe that last port visit was in May of '98, but I don't
have the whole timeline of history of on-again-off-again access.
Q: Two sort of foreign policy-related questions: There is a published
report that the Navy or the Defense Department was proposing to go
further and to establish a dedicated naval replenishment-and-refueling
facility, that there had been discussions and planning about that. Is
Bacon: I'm not aware of that.
Q: Could you -- could you --
Bacon: Could be the case, but I'm not aware of it.
Q: Could you walk us through what the continuing justification is for
these maritime interception patrols, which the Cole was going to join?
I mean, there you were -- their initial purpose was to stop the
smuggling of Iraqi oil, but now, under U.N. Security Council
resolution, Iraq is able to export as much oil as it wants and indeed,
under U.N. Security Council resolution, it is being allowed to expend
hundred of millions of dollars every month to improve its oil export
capabilities. Why now are we continuing to try to stop oil smuggling?
Bacon: Well, that is a very pertinent question. And there are two ways
that Iraq can export oil. If it exports oil under the oil-for-food
program, the revenues from the oil sales are monitored by the U.N.,
and they are directed into humanitarian -- meeting humanitarian needs
in Iraq, and that could be food, it could be medical care, et cetera.
But they're strictly monitored by the U.N.
One of the reasons Saddam Hussein resisted enlisting in the
oil-for-food program for so long was that he didn't want U.N. monitors
or accountants green-eyeshading his money flow. The oil that he
smuggles out, frequently along the Iranian coast, is not monitored by
the U.N., and that money can go to rebuild his military, to build
palaces, to pay off his friends, his family members. It does not have
to go to meet the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people.
So these are two fundamentally different sources of revenue for the
country of Iraq. The U.N. revenue meets humanitarian -- the
U.N.-monitored revenue, under the oil-for-food program, meets
humanitarian needs. The other revenue meets Saddam Hussein's own
Q: Admiral Clark made the point yesterday that the way this event
unfolded, there wasn't anything that could be -- could have been done
on the Cole to stop it. Is there any concern in this building that
what's happened now has highlighted a vulnerability that the Navy has
around the world? I mean, anybody who's been to Norfolk or San Diego
knows that there's dozens of small craft buzzing around those harbors,
that often come within fairly close proximity of Navy ships. Is there
any concern that we've now seen a precursor to threats that we faced
around the world, including here in the United States?
Bacon: Well, I don't think it's any secret to you or anybody who's
covered the building that we've been concerned about terrorism for a
long period of time. We've seen it as an increasing risk.
Secretary Cohen has said on many occasions that at a time when our
military is unchallenged in its supremacy to other militaries in the
world, we have to face the possibility and threat of asymmetric
threats. Terrorist threats are part of asymmetric threats.
So we have been dealing in a world where terrorism is a rising
challenge for some period of time. George Tenet, the director of the
CIA, said to Congress recently that it's not a question of if we'll be
hit by terrorism, it's a question of when. And I think everybody in
this building has operated on that -- with that fear, that terrorism
is a threat that's out there and that could haunt us at some time.
We have to balance all the time, again, how we do our jobs with the
security concerns. And clearly we will do our best to learn from this
tragedy, but it doesn't mean we can stop deploying our ships to areas
around the world where we're trying to bring stability. And it would
be an absolute victory for terrorists, if they're behind this attack,
if we pulled back and stopped doing our job in the Middle East or
elsewhere in the world. And we are not going to give them that
victory. We are going to continue to do our work, but we will try to
do it better and more safely. That is what we've been working on in
force protection. It's a constant battle to make it better and we will
continue that battle.
Q: Ken, related to that, you say you haven't made a decision yet on
whether to continue using Aden as a refueling stop. But in light of
this incident, has any fleet-wide direction gone out regarding either
not refueling at the present time independently, or to do new
procedures for refueling?
Bacon: Not that I'm aware of. I mean, this is the type of thing that
we'll have to look at. But ships have to refuel. And as the CNO made
clear yesterday, we don't have enough oilers, nor have we ever had
enough oilers, to dispatch an oiler with every destroyer or frigate
that travels alone.
Obviously the Navy will look at its procedures in light of what
happened here, but I don't believe that it's made any changes in its
operating procedures yet.
Q: Did either of the two ships that were sent there, the Hawes or the
-- what's the other one?
Bacon: Donald Cook.
Q: The Cook -- the Donald Cook, did they receive any sort of harbor
assistance from small craft when they arrived in Aden harbor --
Bacon: I don't know the answer to that question.
Staff: Only one is -- Hawes is anchored in the harbor. No assistance
required when you anchor. It's not the same as mooring to a number of
buoys. And Cook is standing off the harbor underway.
Q: Is there a security perimeter now around the Cole -- 100 or 200
yards; nobody can get close to the ship at this point?
Bacon: Well, I don't think we'll reveal the exact security steps that
have been taken for the Cole, but you can be sure that the Marines and
the other people there are providing enhanced security. That's why
Q: There is a security perimeter around it?
Bacon: I said I'm not going to talk about the specifics, but the
Marines are there --
Q: Anyone in a boat now in the harbor would realize, if they're
afloat, that there is a security perimeter. I don't think you're
revealing anything classified by telling us that.
Bacon: Any more questions?
Q: Yes, just related to that. I know yesterday Secretary Cohen said
that the ships were -- other ships that were deployed were supposed to
go off to sea. Is that precautionary measure still in effect? Are the
ships off in the sea; are they away from the ports and what not?
Bacon: That is still in effect.
Q: Which ships are those? Just in the Gulf region, or --
Bacon: It was in the 5th Fleet region, yes.
Q: Does the Cole have self-protection capability now with its limited
power, or is it relying on the Hawes, I guess it is, for that kind of
Bacon: That's a question that's too technical for me to answer, but
obviously, the Hawes provides protection.
Q: Is the Aegis functioning?
Bacon: I -- I can't answer that.
Staff: (Off mike.)
Staff: We know what her combat system -- she has combat systems
capability but, I mean, the kind of threat that this is, it's really
small arms and 50-caliber machine guns which are fully operational.
Q: What about the -- (inaudible word)?
Staff: I -- I don't know any statistics on that one.
Bacon: Thank you.
Q: Thank you.