|UPDATE: U.S.S. COLE|
October 25, 2000
JIM LEHRER: Now an update about the attack two weeks ago on the U.S.S.
Cole in Yemen. Terence Smith reports.
TERENCE SMITH: As the latest round of hearings on the U.S.S. Cole got under way today, members of the Senate Armed Services Committee said they were concerned that warnings about dangers near Yemen may have been ignored. Seventeen sailors were killed on October 12 in a huge explosion while the warship was in the port of Aden for refueling. Thirty-nine others were injured. As the investigation continues, Navy officials said this week that a small boat maneuvered close to the Cole almost two hours after the ship had finished docking, not at the time of docking, as first reported. Kansas Senator Pat Roberts, who is also a member of the Senate's Select Committee on Intelligence, said a Pentagon intelligence officer in the region resigned the day after the U.S.S. Cole was attacked. Roberts said that the officer, who worked for the defense intelligence agency, disclosed in a letter that he resigned because some of his warnings went unheeded by higher officials.
SEN. PAT ROBERTS: My question is this: Were all intelligence warning notices available to the operational decision makers? I refer to a letter that has been provided to the intelligence committee by an intelligence officer within the DIA Office of Counter-Terrorism Analysis. It is a letter of resignation. This individual spent six hours with the intelligence committee staff. I quote from excerpts from the letter. His resignation was due to significant analytical differences with his management. He refers to a defense intelligence assessment dated in June. He indicates his analysis could have played a critical role in DIA's ability to predict and warn of a potential terrorist attack against U.S. interests, and goes further to say he is very troubled by the many indicators contained in the analysis that suggest two or three other major acts could potentially occur in the coming weeks or months. If the intelligence community had issued a defense warning for the potential of attacks on U.S. warships in the region by small boats, without listing a specific location or ship, what action would have been taken or should have been taken concerning the Cole port stop and force protection procedures?
GEN. TOMMY FRANKS: Sir, I'll take that one. Had we received a specific... And that specific message could have had to do with location or it could have had to do with, as you said, ships, or it could have been with reference to land forces-- then our measures and our readiness conditions would have been increased.
TERENCE SMITH: That was not the only concern raised today. Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions cited a press report of a possible intelligence warning that terrorists were planning an attack in the region. The report arrived the day of the assault on the Cole.
SEN. JEFF SESSIONS: Now we see in the "Washington Times" that the National Security Council's warning arrived too late. The sub-headline: "Tardy Transmission at Fault." General Franks, had you general franks, had there been a warning similar to the one that's mentioned in today's "Washington Times," saying that there was "operational planning, a top-secret message"? Had that promptly gotten out to you, would that have likely caused you to reevaluate whether or not to dock this ship in the location it docked?
GEN. TOMMY FRANKS: Senator, we absolutely would have taken that information and reacted accordingly. We would have been, as we always are, looking for those specific factors. And if that message contained those specific factors that indicated not only intent, but that there was an attack imminent, yes, Senator, we would have taken immediate action.
WALTER SLOCOMBE: But Senator, I want to add what is clear from the General's statement, that I have seen the messages in question, and I think it is highly questionable whether those messages constitute what the "Washington Times" story says they constitute, in terms of specificity.
SPOKESMAN: And we will cover that in closed session.
SEN. JEFF SESSIONS: We will. But we know one thing: One agent has submitted his resignation over this. He was that concerned about it. I think it's a significant issue, Mr. Chairman.
TERENCE SMITH: Reporter: During a second hearing this afternoon before the House Armed Services Committee, Undersecretary Slocombe said the intelligence report referred to in the press warned neither of an imminent attack on a U.S. ship nor mentioned Yemen specifically.