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Special Event

Pentagon Spokesman Discusses Aftermath of USS Cole Bombing

Aired October 13, 2000 - 2:38 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Go live to the Pentagon. Spokesman Ken Bacon is briefing reporters.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

KEN BACON, PENTAGON SPOKESMAN: ... every day that they perform duty in our interest. 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 underway 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 we'll give you the final details as soon as we have those.

QUESTION: 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's 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, 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 damage to the hull. So it's important that they have reinforcements there.

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 far.

A NAVCENT 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 anti-terrorism support team, I believe -- security team, Fleet Anti-Terrorism Security Team.

QUESTION: Fifty, 5-0?

BACON: Five-0, right.

And there're 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're arrived as well. There is a -- pardon?

QUESTION: 5-0?

BACON: Five-0.

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 Marlboro (ph), 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've 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 your questions.

QUESTION: Ken, a clarification on the first team, the federal one. 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 movable team that can go in to an emergency situation abroad, set up a 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.

QUESTION: But the physical security is with the Marines, then?

BACON: Yes.

QUESTION: On board the ship?

QUESTION: 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. 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.

QUESTION: What does FEST stand for again?

BACON: I believe it stands for federal emergency support team.

QUESTION: Could you tell us...

QUESTION: Foreign.

BACON: Foreign Emergency Support Team. QUESTION: 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're 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 questions about the investigation are better directed to the always forthcoming FBI.

QUESTION: On this subject, there have been reports alleging that the government of Yemen had been infiltrated by agents of some Osama bin Laden or others. Once they got the advanced notice of 10 or 12 days, they were able to move toward and put their own men boats. Any indication that there was any of that that happened?

BACON: I think it's premature to comment on that right 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 right now.

QUESTION: Ken, as it was explained yesterday, the U.S. Navy informed the embassy they're coming into a port where they don't have this standing military presence, then 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 vet the individual employees of these firms, conducts any kind of background security check?

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's 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 destabilizing the ship.

QUESTION: Do you anticipate either a Navy or a DOD investigation into the security arrangements that were in place there at Yemen? 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 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 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.

ALLEN: Ken Bacon at the Pentagon giving us the latest on this day after the bombing that has affected the USS Cole. He says the remaining wounded should be moved to Ramstein Air Base in Germany within the next 12 hours, again reiterating that seven sailors were killed, 10 are missing and presumed dead, 38 are wounded. Plans to bring the dead back home to the U.S. are incomplete.

Of the USS Cole, he says it's stable. It has some power restored, some communications via satellite. Navy divers report the keel is in good shape, but the examination continues.

There are two U.S. ships in the area: important, he says, because the crew of the Cole is tired and distraught, and they need reinforcements from other U.S. sailors. And other support teams have arrived in Yemen to provide security and help: doctors, nurses, a federal emergency security team, members of the FBI, Justice Department, State Department there, and the Marines have arrived -- the anti-terrorist security team of the Marines.

And he also said that the United States has received solid support from the French and the British, and that the Yemeni government is cooperating fully in the investigation.

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