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USS Cole Attack: Navy Honors Fallen Sailors; Authorities Report Progress in Criminal InvestigationAired October 18, 2000 - 1:01 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: With the investigation continuing into last week's deadly attack on the USS Cole, thousands turned out for a memorial service this morning at the Cole's home base, Norfolk, Virginia. Injured crew members, some still on stretchers, joined Navy personnel, family members and dignitaries, including, on Pier 12 of the Norfolk Naval Base, President Clinton.
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WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We know we will never know them as you did or remember them as you will: the first time you saw them in uniform, or the last time you said good- bye. All these very different Americans, all with their different stories, their lifelines and love ties, answered the same call of service and found themselves on the USS Cole headed for the Persian Gulf, where our forces are working to keep peace and stability in a region that could explode and disrupt the entire world.
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WATERS: Seventeen sailors died in the Cole attack; 39 others were injured.
NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Authorities report progress in the investigation into the Cole attack.
CNN military affairs correspondent Jamie McIntyre joins us from the Pentagon with that -- Jamie.
JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN MILITARY AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Natalie, U.S. officials say that there has been some progress in the investigation, and also at the same time more progress in recovering the remains that were still left on board the Cole. The remains of eight U.S. sailors will be making their way back to the United States, leaving Yemen at this hour -- scheduled. That includes six sets of remains the Navy announced that were recovered yesterday, along with two additional sets that were recovered last night. That leaves four bodies still on the USS Cole as the work continues to get all of the bodies off and then prepare the ship for its return to Norfolk.
Meanwhile, there have been some significant leads in the case, primarily because of the work of the government of Yemen in finding a small apartment in which bomb-making materials were found. The U.S. says, actually, it's pleasantly surprised by the high level of cooperation it's getting.
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SAMUEL BERGER, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: The best thing at this point is that we are receiving extraordinary cooperation from the government of Yemen. They are not just letting us investigate, they are investigation with us in a vigorous way. That has produced a number of significant developments.
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MCINTYRE: Meanwhile, the Pentagon is on the verge of announcing that two retired senior military officers will head an independent review panel to look at the force protection procedures that were in place for the USS Cole when it pulled into port, with a particular eye toward looking ahead about what -- how security can be improved for U.S. ships refueling at overseas ports. Sources tell us that one of those senior officers is the recently retired form commander-in-chief of the U.S. Joint Forces Command down there in Norfolk, retired Adm. Hal Gehman. Another retired officer has -- is also being asked to join him in that effort -- Natalie.
ALLEN: And Jamie, you talk about significant gains with the investigation. Have there been any terrorist groups mentioned as possible groups behind this or any witnesses mentioned to what happened just before the explosion?
MCINTYRE: Well, one thing I should make clear is, one, is the Pentagon has made it clear that it is not involved in the criminal investigation. The FBI is the lead agency on that. Nevertheless, Defense Secretary William Cohen has indicated that they're looking at a number of possible terrorist groups that could be suspects in this incident, including some of those back connections with Osama bin Laden, who the United States has named as essentially one of its prime suspects whenever there's a terrorist attack against U.S. interests.
But they stress at this point they don't have any evidence to make that kind of a charge, and they say they're going to leave the criminal investigation up to the FBI. In fact, the FBI director, Louis Freeh, is leaving for the region, expected to arrive there sometime soon in order to take a first-hand look at the progress of the investigation -- Natalie.
ALLEN: Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon. Thanks, Jamie.
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