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Special Event

Pentagon Holds News Briefing on High Alert Status of U.S. Forces in Persian Gulf

Aired October 24, 2000 - 1:36 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: We're taking you live to the Pentagon where Rear Adm. Craig Quigley is taking reporters' questions about the high alert for U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

REAR ADM. CRAIG QUIGLEY, PENTAGON SPOKESMAN: ... in both Qatar and Bahrain. We did that, as we do with all such continuous assessments, based on a receipt of credible -- or, I'm sorry, specific threats against U.S. forces in those two areas. But in some cases, and this one in particular, the creditability of the threat information was simply unknown to us.

But given the circumstances, the recent attack on the Cole, and the generally higher level of threat throughout that region, we thought it was simply the prudent thing to do, to go to that higher threat condition in those two specific areas.

As I'm sure you all are aware, the local commander, we feel, is the best person to have a fundamental understanding of the threats that are facing his or her area of responsibility. So we put a great store in that local commander's judgment and initiative to go to a higher level of a threat condition if they think that's the appropriate thing to do.

In this case, given the receipt of the threat information against U.S. forces and the recent attack on the Cole, that initiative in those two areas was supported by the Central Command commander, and that's where we find ourselves today.

QUESTION: You say the creditability is in question of these threats. Where were the threats received? Were they intercepted by intelligence or were they direct threats being made to the military or what?

QUIGLEY: I will say that they come from intelligence sources, but I hope you'll forgive me if I am not forthcoming in being more specific in the detailed composition of those threats. They were specific enough -- and again, given particularly the backdrop of recent events in that area, to again say to those local commanders that this is the prudent course of action to take, and we would certainly support their initiative.

QUESTION: Craig, you made it sound like the initiative was started by the commanders in theater. Is that correct?

QUIGLEY: The information on the threats that was perceived by the intelligence community against the U.S. forces in those areas, is communicated not only to the local commanders but up and down the chain of command. So it was not like it was only shared with the local commanders.

But given the information that those local commanders have at their disposal, this is a continuous iterative process, I guess I would call it. And there's the discussions with the local commanders, with the theater commander, CINCCENT, General Franks, and his staff, the Joint Staff. This is a collaborative process in each and every case, and that was certainly the case here.

QUESTION: Last night, some of the people that I talked to, some of whom you are intimately familiar with, said that Incirlik was on that list.

QUIGLEY: That was a report that was just simply wrong. Incirlik was not on that list.

QUESTION: And to continue along the same line, parts of Saudi Arabia were mentioned by the same people.

QUIGLEY: Also incorrect, I'm sorry to say. The two that have gone to the higher threat condition, the Delta, are Qatar and Bahrain.

QUESTION: So nowhere in Saudi Arabia or Turkey are any installations at Delta?

QUIGLEY: Correct.

QUESTION: Can you tell us a little bit about how many U.S. forces are involved in this and what they will now do, what sort of action they will now take?

QUIGLEY: Well, in each of the threat conditions, where you go up with Alpha, Bravo, Charlie and Delta, each is a more restrictive set of security precautions that you take on the local level. They are increasingly restrictive in the movement of people, in the checking of visitors, in the checking of vehicles, in the offset of allowed parking next to facilities, buildings and the like. So each of them is progressively more stringent in the application of security procedures. Each is also more difficult to sustain for an indefinite period of time. But you do what you need to do.

And if you really do have information that you think is specific and credible and presents a real possibility of danger to your forces at the local level, you're going to take the prudent course of action, the conservative course of action, and go to that higher level.

QUESTION: And the numbers involved?

QUIGLEY: The numbers of the people that we're talking about here in the three -- or the two areas, I'm sorry. There's approximately 1,100 U.S. military personnel in Bahrain. QUESTION: Plus civilians?

QUIGLEY: To that, I would add family members, and I don't have a number for family members on that.

(CROSSTALK)

QUIGLEY: Plus family members, that's right.

Contractors would also not be included in that, as they are not necessarily permanently stationed there.

QUESTION: Does that include ship crews?

QUIGLEY: No, this does not include ship crews. No, these are principally the U.S. Fifth Fleet staff. But there are others; there's a Naval support activity that supports the fleet operations and whatnot.

QUESTION: But if a ship is in port in Bahrain, they would also come under this Delta, right?

QUIGLEY: Yes, any U.S. forces in either of the two areas would, by definition, be included in the higher threat level.

QUESTION: But no ships are in port, right?

QUIGLEY: No ships are in port. Vessels in the Fifth Fleet will remain at sea for the foreseeable future.

Now also 1,100 in Bahrain, fewer than 50 in Qatar. So that's quite small.

Yes?

QUESTION: Turkey did not go to -- or Incirlik did not go to Delta, but did they not recently heighten their security alert status?

QUIGLEY: They have gone to Charlie. They did that, I want to say two weekends ago, but I'm not absolutely sure on the date, but it has been recently, since the attack on the Cole.

QUESTION: And what was that based on?

QUIGLEY: Again, specific information that the local commanders there in the region of Incirlik Air Base felt was enough of a reason to have them do the cautious course of action and go to the higher level. And when did Bahrain and Qatar go to Delta?

QUIGLEY: Over the weekend, I believe.

QUESTION: Saturday, Sunday.

QUIGLEY: Yes.

QUESTION: Craig, was the threat specific enough to indicate a particular type of military target or was it a ship or a...

QUIGLEY: I'm sorry, I'm just not going to go into any of the specifics of the information that we took to base that decision. To acknowledge the specifics of how much we know and from where we would know it is counterproductive. And, I'm sorry, I can't do that.

QUESTION: Just to finish up Carl's question, a number of U.S....

WATERS: All right, we have learned the latest from the Pentagon. As you can tell from Rear Adm. Craig Quigley's statements to reporter, not a lot is being divulging -- being divulged about the specific -- what are called "credible threats" against U.S. forces in Bahrain and in Qatar. The U.S. Fifth Fleet went up to Delta, Delta alert, which is the highest security alert, over the weekend. We reported it last night. Those forces remain on Delta alert.

There are four stages of security precautions taken, Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta. We're at Delta, which affects movements of people, visitors, vehicles, movements and where they park, some such things, each level more stringent in the application of those security procedures. The threats were received from intelligence sources and passed up and down the chain of command and forces remain on alert. But even that's a dangerous situation. We will continue to keep watch and pass along what we know, what we can pass along, as this story develops.

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