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Pentagon Holds News Briefing on Submarine CollisionAired February 15, 2001 - 1:46 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: The Pentagon briefing has just begun. Rear Admiral Craig Quigley is talking about U.S. aid to El Salvador, and we expect many questions about the submarine accident and other matters. Let's listen to what the rear admiral has to say.
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REAR ADM. CRAIG QUIGLEY, U.S. NAVY: ... through March 4, organized under the auspices of the Department of State's International Visitor Program. They're in Washington for meetings with various government and media representatives and will travel for two weeks to several locations in the United States to examine the role of the print media in our society.
Welcome to you all.
With that, I'll take your questions.
QUESTION: Craig, I understand the weather has held up starting to use Scorpio in Hawaii...
QUIGLEY: Yes. Unfortunately, yes, the weather is lousy right now in the area where the Ehime Maru went down, about 30 knots of wind, six to 12 foot seas. And because of those lousy weather conditions we have not been able to deploy the Super Scorpio or the side-scanning sonar to bring them into play. They're ready to go, they are on board a vessel called the C-Commando -- that's C-Commando, letter C dash Commando -- and they're ready to go. But right now the vessel is in port because of the lousy weather.
A second system similar to the first is en route. It is being flown from the East Coast of the United States. And it has a little bit deeper depth capability, but basically that's not the issue here. It has more than 1,800-foot capability. So you're going to have two ROVs and two side-scanning sonars that will be in position in Hawaii in the next day or so for redundancy purposes.
QUIGLEY: We hope that the weather will clear as quickly as it can. The weather predictions are that that won't happen, however, until probably Saturday. And so these high seas and high winds are predicted to remain in place until then. We'll just keep our fingers crossed and get out there as quickly as we can.
QUESTION: What are the plans of the Defense Department to release the list of names of the VIP visitors on the submarine?
QUIGLEY: We have a process that for that is in place and ongoing right now. I don't believe the names will be released, at least until the investigative process is complete, but we have received several requests under the Freedom of Information Act for those names. The commander of submarine Pacific has them. He has the proper authority to make that determination, and we'll let that process play out.
QUESTION: Can you walk us up through the steps, the legal process, of the investigation, the Navy's investigation setting aside the NTSB part but the Navy's part. Admiral Griffiths, where is he in this process...
QUIGLEY: I'm sorry, say that again.
QUESTION: Admiral Griffiths.
QUIGLEY: Admiral Griffiths.
QUESTION: Right. As to what process his investigation -- the steps and who he reports to when he's finished his report.
QUIGLEY: Admiral Griffiths is the officer that's been assigned to do this investigation. He will present his findings to the submarine commander in the Pacific and then to the Pacific Fleet commander. Beyond that, I'm not sure. We'll just have to see where we go from there.
It depends on the outcome of his preliminary look. You could find yourself going in a couple of different directions here. You could go from this to a judge advocate general manual investigation, a JAG manual investigation, if that's what this -- basically this quick look takes you. You could go to a board of inquiry. You could go to a court of inquiry. You could conceivably go to a court martial via the Article 32 process.
So the process that Admiral Griffiths is in charge of now is truly a quick look, designed to take only a few days to accurately point you in the right direction for what the next steps should be.
QUESTION: And by quick, do you mean literally tomorrow or the next day?
QUIGLEY: I can't give you an exact time frame. But this is not going to have the level of specificity and detail that you would expect, for instance, from a JAG manual investigation or something of a more formal nature. This is designed as the first step in the process to get you in the right direction as to where we go from here.
QUESTION: Can you explain why the list of names is not being released? Can you go through that with us again?
QUIGLEY: Two reasons: One, it is the request of the individuals that their names not be released. We try to honor their request for privacy in this regard, as much as we can. The second reason, I think, is one that the NTSB and we both agree to, and that is, as long as the investigative process is in place, it's just not appropriate to release the names of the individuals. So that the investigations that are ongoing now and those that might yet come very possibly will want to interview and get information from the individuals, as well as crew members.
But this is information that needs to be treated carefully, and we have a process in place for that. And it's a very deliberative, methodical process, and we need to stick with that.
QUESTION: Will the people who participated in the interview this morning, then, ruin your deliberative process by stating their story?
QUIGLEY: That was their choice and theirs alone.
QUESTION: But wait a minute, you said that it would interfere with the deliberative process for any of these civilians to...
QUIGLEY: For us to release the names is not a normal part of the process during an investigation at this stage. They chose to do what they did on television this morning. We're in no position to deny them that opportunity if that's what they choose to do.
QUESTION: Did they consult with anyone in the Navy prior to making that public disclosure?
QUIGLEY: I don't know.
QUESTION: Did they ask the Navy not even to release the fact that they were on the submarine? I mean, given the sensitive nature of this, why didn't the Navy say right away that there were civilians on that submarine? Why did they wait days to do that?
QUIGLEY: I think as soon as the information was available, that information was released.
QUESTION: You mean Saturday?
QUESTION: Who made the decision -- was it Admiral Blair -- not to release the names of the guests when they were requested?
QUIGLEY: The guests made that request of the Navy right away...
QUESTION: I want to know who made the decision not release the names.
QUIGLEY: I don't know if it was a single individual. This is, again, a process you don't normally -- I mean, if you had asked me for the list of the crew members of a United States ship, I would not necessarily provide that to you, for a different set of reasons.
But you have a process in place to have an investigation that needs to be thorough and comprehensive.
And ultimately, the results of that investigation will be made public. But it's not something...
QUESTION: I want to ask you the simple question of who made the decision not to release the names.
QUIGLEY: I'll see if I can find out.
QUESTION: The other day, Craig, you mentioned the privacy rights of these people, and now you're talking about a different rationale, that being concern about the investigation. Could you spell out what your understanding of their privacy rights are?
QUIGLEY: Well, I mentioned the privacy rights on Tuesday. I said that today, as well, OK. That's not different. But there's a second reason, and that's as I've explained.
It's our position that an individual does not surrender their rights to privacy when they walk aboard a naval vessel. It's that simple.
QUESTION: But what rights of privacy did those individuals have to begin with, given that they're not government employees?
QUIGLEY: They are precisely that. They are not government employees; they are private citizens. And if they choose to not make themselves available, as the three did this morning, for instance. Again, that's their call. We try to honor their request.
QUESTION: If you can't tell us the names of these people at this point, can you identify them in terms of who they are? When you say they're private citizens, are they employees of a defense contractor, are they major contributors to a political campaign? I mean, can you characterize in any way who these people are?
QUIGLEY: I can't. I'll see if I can get that information from the Navy.
QUESTION: And how did it come about that they ended up on this orientation submarine cruise? We understand that there was some involvement by the former U.S. Pacific commander, Richard Macke. Did he intervene on that?
QUIGLEY: I can't answer that one either. I'm sorry.
QUESTION: Will the U.S. government formally ask us to either attempt to salvage or do body recoveries? And at that depth, wouldn't it be rather difficult and somewhat unprecedented?
QUIGLEY: You said U.S. government. Do you mean Japanese government?
QUESTION: The Japanese government, have they asked us? Have they asked the United States? QUIGLEY: I think the prime minister has made views pretty clear on that, publicly.
QUESTION: Has there been anything beyond that, though, like did a formal written request come?
QUIGLEY: Not that I'm aware of.
QUESTION: And are we acting that and moving ahead?
QUIGLEY: That's enough. I mean, we understand their views on this and their preferences. We need to do this in the right order. First is to be able to get into the water with the ROVs and our underwater sensor capability to see, to locate the vessel, to determine the condition of the vessel. And then we'll take a look at the feasibility from there. But first steps first.
We're very frustrated by the inability to get the ROV in the water right now.
QUESTION: Nothing is off the table? So anything is in the realm of possibility depending on what you find?
QUIGLEY: Absolutely. Absolutely true.
QUESTION: Could you explain the significance of this submarine test training area that is indicated on maritime navigation charts for the area, and whether or not that in any way affects -- whether this collision occurred inside or outside that area and whether or not that is significant in any way?
QUIGLEY: I don't have those details. I'm sorry. I'm sure that is an element that the investigation is looking at.
QUESTION: Does the Navy spokesman over here know something about it?
REAR ADM. STEVE PIETROPAOLI, U.S. NAVY: I have not seen it plotted, the location of the accident, vis-a-vis that small box on the chart that talks about a submarine test and evaluation area. But that should not be confused with the submarine's assigned operating area.
The submarine's assigned operating area is far broader than that and has, frankly, been not released, publicly. It's classified information. But it is far broader. It was not outside its assigned operating area.
That box on the chart that has been there for a number of decades is informational. It doesn't reduce the commanding officer's responsibility to ensure traffic is clear before he surfaces. It doesn't burden the surface vessels in any way to stay clear of that area. It is not an exclusion zone. It's simply information so that if you were making the approach on that port in Hawaii and you saw in the chart that this was a submarine test and evaluation area and then you looked out and saw a submarine, you wouldn't be surprised.
QUESTION: Can you explain Admiral Macke's role in this?
PIETROPAOLI: Admiral Macke, as is often the case with active duty or retired flag and general officers, members of Congress, industrial leaders, defense officials, others, frequently bring to the attention of the Navy groups of individuals who are interested in getting out to sea, to see our sailors, to see our Navy and what the Navy does.
In this case, Admiral Macke did bring to the attention of the Submarine Force Pacific that a group of individuals from the Missouri Battleship Memorial Association were interested in getting out to see Navy submariners and our young sailors doing their job.
We are very proud of our efforts to bring Americans out to see their Navy, including many of the people in this room. No one outside of the Navy can arrange a trip to one of our ships. That is the province of our naval commanders. But if people on the outside in the civilian world bring to our attention groups of great Americans who want to see their Navy, we take that information aboard and we process the requests.
QUESTION: Steve, while we've got you here, I misspoke earlier on the civilians. Why did the Navy wait for days to announce that civilians were at the controls when the submarine went to the surface, given the sensitivity of the situation?
PIETROPAOLI: Right. Agreed. We made it known Saturday, I think it was, Friday night this happened, fairly late on the East Coast, Saturday, as soon as we had our first press briefing, that civilians had been aboard and that this was a not-usual cruise.
The issue of civilians at the control stations was not known, frankly, back here by me until early the following week. I don't know when it was known in the Pacific. Clearly, in hindsight, we could have done a much better job of making that information known not only to you all, but to the NTSB. We had many, many things we were working on. Within the government, that information was briefed back, but I think people were assuming that the Navy would be the right ones to make that available, and we didn't do a good job of getting that out sooner.
QUESTION: I just want to go back to the submarine training area, because that's what brought you up here in the first place. But as long as you're talking about in hindsight, in hindsight, wouldn't it be better to have a -- you said this is not an exclusion zone, it doesn't keep vessels away. But in hindsight, wouldn't it be perhaps better to have an area to practice these exercises in which surface ships would be alerted that there's a possibility of a submarine.
PIETROPAOLI: Here's the thing. These emergency surfacing exercises, drills, are done with some frequently by our submarines. You might expect they would. They may have to execute this procedure in an emergency with a few seconds' notice. It's a kind of thing, if you're a submarine, and you're a submariner, you need to be able to do without thinking, under pressure, on a moment's notice. So we try to practice it whenever we can. Is there is a value in showing people that are on board the submarine the skill and dedication and some of the risks of submarines? Sure, but we need to practice it either way.
Your point about having it in specified areas of the ocean, one, would limit the times we could practice. But most importantly, we do this on a regular basis. We do it safely. There are very, very comprehensive procedures. Are they foolproof? Clearly not. Are they comprehensive? Yes.
What went wrong in this case is precisely what both the Navy investigation and the NTSB investigation are trying to find out. But I think it's premature to start talking about restricting where this is going to be done, if it's done properly. By a long history of conducting these kinds of operations, we've been able to do them quite safely and quite effectively. We'll have to see what the investigation tells us about what happened here.
QUESTION: I think it was on Jamie's network, Admiral Demars this morning said something about the control of the size of the group of visitors is sometimes a factor to be considered in the element of risk. What are your thoughts about...
PIETROPAOLI: There is an element to be considered. And I can tell you that on both coasts, the Submarine Force Pacific and the Submarine Force in the Atlantic, they do consider that. Clearly, a submarine is cramped quarters. We have to meter the number of people we put on board. But it is by no means uncommon to have 15 to 20 people in a group on board for a day trip. Obviously, more difficult to try to do a group that size overnight. Accommodations are simply not available to berth them. But for a same day in and out, 15 to 20 is not unusual.
QUESTION: That was exactly what I was going to ask.
QUESTION: First question: Could you please identify the government...
PIETROPAOLI: He's going to be here to talk about some of the diving salvage operations. He is our expert from the Naval Sea Systems Command.
He can talk to you about the systems we have out there, which, unfortunately, we have been stymied in our efforts to get into the water in the last 24 hours because of the bad weather, which primarily does not affect -- so all of you know -- the sea-keeping of the ship that's carrying these systems, but the ability to safely deploy the system without beating it against the ship.
QUESTION: I actually had one other question. Can you tell me, since this incident, has the Navy changed any of the procedures for emergency blows? Have you stopped them? Have you changed any of your procedures or policies on embarks?
PIETROPAOLI: Obviously, we can't afford to stop practicing a maneuver that is critical to our safety. I can say that both in submarine force, the Pacific and Atlantic, throughout the submarine force, they, as always you would expect them to do in the wake of an instance like this, even before we have all the facts, will review their procedures to ensure that they feel, particularly in the embarkation of civilian guests, that they can continue to do that as safely as possible.
We have a long track record of many, many people in this room safely embarking our submarines and going through some of these same procedures.
That said, it's incumbent upon us to take a round turn.
So, yes, both the submarine force in the Pacific and the Atlantic are looking at the procedures and ensuring, on the side of prudence, that they are not doing anything -- they're still continuing embarks, that program continues. But in the conduct of those embarks, they're going to take extra care to ensure that they're done completely safely.
QUESTION: Admiral Pietropaoli, since you don't exactly know what happened in this incident, analogous to an aircraft incident or something, since you don't know what happened, have you changed anything in blow procedures...
PIETROPAOLI: No, ma'am, not in the procedures itself.
Again, the issue here -- first of all, on the civilians, as Secretary Rumsfeld said, there's no indication at this point in the investigation that the civilians had any impact on the outcome. We'll continue to look at that.
Secondly, on the blow procedures themselves, the emergency surfacing appears to have been conducted the way it should be conducted, in terms of the submarine came to the surface in a hurry, which is what's supposed to happen in emergency surfacing procedure.
PIETROPAOLI: So changing that procedure is not indicated, at least by what we know now.
In terms of the review that you do prior to surfacing the ships, the extent to which that was done, the sufficiency with which that was done, and the effectiveness of that, is what is precisely the meat of the investigation. Until we have some indication that here is where we need to fix it, we do continue frequently to fly airplanes while we're investigating an airplane accident. Unless we have some indication of what the problem is, other than to take general precautions, extra care and due care, as we always do, it's premature to talk about stopping emergency surfacing drills.
QUESTION: Admiral, you saw the interview on NBC with these two civilians who were on board...
PIETROPAOLI: Most of it, anyway.
QUESTION: ... as millions of Americans probably did. What do you take away from what they said in terms of, does it in any way fill in some pieces of what's an incomplete picture of what happened? And does it, in any way, point to explaining what went wrong in this situation?
PIETROPAOLI: Not for me. There were pieces of information that these individuals, by their personal experience, relayed that I didn't have. As I think most of you know from our efforts on the USS Cole, the chief of naval operations, secretary of the navy, both for good, legal reasons of not interfering with ongoing investigations from Washington, and for practical reasons of the difficulty of adjusting things with a 7,000-mile screwdriver, do not reach out into the midst of the investigation and pull back information prematurely. They will be in the change of reviews that comes forward from the Navy investigation in the Pacific, but they do not reach out there and try to extract information on a daily basis. We don't think it's helpful to the investigative process.
There were facts that were brought-out facts. There were experiences that were relayed to America this morning by these civilians that were on board the ship that I thought were probably very helpful for many Americans in understanding what was happening inside that sub. So for those people coming forward at their desire, that's good. I did not know, for example, about the television screen that they talked about, as part of the investigation. We have that capability. It's not necessarily engaged. I didn't know that that had been engaged. I heard that there were no videotapes, from the NTSB.
PIETROPAOLI: Again, it's not unusual not to have tapes in, unless you're gathering intelligence information.
So there were some things. And that's part of the challenge. Everyone wants transparency. Transparency is a good thing in investigations. The NTSB does a great job of providing daily updates. We're a little different in the Navy and in the military than the NTSB. NTSB is charged with finding out what happened and making some recommendations.
In the Navy, we not only have to find out what happens, we're responsible for making it work afterwards. We're responsible for taking the accountability actions, if any are appropriate. We're responsible for the procedures and the administrative actions that might be appropriate afterwards.
It's critical for us, as both the investigators and the people who have to make it right make it work afterwards, that we safeguard the integrity of the process, or we could be constrained in what steps we can take later. It's different. I know it's difficult for people to understand.
Craig has done a great of explaining on the list. We haven't made a decision. I've seen a lot of reports saying the Navy refused to release it. We haven't refused anything yet. We've received the request 48 hours ago. They are being considered. There are privacy issues here for the people involved. There are investigative equities. They need to be measured.
You have criticized people in the past for releasing information of a private nature about people without consulting the legal authorities to see if it was appropriate. We think it's a good idea to do that first.
Did I answer the question before I got on speech?
QUESTION: Steve, on these civilians who were at the controls on the sub, where they actually controlling the submarine? Were they being told of second-by-second what to do or were they just sitting there and holding onto something and not...
PIETROPAOLI: Well, it's kind of all the above. In a technical sense, they had their hands on control surfaces at the control station. In a real sense, they were 100 percent the entire time -- many of you have done this procedure yourself, although perhaps not an emergency surfacing and driving the submarines, when you've embarked on submarines.
In a real sense, they have a fully qualified, very interested watch-stander, standing directly behind them over their shoulder, with their hands on your hands, ensuring that you don't have a sudden spasm and do something you should not do.
In this case, the function of the helmsman, which controls both the rudder and the bow planes, is essentially, during the emergency surface, to do nothing. You maintain rudder at midshifts, the rudder in a neutral position, and you maintain the bow planes at zero in a neutral position. So effectively, you're holding this airplane-type steering wheel, doing nothing with it. And the rest happens around you.
And the stern planesman has an very important role, which is a watch-stander, in terms of maintaining the angle of ascent. The helmsman and bow plane position is to maintain neutral on both those control surfaces.
The emergency blow switch, the other station which was manned by one of the civilians, is to -- as he described, I thought, quite well this morning -- push those switches, count out loud to 10, I believe he said, and then return them to the D-10 position under the close, direct supervision of a qualified watch-stander.
QUESTION: Is there any way to tell where or the maximum distance away from the submarine that the Japanese fishing vessel was at the time the Greeneville surfaced to take a look around and look for it, based on the speed of the...
PIETROPAOLI: Again, I have some information on this. I'm a little reluctant to talk about it, because I don't know to what extent the NTSB has even spoken about the actions of the Ehime Maru, at the time, in terms of her course and speed and that sort of thing. So I'm reluctant to get out ahead of both their investigation and ours.
But suffice it to say, if you just understand how objects move on the face of the ocean, they had to be, you know, within a few miles, since the time between doing your last look with the periscope, diving to the depth from which you're going to start your emergency surfacing and coming to the surface is a very short period of time, generally less than 10 minutes, as the witness this morning described, often in as little as five or six minutes.
And when we do that, we try to keep that time as short as possible, clearly, so that the surface picture doesn't change while we're under water.
QUESTION: Is that a policy?
PIETROPAOLI: Let me just get him back here.
QUESTION: I've been told that the range of the periscope is five miles. Is that correct?
PIETROPAOLI: I think that the range of the periscope is greater than five miles. Where you're really limited is the physics of the Earth. You have a horizon, which is the height of eye above the surface of the water is going to determine how far you can see at sea. So depending upon how high you get that periscope mast determines how far you can see.
I'm told that the visibility, from the Coast Guard reports, in the area at the time was about five nautical miles. But that, again, doesn't mean that at five miles you can't see anything beyond that; it just means your visibility beyond five miles is degraded.
QUESTION: Do you have any sense of whether the Japanese trawler was within that five-mile area?
PIETROPAOLI: That's 100 percent court of the investigation, and I won't comment on that.
QUESTION: Steve, in your run-through, if I tune you in right, it would follow that the guy sitting at the controls that were in the neutral position during the emergency blow would have been still sitting there when it collided with the fishing vessel. Is that correct?
QUESTION: So in other words there were people at the controls at the time of impact?
PIETROPAOLI: Correct. But remember there is no control really at that point in the sub's transition from being submerged to being on the surface. It is an Archimedes' principle, 100 percent.
QUESTION: So to get it right, we had one civilian at the helm's position, right?
PIETROPAOLI: Helm bow plane, correct.
QUESTION: One position in the bow planes?
PIETROPAOLI: No, that's the same position. Helm and bow plane are combined.
QUESTION: OK. So you said that the stern planes were operated by a regular sailor. At the point of impact, what jobs were the civilians sitting at?
PIETROPAOLI: The only seated person would be the helmsman's bow plane. The emergency blow switches are not a seated position; I believe they're over at the side on the control panel. Somebody who's been out there more recently than me can help me on that. I don't think it's a seat.
QUESTION: At the point of collision there was two civilians...
PIETROPAOLI: No, the emergency blow switches would have completed their task. They would have let loose the air to blow the main ballast tanks, put the switches back to the D-10, surfacing would have begun, they would have been standing there.
QUESTION: A civilian helmsman would be still sitting there...
PIETROPAOLI: Would be still sitting there.
QUESTION: ... at the point of impact.
PIETROPAOLI: That's right.
QUESTION: Steve, a couple things to just close the loop on it. The number of civilians, is it 15, and a Navy shore-based officer, making it 16, or was it 16 and a Navy shore-based officer?
PIETROPAOLI: My understanding -- and this is really something you should check with Admiral Spargo's (ph) office at CINCPAC Fleet. They're closer. This is part of the reason we're trying not to run that 7,000-mile screwdriver, so we don't get it wrong and have to come back, as I have had to do recently, and put out releases about what we meant to say. My understanding is their list says 16 civilians.
PIETROPAOLI: Fourteen of whom, I'm told, were members of this Missouri. The other was a sportswriter.
QUESTION: A sportswriter and then one more.
PIETROPAOLI: I don't have -- I think spouse of the sportswriter.
QUESTION: OK. And do sonars on board, do they record everything? Is that something they do?
PIETROPAOLI: That's part of the investigation. Normally, there are means, and some of this audiotape and some of this digitally recorded into hard drives and that sort of thing, but I just don't have the details on that. Perhaps, Pacific Fleet can help you on that.
QUESTION: Has there ever been another collision like this when doing an emergency blow procedure? I know there either have been incidents with civilian ships or...
PIETROPAOLI: I'm not aware of any collision during an emergency surfacing. Now, you know, I'm not a World War II historian. We've had submarines for a number of years, but I'm not aware of any.
QUESTION: Admiral, is there anything else you can say about the question of who made the decision not to comply with the request of the individuals not to have their names released?
PIETROPAOLI: Yes. You know, I don't know. I certainly supported that decision until we had a legal collab of both the privacy issues and the investigative issues. I think, in a technical sense, it would be Admiral Konetzni at SUBPAC to whom we had you all send your Freedom of Information Act requests.
And I think, up and down the chain of command on the Navy side, at least, for whom I can speak, there was an awareness that, although this may be releasable information, and we have to balance your interest in finding these people and asking them questions, which is what we're really talking about here. I mean, you want to know who they were, too. I understand that. But you want to find them and ask them questions so you can the kind of first-hand accounts that you got this morning. That's a legitimate interest on your part. They've asked us not to tell you who they are. OK, that's not controlling.
We also have normal rules under the Freedom of Information Act about not releasing documents that are part of the investigation. We can balance that and weigh that. We have some discretion here. But it shouldn't be something you say off the top of your head, "Oh, yes, set all those other values to zero, set your interest in finding these people to 100, and let's just, you know, put it out." That's not a -- with the tragic incident and with nine people who are still missing and being searched for as we speak, we owe them a little bit more considered response to how we put out information.
QUESTION: So to the best of your knowledge, did Admiral Macke have any -- express any opinion on that question?
PIETROPAOLI: I can't imagine a circumstance under which Admiral Macke would be consulted on, but I don't know.
QUESTION: There was a story in the newspaper this morning that a large number of these people are major contributors to the Republican Party.
(CROSSTALK) QUESTION: Indicating in that newspaper story that this -- well, that there is a different layer of politics involved in this particular group, more than just their contributions to the USS Missouri.
PIETROPAOLI: I can tell you from first-hand experience, that's not a question or a block we put on the questionnaire when we ask people to come out to sea. It may well be true; I don't know.
QUESTION: But this is not a selling of the Lincoln bedroom or something in this new administration?
PIETROPAOLI: Do we have a question in the back?
PIETROPAOLI: That is not the purpose of our program, and it's not how our program works. I thought I tried to make it clear early on: No one can arrange visits to U.S. Navy ships except our operational commanders. People can refer them. We'd be fools not to take those references. We don't ask questions about political affiliation. I don't think it would be wise to start.
QUESTION: The question is, you said, you don't know. When exactly did you know these civilians were in the control booth? So what step before you hear that report on Tuesday, about the command...
PIETROPAOLI: Oh, at the controls?
QUESTION: Was it before or after?
PIETROPAOLI: I think the Navy lead ship back here knew Monday, about this. I think probably in Hawaii they got that report when their commanding officer came back in after participating in the search and rescue. I believe he came back in either Saturday night or Sunday morning.
QUESTION: A related question, a question on the embark. When was this embark scheduled, can you say that? In other words, when did they say...
PIETROPAOLI: My understanding is, months ago. As you might expect, submarine schedules change some. In this case, the submarine had been scheduled to be underway for about a week. The submarine schedule changed. They got an opportunity to do some of that training elsewhere. Normally, if they were going to take people out, they wouldn't take people out obviously, 16 people out for a week. You just can't accommodate that many people. It's hard to accommodate a few. The way they normally would do that, and it's particularly fortunate in the Pacific, both in San Diego and in Hawaii that we can do this more readily, you can get out to deep water fairly quickly in those two locations. So you would take the civilians out at the beginning of the day, take them out and give them their opportunity to see their sailors at work. PIETROPAOLI: You bring them back in, drop them off in the harbor with a retrieval boat, and then go back at sea to complete your time at sea.
In this case, since their schedule had changed, they did that, but were going to come back into port that Friday afternoon, instead remained on the scene for the search and rescue after the collision.
And I'll wrap up and let Mr. Salmon answer your salvage questions.
QUESTION: I'd like to know whether the guests are allowed to try everything that the crewmen does?
PIETROPAOLI: No, clearly not. There are things that we allow them to, under direct, constant and close supervision, experience and control. Not everything.
There are many things, quite frankly, that the crewmen do that would neither be comprehensible or exciting to the average American. Watching a sonar display, for example, is not a very exciting thing to do for those of you who have been out there to do it.
PIETROPAOLI: It's not particularly -- you're talking about the helm position -- it is not a particularly delicate area. It is a steering wheel. You push it forward and back to adjust the bow planes, left and right to move the rudder. The qualified watch- stander who is watching you is directly over your shoulder and you have clear indications of any movement right on the screens in front. So it's very easy to detect any kind of motion.
I'll just take a couple of more. I don't want to take up all his time.
QUESTION: Has the Navy or the NTSB interviewed civilians?
PIETROPAOLI: I don't know the answer to that question.
The NTSB does have the names. We provided those, again, a little later than we should have, but we did provide those to the NTSB. And they have said that their standard procedures, as Admiral Quigley mentioned, is not to release the name of witnesses or people they are interviewing while the investigation is going on.
QUESTION: You know, I confess to having been on that position on submarines. But during an emergency maneuver, I would have thought that that seat would have been vacated. But you're sure he was there in the helmsman job at the time of the impact, right? PIETROPAOLI: You know, not having been there, George, I'm not sure of any of it. And that's part of the reason I'm as concerned as I am about saying things.
And thank you for correcting me. I withdraw my last statement that he was in the seat. It's my understanding that that position remains in the seat during emergency surfacing.
But not having been there, not having the benefit of having read the investigative report, I don't know that.
You want to keep that control. You don't want to, for example, let the bow planes go to some diving. You want to keep them at zero. Generally they should stay there.
But that helmsman's job would be, if they began to shift the bow planes, bring them back to zero. If they began to move the rudder, bring it back to the center position.
Not a very difficult thing to do under the close supervision. I think the seat remains manned throughout the assent, which is of course, you know, under a minute. There's not really time to get out of the seat.
QUESTION: But it was manned by an amateur, the way he described it.
PIETROPAOLI: Sir, it's manned by a civilian out there with a close supervision of this, who really should have to do nothing in that assent. In that 30 seconds, their job should be to do nothing.
And quite frankly, George, I would defy under any circumstances to explain to me how anything that helmsman could have done would have materially affected the outcome of this tragedy.
QUESTION: How about if I pushed the bow planes backwards suddenly? I'd screw it up.
PIETROPAOLI: That might have put the submarine on the bottom. I'm not sure it would have changed hitting the Ehime Maru.
QUESTION: Has anyone from the White House contacted the Navy or the Pentagon regarding the list of the civilian guests aboard?
PIETROPAOLI: Not me. I have no personal knowledge of anybody being contacted by the White House or the...
QUESTION: Or the Pentagon -- excuse me -- contacted the Navy or the Pentagon...
PIETROPAOLI: I don't know of any White House interest.
PIETROPAOLI: And I'll just take one more and then I'm going to get Mr. Salmon up here because he has actual, real information.
QUESTION: It appears that the NTSB found out that civilians were at these two control stations through news reports. Did the Japanese government find out through news reports about the civilian involvement...
PIETROPAOLI: Do not know.
QUESTION: ... controlling the ship.
PIETROPAOLI: Do not know.
QUESTION: You said in hindsight that the Navy could have done a better job informing the public and the NTSB. You didn't mention the Japanese government.
PIETROPAOLI: I agree 100 percent.
As all of you know, a lot happens in the first 48 hours in the aftermath of a tragedy like this, not the least of which, quite frankly, is still ongoing, is looking for survivors, is trying to figure out what happened, overcoming your sense of confusion about all that has happened.
The initial instinct, in my institution, I think not an unhealthy one, is to not talk a lot about what you're just discovering, but to gather as much information as you can.
At some point, this becomes dysfunctional on some pieces of information. We may have reached that point, with respect to the civilians at the controls and past that point.
But by and large, that instinct to find all the facts, analyze them, figure out what they mean, and put transparency at the end of the process, not as a daily dosage, is a well-tested and we think reasonable approach.
QUESTION: Commander Fargo of the Pacific Fleet has indicated to a member of the Armed Services Committee that an initial inquiry might be completed as early as Friday. When do you expect that report -- or I don't know what is correct -- when do you expect a timing of this initial inquiry?
PIETROPAOLI: The actual investigation, as Admiral Quigley, mentioned is called a preliminary inquiry and litigation report. It is one of the options specified under the judge advocate general manual for doing a preliminary look at an incident, essentially to determine what follow-on form of investigation is most appropriate, given the facts you develop. It is hoped that we'll have that information.
But just like a JAG manual investigation itself, if that comes forward from the investigating officer to Admiral Konetzni, the commander of our Submarine Force in the Pacific, and he has additional questions that he can't answer to his boss, before he sends it forward, he will ask the investigating officer to resolve those few questions. So you can't predict with any certainty when it will be done. But it is hoped to have it -- and he did tell the Senate yesterday that he hoped to have it by the end of the week.
QUESTION: I just have one quick question. Is there a policy for how much time should elapse between a periscope sweep and rising to the...
PIETROPAOLI: I don't know of a policy. The policy is to do it as expeditiously as possible to minimize the chance that the surface picture will change while you're submerged. In practice, generally, less than 10 minutes. In this instance, they were within that standard.
PIETROPAOLI: I believe we've got a meeting set up with him, with the secretary of defense.
QUESTION: Will there be any meeting between the vice minister and the secretary or senior officers of the Pentagon?
PIETROPAOLI: I believe he has been certainly invited. We're ready to receive him. I'll let Craig talk about this.
Thank you very much.
WATERS: A couple of rear admirals at the Pentagon today attempting to clear up reporters' questions. Some questions were not answered, but you may have seen reports this morning, some newspapers, that the submarine USS Greenville was operating outside a submarine so-called test and trial area marked on maritime navigational charts. The Navy confirms that that report is true. However, the Navy also says that the area is intended as a warning only and in no way restricts surface ships or submarines from operating inside or outside those boundaries.
The information we have is that the Navy says the collision with the Ehime fishing trawler occurred two nautical miles outside the so- called test and trial warning area. The Navy says the operation in the area would not relieve the submarine of its responsibility to make sure the surface is clear before surfacing. Surfacing submarines must always give way to ships.
That's one of the major questions that was explored quite extensively at the Pentagon this afternoon. The other is the issue of the civilians onboard. As you know, there were 15 onboard. And government sources tell us those civilians were part of a group of 15 members of an organization that supports the USS Missouri Battleship Memorial in Hawaii.
The Navy unapologetic about civilians onboard its ships. The rear admiral, Quigley, pointing out that great Americans are encouraged to request a ride on the ships, and those requests are processed. But the Navy says today there's no evidence that the presence of the civilians had any impact on the outcome, and also that the civilian hands on controls were covered by Navy hands on their hands.
As you know, there are 15 civilians that the press wants to know about; two we know about who went public today. And the Navy says that's their choice. Two appeared on television this morning to explain what they saw inside the USS Greenville on the day of the accident.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TODD THOMAN, VISITOR ABOARD USS GREENVILLE: There are flat- screen monitors onboard the Greeneville, and they were very visible. And those that were watching the flat screens saw nothing. And at that point, Commander Waddle then said, I need to take a look. And he took the periscope, went around one if not two more times. And, again, on the flat screens we saw no vessel.
JOHN HALL, VISITOR ABOARD USS GREENEVILLE: When you go through the different procedures and pulling these two levers as I did, that's not the first procedure, it's about the third. But once you pull the levers, I pulled them down, I counted for 10 seconds out loud, and then put the levers back in place. The seaman that was standing next to me put his hands over my hands and made sure the levers were in and locked and he said, sit down. Immediately you sit down and the submarine began to rise. And it came very quickly.
You could feel the submarine come -- you can't feel it come out of the water, but you can feel it start to -- you must have been out of the water, and you can feel it start just like an airplane when it lands and the nose comes down. You can feel it start to come down. Just as it was starting to come down, and you could feel a sensation of it coming down, there was a very loud noise and the entire submarine shuddered.
MATT LAUER, CO-HOST, NBC "TODAY" SHOW: What did the captain say at that point?
HALL: I remember his words pretty vivid. He said, "Jesus, what the hell was that?"
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WATERS: Those two men insist the crew was not distracted by the presence of civilians, but the NTSB has not ruled that out as officials continue their investigation. As you know, there are parallel investigations: one by NTSB, one by the Navy.
As far as the other 13 civilians who were onboard, the Navy says it has a policy of privacy considerations, and investigative issues are also involved here, that the names will be release only after the investigation is complete.
As to recovery of the Maru and the nine bodies still missing, high seas, high winds today. That operation is on hold.
Natalie, what's next?
NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, joining us to talk more about what we've just learned from the Pentagon is CNN military analyst and retired Navy Capt. Alec Fraser.
Alec, thanks for being with us. And you were saying as you listened to the Pentagon that the civilians aboard, in your opinion, that's not the story.
CAPT. ALEC FRASER (RET.), U.S. NAVY: I don't think that's the story, whether a civilian was at the controls or a qualified Navy helmsman or diving planesman. The collision would have happened at any point along the way no matter what.
And it's not unusual to have the civilians there. Ever since the military went to a volunteer force, it's been important to keep civilians and the military acquainted with what each other do. And so whether schoolteachers or principals or civic leaders or government leaders or all hosts of people across the wide range of careers, it's important for them to go see both the Navy, the Army, the Air Force. All the services do this.
ALLEN: Andy they often get to man the controls with much assistance?
FRASER: They get to man the controls with a lot of assistance. But their hands from the qualified watch standers are right on top of them.
So whether the submarine was coming up at 15 degrees or 14 degrees or 16 degrees instead of -- or 20 or whatever, that wouldn't have made any difference because the collision was going to happen no matter what it was. And the qualified helmsman or whatever was right there with them the entire time.
ALLEN: And we've heard from these two civilians who were interviewed this morning that, according to what they saw, there was a periscope search, Alec, of the surface. How in the world could this submarine, if that's the case, have missed if there was a vessel in the area?
FRASER: That's what the investigation is really going to be focusing on, I think, in the coming days, and probably in the past few days as well. But just in thinking through, a submarine skipper looking through a periscope about five, 10 feet over the surface of the water, things could inhibit him from seeing the Japanese research vessel.
It could be that the vessel was headed right at him, which sort of narrowed the view that he could detect the vessel at. It could have been right in the reflection of the sun coming down off the sea, given the weather conditions at the time.
But I also understand that there were showers, scattered showers, limited visibility in some sections, and the boat could have been underneath one of those showers at the time. Five miles away, if that's what the visibility was, and if the Japanese ship was doing about 20 knots, it would only take about 15 minutes to cover the distance between what they could see and being on top of the submarine when they got there.
So how long it was that the submarine was down before it did the emergency surface and after it did the periscope look will be a critical look by the investigation.
ALLEN: All right, Alec. Alec Fraser, we thank you.
And as Lou mentioned, there's two investigations going on, so we'll continue to watch it closely.
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