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Spy Plane Crew Members Freed From China to Be Held for Debriefing in Hawaii; Party Will Follow

Aired April 12, 2001 - 07:34   ET

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


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, the crew members will have to answer a lot of questions over the next few days.

CNN's Patty Davis is at the Pentagon this morning.

Patty, they probably will have to answer a lot of questions about exactly what happened during this incident.

PATTY DAVIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, the Pentagon certainly wants to know all about that. And when they do arrive in Hawaii, they begin two days of intensive mission debriefs. That will include questions like you said: What happened? What caused that midair collision? Whose fault was it? The United States is going to want to come to some answers, come to some conclusion on that question, as well as what happened in terms of how much sensitive data was that crew able to destroy on its fall down to the Chinese air base when it was coming down for that emergency landing as well as once it was on the ground and before the Chinese actually boarded the U.S. plane.

Now, one U.S. official here at the Pentagon was saying that the crew's spirits are sky high and that they're very glad to be coming home. They will also be getting complete medical checkups and complete psychological checkups, not only for the stress of the detentions, but also the collision itself is considered very stressful, and they want this crew to work through that before they go ahead and see their families.

Now, the crew left its EP-3 plane behind at that Chinese air base. That will be the subject of negotiations between the United States and China on April 18 in a meeting taking place between the two.

But the Pentagon says that it does want its plane back, and it's working out options to get that plane out of China.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REAR ADM. CRAIG QUIGLEY, PENTAGON SPOKESMAN: If the analysis is such that the plane is not fixable as it sits right there, then you would have to take a look at options like disassembly and somehow shipping it off Hainan Island to somewhere else, to put it on a larger vessel -- actually shipping it out that way.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DAVIS: As for future surveillance flights, Pentagon officials acknowledge the right of the Chinese to question those, to bring that up in the meeting. But Pentagon officials say that the United States has every right to keep operating those flights. They are over international airspace, they say, and they are unarmed. So they plan to keep on doing them -- Carol.

LIN: At the same time, Patty, what about any time off for this crew?

DAVIS: That's a good question. I asked that yesterday, actually, to Pentagon officials, and they weren't sure yet. But we know that they're going to meet with their families at Whidbey Island, they're going to have a welcome home, time to get to know them again, and talk through the ordeal. And some of those crew members are not based at Whidbey Island, in Washington state. The Pentagon is going to give them time to go home if they wish to, to their home bases here in the United States, or back to Japan, where a lot of them are based.

As for extra time off, the Pentagon hasn't addressed that yet -- Carol.

LIN: Do you want to bet they're going to get some? I think so.

Thanks so much, Patty Davis, reporting live from the Pentagon -- Colleen.

COLLEEN MCEDWARDS, CNN ANCHOR: Of course, before any of that happens, the crew has to go through that extensive debriefing. That will happen in Hawaii.

CNN's Rusty Dornin is there, in Honolulu, for us this morning -- Rusty.

RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, they're going to be landing in probably about five hours, at 7:00 a.m., it looks like now, Honolulu time.

They'll deplane and have a brief welcome here with a Navy band and some dignitaries and sort of a heroes' welcome.

We're hoping that the pilot, Lieutenant Shane Osborn, will give a brief statement, but Navy officials say that may or may not happen.

Right after that, they'll be whisked over to the Pearl Harbor Naval Base, where they will spend two days in extensive debriefing. They'll have some medical examinations as well as some psychological counseling, if they need it. But they will be questioned on every aspect of what's happened during this ordeal -- during the flight and right before they landed -- about what equipment they were able to destroy, and what were the Chinese interested in hearing -- what did they question them about while they were in China. Those are all things that investigators are going to want to hear about.

Then they will be flown on two separate airplanes, on Saturday, back to Whidbey Island, which is where their plane was based, and there will be a huge party there, a big shindig with family and friends -- that sort of thing. The whole town, supposedly, is getting into the act, and the Navy Base will be throwing open its doors, giving them a heroes' welcome -- Colleen.

MCEDWARDS: All right, thanks, CNN's Rusty Dornin.

It sounds like their arrival time's been bumped up a little bit. Rusty says now it's now scheduled for about 12:00, 12:30 Eastern time.

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