Top Pentagon Gulf Official Resigned


Wednesday, October 25th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6


WASHINGTON (AP) — The Pentagon's top intelligence expert on terrorist threats in the Persian Gulf region resigned the day after the USS Cole was attacked in Yemen, members of the Senate Armed Services Committee said Wednesday.

Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., said the official quit in protest of what he believed was an unjustified lack of attention by his Pentagon superiors to terrorist threat warnings he had provided before the Oct. 12 attack on the warship.

The actual threat warnings this official provided, and the official's name, have not been made public.

Sen. John Warner, R-Va., chairman of the committee, said the panel decided not to release a letter the unidentified Defense Intelligence Agency official provided to the Senate Intelligence Committee on Monday. Roberts said the official was interviewed for six hours by the Intelligence Committee's staff.

``What he felt is that his assessment was not given that proper level of consideration by his superiors and, as such, was not incorporated in'' the final intelligence reports provided to military commanders in the Gulf, Warner told reporters after the hearing.

Roberts said the official resigned from the DIA's Office of Counterterrorism Analysis on Oct. 13. He said the official's resignation letter refers to an intelligence assessment in June that apparently predicted a terrorist attack in the Gulf.

``He indicates his analysis could have played a critical role in DIA's ability to predict and warn of a potential terrorist attack against U.S. interests, and goes further to say he is very troubled by the many indicators contained in the analysis that suggests two or three other major acts of terrorism could potentially occur in the coming weeks or months,'' Roberts said.

Roberts said he wanted to know whether the official's reference to a potential for additional acts of terrorism in coming weeks played a role in the decision last weekend to put U.S. forces in Bahrain and Qatar on high alert.

U.S. military officials have said there were no intelligence warnings of specific terrorist threats against American targets in Yemen at the time of the attack on the Cole, which killed 17 sailors and injured 39.

In opening remarks to Wednesday's Armed Services Committee hearing, the commander of U.S. forces in the Gulf said the attack on the Cole will not trigger an American military retreat from the region even though troops remain at risk to terrorism.

``The U.S. Central Command will not back away from this mission,'' Army Gen. Tommy Franks, commander in chief of the central command, told the committee. But Franks, who is responsible for all U.S. military personnel in the Gulf, said there is no escaping terrorist threats in that area.

``We will never reduce the risk to our people to zero, but we will reduce the risk to our people in every way we can,'' he said in an opening statement.

Warner said the committee would hear details of the FBI's investigation into the Oct. 12 bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen later Wednesday. Warner said the testimony from Adm. Vern Clark, chief of naval operations, would be closed to the public out of concern for safety of U.S. troops in the Mideast.

The attack on the Cole was believed to be the work of terrorists and has raised questions about the vulnerability of U.S. forces elsewhere in the region.

The Pentagon said Tuesday that in response to specific terrorist threats against U.S. forces in Bahrain and Qatar, troops based there have been put on the highest possible state of alert. The Pentagon would not describe the nature of the threats and said it had not determined whether they were credible.

``We've got fairly specific information, but the credibility is unknown,'' Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. Craig Quigley said. ``You're not quite sure what to make of it, so you do the cautious course of action and go up to the higher level'' of alert.

The USS Cole attack also figured in the decision to raise the alert level for troops in Bahrain and Qatar, Quigley said. U.S. officials have not yet pinpointed the culprit.

The threat condition in Bahrain and Qatar was raised to ``Delta,'' the highest possible level, this past weekend, he said.

Immediately after the Cole attack, all 23 ships in the Bahrain-based 5th Fleet were sent out of port to reduce their vulnerability to terrorist attack. Quigley said Tuesday that all ships — including the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, two cruisers, five destroyers, two frigates, one attack submarine, two mine hunters and various other assault and support ships — will remain at sea ``for the foreseeable future.''

Some of the 5th Fleet ships are in or near Aden to support the Cole, which sustained a huge hole in its hull.

A destroyer, the USS Paul Hamilton, is escorting a Norwegian-owned heavy-lift ship, the Blue Marlin, as it sails from Dubai to Aden. The Blue Marlin is due in Aden on Saturday and will immediately begin preparing to take on board the 505-foot Cole for its return to the United States, Quigley said Tuesday.

The two senior retired U.S. military officers chosen to head a Pentagon investigation of the security practices of the Cole — Adm. Harold Gehman Jr. and Army Gen. William Crouch — are making plans to travel to Aden. Quigley said they met Monday at the Pentagon with Defense Secretary William Cohen, who told them their main goal is to improve the military's ability to protect itself against terrorist attack.

Quigley said the decision to raise alert levels at Bahrain and Qatar was based on intelligence reports of ``multiple threats'' from ``multiple sources.'' He said the threats were specific, but the credibility of the sources was unknown.

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On the Net:

U.S. Central Command: http://www.centcom.mil/

U.S. Navy 5th Fleet: http://www.centcom.mil/components/navcent—page.htm

The USS Cole: http://www.spear.navy.mil/ships/ddg67/