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DoD News Briefing: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ATSD/PA

Presenters: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ATSD/PA
April 27, 1995 2:15 PM EDT

Tuesday, April 25, 1995 - 2:15 p.m.

Mr. Bacon: Good afternoon.

I'm here to take your questions.

Q: Dr. Perry said this morning at a photo opportunity that he didn't have any knowledge that any leads in the Oklahoma City investigation might be leading to any active duty military personnel. Is there any investigation going on, though, about a possible cabal in Company C, the problem with ...

A: I'm sorry?

Q: The people that were together in Company C?

A: The investigation is being conducted by the FBI. I think you should direct all questions about the investigation to them. We are cooperating with them fully. There are 25 CID agents working in our district office at Fort Riley or right outside in Junction City. They are cooperating fully with the FBI in this investigation as they have been from the very beginning. But it's up to the FBI to define the investigation.

Q: Are those 25 providing information on the military, or just part of the overall investigation?

A: They're doing what the FBI asks them to do. I would caution you about leaping to a link between the military, people on active duty in the military -- and this investigation or these groups at this stage.

Q: This John Doe 2, are there any indications that he is in the active military?

A: Not that I'm aware of, no.

Q: You mentioned that there are 25 CID agents working on it from around Riley or are there others CID agents on scene in Oklahoma?

A: That includes some working in the Oklahoma City area. That number includes those working in Oklahoma City as I understand it.

Q: My understanding is that it's hard to look at the whole question of membership of active military in whatever associations -- whatever group because of constitutional constraints. But my understanding is also that you do have guidelines. There are Defense Department guidelines regarding membership in groups and that you may even have a list of "illegal groups" that advocate the overthrow of the American government in which it is illegal for members of the military to have membership. Is this so? And if so, can you tell us what these groups are? What the list is?

A: First of all, it's a good question. Every member of the military takes an oath of office in which he or she pledges to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. This oath of office is generally taken -- also repeatedly -- throughout one's career when they're frequently taken when they are promoted.

The Department of Defense in 1969 issued regulations which are numbered 1325.6 which provide guidelines for handling dissident and protest activities among members of the armed services. There is a paragraph in that regulation that deals with prohibited activities and it says that "military personnel must reject participation in organizations that espouse supremacist causes; attempt to create illegal discrimination based on race, creed, color, sex, religion, or national origin; or advocate the use of force or violence or otherwise engage in efforts to deprive individuals of their civil rights."

It goes on to say, "active participation, such as publicly demonstrating or rallying, fundraising, recruiting and training members and organizing or leading such organizations is incompatible with military service and is therefore prohibited. Commanders have authority to employ the full range of administrative procedures, including separation or appropriate disciplinary action against military personnel who actively participate in such groups.

Each service has implemented its own regulations to implement this general guideline. The Army's regulations are very specific, and we can make copies of them available if you'd like.

Secretary Perry today will ask the service chiefs to send out messages reminding their commanders of these regulations and of the need to monitor compliance.

I'd like to point out that this should not be read as any sort of an indication that we have evidence that these regulations are not being complied with right now. It's just an appropriate thing to do in light of what happened, just as it's appropriate to check out the security of buildings after an event like this.

Q: Do you have names of any of these organizations, for instance these paramilitary groups?

A: No, I do not. Actually there is a list of organizations that are kept for intelligence and counterintelligence purposes -- a list of extremists, violence-prone groups who have demonstrated intent against DoD targets. That list is currently classified. But as a result of this bombing, counterintelligence officials in the Office of the Secretary of Defense will be working with the services and the FBI to determine if this list should be updated or changed in any way. But I can't give you the list because the list is classified.

Q: When is the last time it was updated?

A: I don't know when it was last updated. I assume it's being reviewed and updated all the time.

Q: Are the CID agents working out of Fort Riley just because...

A: That's their district office.

Q: So it's not to infer that they are investigating Company C or any sister brigades or any of the...

A: I wouldn't lead you to infer that because I told you that the FBI will have to describe the investigation. I'm not saying anything about the investigation. But the CID -- the Army investigative service -- has a district office; I believe it's right outside, either at, or right outside, Fort Riley, Kansas. Those are the people who are working with the FBI, helping them with their investigation, and have been since the beginning.

Q: That's the basis for their presence at Fort Riley, then?

A: Right.

Q: Is there also an investigation going on at Fort Benning at this time?

A: I can't answer that question because, as I said, the FBI is running the investigation and you'll have to go to them for information.

Q: Is there concern on the part of the people at DoD that these paramilitary groups that have specifically been named so far, because they had some military experience, might be giving our active military a black eye, or might be creating a misimpression in the public's mind that this is the way military people are?

A: There's concern that the press may be leaping to conclusions on this. Look, moments like this test the soul of democracy. These are moments when we really have to dig deep and look at what our values as a democracy are. I think it's very important to be clear headed about what the rights are of citizens -- whether they're in the military or not -- and it's very important to be clear headed and speak clearly about what people are doing and what they're not doing.

Nobody is saying that active duty military people don't have certain rights. We're not saying that. But I think it's very wrong and unfair to leap to any conclusions that there has been active duty military involvement or support of these groups. We do not have firm evidence of that right now. There may be anecdotal evidence, and if we get that evidence we will pursue it. That's what the point of these regulation is. That's one of the reasons the Secretary is asking commanders to remind military people that these regulations exist and what their purpose is.

Q: What do you mean, there's anecdotal evidence?

A: I didn't say there is anecdotal evidence.

Q: I thought you said there may be anecdotal evidence.

A: I did say there may be anecdotal evidence. I hear anecdotal evidence from people in the press, but I do not know. We will follow up. It's the responsibility of the commanders, as I said earlier, if they hear reports of this. But I have not heard reports and I am not aware that there is evidence in this regard.

Q: Has there been any separation from the service or discipline in the past year or so because of people violating -- active military violating...

A: I am not aware that there has been. I've asked for reports on that. The last case of which I'm aware occurred in 1986 and it involved a white supremacist group in North Carolina.

Q: Having followed that case, Morris Dees wrote the Attorney General last October that they have reports that active duty military may now be involved in supporting similar supremacist groups as was involved in that '86 group. As a result of that letter did anything come to this department, and was anything done at that time to...

A: I am not aware that it has. I have also talked to Morris Dees and I've asked him to send me the information they have, and so far I have not received anything from him. That doesn't mean he doesn't have it. I just haven't gotten it yet. But I am not aware. I'm not trying to say that nothing happened, I just don't know. I'm trying to find that out right now.

Q: You've mentioned active duty people a number of times. Do you have any evidence or concern that reserve people in the National Guard are involved, or are more closely involved with these militias?

A: The short answer is no, we don't have reports of that. But they are under somewhat... They also take the same oath of office that active duty soldiers take. But I don't have any information about that.

Q: Did you pull out the ten or eight Arabic-speaking guys who were requested by the FBI to go for interrogation to Oklahoma?

A: You mean have they gone?

Q: Have they gone, have they came back since there's no...

A: I don't believe they ever went. I will double check on that. I'm quite sure they never went. This is something that was a request made of the FBI, they were put on standby, and I don't believe they were ever sent. I can't tell you for sure that the request has been withdrawn, but I think, given what's happened in the investigation, it's, so far, pretty clear that they haven't been needed.

Q: On Sunday morning, Dr. Perry said that the Department has provided surveillance capability to law enforcement. What surveillance capabilities were provided?

A: I don't know.

Q: To go back to the issue of how many people have ever been discharged for membership in these groups, is it possible to get some kind of count on that?

A: I can't promise that it is. First of all, I told you there was a case in 1986 that involved a white supremacist group in North Carolina. That's the only case I know of so far. I'm sure there are other cases. But one problem is that a lot of this information is, how shall I put it, decentralized and difficult to gather up quickly.

Q: Is there an increased vigilance, surveillance, etc., with regard to preventing those who are outside this country who might have been inspired by the terrible effects of this bombing in Oklahoma City? I read last week where there were some foreign intelligence operatives that were thought to be particularly active with their sights on the United States before this bombing, when everybody was saying it could have been Muslim terrorists, or thought that it was indeed. But are we on increased alert from foreign terrorists at this time?

A: We are always vigilant about possible terrorists from abroad as well as domestically. The short answer to your question is, after an incident like this, yes. All alert statuses are somewhat higher in that people are more attuned to risks than they might have been before.

Q: I didn't see anything in the McVeigh service record, or what was made available yesterday, to indicate he had Army training in explosives. His MOS was like Bradley, Bradley crew chief, Bradley gunner. Are you aware of any explosives training?

A: I am not.

Q: Routinely, I don't think they train those guys in that. You don't know the answer.

A: Routinely they do not.

Q: There was some thought yesterday that this fellow Koernke might have had service in the Army. Has that proven to be the case?

A: The short answer is I don't know. We were checking that yesterday. Nobody of that name was arrested, as I understand it. We never found out if we had made the right match. So I can't answer that question.

Q: Are you still trying to find out?

A: It's not our policy to go around randomly checking on the service records of people. If there's some reason to check on it, we'll check on it. It doesn't make sense... We are not going to check on the service records of every name that appears here. If there's a need to check on this, we will check on it. I have nothing to give you further now.

Q: In this 1986 incident in North Carolina, where was it and how many people were separated?

A: I'll get that information for you.

Q: What's the Department position on the suggestion that General Sheehan has made to help solve the refugee problem at Guantanamo by offering the Cubans an opportunity to enlist in the armed forces? I understand that's been turned down once, but he's asked it to be reassessed.

A: He himself has announced that it's been turned down once and he has asked for it to be reassessed. I wouldn't hold out great hope that the conclusion will be any different, but it is being reviewed.

Q: At what level and where?

A: I believe he said he asked the Secretary to review it, and I believe the Secretary has sent it to someone else to look at.

Q: USACOM?

A: It came from USACOM so I don't believe he'd send it back to USACOM. We know their position on this proposal. We know how they would rule on it.

Q: ...further study from USACOM?

A: I don't believe that's where it's gone. I believe it may have gone to Mr. Dorn's shop.

Q: Is there a timetable to have it resolved?

A: Not that I'm aware of.

Q: Why turn it down?

A: Why approve it? This is what we're looking at right now. This is one of the reasons to study it. We're looking at both questions. Why approve it, why turn it down.

Q: Bosnia. A very peculiar, paradoxical situation with regard to Sarajevo. The Bosnian Muslim government has announced that they will not renew the ceasefire. I don't believe there was a ceasefire in effect, but they will not extend the truce; and the UN, the United States delegation, the Contact Group people have been impeded from traveling to, flying to, and driving in Sarajevo. They've been unable to reach the Muslims in order that they might try to convince them to give the truce another chance to stop the killing. The Serbs, it seems, in doing so, in enforcing this, are hurting their own cause with the Muslim successes on the battlefield. What would the view of the Defense Department be towards this particular paradox and obstacle to peace?

A: The view of the Defense Department is that that's a great question for the State Department.

This is a regrettable situation. It clearly is interfering with efforts to extend the cessation of hostilities agreement. We believe that agreement is crucial to limiting or ending the killing that's taking place in Bosnia now. That's been the goal of our policy from the beginning. It's been quite successful. I know you've seen the figures that the civilian casualties have gone from 130,000 -- we estimate in 1992 -- down to about 2,500 in 1994. So the presence of UNPROFOR there has helped a lot. We have urged the UN to stick firmly to its policy of moving people in and out of Sarajevo. We've condemned the actions by the Bosnian Serbs, and we've asked -- Secretary Christopher has asked -- Ambassador Albright to raise all these issues with the UN and try to get some sort of resolution.

Q: Further, the UN tribunal has condemned the Serbs which some write, and I think accurately, will produce more deafening of the Serbs in response to the UNPROFOR and the Contact Group. How does the Defense Department view that timing of the tribunal announcement?

A: The results of the tribunal confirm what many people have long thought about the Bosnian Serbs.

Q: On the Korean negotiations. This weekend the Secretary noted that last year -- when it looked like there were preparations for increasing American military preparations on the peninsula, when the Koreans talked about sanctions, the imposition of UN sanctions being an act of war -- negotiations are all but broken down at the moment. I'm wondering whether or not that is being looked at again, and what, if anything, may be in the works pending a formal breakdown -- complete breakdown of the talks?

A: I think it's premature to talk about a complete breakdown of the talks now. As Ambassador Gallucci has said, he has proposed a resumption of talks at a higher level in Geneva, and we are hopeful that the North Koreans will accept that invitation and send somebody to Geneva to participate in those talks.

So far, the Koreans have continue to honor the freeze. There are IAEA inspectors on site at the five megawatt reactor and there's no sign of efforts to refuel that reactor. We remain committed to negotiating the implementation of the treaty. As Secretary Perry also said, we never thought implementation would be easy. We're prepared to keep at it as long as the North Koreans honor the freeze. And so far they are.

Q: Do you have a readout on the meeting with the Polish Foregin Minister this morning?

A: Yes, what would you like to know?

Q: What did they talk about?

A: They talked about NATO expansion. They talked about PFP exercises and Polish participation in them.

Q: Do you have a date for those...

A: I'm afraid I don't. We'll get the dates for you.

Q: Has Mr. Gottbaum come up with a list of items that would be acceptable for reimbursement in connection with the Lockheed/Martin merger?

A: I'm not aware that he has or he hasn't. I'll take the question.

Q: He's supposed to do that, and I was interested in seeing what would be acceptable versus what would not.

A: Anything else?

Press: Thank you.

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