DoD News Briefing - Lt. Gen. Estes, July 12, 1996
Friday, July 12, 1996 - 2 p.m.
General Estes: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.
The Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs have asked me to come down and spend a few minutes with you this afternoon giving you another level of detail from what you have already. Some of this is information that you've heard from other sources, but I want to kind of start at the beginning and go through the entire story as I have briefed it to the Secretary and over on the Hill the last couple of days.
So the brief you're going to see is essentially the same briefing that I've given in Congress. It does start with the event itself. It sort of goes through the sequence of things that happen, in fact let's pull the first slide away here and just talk to that.
We'll go through the actual even itself. You know what the damage was, but we'll talk about that a couple of minutes. What happened to the buildings, what the medical response was, how we helped the FBI arrive on the scene very quickly in terms of the investigation -- not to talk about the investigation itself. Then we'll talk about specific actions that have been taken since Khobar Towers. Not only at the towers, but throughout the Persian Gulf area.
Then I want to go back and sort of talk from the beginning around the OPM SANG bombing, which was the first bombing that we had in Saudi Arabia back in November, and sort of set the stage from that point about what actions were taken in the Department of Defense as a result of that bombing, and we'll address specific actions that happened at Khobar Towers, and then a conclusion slide. Next slide.
To kind of get everybody oriented, I know most folks in the audience here with press know exactly what we're talking about, but obviously we're in Saudi Arabia, over on the East Coast of the Persian Gulf, and this is a blowup of the area. Two cities, the city of Dhahran and Al Khobar. The housing complex called Khobar Towers where the detonation occurred is on the southern part of the city and the people that are here are primarily Air Force people associated with the flying mission that occurs out at the Dhahran International Airport. The mission, of course, is to support the no-fly/no-drive zone declarations by the UN in southern Iraq.
Just to, again, let you know. This is sort of what the U.S. has in terms of aircraft and numbers of people located at this particular complex, the Khobar Towers complex, which is the housing complex. We also have British and French allies there in the numbers that you see. So you can see, it's largely American, but we have a British and French participation as well.
Now looking down on the complex itself, this is the Khobar Towers complex looking from right overhead, as you can see. This shows the area where the British and French are. Here's where the Saudi military has its particular set of houses. The U.S. is housed in the area shown here in yellow.
The red line that you see running around the outside is the actual perimeter that encloses the entire complex. There was one entrance to the complex located at this left hand side of the chart, so in order to get... The only place you can get into this complex through the barriers that exist is right here. One single location.
The area we're going to focus on, of course, is the two buildings that were on the north side, it looks on the right side of the chart here, but it's really to the north. This is where you'll hear us talk about Building 131. This is the building the detonation occurred in front of. This is a sister building parallel to it, located on the same front.
A parking lot which is to the north side -- this is to demonstrate, and as we get talking about this -- the route of approach by the truck itself when it came in with the weapon was through this entrance to the parking lot, and then they positioned the vehicle right up against the fence line here. I'll give you some more details on that in just a minute. But this gives you a feel for the layout of the overall complex.
A little over 3,000 Americans in here, and you can see by the number of buildings here, there are about 100 in each one, so all the buildings are filled up. There's no empty buildings here. I've asked exactly what these two buildings are. They're recreation and dining hall facilities. But these are the buildings that people are housed in that you see sprinkled around. Next slide, please.
Now let's discuss the events as we understand them, as this particular bomb was detonated in front of Building 131.
As I mentioned before, the entry gained by the terrorists was through the end of the parking lot, and they drove along this outside of the parking lot and positioned the truck up against the fence line. The truck was followed by a car, which came in and did a U-turn, and two individuals jumped from the truck, once the car pulled up, jumped from the truck, and got into the car and the car sped out the entrance on the other end.
Part of the security enhancements, which I will get into in great detail here in just a minute, but part of the security enhancements that occurred after OPM SANG was to put security people on top of what's they call the towers buildings, the ones that are on the corners, to do surveillance, and to watch for incidents just like this, and anything else that looks suspicious. In fact we had three security people on top of the building. They were U.S. Air Force people. They saw this truck being pulled up. They saw the car come in and the men jump out and jump into it. When they saw that, they obviously were suspicious. Two of them immediately went down into the building and started clearing the building. They were able to clear the top two floors of the building of people on this side of the building prior to the bomb detonating. The third person made the calls back to the security location, the central security location to alert the guard forces there, the law enforcement people, that there was a truck parked along the side of the complex and that we needed to send some security forces out to investigate the situation.
At the same time, the people in the security location were calling to the operations center which was in a different location to warn people that there was a building with a truck sitting sort of next to it on the outside of the perimeter, and before that warning could be sounded, and before the guards actually got up to exactly where the truck was, the truck detonated.
Physical damage. You all have seen many pictures of this. There's been, obviously, a lot of coverage. The front of the building totally defaced. The size of the crater you can see here. On the picture that I have on the other side is a little bit larger blowup. It's probably a better picture to talk from because you can see the entire parking lot that I showed you in the drawing, and obviously, the crater in this location.
This damage is, obviously, substantial. This building also received substantial damage. Unfortunately, the U.S. sustained 18 fatalities in this particular building, and one in this building, and a number of injured throughout the complex, obviously primarily in these two buildings.
Again, you can see the parking lot very clearly here. This is the avenue the truck took as it came in and put itself right up against the fence line. I'm not sure which of the tire marks, it's almost irrelevant as to whether they went out through this direction... I suspect that's what happened.
What you see here in this particular picture are parts of a truck that have been laid out that they have found from the bomb site itself. These are all pieces of the truck itself that they carried the bomb in.
I'm going to discuss a lot of the upgrades, then I'll come back to this picture in terms of security. But you can see jersey barriers that went all around the outside, and we'll come back to this and talk to other upgrades, and we'll try to use that picture to explain some of the points I'm going to make here in just a minute.
I only show you this because, for one, it was extremely important to the injured that immediate care was provided to those people who were injured. The military has been training for a long time in what's called the buddy care program. Many of you reported on this. But basically, when somebody is injured, somebody pairs up with them, gives immediate medical aid to their ability to that person and gets them to a location for additional medical assistance. In every case, the injured were paired up with somebody who was not injured and taken to a facility in which they could get further medical care. So that system worked very well.
The Saudi medical response we just have to characterize as excellent, as you would fully expect. They fully cooperated, provided every medical assistance they could to care for our injured, and in fact treated many of the more severely injured for a period of time. Although we did have U.S. physicians on the scene that came from Turkey, we flew them down there as quickly as we could get an airplane to pick them up. They were the closest physicians and medical technicians that we had in large numbers, so they went down to augment... They weren't asked, nobody asked for them, but we just felt they could only be of assistance, and of course, they were.
In addition, the U.S. Transportation Command did its normal great job of getting the medical evacuation circumstances set up in terms of deploying aircraft in. In case an immediate medevac was required, we had an airplane on the ground there in 14 hours, fully configured, a C-141. In fact all six of the aircraft that eventually showed up a very short time after this, were configured, all of them, for medevac.
As we took people in, we configured the aircraft for medevac, so if we had to take people out who were injured, we were ready to do it.
In addition to that, the Army combat stress teams are in Dhahran and they are still there helping people cope with the tragedy at Khobar Towers.
I think this has been talked to at length. Obviously a very sad occasion when we lose 19 servicemembers. A great tragedy and a very serious thing for anybody in the military. We all recognize this is something that we face by being in uniform, but when it reaches out and touches members of uniform, it is particularly significant to us, and obviously to their families.
Members who were treated and released, you can see here, medevaced to Germany were a total of 43, and of course we used the 141s that you see here to do that. They initially went to Germany to Landstuhl Hospital, and then on to the U.S. and we no longer have any of these 43 in Germany. They've all returned to the U.S. Next slide.
The only reason I show you this is from a DoD standpoint, not from an FBI or Department of Justice standpoint. I'm not here, obviously, to talk about the investigation. I am not privy to the information and it's not my place. All I want to do is point out to you part of this overall effort to describe the actions that took place is to say that the Saudi Government immediately asked for U.S. assistance in investigating this particular bombing.
The FBI came to us and asked if we could use an aircraft to fly the teams over, which you see here, that went over in the first group. We went, and the President released one of his presidential support aircraft which is an aircraft that's on very high alert, to accomplish the mission of moving these FBI forces, and they departed within 12 hours. They were able to gather all the experts that they needed in the first group, and depart 12 hours after the bombing.
They came back to us a second time, asked for additional people from the FBI in the sorts of expertise that you see listed here, and another aircraft was provided to take the second group of FBI personnel over.
Director Freeh, of course, has made the trip over, which you all are aware of on the 2nd. We supported that as well.
The issue of leads being developed, obviously they're working the issue and we'll have to leave it to the Department of Justice and the FBI when the time is right for them to talk to that. Next slide, please.
The point of this slide is to say that there were a number of actions ongoing when the bomb went off. You'll notice at the bottom I say most of the measures that we see listed here were things that were already started prior to the bombing on the 25th. But they are still in work and some have been completed since the 25th.
So the point is, number one, much has been done since the bombing to ensure that the forces that we have, particularly in the Persian Gulf, which is what this relates to, are receiving adequate force protection in line with the kinds of threats we see there now which, obviously, are significant. And to say that force protection is a continuing effort. It's never complete. We're always working it, and I'll say some more words about who's responsibilities rest where here in just a second.
I'll let you read through these rather than try to highlight. I would simply say that the acronyms you see on the end here, this is Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, and I think that explains all of the acronyms that are on there.
In addition to those force protection measures which were underway and are being completed as we speak, General Peay, the CINCCENT put a message out very shortly after the bombing, as I recall, it was the next day, in which he said we need to go back and do a clean sheet approach. Obviously, we've done a tremendous effort at trying to protect our forces, and while those efforts limited the number of casualties, we still took casualties. And so we need to go back and reassess what we're doing.
So he sent a message out to all his component commanders and asked them to do an immediate reassessment, clean sheet approach to how we do force protection. Those reports were due in yesterday. He has then formed in phase two a Tiger Team which will review all of these reports and recommendations, and collate them, and assess what is doable and what is not. Then the Tiger Team will go out and visit each of the facilities in the theater in the very near term and try to apply these recommendations that come from the component commanders, and then provide a final report back to General Peay.
So for General Peay's area of operation, he has taken very aggressive action to ensure this does not happen again, and that we take every possible step to protect our forces that are over there doing some very important missions for this country.
In addition to that, you know that General Downing is doing an assessment. He's been in here to talk to you. He's done a press conference on this. Just to review again, the specific task that General Downing has -- not only looking at the facts and circumstances of Khobar, assessing the security, the effectiveness of what had been done, but he's also going to provide recommendations on how he thinks and his team thinks we can prevent this type of tragedy from happening again. It's a fairly short term on this, due back on the 15th of August.
I'm sure the question that's being asked is, can we get copies of this? The answer is, you all will get copies of this full briefing at the conclusion of the briefing. But you did real well, you didn't interrupt the briefing. You listened carefully, didn't you? [Laughter]
Let me step back in time now just a little bit because I think it's important to go back and set the stage for what transpired from the first bombing that happened in November. Recall, that was the first bombing we had against U.S. military that I can remember. I don't think there's been one prior to that, in fact I'm fairly certain that's the case. The situation in Saudi Arabia, in terms of the conditions under which the U.S. military live there, were not different than they are in Germany or Japan or anywhere else. A very safe environment, hadn't had any problems there at all. But the bombing of OPM SANG told us that the terrorist threat was going up, and it was clear to us that it was escalating. There was no question in anybody's mind about that. And we saw it escalating over time. Over and above OPM SANG, which of course was, as I mentioned before, the first detonation.
As a result of us seeing the increase in the threat, based on intelligence reports, certain actions were required and certain people have certain responsibilities when something like that happens. I know most of you in the room understand what I have on this chart, but I think it's important to point out that the Secretary of Defense's responsibilities are to direct the policy and guidance to the commanders in the field. The Chairman is the one responsible, in most cases, for drafting the guidance, drafting the policies, advising the Secretary of Defense, and once the decision is made, transmitting those decisions to the commanders and chief of the various regional commands.
In this particular case, since we're talking about the Central Command, General Peay's responsibility was to receive the guidance, refine it, apply it to his theater, and pass tasking down to his local commanders who are then responsible for implementing the guidance at the local level. Taking the specific actions.
So with that in mind, with that construct in mind, let's see what happened in each of those four boxes after OPM SANG.
The Secretary of Defense, the day after OPM SANG, sent a message to all of the regional CINCs telling them to review their security and anti-terrorism procedures. All of the CINCs in fact received the message and took very aggressive action based on the Secretary's message that went out.
In addition, he directed the formation of an anti-terrorism task force. This was a senior level group, not to go down and look specifically at all the details of every location, but rather, realizing that we have a new threat emerging. A threat which we hadn't seen. What do we need to do to change the mindset of people? What actions do we need to do to prepare ourselves for terrorist attacks, in places we hadn't seen them before?
In addition to that, as a result of OPM SANG, since the facility was under the Department of State working for the Ambassador in Saudi Arabia, even though it had U.S. military in it, the State Department was responsible for the review of that bombing attack in Riyadh at the OPM SANG building. They form, by law, what's called an Accountability Review Board. It was run by Ambassador Atherton, they published a report, it included Department of Defense people, but it was a Department of State effort because the facility worked for the Ambassador in Saudi Arabia.
The Chairman immediately after OPM SANG of course helped prepare the messages and actually organized the anti-terrorism task force. We had a general officer on the Joint Staff and one on the OSD Staff lead the task force. They went out to every CINCdom and produced a report which covered a number of areas for the CINCs to look at and to improve our overall look at how we do the anti-terrorism business and try to accomplish the goals the Secretary and Chairman set for us as that particular effort was set forth.
He also directed the CINCs to review their threat con procedures, and force protection measures.
The CINC then, of course, increased the threat con, the threat condition in his AOR based on the bombing of OPM SANG, as you would expect him to do, and he directed the implementation of additional security measures throughout the AOR based on the work that he had done and as a result of the tasking he'd gotten from the Secretary of Defense. Of course General Peay was out at the bomb site shortly after the event and received briefings from local commanders and directed as he saw fit, as the CINC, actions to be taken.
The local commander at Dhahran raised the local threat condition and implemented extensive security measures at the Khobar Towers. What I want to do is spend a couple of minutes now again showing you some of the examples of what these measures were.
Actually, before I list this, let me cover one other thing, and let me go back over here if I can for just a minute. It will make a little more sense as I try to describe some of these particular measures.
You can see the perimeter that was set up here. These roads used to be regular access roads that the Saudis could use, and as protective measures were established and perimeters moved out, these roads no longer became accessible to the Saudis as they ended up inside the complex of Khobar Towers.
In terms of responsibilities and who's doing what. Inside the perimeter, the U.S. military has the responsibility for security. The Air Force is primarily in here. The security people who are dealing with this complex are looking at what they perceive as a threat along the lines of OPM SANG. They're trying to ensure they can protect against that.
Over the years, the kinds of terrorist threats we've seen are people trying to penetrate barriers and get up close to buildings to detonate a device. So their mindset, correctly, is to try to protect against that. They have a feel for about what the capability of a terrorist is based on what they've seen, and they know that the terrorists try to penetrate complexes. So their objective is to try to prevent somebody from getting inside the complex with a weapon and detonating it in which we have extensive damage.
Outside of the perimeter they're working very hard with the Saudi Arabians on security. Many, many improvements were made by the Saudi forces, and Saudi local forces, police forces and military, to provide protection outside of this complex. So the mindset of the people inside the complex is we're working it hard inside, we're getting great progress out of the Saudis on the outside, we're doing what we need to do. Not that there isn't more than can be done, but at least we've got a good start on providing the protection necessary to prevent somebody from penetrating this complex.
So there's a division of labor here. Not to say that one was more responsible for what happened here than the other. That's not the issue. I'm trying to explain what the mindset was in terms of security responsibilities.
Let's go back and look at these things and see sort of what we're talking about.
The concrete barriers along the entire perimeter and fixing the fence line, pretty obvious; security police manning at static posts; doubling security police; roving patrols inside the compound, this is U.S. security police. Putting people on top of the seven-story buildings which we've talked about already. Hundred percent ID checks, inspection of all vehicles that come in the compound. Again, the idea is we don't want somebody to get in here and set off a weapon.
What you see right here is a parking garage. There were a number of those located throughout the Khobar Towers area. One of the things you'll see on the next slide is that they closed these garages. Again, they didn't want somebody getting in there with a vehicle, putting it in the garage and detonating the device.
Even though a vehicle got inside, they still did random inspections of vehicles that were inside the complex. They used working dog teams to check vehicles, bomb dogs, as we would call them in the military. They've got a very sensitive nose. They can smell explosives. So they're helping with this. Jersey barriers along all the access roads to limit vehicle speed and the ingress and egress. Again, it doesn't show them here in this particular scene, but the idea was that as you get around toward entrances and along some of these roads, they'll put a series of Jersey barriers up staggered, so a car has to "S" through them to slow them down. That's what we're talking about here.
Vegetation being pruned back. Remember, this is a parking lot here, a Saudi parking lot, for the park and a mosque which is close by, with a lot of vegetation growing up along this barrier here, and the security people wanted the vegetation pruned back because they were afraid somebody might sneak up along the fence line here and they might see them, so they had gotten a lot of this vegetation pruned back from where it was, which was a lot thicker than you see it there. The pruning they were able to accomplish improved their visibility of something getting ready to happen if it were put against the fence line.
And obviously, they used a lot of different vehicles to increase the overall security awareness of our people that were there.
We've already talked about the garages. Blocked the service roads. Again, the idea was, we don't want somebody to get in between these buildings with some kind of a device because of the tremendous damage that would have been done. Had we had a device go off inside, we'd have lost three or four buildings instead of the front of one.
Concertina wire, again, to protect the perimeter. Machine gun bunkers added. Trucks used to seal off the entrance so somebody couldn't run the entrance. The bomb dog teams, tire shredders at the main gate, fighting positions established throughout the perimeter to protect the forces of somebody trying to penetrate.
You notice I've just gone through some representative samplings. There were 130 measures, according to General Peay, that were taken at Khobar Towers.
In April of this year there were a series of incidents dealing with surveillances, which are not uncommon in this part of the world, but they were identified and some actions were taken as a result of this. In addition to the surveillances in the April time period, along the barrier line at some point, a car rammed into one of these barriers. We don't know if that was an accident or whether they were testing the barrier or what, but the fact of the matter is it happened and it was reported. As a result of these two kinds of things I've just described over the period of April and May, additional measures were taken. Another line of Jersey barriers were added. You can see, there are two lines of them. They had one, they put another one out here to double the strength of the barrier.
The Saudis went to 24-hour schedules outside with patrols. Procedures were set up to look at suspicious vehicles that were outside of the complex based on what they'd seen happened. They manned a sand-filled dump truck at the gate now, so that they were ready to run this thing across the front of the gate if somebody tried to come through the entrance.
So the point of this is, there were some reported actions, and you all have reported that. They were summarized in a statement that was put out by the intelligence people on the 17th which you all have reported on. But remember, this is a summary of things we already knew about. It wasn't new reporting to anybody. The purpose of that report was to say these things had happened and that actions had been taken in relation to these incidents that they were showing a summary of.
So that's the situation. These things then took place after the April time frame.
So what I've tried to show you is that this force protection issue has been an issue that's been worked extremely hard. There were a lot of attention to detail placed following the OPM SANG bombing, at Khobar Towers and other facilities throughout the Persian Gulf area, but particularly in Saudi Arabia.
The fact of the matter is that when we deploy, force protection has got to be a key issue for a commander. It always is. You're always paying attention to it, which is why you see the measures being taken that you see.
We've got a fairly high threat there, there's no question about. It's obvious to everybody now that we've had the second bomb go off, and the commanders had a high awareness that the threat was there. But what we didn't perceive correctly was the magnitude of the capability of the terrorists.
Recall what I told you before was, that what we were trying to do was protect against somebody getting a bomb up against the side of a building, protecting the perimeter, working all those actions very hard. The Saudis are working outside. So the feeling is, not that we're complacent, there's a lot more to do, but that we've started on the right path here. Many, many actions, as I've described, were accomplished.
A hundred and thirty measures taken at Khobar Towers. These measures that we talked about prevented a bomb of this kind from going off inside the complex or being put up right against a building. While the loss of 19 of our servicemen is a terrible tragedy in and of itself, and 400-some injured, we would have had the figures reversed had the terrorists been able to get into this complex. We would have lost on the order of 400 people had they been able to detonate the weapon inside of the complex or up against a building.
So the force protection measures, while we're not perfect, and they never are because of the nature of terrorism, they're going to strike us where we least expect it, they're going to strike us in ways which we do not expect, where we're most vulnerable. The effects of the measures taken did serve its purpose, although not totally effective, obviously.
I think it's safe to point out because of what's happening in Saudi Arabia, that we have to see that future terrorists attacks are likely. We are going to see more of these. We recognize that and that's why you see a lot of additional effort going into force protection now to try to do everything possible to protect the forces that we send on these very important missions overseas. But it's important to remember that because of the nature of terrorism, it's very, very difficult to make a complex totally safe. They're going to look for ways, even after we do all these measures, they're going to look for ways to create another incident. It's going to be harder for them, and we're going to continue to work this problem very, very hard and to the best of our ability to protect every service man and service woman over there, but we've got to recognize what we're dealing with. I will tell you based on this latest attack and what I've seen our Secretary and our Chairman do, that there is no stone being left unturned to accomplish this purpose. I want to emphasize that to everybody in the room and everybody watching on C-Span or any other network that might pick this up. This is serious business. But the missions we're conducting overseas are serious missions. They're important to the country. We in uniform recognize we accept the risk when we go off and do these things. We also in uniform expect every measure to be taken to protect us, as we're doing them. I can assure you, as I've said, we're doing everything humanly possible here, at the Central Command for the Persian Gulf area, and at the local commander level with all the people that we have at every level working this to do everything we can to ensure the safety of our forces overseas.
With that, I'll turn to your questions.
Q: General, these things are, all 130 are obviously fundamental and certainly worth doing, but none of them prevented the truck from going off. The point is, either the people who drove that truck up were just dumb lucky, or else there was a level of sophistication we hadn't seen before. Someone might have said well, if we put X number of pounds of explosives, X feet away, it's going to cause sufficient damage, we don't have to get inside the compound. Does this possible escalation concern you greatly? Because none of these things seemed to work against that.
A: Obviously they do. I would tell you that we're not really looking at a threat of the magnitude of this bomb. We're looking at threats well beyond that, because we're not going to get caught short on this again. I'm not saying we're not going to have another terrorist attack, because I just got through telling you that it's likely we're going to have one. But it's not going to be because we've underestimated what the size of the threat is. This really was beyond what we had anticipated what we felt what the size of the threat might be.
So I think you're going to see some very aggressive actions taken by this country to do what I told you before. We're leaving no stone unturned now. We recognize that terrorism is growing; we recognize we're going to have to deal with it. We also recognize that it's important to our country to keep doing these missions, so we've got to keep the risk versus the mission balance in proper perspective.
Q: Can you share with us what the military did anticipate about the size of a bomb after the November bomb?
A: I can't put a characterization on exactly the size. But a bomb of this magnitude was larger than what we thought the capability of a terrorist was. I mean I can tell you that.
Now I'm saying that standing here. I'm not at Dhahran. But that's what I have been told. What we'll have to do is wait for General Downing's assessment, and he will make the evaluation, as I described earlier, on what he's doing as to whether or not they perceived a threat correctly and were taking the proper action, so let's wait for General Downing's assessment.
Q: Is the exact nature of the bomb known, what it consisted of, what...
A: I think, again, this is part of the investigation not being done by us but by the FBI and we'll just have to leave them to answer that.
Q: There's been some comment in the hearing with Secretary Perry and General Shali about the fact that look, there are dozens of U.S. residential facilities in the Persian Gulf, it's a difficult job to try to make all of these secure. But isn't it true that with about 3,700 people living here, this was the location for the vast majority of all the forces, and therefore, this had to be the central focus of your security concern. Is that a fair characterization? How would you put it?
A: There's a lot of people in Riyadh and we have a lot of people who are not directly aligned under General Peay in the combat role we're doing there. They're working with the Ambassador in terms of training the Saudis and equipping them with things that they've asked for. There are over 1,000 dependents in Saudi Arabia, for example. 35,000 Americans in Saudi Arabia. Yeah, this is a large complex, but there are lots of other complexes to deal with. You can say that the majority of them were here, but that's really not true. There are complexes up in Riyadh which are very sizeable and obviously could be targets for any terrorists.
Q: There's a lot of discussion about the placement of the barriers. Was there any restriction on access to that parking lot? Or was any restriction on access to that lot ever discussed? The placement of a guard shack, or...
A: It's a good question. I've got to tell you, it's not that we haven't asked, but we've got to be careful because that's what General Downing's job is. It would seem that with the entryway here and no other access evident, that there would have been some control at this point. Whether the Saudis had people there, whether they had a roving patrol through the parking lot, I can't give you the answer. I don't have the details on that because that will be part of what General Downing does. I'm not trying to put your question off, I just don't want to mislead you. I just don't know the answer to the question. It's not that we're not interested, but General Downing's been sent out to do that. If we all call and start asking all these questions, you know what happens. It overloads the system.
Q: ...the mosque as well?
A: Yeah, sure.
Again, I've seen a larger blowup here and I've only seen this park area here. I've not seen where the mosque sits, but I take it it must be over here on this side and that's what the parking lot was designed for was for the park and for the mosque.
Q: Two weeks ago when Secretary Perry was in Saudi Arabia he got a commitment from the Saudi King for full cooperation. To the best of your knowledge, is that still happening? Are you getting full cooperation from the Saudis in both the investigation and in the operational things?
A: Again, Jack, you're asking me a question in the Department of Defense that is really an issue which the Department of Justice and the FBI need to answer. They're the ones that are trying to get the cooperation. We've gotten all the cooperation we can ask for from the Saudis, but you'll have to ask them that question. I'm just not prepared, nor the right guy to answer that.
Q: Can you shed any light on these recent warnings?
A: The recent terrorist warnings?
A: Well, you know it's not uncommon, we even see this here in the U.S. When an incident happens like this, there's a lot of other things that sort of happen, and a lot of other warnings that come out. But I will tell you that the warnings that we're seeing, and we are seeing them as you would expect in Saudi Arabia, are being taken, every one of them, seriously. We have no choice. We've got to pay attention to these things. So you're exactly right. There have been some additional warnings. We don't know if they're true or not, but we're not in any position to treat them lightly, so we're taking every one of them seriously, as you would expect.
Q: What are they?
A: I'm not going to go into the details of specifics. I think that's improper to do here. We're liable to aid the wrong people. I understand your question and I understand why you've asked it, but I'd rather stay away from that.
Q: Given the capabilities of other countries in the region and your statement about not getting caught short again, what degree of importance are you giving the possibility of CW or BW? Does that ride very high on your threat possibility scale, or is that really a fringe matter?
A: When you look at terrorism, it can run the full gamut of things and you're up on the upper end of the scale. Is it possible? Where I stand today, I think anything is possible, and I'll just have to leave it at that.
Q: What about explosive type things and direct attacks? Are there steps being taken with the CW/BW threat...
A: I will tell you, as I said before, we're not leaving anything to chance. We're looking at all possibilities here. I just told you that that's in the spectrum, so I think it answers itself.
Q: When do you anticipate forces being repositioned within Saudi Arabia?
A: This is up to General Peay to come back with recommendations on exactly what they're going to do, if they're going to recommend that. This is part of his effort as I described to you earlier, he's going through a three step process. Why don't we wait and let General Peay sort of get his feet on the ground, make some solid assessments about what makes sense. That's not to say there's not a sense of urgency for this, because we already know from seeing this type of an explosion that anything is possible. So we've got to get people out of harm's way. So I think you'll see something fairly soon for some recommendations, but let's wait and let them talk to you.
Q: Do you have any news at all on the report that this bombing was a fuel air explosive?
A: Again, I can't tell you the nature of what's in the weapon, and there are a couple of reasons for that. One, I'm not positive. I haven't seen the report that's being done by the FBI, and we really do need to wait for them to do it to release it. And as we know, when the FBI's involved in an investigation, they've got to be very careful what they say so as not to prejudice the investigation. There's legal things here. So we just need to stay away from this issue. When they're ready, we'll let them talk to it.
Q: ...rather than (inaudible) a critical level was declared?
A: You're asking me to get into something that I can't cover with you in terms of exactly what the word is that's being used. I will tell you that we are paying as much attention to this issue, we're treating it with all seriousness. We can't get any more serious about this than we are based on what the threat level is, declared both from the intelligence side and the operational side. I'd rather not discuss exactly where they sit in the process. But I will tell you that we don't pay much more attention than we're paying over there now. In fact I can't ever remember seeing people pay more attention to something we're doing right here.
Q: You said you moved the barrier back from 100 feet to 400 feet?
A: That's what happened. After the bombing, the Saudis have moved this northern barrier out. It's out to 400 feet.
Q: As a practical matter, can you build a conventional bomb that is going to have the same kind of destructive power over a 400-foot radius that you had here? I'm just not sure what the physics are? Can you get that much conventional explosive together to cause damage at 400 feet?
A: Sure you can. Especially when you've got construction like this. Remember these buildings were built some years ago. There was a modular construction. One of the interesting things when you look at this is, I say interesting -- there's nothing interesting in my mind about looking at something like that, for obvious reasons. But there's not much rubble in front of the building. The reason for that is, these are modular. As a result, the just sort of blew in the building more than it just dropped the building in front of it.
So when you're talking about buildings of this kind of construction, you can go further away with a sizeable weapon and get the damage effects you're looking for. If you remember on one of the earlier charts, I said -- those actions were taken after the 25th -- one of the lines on there was people are going back and looking at the construction codes for how buildings are built so that they are able not to sustain a blast right up against the building, but to prevent exactly what we're talking bout -- somebody at 400 feet doing this kind of damage.
Q: Would you necessarily need to amass a weapon four times the amount of explosives to get this same damage... Is that simple...
A: I didn't do well on engineering in college, so I... You're asking the wrong guy. I'm just a plain operator. I'm not trying to be facetious with you. It's a serious question. But I just couldn't answer it for you authoritatively, but we can get the answer for you.
Q: Secretary Perry talked the other day about a well organized, well financed terrorism network that he believes was involved in this. Is that a judgment made on the basis of the size of this bomb?
A: I think so. When you look at the sophistication of it, they knew exactly the right time and exactly the size weapon to achieve these effects. This is a fairly sophisticated operation. This isn't somebody that just decides to do this overnight. They really had to think this thing through and they had to recognize the size of weapon it would take at that distance to get this kind of an effect. So I think that's why you see Dr. Perry saying we're fairly convinced this was a fairly sophisticated operation. Yes, sir.
Q: Just in Saudi Arabia or is this some place else?
A: I think the capability to do this kind of thing you can't limit to Saudi Arabia.
Q: The folks who are still stationed at Khobar, can you tell us now a little bit about how their lives are different? Are their hours restricted, their movements restricted? Do they go through more checkpoints? What...
A: It's a little dangerous for me to talk about because I do not like talking about some place I haven't been or talked to the people on the ground and I have not been to Khobar Towers, and I have not talked to General Schwalier to find out exactly what he's doing there in terms of the local scene, or General Anderson in terms of Saudi Arabia. That's for the people at CENTCOM to do. I don't deal directly with them, the CENTCOM people do.
That's not to say there's no interest here, but the fact of the matter is that I can't describe for you precisely what's taking place. I do know from what I am told from Central Command that, although it has a big effect on quality of life, and that's just something we're going to have to face up with right now, people that are the facing outside, on these buildings that you see facing outside over here on this side, they're being moved out of the facing sides of the buildings, and we're just going to double, triple up, whatever it takes, to make sure we can provide protection. So that's a major thing that's going on. There's no doubt in my mind that there's a lot more security people out. As you saw on the list that I showed you earlier, things after the 25th, additional security forces have been sent over to three countries. So those things are two things I know that have happened. There's no doubt in my mind that additional things have happened. We talked about one, moving the barrier out, so that's three that I know of that have occurred. Other things, I can't give you specifics, so I'd rather just stay away from it.
Q: You said a moment ago that the capability to do this does not exist just in Saudi Arabia. Isn't it a factual conclusion that the capability to do this doesn't exist in Saudi Arabia, or didn't, and that is why... So this is not, the home- grown aspects of this which may have been the conclusion of the bombing in November, you no longer believe that this could be done just as a home-grown operation here, isn't that correct?
A: I think that's a good assessment. I think what you have pieced together from what all of us know, and I mentioned this, I know what you know, and you know what I know on this, is that this was a very sophisticated operation, and unless something has happened where they've imported people and have not got an indigenous capability, this came from without. You can't guarantee that, but it's a possibility. And certainly there are other places around the world that people have the capability to build this kind of weapon. That's what I'm telling you. We've seen them in other places already. So that's no surprise to anybody. But I think what we're seeing is that obviously, this came from within, but was it brought in or was it developed there is the question you're asking. I can't tell you that. That's part of what we hope the Saudi and U.S. investigation will find out as they try to find the perpetrators.
Q: Some interesting comparisons if you go back to Beirut. That was suicidal, this is not, obviously. The two guys ran away. But it was a truck bomb in Beirut. It was close to the same level of explosives, as far as the amount. And an interesting point, which is obviously conjecture, that part of the terrorism in that part of the world was to die and go immediately to heaven because it was a good way of life. These two guys did not choose to die, which leads people to believe that maybe there's something else here not involving (inaudible) or Moslems. But the point I'm trying to make is, Beirut was a wakeup call, it was a truck bomb. So there are some similarities here which would lead me to believe that maybe since that was part of controlled terrorism and organized terrorism, the two are comparable.
A: It's possible, but again it's conjecture at this point. You brought up the Beirut bombing, and I will tell you, and General Peay went through this the other day in his testimony, people tend to think there may be similarities. There really aren't similarities in terms of the conditions where that bomb went off and what we have in Saudi Arabia, no question about that. No question about that. And while a lot of protection was taken to try to protect our Marines there, clearly we have learned from that experience, and as I've described to you more than once, a major objective of what the security people were trying to accomplish here was [to] prevent a penetration like we had happen in Lebanon.
Q: Overall these are, I guess you would characterize it as defensive measures that you've described. I'm wondering if there's anything that you could say about offensive measures that are being taken, specifically in the questions that have been coming up, of the nature of exogenous origins of this, there are two major things that have been mentioned which have been brought to international attention. One is the network of Afghan veterans who are prominently involved in incidents of this type in a number of different countries. The other is the fact that a lot of these groups that have been complained about by other Arab nations who have been attacked have been receiving funding not only from certain Arab nations, but also from places like London that are given free reign in many Western countries. So what I'm wondering is, can you talk about what efforts are underway to, on a global level, to address this whole thing from a higher standpoint if, in fact, we say that we underestimated where this was. We must obviously re-estimate the global picture, not just the Saudi picture, and I wonder if you could comment on that.
A: It's an excellent question. It's one which obviously makes sense. What you're saying is are we being proactive or just reactive.
The answer to that is we're being proactive. For obvious reasons I can't go into the details of what that means. You can't sit here and wait to be attacked. You've got to get aggressive and try to stop it. So you can count, as I said, I said no stone is going be left unturned, that's what I'm talking about. We're going to get very proactive in this business. So I'd rather stay away from specifics, if I might.
Q: Speaking of stones, you have a situation where all of your Americans are clustered targets, what we now see as being very vulnerable. Senator Nunn raised the issue on the Hill about the dangers of developing a bunker mentality, and the Americans get so isolated and so protected that they can't carry out their mission.
Q: Has there been any thought given to mixing Americans with Saudis and other indigenous people there so they don't stand out like they did there?
A: It's an excellent point, and Senator Nunn's point was right on the mark. He's exactly correct. The worst mistake we can make is to get insular and pull ourselves back and now we can't get the mission done. So part of the efforts that are underway in this building are to look at that very issue. When does force protection start to impinge on the mission and what's the relationship between the two, and what are the ways we can ameliorate that problem? You've just described one way that could be successful.
Clearly, concentrations of Americans have been a target over the years. One way to solve that is to eliminate the concentrations. Is that feasible in a society like we have in a sovereign nation such as the kingdom of Saudi Arabia? I can't tell you, but I can assure you that it will be considered.
Thank you very much.