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DoD News Briefing: Capt. Mike Doubleday, USN, DASD (PA)

Presenters: Capt. Mike Doubleday, USN, DASD (PA)
August 28, 1997 2:00 PM EDT

Captain Doubleday: Good afternoon. I just have one welcoming announcement and that is Nigel Campbell, who is 13 years old, is here today with his father, it looks like, Lieutenant Colonel Vernon Campbell, who works back in the Freedom of Information Directorate, and he's going to be watching what I do and what you do. He's been down at Fort Belvoir for this summer working as an intern photojournalist in training and has some interest in pursuing a career in journalism and so he's here to see what goes on.

We welcome you, Nigel, to the activities today.

With that, I'll try and answer some of your questions. Charlie?

Q: Mike, could you fill us in on the seismic event, incident, whatever you want to call it, in Russia and whether or not there's any evidence that it was a nuclear blast?

A: We are aware that a seismic event with explosive characteristics occurred in the vicinity of the Russian nuclear test range at Novaya Zemlya on the 16th of August. The information which we have is still under review. We've reached no conclusions at this point. We are not able to determine at this juncture whether the test was nuclear or not.

Q: What do you mean "explosive characteristics"?

A: Well, as you know, Charlie, we have the capability to determine certain events, seismic and otherwise, throughout the world and this one certainly had characteristics that at least would lead some to believe that there had been an explosion that caused the event, but the data was not certain enough that we could come to a conclusion at that point. There is still deliberation going on on this event and at this point, as I indicated, we have reached no conclusion.

Yes, Susanne?

Q: What kind of explanation did you receive from the Russians? I'm sure you've asked.

A: We are engaged with the Russians on this subject. I don't want to go beyond that at this point because I don't have any firm information about what their response has been other than that we continue to dialogue with them.

Q: What about the size of the explosion? Would it appear to have been nuclear size or can you tell that about it?

A: At this point, I don't know that I have the level of detail at hand that would indicate it was not a large explosion but it was certainly large enough that it registered on the equipment that we have in place that detects these things.

Q: In place, you mean there at test site?

A: Well, it's not at the test site, but we have monitoring equipment throughout the world that is being set up in connection with the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Right now, it's a prototype system, since the treaty is not in effect, but it enables monitoring of events of this type and it is certainly one of the reasons that we are anxious for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty to go into effect because it will give countries all over the world the ability to look into these matters with greater efficiency and to watch these kinds of events with greater transparency.

Q: Is there any kind of natural occurrence that could register this type of reaction that you know of?

A: Just off the top of my head, I would say that certainly there are earthquakes that occur and other phenomena like that, that might certainly register like this. I would think that volcanic activity, either underwater or above ground, could certainly register on this kind of equipment. So, as I say, we're still looking.

Q: But is that a volcanic area?

A: Not to my knowledge, but you just asked me the kinds of things that could be interpreted.

Q: Well, this specific registration --

A: I don't know other than earthquake activity how you might interpret the data.

Q: Mike, when you measure earthquakes that have a Richter scale. On this equipment that you're talking about, does it have a scale? And, if it does, could you give us an indication?

A: I don't have that level of detail with me. We can certainly look into it. I know that the equipment is certainly sensitive enough to pick out seismic activity at some distance, but I don't know the calibrations of it.

Q: Could you tell us how far away this device was that registered the activity?

A: No, I can't tell you the location of the monitors.

Q: Is it in Russia?

A: To my knowledge, no, it is not.

Q: (Inaudible) the monitoring equipment was set up as part of the CTBT --

A: The prototype system. Right.

Q: Right. Does this -- and it's supposed to be able to filter out such things as earthquakes.

A: I saw that in your story. I don't know if that is accurate or not, but we can look into it and see if we can provide that.

Q: But despite that, does this raise questions in your mind about whether that system will be able to detect small nuclear tests?

A: It doesn't to me. If it detected this event and it is being put into place to detect other such similar events, I think it shows that it's working real good.

Q: Could you have earthquake with explosive characteristics?

A: Well, I think you certainly could if there was some sort of volcano that was associated with it and I think frequently underwater earthquakes have that kind of --

Q: Are there any volcanic activity, any volcanos, is the area where --

A: I don't know enough about that area to be able to tell you whether that would have been a contributing factor or not.

Q: The test ban treaty is not yet in effect.

A: That's correct.

Q: Does this violate any treaty or is this simply a breaching of the pledges that the Russians have made to us?

A: If the seismic event was actually a low-level nuclear test event, then the Russians would be violating the object and the purpose of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. The Comprehensive Test Ban treaty is not yet in force, but it is due to go before congressional review some time after the Congress returns in September. Neither the United States nor Russia yet has ratified, although both countries have signed the agreement.

Q: But the Russian government has promised on several occasions that they would they not test.

A: That's right.

Q: Are there Americans stationed anywhere close to that test range?

A: Not to my knowledge.

Q: Have you been allowed access to the region? Have you requested it? Have you been allowed it?

A: Well, not to my knowledge. We are certainly in conversations with the Russians, but one of the things about the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty that is relevant in this case is that it would allow for on-site inspections.

Q: Mike?

A: Are we finished with that one?

Q: Well, one more. Do you have anything besides the size and state of that, that would lead you to believe that this was a low-level nuclear explosion?

A: Well, there are -- there are a number of types of data that are collected, atmospheric and otherwise, when such events occur, and I'm not aware of exactly what in this case was collected.

But, as we get further information, to the extent we can, we'll be glad to share it with you.

Q: Also, I'm sorry, one more. The possible detonation, if it was a nuclear detonation, would have been a below ground, not an above ground explosion; is that correct?

A: I don't -- I think it probably would have been below, but the depth at which it would have been below, I'm not sure we know at this point.

Q: Presumably, if it were above ground, other systems would have picked up on much more obvious --

A: Yeah.

Q: What type of cooperation are you getting from the Russians in trying to determine what it was?

A: As I say, we're talking with them, but if you want to follow up on that one further, you ought to talk to State Department. They're the ones that actually do the talking.

Q: If it was, in fact, a test, are you concerned that this could undermine the administration's effort to get the CTBT ratified?

A: I think it will add to it because, one, it shows that the equipment works and, secondly, it indicates that we need to have the kinds of transparency that that treaty offers to us. We not only need to get ratification on the U.S. side, but we also need to get it on the Russian side.

Q: Is this display considered to be an act of bad faith by the Russians, that you know of?

A: I don't want to characterize it one way or another, because, at this point, we have not concluded as to exactly what the event was.

Yeah. Let me go -- first I should go to Bill.

Q: Thank you. Thank you, Mike. Mike, does the Department have any comment on Selig Harrison's quote saying that it was completely predictable that admission of two North Korean defectors would derail U.S. negotiations with the North Koreans, and would strengthen hard-liners in North Korea who want a confrontation with the U.S., instead of engagement? Can you comment on that?

A: That's a great question for the State Department.

Q: Any part of that even issue.

A: Bill, you really need to go to State Department on that one. Let's go to Tammy, on your --

Q: On Bosnia.

A: Yeah.

Q: The White House today says after the U.S. troops were injured, when they were hit by with two-by-fours by some Serb residents of Brcko, they said that -- the White House said that this would not be tolerated, such attacks would not be tolerated. What does that mean?

A: Well, let me just kind of go through and see if I can summarize the events as we know them right now in Brcko.

First of all, as I stand before you, the situation in Brcko is more calm than it was earlier today, although it is certainly tense, still.

What occurred very early this morning, Bosnia time, there were SFOR units which deployed into several cities in the -- in the area, one of which was Brcko.

The unrest in Brcko began a little bit later, but still around 5:00 or 6:00 in the morning, local time. There was a group of police who were moving to occupy the local civil police station and, as a result of that and other events that had been occurring, crowds started forming.

There were sirens which had signaled, evidently, to the population that they should be alerted to something that was happening, and this may have brought them out into the streets.

SFOR units had deployed at several points throughout the city. One of these points was near the Brcko bridge, and there was a confrontation which took place at that location.

The SFOR troops moved from that location to the Brcko bridge itself, and the crowd moved with them. There was more turmoil. There was the violence that you've described, which included one SFOR soldier being hit in the head by a two-by-four.

And, ultimately, there were Molotov cocktails thrown at several locations in the city, one of which was at the Brcko bridge, and they were thrown at some of the Bradley fighting vehicles, which were there at the bridge. The damage to the Bradley fighting vehicles was negligible.

As a result of this activity, the SFOR troops fired some warning shots into the air -- this, in an effort to get the crowds to disperse.

Subsequently, when the crowds did not disperse, the SFOR soldiers employed some riot control agents, and the crowd dwindled in size, although my understanding is that a crowd still remains in the vicinity, although it's not as large as it was earlier in the day.

Now, as you know, from the many times I've been up here, and from what Ken Bacon and others have said, the primary role of SFOR troops is to maintain a safe and secure environment to enable other organizations -- international organizations -- to do their job in Bosnia.

In this case, the primary international organization that was trying to do its job was the International Police Task Force -- the IPTF.

And I think that, in the last few weeks, you've probably seen a lot of reporting on the fact that the International Police Task Force has been trying to work with civil police authorities to restructure the police forces in the Republic of Srpska, and I think you know that the duly elected officials in the Republic of Srpska have been working with the International Police Task Force to accomplish this, and there was that activity which preceded some of the SFOR activity that went on today.

In other words, the IPTF had asked for the assistance of SFOR to carry out the task that it had to do some inspections of the police facilities there in Brcko. As it turns out, they were unable to carry out those, although in other locations they did that today without incident.

Q: Were the crowd control agents you were talking about there at the first, is that tear gas?

A: Do we know? Tear gas, yes.

Q: Sir, do you happen --

Q: (Inaudible) whether it was drawn --

A: Just one second, David.

Q: To follow your description of events, it sounds like the Pentagon believes that these crowds were somehow produced on demand, that this was an orchestrated reaction?

A: At this point, it appears that based on not only the siren, the fact that some of the crowds arrived in vehicles rather than on foot -- that is to say buses -- and based on the fact that the radio rhetoric at that point was pretty high, our belief is that, yes, the crowds were certainly encouraged by some sort of organization to appear on the scene.

I am not sure of the -- what the focus of their -- of their violence was, whether it went beyond the SFOR troops and also focused on elements of the duly elected government. I don't have that level of clarity from here.

Q: You said this was -- that the SFOR troops deployed because their assistance had been requested by the --

A: IPTF.

Q: IPTF. The wire services are describing it a little differently. They're saying that police loyal to Plavsic were going to take over these police stations.

A: I think that is correct, also.

Q: So basically, we had U.S. troops operating in support of police loyal to Plavsic?

A: Well, no, that is not the way I would characterize it. Although, I can -- I can see how it might be interpreted that way. But go back to the general framework agreement for peace. And if you go through what -- what in this case IFOR and SFOR are supposed to be doing to maintain a safe secure environment and also to prevent civil violence to the extent that they can.

And in this case, they were requested by the IPTF to participate in this. They had some advance knowledge of that -- this activity on the part of the -- of the duly elected government, their police forces might be taking place. And it was deemed to be prudent and certainly within the framework agreement for them to be in position to try and prevent violence.

Q: Is the same in the other towns, as well?

A: Oh, yeah.

Q: I mean, it's the same --

A: Were there other events like this? No.

Q: In other towns was -- were the sequence of events --

A: There were -- there were troops deployed in five different towns, one of which was Brcko.

Q: Because in each case --

A: Because in each case --

Q: -- police loyal to Plavsic were going to take over the police station?

A: -- because in each case the IPTF had asked that the SFOR assist them as they needed to proceed with their mission. There was -- there was as you say, advanced information that these kinds of activities by Mrs. Plavsic police units were going to take place, and that the potential for conflict was high.

And my understanding is that SFOR as part of their overall mandate to try and not only maintain a safe and secure environment but also to prevent violence. SFOR deployed these units in an effort to do that. Yeah, Joe.

Q: Mike, you have described the situation now as calm but tense. I wonder if any consideration is being given to moving up the time table for beefing up troops. We talked about the election coming up in September that we would see a slight rise. Is that time table being --

A: I have seen no indication that the deployment schedule is changing at all. A lot of the deployment is well under way, and those troops are either en route, or already deployed.

Q: Have any of the international police been withdrawn from the police station area? And has the -- have the police loyal to Plavsic maintained stations? Or have they pulled out as well?

A: Well, let me just tell you what I know about SFOR's involvement in this thing, rather than what the local police are doing, which I have absolutely no knowledge of.

SFOR, at the request of the International Police Task Force did extract -- the numbers we have are about 40 International Police Task Force officers from the IPTF police station in Brcko. This is not the Republic of Srpska's police station. This is the IPTF's police station, which they maintain there in Brcko.

They also extracted the local IPTF police chief, the guy who is in charge of those 40 men who were extracted from their police station, from the local police station, where he happened to be at the time.

Q: Yeah, Mike?

A: Yeah.

Q: Back to Tammy's question about the White House -- the interpretation of the White House statement that they won't tolerate this kind of activity. Can you address that, and perhaps, even give the rules of engagement?

A: Well, you know that the rules of engagement that exist over there for our deployed troops are robust so that when they feel that they are being threatened, they have the capability to respond appropriately. And beyond that, I don't want to get into any detail except that I think you're all aware that if they feel threatened, they're going to take steps to remove the threat.

Q: Would that include --

Q: What about the --

Q: -- what happened in the other towns?

A: The other towns, the troops deployed. The IPTF, as I understand it, did what they wanted to do and there was no violence that I am aware of that has been reported.

Q: So there was a restructuring, in other words, of the police?

A: I don't think the restructuring is done in five or 10 minutes. It is a process that the IPTF is working on, and they have people who I'm sure could inform you on what process they go through to do that.

Q: Which are the other towns?

A: The other towns are Doboj, Derventa, Modrica, and Bijeljina.

Q: And so can you just explain what happened to those towns again, because it's not clear to me? Did the local police -- did the Plavsic Police try to take over in each case, and the SFOR provided sort of a shield?

A: I don't have that level of detail. I do know that SFOR troops deployed in each of those towns with the information that they had, which was that there might be the potential for violence. Violence did not occur. The deployment -- those units may have contributed to the absence of violence; and, to my knowledge, at this point, those town are quiet at this point.

Q: Did those U.S. troops leave SFOR troops in the four towns?

A: Yeah, in all five towns. To my knowledge, we are talking here primarily U.S. troops. Yeah, Mark?

Q: It seems like SFOR troops are getting involved in some of the internal party struggles in that country. Is this sort of a new mission for SFOR troops, and is there any threat increase to SFOR troops?

A: Well, to answer your last question first, I think you can see from the level of violence there that certainly the potential for violence against SFOR is high, but I think you also are aware that the U.S. troops and the officers who watch out for them have gone to very great lengths to ensure that their forces are protected, are very well protected. I think you've seen that they all go out in flak jackets. They have hard hats on any time they are off their post, and that continues to be the case.

Q: How can you say that they are well protected, Mike? I mean, you have got one soldier in the hospital with a concussion and eye damage and nose damage. You've got another soldier who was attacked by a two-by-four with a nail in it and has cuts in his head, and all that was done is shots were fired over people's heads and some tear gas was used, and those troops weren't protected from being injured.

A: Well, I think, Charlie, that you look at the kinds of steps that individuals take in advance to make sure the troops are well protected. You ensure that the patrols are of a size that can deal with a situation like this. You make sure that the forces are properly equipped, that they are properly trained, that they have the kinds of protective gear on that minimizes the injuries that they are subjected to.

In this particular case, we have two injuries. One of the injuries was an individual who was treated and returned to duty immediately. Another soldier is being treated at the hospitals that we have set up there so that we can do exactly what might occur in a situation like this.

I think everybody is aware that anytime you get soldiers deployed into an area where there are conflicting parties, that there is the potential for violence; and what we have done in this case is we have taken very good steps, very prudent steps, very deliberative steps that make sure that our troops enjoy the best possible protection. And I would submit to you that in this case there is every evidence that they have been protected well.

Q: Were any of the demonstrators injured in this riot there?

A: I don't have any figures on that. I think the reporters and public affairs people over at the scene can better address that one. Yeah, Tammy?

Q: Mike, you said that if SFOR soldiers feel threatened, they can take steps to remove the threat. Who is the threat from in this case, since this was apparently an orchestrated...?

A: Well, I think that, Tammy, what you have to look at, one of the things that SFOR troops go through in connection with their training is we are over there to maintain a safe and secure environment. We are not parties to a conflict. We are not involved in any kind of a war in this case. We are there to maintain a safe and secure environment. And one of the steps that we take to prepare troops who are going to be deployed in this area is to put them through the kind of training that simulates this very kind of a situation. As they prepare to deploy, they go through various scenarios that show exactly the kinds of things that you get into with civil unrest.

We are not there to make a situation worse; we are there to calm a situation. And I think that the steps that these troops took were very prudent. They fired warning shots, they finally used the riot control agents. This is indicative of the kinds of training that individuals go through who are going to be put into these situations.

Q: Given that it was apparently orchestrated, did they remove the threat? I mean, is the threat -- Brcko radio --

A: I'm not sure at this point. I'm not sure at this point we have full visibility as to the source of the threat. Yeah, Mark?

Q: But you didn't answer my last question about I seem to see that we are talking a more aggressive stance in getting involved in sort of the internal struggles of...

A: I think that there is only one duly elected president of the Republic of Srpska, and that's Mrs. Plavsic. I mean, the alternative, in my view, at least, is unthinkable. The alternative is an indicted war criminal, so there is no doubt in my mind that SFOR is always going to have to deal with the duly elected president of the various areas in which they operate, the duly elected mayors, the duly elected officials, and they do a very good job of that.

Q: Do you consider the radio broadcasts were rather invective of threat to the lives of the Americans and SFOR troops, something that you would want to take military action against or disable?

A: Well, I think we certainly have to be very aware of what is going on there, and to make sure that if this kind of activity continues in a way that results in violence, that we are in a position to do something about it, but I wouldn't want to predict what that might be. Yeah?

Q: What sort of scale are we talking about here? How many SFOR troops were present? How many riots?

A: The total number of SFOR troops that were involved was several hundred, in the neighborhood of three, 350, something like that.

Q: Which covers this one incident?

A: This was in Brcko. I don't have numbers for any of the other cities.

Q: And as for the rioters?

A: I think the numbers got up to between 800 and 1,000.

Q: Would you consider the scuffle a political march, a riot? How would you describe this?

A: I would call it civil unrest, violence against SFOR troops. It was not an event that anyone looks forward to, but certainly the training that we put our people through is such that they were prepared to deal with it.

Q: Back to the radio question, I think the Karadzic -- the Pale radio and TV are still putting out what you would consider propaganda, anti-SFOR broadcasts. How serious a problem is this? What can you do about it, and what will you do about it?

A: Well, I don't want to predict what we are going to do about it. There are a number of steps that could be taken, but I don't think at this point we want to show exactly what we might do. Just one second. Let me get --

Q: And do you know how many transmitters are now in the hands of the Plavsic factions?

A: You will have to go to the people on the ground. I don't do play-by-play on Republic of Srpska's transmitters. Yeah?

Q: If the police task force, the international police, want to undertake this kind of operation in other towns, or if --

A: Well, see, they've already done it in other towns.

Q: Will SFOR be -- if they want to do it in the future, will SFOR be helping them in the same way it has endeavored to help?

A: Well, they have been doing these restructuring activities for a long time.

Q: So this sort of thing will continue if they need to move into other locations?

A: They certainly have work in front of them on the restructuring of the police. You know, this is all part of the effort that we talked about some time ago where we had the military situation well in hand and then we had identified the specialist police forces as a potential problem, given the fact that they were actually a paramilitary organization.

Q: So this event isn't going to change what they are doing; they are going to continue to carry out this function?

A: The IPTF -- you'll want to talk to them. But certainly it appears to me that they've got more to do on this.

Q: As we move closer, as the Pentagon moves closer to the deadline for withdrawing troops, is this not a thorn in the side? Does it raise questions about how far we may not have come in bringing peace to the region?

A: Well, we certainly realize that there is a lot of work to be done in Bosnia to create the kind of environment where the country can continue and flourish in the years ahead. And that is why we want to focus on the time between now and the time that the SFOR units deploy, redeploy, next year.

We want to make sure that the country has every possible opportunity to take advantage of the entire host of the international organizations that are working towards the sole objective of putting that country on its feet again.

Q: Can't those police forces -- can you just say, have they been closed down now or is there a certain time in which they are supposed to come under the SFOR control?

A: Well, the SFOR made clear some time ago, and I believe this was in early August, that these specialist police forces would be considered as under the rubric that SFOR watches out for. In other words, they would be treated like military organizations. The civil police, which were a different organization and had a different function, which was criminal activity and that sort of thing, they were there to maintain law and order. Those civil police would fall under this International Police Task Force, and that is the division of labor.

Q: So are the people around Karadzic a legal force now or have they been declared illegal? Are they still there?

A: The determination on that one, I think the determination has not yet been made.

Press: Thank you.