Thursday, May 04, 2000 - 1:31 p.m. EDT
(Also participating: the Vice Adm. Robert J. Natter, deputy chief of naval operations)
Mr. Bacon: Good afternoon. Early this morning, as you all know, Justice Department officials, FBI agents and U.S. Marshals started clearing trespassers from U.S. government property on the island of Vieques. From my recent conversations with the Justice Department I understand that that operation is complete, and they have removed 140 trespassers from the range, the live impact area, which is the far right end of the map there, the one that's surrounded in pink. And they have removed approximately 75 protesters or trespassers from the Camp Garcia gate area. Camp Garcia is right here in the middle of the map.
The overwhelming percentage of these protesters or trespassers were removed peacefully. It was handled very well by the Justice Department officials and, as Attorney General Reno said, in a very dignified way by the trespassers.
As the Justice Department people have completed their work, Navy and Marine security people have moved onto the island, and they will take over the security of the island. At the same time, the Coast Guard set up a security zone around the training area here using a Coast Guard cutter and several other ships. And they have been protecting a three nautical mile zone. They have turned away nine vessels that tried to penetrate the zone, warning them in English and in Spanish before the boats turned away. One boat was also stopped by the Puerto Rican police, maritime police, called the FURA (Forces United for Rapid Action), and the people were apprehended. But that was at Esperanza, far away from the live impact area or the training area. Esperanza is here. That's where that boat was -- came ashore under the guidance of the Puerto Rican police.
I have here Vice Adm. Bob Natter, who is the director of Operations on the Navy Staff, and he's joined by Brigadier General Chris Cortez, the director of Plans for the Marine Corps, and Commander Jim McPherson of the Coast Guard, to take additional questions on this.
And why don't I turn it over to Adm. Natter right now. And then I will come back and take questions, more questions on Vieques, if you still have them, and on all other topics. But let's do the Vieques at the top.
Do you want -- do you have a question before?
Q: I want to ask you about something that you said, which is you said the operation was "complete." How long did the whole thing take? What was the time?
Mr. Bacon: It began at approximately 5:00 this morning. That's when the FBI and the marshals showed up. They began clearing the gate area, I believe, at around first light, which was round 6:00 this morning, and -- (to staff) -- Is that right?
Vice Adm. Natter: It was actually about 5:30, about 5:15.
Mr. Bacon: About 5:30, first light, they began clearing that area. And it was largely -- I think it was done by about 1:00 or 12:30 today. There were in the live impact area, as I said, 140 trespassers and one dog. (Laughter.) I don't where the dog was, but -- and I should say that this is a Justice Department operation; it's called Operation Eastern Access. All the peaceful trespassers or protestors, in other words, those who did not resist, were detained, brought to Camp Garcia from the range. They were brought by truck or bus from here, if they were at the range, to Camp Garcia, where they've been -- about half of them have been put on boats and the other half have been put on helicopters and transported to the Naval Base at Roosevelt Roads on the main island of Puerto Rico.
In addition, at the Camp Garcia gate, there were 64 trespassers who were detained, and then approximately 10, maybe a dozen other people who just sort of left on their own; they were there to begin with, but they disappeared once the operation began. So 64 people, according to the latest Justice Department account, were detained at Camp Garcia gate. They were also taken inside Camp Garcia and either put onto boats or helicopters for transport to Roosevelt Roads.
I don't believe that that transportation has been completed. I think somewhat more than half of the detainees have been transported so far, but it will all be done by this afternoon.
Q: Any stay-behinds?
Mr. Bacon: No, there was one brief stay-behind who inserted himself in a tank carcass, but he came out after about an hour or so and was transported away by the FBI.
Q: Is he the one who chained himself to the tank carcass?
Mr. Bacon: Well, I think he somehow locked himself inside briefly, but he ultimately came out voluntarily and turned himself over. So it, as I say, this has been, to the best of my information from the Justice Department, the trespassers have been peaceful.
Q: Are you certain that people haven't retreated into the hills and there are still people hiding in that area?
Mr. Bacon: The Justice Department doesn't believe that's the case. Obviously, that's something that the FBI and the marshals will check and then the Navy and Marine personnel will also check later on.
Q: Are they going in by foot and searching in the range?
Mr. Bacon: I believe that they are not doing that at this time. There are other ways to look, obviously, with helicopters, et cetera.
Q: I just didn't catch the difference between the 64 detained that they gave and the 75. I'm sorry, I just didn't get all that.
Mr. Bacon: The initial figure of people at the gate was 75. The Justice Department said for many hours this morning that 30 of those were detained and 45 left voluntarily. Now, the Justice Department has adjusted its figure to say that 64 people at the gate were detained and about a dozen left voluntarily. I think the figures are squishy and you should probably be careful not to lock yourself or myself or the Justice Department into those gate figures right now. We'll have a more precise counting later from the Justice Department.
Q: Squishy though it may be, is the 140 referred to detained at the range, at the impact area?
Mr. Bacon: The Justice Department thinks that that is the right figure, yes. That's what has been reported by their agents on site.
Q: I assume that's the eastern tip of the island, since this is called "Operation Eastern Access," is it not?
Mr. Bacon: Right. That's where the live impact area, or training ranges, are.
Q: What happened to them now in Roosevelt Roads? And also how large a force, military force, is there on the islands and on the range right now --
Mr. Bacon: I don't -- well, there are about 260 Navy and Marine troops for security on the island now. There are also -- there are some other permanent-party people. And there are some Seabees also working at the Camp Garcia gate area right now. But I think you want to know about security people. There are about 260. And I don't know whether they have gone in to the training range area at this stage. It's still under Justice Department control.
Q: And the people that are in Roosevelt Roads, what happens to them now?
Mr. Bacon: All who resisted peacefully will be released.
Q: Is that --
Q: No charges?
Mr. Bacon: No charges.
Q: -- 260 out of the 1,000 Marines that supposedly came down to the island on the two ships from Norfolk?
Mr. Bacon: Right.
Q: And what happened with the rest of the Marines?
Mr. Bacon: Well, they are to provide support of various sorts. And some of them, of course, are attached to the helicopters as mechanics or as they work on the boats or other things. And then there are some Reserves or backup people, if necessary. But ashore there is a much smaller number than the 1,000.
Q: I take it there are none who did not resist peacefully? In other words, nobody will be charged?
Mr. Bacon: Well, without making a flat statement that might later be contradicted by real facts, my understanding is from the Justice Department -- and this is a Justice Department operation - my understanding is that the trespassers gave in peacefully. There was the one fellow who locked himself in a tank carcass, but he came out on his own and, I believe, peacefully turned himself in or allowed himself to be detained.
Q: Yes. Ken, will the perimeter security now be enforced by the Marines?
Mr. Bacon: At the appropriate time, when it's turned over from the Justice Department to the Navy and the Marines, the perimeter security, as is normal at military installations, will be performed by Navy and Marine personnel.
Q: And one other question: Will live fire now be suspended for all of Vieques?
Mr. Bacon: Well, as you know -- and Adm. Natter, this might be an appropriate hand-off time to Adm. Natter -- the agreement between the governor of Puerto Rico and the White House provides that when training resumes, it will be with inert ordnance until there's a referendum by the people of Vieques on the next steps.
Q: We know that thus far it's the assessment of the department that there are no alternative sites. But is it not a prudent option now for the department to begin considering the possibility that it will have to shift from Vieques and start the process of looking for another site?
Mr. Bacon: Well, we like to think we only consider prudent options when we look at options. But I think Adm. Natter will be able to answer that question.
As you know, two carrier battle groups have trained up without use of Vieques. We don't think the training is as complete, and it's certainly harder to arrange. But we're hopeful that the Navy can begin training as soon as possible on Vieques. Obviously, we'll look at all options for the future. But we're very encouraged that -- by the fact that training should be allowed to begin soon on Vieques.
Q: Secretary Danzig seemed to indicate, in a speech he made this morning, that the George Washington Battle Group very well could be training on Vieques now, because he says that he hoped that over the next six weeks -- I'll give you the quote, if I can find it -- that over the next -- within -- over the next six weeks they hope to start training again in Vieques.
Mr. Bacon: Yes, that is true, but I believe that alternative training arrangements have been made for the George Washington Battle Group. And Adm. Natter will talk about that. And why don't I just let him do that?
Vice Adm. Natter: Thank you, Ken. Thank you very much.
With respect to that specific --
Q: Admiral, could we get your full name?
Vice Adm. Natter: Robert J. Natter.
Q: And your title?
Vice Adm. Natter: What's my title?
Q: (Inaudible) --
Vice Adm. Natter: Director of Operations, Plans and Policy, the Navy Staff.
Q: Thank you.
Vice Adm. Natter: With respect to the George Washington Battle Group, that battle group is currently at sea conducting its joint task force exercise. For any battle group deployment, there really is about a year and a half worth of work-ups, individual training, and then battle group training, becoming more complex as the battle group approaches deployment. It is in its final multiple ship and squadron exercise right now, and it is being conducted on the East Coast and Gulf Coast waters of the United States.
If, as Secretary Danzig mentioned, we're able to utilize the facilities at Vieques, we would anticipate doing some additional training with assets from that battle group at Vieques prior to deployment.
But the brunt of the training and exercising has been and is being done.
Q: How soon might we see the first inert ordnance dropped on Vieques?
Vice Adm. Natter: We have worked plans with the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico in that regard. I don't want to be specific, but we are planning to return to that inert-only training as soon as possible.
Q: Well, is it -- would it be a matter of days, weeks, months?
Vice Adm. Natter: We are hopeful that it'll be within weeks.
Q: Admiral, according to the terms of the agreement, how many weeks every year or every -- every year will the forces be able to train fully?
Vice Adm. Natter: Yeah, the presidential directive is very explicit and specific with respect to the number of days per year training is allowed. And I think we can make that -- a copy of that directive available to you afterwards. It has to do with the breadth of training and also the total number of days per year.
Q: Admiral, excuse me, Secretary Danzig also said that Cape Wrath in Scotland and the other place that was -- where the Eisenhower trained in the Mediterranean are no longer available. So does that mean that there's a possibility that the ship-to-shore shelling from the George Washington could be practiced in Vieques?
Vice Adm. Natter: There is that potential. Currently at Cape Wrath I believe they're into lambing season. And as a result, it is not available to this particular deploying battle group. It was made available through the good offices of the Royal Navy and the U.K. government for the prior deploying battle group. In addition, this battle group doesn't have a lot of time en route to its first commitment in the Arabian Gulf, and therefore ranges in the Mediterranean are not available as well.
Q: Excuse me, did you say "lambing season"? Lambs?
Vice Adm. Natter: That's correct. Scotland, sheep, lambs -- (laughter).
Q: Would the Harry S. Truman be the next battle group to train in Vieques, to hold its COMPTUEX and JTFX in Vieques?
Vice Adm. Natter: Again, I don't want to provide specific dates and times and specific names of ships and units. But we want to return to training as quickly as possible in accordance with the presidential directive and the restrictions called for in that directive.
Q: Given the size of the range, how confident are you that the Marines and Navy security people will be able to keep folks off the range?
Vice Adm. Natter: We're fairly confident that we're going to be able to do that. We've got enhanced numbers of people assigned to that responsibility, both at the Camp Garcia landward entry to the maneuver area here, and we will have enhanced numbers of people around the live impact area itself, as well as patrols at sea that guard those approaches to the live impact area. This live impact area represents 900 acres, so it's not easy to patrol, but it's certainly easier than the entire island of Vieques.
Q: So would you anticipate that additional Marines will have to deploy from the Bataan and Nashville?
Vice Adm. Natter: I would anticipate that the forces that are ashore right now to provide that enhanced security will be rotated with the people who are afloat, primarily because there are not facilities for housing; it's a lot easier to provide showers, cooking, eating, beds afloat.
Q: Could I ask -- Admiral, can I repeat the question that I asked Mr. Bacon, and that is, given the situation, given the possibility that you're not going to be able to use Vieques any longer in three years, is it not prudent for the Navy to begin looking around for an alternative site despite the study that was done last year?
Vice Adm. Natter: We have been. That study was not the first study in this effort. There have been other studies. And there have been efforts under way subsequent to that study. In fact, I was briefed as recently as last Friday on a current study. But I will tell you that we have seen nothing that comes close to providing the training opportunities that are at Vieques, either in parts or in full, at one location. The training we're conducting right now with the GW Battle Group, as was mentioned, is deficient in the naval surface fire support training, the gunnery training, it is deficient in the coordinated maneuver of Marine and Naval forces ashore, and so for that reason, we don't have the adequate training to the level that has been heretofore provided by Vieques.
Q: But sir, the fact is that there very well may be a vote to close down your base; and therefore, is it not incumbent on the Navy to look for an alternative, despite the fact that your studies so far say there aren't any?
Vice Adm. Natter: We have been, and we'll continue to do that. Not only different locations, but different methods and different technologies, as well.
Q: When will the report from the Center of Naval Analysis be due?
Vice Adm. Natter: That's due in the matter of a month or so. The secretary has not seen that report and, therefore, I don't want to comment on it.
Q: There have been calls for holding the referendum, according to the directive, as soon as possible. That would be as soon as August 1st of this year. Will the Navy heed to those calls?
Vice Adm. Natter: The presidential directive is very explicit with respect to the timing and the wording of the referendum, and we're going to adhere to that directive. We're not responding to newspaper articles on that specific issue.
Q: Right. But there have been calls by congressmen, by senators, as well as the senatorial candidate from New York.
Vice Adm. Natter: We have plans in accordance with the presidential directive, and we're not diverting from those plans.
Q: If I could follow-up on that --
Q: The directive does not specify, I think, the exact circumstances of the training. Will it be for the Navy, once the Puerto Ricans inform you that they are going to hold a referendum in some period of time, will it only be then that the Navy will construct what their proposal for the type of training and the restrictions, and so on be?
Vice Adm. Natter: No. Well, as a matter of fact, with the GW Battle Group we're conducting the best training that we can have without Vieques. So we're in the process of alternative looks, alternative locations.
But the specifics on the referendum itself are laid out in the presidential directive. They call for 1 May of 2001, and either within a period of nine months before or nine months after that date. The wording of that referendum is to be determined by the Navy.
Q: One more referendum question, if I may. Have you set a date for the referendum at this point?
Vice Adm. Natter: No.
Q: For what reason would you move it up or would you delay it from May 1st?
Vice Adm. Natter: I don't want to get into that issue. We have not set a date for it and we're looking at that issue and have been since the directive was issued.
Q: I just wanted to follow up on the previous question. We know what the "no" answer would be on the referendum. What would the "yes" be? Would that include live ammunition?
Vice Adm. Natter: Yes, the terms of the referendum have not been laid out. We're looking right now, and will be up to the period of the referendum, on the correct wording of that. The referendum calls for, in the presidential directive, the opportunity to return to live fire, and offering that as an option to the citizens of Vieques, the voters of Vieques.
But, again, the terms of that referendum have not been laid out yet.
Q: And then finally on the -- if there is training by the George Washington Battle Group, would that take a few days, a week? How much is left that you are considering for -- to finish up the training?
Vice Adm. Natter: Again, I can't go into specifics with respect to GW except to state that the brunt of that training has happened and is happening right now and has extended back over a year.
Q: Right. But is there -- will there be a few days, a week or more?
Vice Adm. Natter: I don't want to get into specifics on the GW training.
Q: The brunt that has been completed, does that include live fire that you might do at Vieques, or that hasn't been done?
Vice Adm. Natter: It has included air-to-ground live fire, or live ordnance dropped from aircraft. It has not included surface-to-shore gunnery.
Q: Or amphibious landing?
Vice Adm. Natter: It has included amphibious landings, but not without supporting fires with Naval gunnery.
Q: So it hasn't included the Joint --
Vice Adm. Natter: That is correct, the integrated training.
Q: Is there a possibility that integrated thing can be done on Vieques?
Vice Adm. Natter: I don't want to go into specifics as to the timing of that. There -- with inert fire, there is a potential for that in accordance with the presidential directive and after the referendum there is a potential for that with live fire.
Q: Where will the GW conduct its live-fire for naval gunfire support?
Vice Adm. Natter: Well, as they did with the COMPTUEX, there are a number of ranges in Florida that we've utilized and will continue to utilize, specifically, Pine Castle is one that we had utilized, Eglin Air Force Base. The range at Eglin is another location, and we would anticipate using those ranges and others in support of the JTF exercise.
Q: Yes, what are the characteristics of Vieques, besides its geographical location, what is it in the geography or the geology of Vieques which makes it so usable? And what would you look for in another range?
Vice Adm. Natter: I could talk to that for about 45 minutes, I think. Let me be very brief just by saying, number one, the range itself provides for the airspace, the sea space, and submarine underwater space necessary for training an entire battle group and an amphibious ready group. It's also the one area in the entire Atlantic that exists today and any potential location that exists today where we can do all those simultaneously with live fire.
And today, with the current presidential directive, we are restricted, as you know, to inert fire. But there is no other location that is safe and allows us to do the kind of integrated training called for in work-ups for deploying battle-group and amphibious-ready-group.
Q: What kind of danger are the Marines and sailors that are securing the live impact area facing from unexploded ordnance?
Vice Adm. Natter: We think that risk is very, very minimal.
The people who have been put ashore for the enhanced security have been trained in what to look for in the way of unexploded ordnance. And you have to physically pick up or kick or shock some sort of this unexploded ordnance in order for it to be dangerous.
There is a danger there. I don't want to understate it. But with people appropriately briefed and trained, it should be very safe. And in fact, we use people who are not EOD experts to sweep ranges, such as Vieques, prior to and following any live-fire training.
Q: Admiral, are you all going to do a yard-by-yard, meter-by-meter search of the whole area to make sure no one is hiding in there?
Vice Adm. Natter: We are going to search the area as best we can. We think it's going to be very thorough. Some of it will be done on ground; a lot of it will be done from the air.
The type of terrain there doesn't allow for people to live for a very long time. It's a lot of scrub bush; there is no water. It's what you carry in. There is no food. So we would anticipate, if someone did head out into the bush, they would come back looking for food and water pretty soon. And it's also pretty hot.
Q: Suppose a lot of protesters decide they want to come over on the ferryboat? That's -- you know, that's public transportation.
Vice Adm. Natter: Sure.
Q: Are they going to be stopped?
Vice Adm. Natter: No, sir.
Public transportation is by ferry, and that ferry lands right here at -- I believe it's Mosquito Pier. And then they are provided road transportation to the two towns here.
In order for them to, therefore, get to the LIA [live impact area], they would either have to go through the eastern maneuver area, access to which is blocked by gates. And if they were to get off the road, this terrain is very, very rough. There have been some people who have made it on horseback, but it takes a while. It's about eight to 10 miles from here to here. The other way to get there is by boat.
And of course, we will have enhanced security to receive anybody who wants to come. And they have been informed that they would be trespassing.
Q: How did they get there in the first place back in April? Weren't the gates --
Vice Adm. Natter: Boats, primarily.
Q: They came in by boat?
Vice Adm. Natter: Primarily. Right.
Q: So at that point you didn't have the robust patrols that you'll have now?
Vice Adm. Natter: No, absolutely not, because we -- when we weren't using the range, we just had primarily some civilian guards there -- caretakers more than anything.
Q: Is this like a blockade of the eastern -- would you call it a blockade?
Vice Adm. Natter: I wouldn't use that term. No, sir. (Laughter.) It's law enforcement.
Q: Admiral, as you're looking at other alternative sites, other than Vieques, are you looking only in the Atlantic? Are you giving consideration that, to have that coordinated training, you may have to go outside the Atlantic area?
Vice Adm. Natter: Well, we certainly have looked in the North Atlantic, in the Mediterranean. We've looked in the Arabian Gulf. We know what we have in the Pacific. But you get into a time-distance-dollars issue, and a people issue, if you thought at all about transmitting ships to the Pacific in order to do training and to go to deploy to the Atlantic and eastern Mediterranean. So that just doesn't pass the common sense test.
Q: Who were the Navy people in this 206-person security force?
Vice Adm. Natter: We have some Navy security personnel who have been flown down to Puerto Rico to provide additional support for the already present security personnel we had at Roosevelt Roads. Some of those people were transported over to Vieques and Camp Garcia, and working with the Marine Corps personnel there to provide this enhanced security, in addition to the civilian guards.
Q: (Off mike.)
Vice Adm. Natter: Pardon me?
Q: Security personnel -- does that mean -- what?
Vice Adm. Natter: MPs.
Q: Admiral, are you going to have maintain -- because of what the circumstances are, are you not going to have maintain now around- the-clock security indefinitely, at least for three years, at this facility? And if so, does that mean you're going to have to spend money developing new facilities to house the enhanced security presence? And how much more money is that going to cost?
Vice Adm. Natter: Well, yes, we will provide an enhanced security. No, we will not provide a Taj Mahal for the security personnel to live in. They will probably be rotated between Roosevelt Roads, which is a relatively short boat ride or a helicopter lift -- so we don't anticipate very much in the way of capital infrastructure to support this enhanced security. It will require additional personnel, but certainly a number of people we're committed to providing.
Q: So, before you had civilian security guards; you're now going to have to have military security guards. Can you talk -- is that 260, now, for the next three years?
Vice Adm. Natter: I don't want to get into specifics. We're going to provide the necessary security personnel based on whatever law enforcement threat there is. And that will ebb and flow.
Q: We talked before this happened about what role the military would be playing in the actual operation. It's my understanding that some Marine helicopters were used to shuttle people to shore. Could you talk about how that's not a violation of Posse Comitatus, or what your concerns were?
Vice Adm. Natter: Number one, as Ken mentioned, the Navy and Marine Corps, and indeed all the DOD assets involved in this operation were there as support for the Justice Department and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico effort. That law enforcement support was primarily in the form of transportation either by helicopters, Navy and Marine Corps helicopters, barges, LCUs to transport people and materials and vehicles over to the area. That effort has really been underway for weeks. And we've run this by the lawyers very closely with respect to Posse Comitatus, and everybody is of the view that this in no way violated that.
Q: Thank you.
Vice Adm. Natter: Thank you.
Q: Admiral, one more. You said Navy and Marine Corps and all other DOD assets. I assume that means that there were assets other than Navy and Marine Corps assets.
Vice Adm. Natter: We utilized every asset that was available in the area. That included some Army. I believe they provided some surface craft. I'll have to get the specifics for you, and I don't know what those are, other than what I just mentioned, some folks.
Q: Okay. Air Force assets also?
Vice Adm. Natter: Oh, absolutely. For lift, you bet.
Q: In terms of what? Helicopters, or transporting marshals?
Vice Adm. Natter: No, lift for our people and some FBI marshal transportation down there, primarily TRANSCOM.
Q: One more. Were there at any time any law enforcement officials on the U.S. Navy ships that were offshore?
Vice Adm. Natter: There were Coast Guard personnel who we transported down to act as law enforcement detachments aboard some Navy craft that were under the tactical control of the Coast Guard commander who set up the perimeter around the live impact area. Other than that, I don't know.
Q: Were FBI agents or U.S. marshals on either the --
Vice Adm. Natter: I don't know.
Q: You don't know.
Vice Adm. Natter: I don't know. If there were any, it was very few. Maybe liaison or something along those lines.
Q: Is the Navy currently undertaking antisubmarine warfare training on the outer range of Vieques?
Vice Adm. Natter: Today?
Q: Currently. I mean in the last two weeks or so.
Vice Adm. Natter: I don't know. I don't know.
Vice Adm. Natter: If it is, it hasn't come to my attention.
Q: Mr. Bacon mentioned permanent party people before. How many military folks are on Vieques right now?
Vice Adm. Natter: The short answer is I don't know. I can get that figure for you. That number will be a moving number. Normally, under normal circumstances we always have some military personnel either at Camp Garcia. We have military personnel go into the live impact area, primarily at OP1, where our control tower and spotting tower is located, for training purposes. Those people normally will -- numbers will build up as the size of the exercise builds, and they'll be reduced to the point where we may have no military personnel there if we're not conducting an exercise. And, of course, I stress that's before this specific issue arose.
Q: Just to clarify one thing, the FBI agents and marshals and so on, were they -- they were ferried in from Roosevelt Roads, you said? Is that where they came from? Not from -- I mean, where do they come from?
Q: Yeah, when you talk about "provide transportation" --
Q: -- where were they coming to and from?
Vice Adm. Natter: Yeah. We provided tactical transportation from Roosevelt Roads to all the personnel who moved out to Vieques. Where all the other FBI agents or marshals came from is a more appropriate question, in my view, to the Justice Department. I don't want to get into that.
Q: But they were flown out there from Roosevelt Roads, is that right? To clarify --
Vice Adm. Natter: Either by boat or by aircraft. The lucky ones flew out; the unlucky ones went by boat.
Q: Thank you.
Q: Thank you very much.
Vice Adm. Natter: Thank you.
Mr. Bacon: Just let me stress that this Justice Department operation was done with full support and cooperation of the government of Puerto Rico and the Puerto Rican police, who participated in it as well and were extremely helpful.
We'll move on to other topics. Yes.
Q: Yes, another topic. Can you bring us up to date on the love bug virus, how it's hitting the U.S. military, what instructions you've issued to military installations, what the overall impact has been so far today?
Mr. Bacon: Yeah. Well, first of all, we do not love the love bug virus, and we are urging all our people to avoid any contact, intimate or otherwise, with the love bug virus. (Laughter.)
To answer your questions, we have -- thanks a lot. Appreciate it. Thanks.
We have, one, found absolutely no evidence that this has infected any classified computer networks. That's the first thing.
Second, we have alerted, through cables and other ways, everybody throughout the chain of command in the military structure about the virus. And we have urged people, first of all, not to open anything that says, "I love you" or "Love bug," whatever the tag line is. I've had about 40 of them this morning, said "I love you." I have never had so much attention. (Laughter.) But of course, I couldn't exploit any of this by finding out what the messages were.
And then we have urged people to set up filters on their e-mail systems that will prevent or screen out this virus from getting into their system. In other words, it will reject, through a filtering mechanism, anything that says "I love you" on it. Now I suppose, technically, it could screen out some valuable communications. (Laughter.) But that's -- they are not supposed to be on Pentagon e-mail anyway.
In addition, we have told people of course not to open these missives, these e-mails, and to delete them immediately from their systems, which we assume most people have been doing. And then we have also issued instructions for eradicating the virus. We are working -- have been working all day with the main virus companies to come up with vaccines for this virus.
Mr. Bacon: Sorry. Go ahead.
Q: Is it not the case that at least some military installations around the world have had to disconnect their unclassified e-mail networks and resort to classified communication systems?
Mr. Bacon: Well, some branches of the military have shut down their e-mail systems at least temporarily. I believe that several of the systems shut down in this building have since restarted, presumably with filters to keep this virus from coming in. But some have shut down their systems. I don't know whether they're all up and running, but most of them are, I believe.
Q: Excuse me. Can I just finish following up briefly?
Mr. Bacon: Sure.
Q: Can you tell us, has there been, you know -- what, if any, impact there has been of that shutdown and the impact of resorting to classified communications. Has it slowed things down?
Has it had absolutely no impact? Can you do everything you need to do?
Mr. Bacon: I don't believe this has had a major impact. At least none has been reported to me. We may not have a full assessment yet of what the impact has been.
My understanding is that the Army and the Navy both shut down their e-mail systems in the building at least temporarily. I believe the Navy is up and running again. I don't know about the Army at this stage. We'll try to find out.
Q: What other systems got shut down?
Mr. Bacon: Those are the only ones I'm aware of. We'll try to get a list. But I'm not sure that we'll get a comprehensive list on this.
Q: Ken, the advisory that was sent out to your --
Mr. Bacon: Excuse me. Could I just point out one other thing? This is not peculiar to the Defense Department. This is a system that has been -- has targeted many news organizations, many -- including many represented by you -- so I've read on the Associated Press. It's also targeted many businesses. This is a worldwide virus.
Our initial indications are that it may have come out of the Philippines, but I'm not sure we know that for sure at this stage.
Obviously, it's the type of -- this will ultimately become a law enforcement issue. It began clearly as a problem that we had to deal with prophylactically. That's what we're dealing with now, setting up the protections, advising people on what to do if their e-mails or if their systems have been affected by this virus. And then after we get through this stage, presumably law enforcement agencies will try to track down the culprits behind this.
Q: Ken, when you say --
Mr. Bacon: I'm sorry. Just a sec. Jonathan was in the middle of asking a question. I interrupted him, so let me go back to him.
Q: Thank you. I was going to ask about the Philippines -- the suspicion that it may have come from the Philippines. It says that on the advisory that you sent out, that the department sent out to its managers -- systems managers. It also says that the virus was first detected yesterday, and I'm wondering if you could talk about -- or earlier today.
And I'm wondering if you could talk about how the department tracked it or traced this possibly to the Philippines, and where you first saw it, where it first popped up.
Mr. Bacon: Oh, I think it first popped up in -- the first I heard about it was its impact in Europe, just because of the time difference. I don't -- and, I assume, in Asia as well. But I don't have the full etiology of how this virus infection flowed into the system. Well, I mean, I assume it's the same way it flowed into the CNN system or the XYZ Motor Company system; it -- people came in the morning and turned on their e-mails, and some were trapped by the alluring "I love you" and wanted to find out who was sending them these e-mails.
Q: What about the possible trace back to the Philippines? Where did that come from?
Mr. Bacon: I don't know. I don't know where that came from.
Q: When you say "our initial indications," do you mean that the Pentagon has specifically traced this to the Philippines --
Mr. Bacon: No, all I'm saying is I have seen a Pentagon directive on this or explanation that tells people what the enemy is and how to deal with the enemy. And that says that it looks like the virus is Philippine origin. And how they reached that decision, I don't know. And whether we reached that decision or learned it from other agencies, I have no idea.
Q: Ken, there's a joint task force on -- I think it's called Network Defense or something like that --
Mr. Bacon: Right.
Q: -- out in SPACECOM.
Mr. Bacon: Right.
Q: Is that involved in trying to track down -- get to the source of this and help you along --
Mr. Bacon: It will work with appropriate -- with other agencies to do that, yes. But its primary job -- our first goal is always to protect our systems. And that's what we focus on first.
So we do that by issuing instructions, and we'd be glad -- you can get copies of this set of instructions, if you'd like, as I've basically given you the gist of it. First, we issue instructions about what the problem is and how to deal with the problem. Then we issue instructions on how to fix the problem if people haven't prevented it in the first place. And then the next is to work with the software manufacturers to find vaccines that protect against such viruses, and then through law enforcement agencies to track down the source and try to stop it from happening again.
Q: Although this certainly isn't the first time you've seen these kinds of viruses, this one seems to be more pervasive. Would you say this has had -- is this the one that has had the most impact?
Mr. Bacon: We had the Melissa virus last year.
I think that probably had a greater impact. I think there is a lot of public fascination with viruses, precisely because they just -- because they afflict huge segments of the computer-using population, not because they're isolated, concentrated on the military, but because they afflict anybody who happens to open them up.
This virus, as I understand, operates by getting into your e-mail directory. If you open up the virus, it automatically replicates by sending itself out to everybody in your e-mail directory. So if you were to open it up on your office or home account, and you had 200 names in your e-mail directory -- your children, your parents, your friends, your colleagues -- it would automatically replicate to them. Some of them -- your children might think, "Gee, my dad sent me an e-mail saying, 'I love you,'" and will open it up, it'll immediately replicate through your child. So this afflicts far more institutions than the military.
Q: Is there any evidence -- other than this problem it causes by generating a huge number of e-mails and potentially overloading systems and becoming a nuisance, is there any evidence that the virus does any permanent damage to the computer or system? I mean, you talk about getting a vaccine or --
Mr. Bacon: Well, I think, of course, I'm sure CNN and Reuters and everybody else is asking the same question. My understanding is that it alters suffixes, these three-letter tags that come after the periods in files, and it -- and I don't know what it does after it does that, whether it -- it tends to overwrite some of these extensions. And what the impact of this is, is beyond my ability to describe -- (laughter)-- because I -- we're down in the -- you have to talk to Bill Gates about this, or somebody who really understands this stuff. (Laughter.)
Q: A man's got to have his limitations. (Laughter.)
Mr. Bacon: Right.
Q: Can we have a new subject?
Q: What happened when you opened a letter this morning?
Mr. Bacon: I didn't open any of them. I -- as tempted as I was, I didn't open any.
Q: Mr. Bacon --
Q: I have one more on this topic, if I could.
Mr. Bacon: Sure.
Q: How -- what is the Pentagon computer security office doing at this point to track this? How actively is the Pentagon involved, given that the Pentagon was apparently targeted, along with a lot of other organizations? Your computer security apparatus is more elaborate than CNN's, for example.
Mr. Bacon: I don't know whether that's the case or not.
I hope it's the case, but I don't know that.
I explained, our first goal is to protect, to instruct people on how to protect their computers from the virus. We've done that. Now we are working aggressively with the software manufacturers -- McAfee and Symantec and others -- that create viruses, many of which are used in our machines and other machines around the country to come up with vaccines against this. I don't know where that stands, but we've been working aggressively with them, certainly all day. And we will get the fix in place that will allow people who have infected files to cure those infections. And then we will work -- our next step will be to use this opportunity as a way to sharpen our defenses against new viruses that might come out in the next months. We've had the Melissa virus, which was huge. It spread all around the world very rapidly. Now we've had this virus, which apparently is a worldwide affliction. I'm sure there will be other viruses. But our obligation is to protect our computer users by using each one of these experiences as a way to create better defenses for the future. And we'll be working with the software companies to do that.
Q: I'm not sure, I think I probably meant more along the lines of what are you doing -- is DOD pursuing the culprits in this case? Should they be aware that --
Mr. Bacon: This is not a -- we will work with other agencies to do that. We have a lot of jobs to do, but they are, in fact, limited. And we do have law enforcement agencies. And it's their job to trace down people who may have done criminal things. This is a criminal act. But we have many other agencies in the government that will work with us to trace this down.
Q: Ken --
Mr. Bacon: Yes.
Q: On another issue, can you address Iserved.com's recent purchase of the veterans' paper Stars & Stripes? That's in no way connected to the DOD-slash-independence of the newspaper Stars & Stripes, but it's distributed overseas. Is that correct?
Mr. Bacon: This question deals with the newspaper Stars & Stripes that is printed for soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines serving overseas.
Stars & Stripes started in 1861. It was founded by some Union soldiers during the Civil War who took over a newspaper in Illinois, I believe, and started printing Stars & Stripes for the Union troops. Hence the name, Stars & Stripes.
There is, coincidentally -- I don't know whether any of you have seen this, but there is a very good book about Civil War war correspondents called "A Bohemian Brigade" that's just come out, by a guy named Jim Perry, which actually is fascinating and well worth reading. It's hilarious. (Laughter.) But -- we're back in 1861, that's why I mentioned "A Bohemian Brigade."
Then the newspaper lapsed after the Civil War, and in 1877, I believe, there was a huge fight going on over veterans' pensions -- and I suppose you have all visited the Pension Building in Washington, which is now the headquarters of the National Building Museum. But in 1877 a newspaper called the "National Interest" was established to lobby for Civil War veterans' pensions. And they hooked up somehow, as I understand it, with the people who had printed Stars and Stripes and in the first World War, Stars and Stripes again was started for overseas troops, and it ran all during the first World War for the Americans serving abroad in Europe, but it was discontinued when the war ended. Veterans' causes continued, and somewhere along the line, the name "Stars and Stripes" was acquired by the people who did the National Interest.
And so World War II came along and, I think in 1942, the government went to the people who owned the National Interest/Stars and Stripes, and asked for the right to re-start Stars and Stripes abroad and to use the name "Stars and Stripes," and since 1942, Stars and Stripes has applied to the newspaper for all our troops serving abroad. It doesn't circulate domestically; it circulates abroad.
The name "Stars and Stripes" continued to be associated with the National Interest, which is a newspaper aimed at veterans. Recently, I understand that the National Interest was purchased by one of these new military websites called "Iserved.com" and they have begun to issue a newspaper called "Stars and Stripes."
It should be very clear that the newspaper they are issuing is not the Stars and Stripes newspaper -- that's printed daily for soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines overseas. There are now two editions of Stars and Stripes overseas, one, the European edition, and two, the Pacific edition. And both of them actually are published in the National Press Building here. But they are printed in several plants abroad, one in Japan, I think, one in Korea, several in Europe. So they are available daily to our troops serving abroad.
Q: Ken, why is the --
Q: (Clears throat.)
(Cross talk.) (Laughter.)
Mr. Bacon: I didn't see you taking notes on anything, Charlie. (Laughter.) I am stunned. (Laughs.) The longest explanation I ever gave, except on food stamps. (Laughter.)
Q: (Inaudible.) (Laughter.) Another subject?
Mr. Bacon: Sure. Please. (Cross talk, laughter.)
Q: Why is the Marine Corps not going to stop flying the B-22 tomorrow, as they planned?
Mr. Bacon: Well, I don't know what the Marine Corps' plans were.
I talked to the commandant of the Marine Corps Tuesday at Patch Barracks in Stuttgart, Germany, where we both were for General Clark's change of command ceremony. And he told me that they were continuing the review and that he planned, when he got back from Europe, which will be over the weekend, to sit down and review all the facts and to make a decision on when flight operations should begin. I talked to the commandant again today, and he reasserted that that is his plan.
So when he gets back from Europe this weekend, he'll sit down. And he'll review the study they have done on why the B-22 crashed, what they have learned -- what changes, if any, they planned to make. And then he'll decide, after reviewing all of that, when to begin flight operations again.
Q: To your knowledge, has the cause of the crash been determined or any causes been ruled out?
Mr. Bacon: I think that I should let the Marines talk about that, and I am quite sure that they will do that relatively soon.
Q: Since you said you talked to General Jones, can you tell us, was he in any way unhappy with the Marine Corps plan to resume flights? And is that why he ordered a delay in its implementation?
Mr. Bacon: All I can tell you is that when I talked to General Jones on Tuesday, he said that he planned to sit down and review all the facts when he got back from Europe. He told me that he wasn't getting back from Europe until Saturday night, so I assumed that the review would come some time after Saturday night.
Q: And to your knowledge, he had never signed off on any resumption-of-flight order or has not?
Mr. Bacon: No. He has not signed off on any resumption-of- flight order. He wants to sit down and go through the review and find out exactly where they stand.
Q: Is it possible that the B-22s could resume some limited test flights even before a final cause has been determined for the crash?
Mr. Bacon: I think I should let the Marines talk about this. I am quite confident the Marines will be able to address this problem soon, obviously not before General Jones returns from Europe. He's at a conference with Marine leaders in Europe now.
And I'm sure that shortly after he gets back, you'll be hearing from the Marines about the V-22.
Q: On Sierra Leone, is the United States going to provide any military help, any airlift, any transport for the peacekeepers?
Mr. Bacon: We are -- first of all, on Sierra Leone -- obviously appalled by the death of -- the violence against U.N. peacekeepers and the death of seven U.N. peacekeepers. There is a peace process, the Lome process, that is underway in Sierra Leone. This was a breach of that process. Obviously, the U.N. has acted courageously to keep peace in Sierra Leone and they will remain there trying to keep peace. We've also, of course, called on the RUF forces, as they're called, to stop the violence against the U.N.
Now, to get to your question, we support the peace process, we support the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Sierra Leone, and we are looking at a range of ways to continue that support, but we haven't reached any decisions at this time. There are more peacekeepers already scheduled to come to Sierra Leone from -- I think there are several battalions, maybe three battalions scheduled to arrive later this month. And we have not been asked to provide any transportation. Obviously, if we were asked, we would consider it very carefully.
Q: But not to provide peacekeepers?
Mr. Bacon: We have not been asked to supply peacekeepers, we have no plans to supply peacekeepers.
Q: Ken, I wanted to ask you about the story we had today. Does Defense Secretary Cohen favor integrating women into submarine crews?
Mr. Bacon: I have not talked about that issue with him.
Q: Could you take the question?
Mr. Bacon: I'll take the question. My guess is that he will -- that this is an issue that he will leave to the Navy at this stage. But I'll take the question.
Q: Back to the Marines for a second, on an unrelated topic. Do you know anything about a mechanical problem with the Marine helicopters that transport the president and the vice president, such that Al Gore was unable to use them yesterday?
Mr. Bacon: I do not.
Q: Thank you.
Mr. Bacon: Thank you.