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

Presenters: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ATSD PA
April 27, 1995 1:00 PM EDT
[At today's Regular DOD News Briefing, Mr. Dennis Boxx, DATSD-PA, took the place of Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ATSD-PA, following a brief statement by Mr. Bacon]

 

Mr. Bacon: Good afternoon.

Dennis Boxx is doing the briefing today. I'm leaving town shortly, and that's why he's doing it.

You may have read that Dennis is likely to leave the Pentagon and this is, as a result, likely to be his last briefing. So I'd like to commemorate that by saying that he has been an absolutely terrific associate -- a great help to me -- and a really wonderful member of what I consider to be a wonderful public affairs team.

I know he's going to start out with a rather lengthy description of the recent peacekeeping successes along the Peru/Ecuador border. [Laughter] If you have questions on one or two other topics he should be able to take them.

Thank you, Dennis.

Mr. Boxx: Thank you.

I have no announcements in particular. I'd be glad to try to take your questions.

Q: There have been reports, especially in the Newsday newspaper, saying that investigators are looking into the fact that some U.S. military explosives perhaps from Fort Riley were used in this explosion. And number two, that John Doe 2, may have been a military associate of McVeigh in Company C. Do you have anything on that?

A: I do. I believe the Army has issued a statement refuting those press reports. Their statement indicates that no fertilizer has been found to be missing from Army stocks; no link exists between the Army-owned explosive components and the tragedy in Oklahoma; and no active duty soldier has been identified as a suspect.

But I want to be cautious here, because I think it's important to remember that there is an ongoing investigation with the FBI, with the full cooperation of the Department of Defense. No one can be absolute at this point while the investigation proceeds.

I would also extend that caution to all of you. I think the temptation is great to use suggestions of second-, third-, or even fourth-hand kinds of information about the possible military connection to this tragedy, including -- simply -- service in the military. I would remind you that one of every three Americans males, over the age of 18, has some military experience, or has had some military experience. So service in the military should not be portrayed, in any way, as a training ground for the kind of heinous act that we saw in Oklahoma City. These actions, and the actions of those individuals who perpetrated it, are absolutely contrary to everything that the U.S. military stands for and, in fact, has died for. The 26 million veterans in this country, and the 1.5 million active duty personnel, would take great umbrage at the suggestion that their service in the military, in some way, was anything other than a benefit to this country and the American way of life. So I would simply urge each of you to be very cautious as you proceed in sifting through the facts and the suggestions and the misinformation that's out there on this subject.

Q: I don't think anyone's suggesting that people in the military are trained to -- or have a propensity to -- go around blowing everybody up. But if this guy was in the military -- and was in Company C, and was associated with McVeigh -- there certainly may be some reason to suspect...

A: There may well be, and that is precisely what the FBI investigation should endeavor to...

Q: Is there any lead suggesting that this John Doe 2 was in Company C?

A: No, or that he is active duty military, that I'm aware of. But again, I really want to stay cautious and clear of the FBI elements of this investigation. They have the lead. We are supporting them and cooperating. They're the ones that really should speak to the investigation.

Q: Say that again. You said you have no indication that there are any leads that John Doe 2 may have, at one time, been a member of Charlie Company?

A: No. I'm sorry. "Is a member on active duty." That's my understanding.

Q: Your statement is confined solely to active duty?

A: Yes. But I'm not trying to suggest I know more than that. I'm simply stating what I know, at this point. I would caution you that the FBI is currently pursuing...

Q: What are you saying? That this guy is not on active duty now? There are no indications of that?

A: No active duty soldier has been identified as a suspect.

Q: How about previous active duty soldier?

A: I can't go beyond what I know. I don't know what I don't know.

Q: I thought, when Charlie asked you... A guy who served in Charlie Company at Fort Riley, a former associate of his, or a colleague of his in the Army at the time he was in the Army, which I thought to mean a guy who was also in the service like McVeigh. You are ruling that out....

A: I'm dealing with current active duty. I'm not venturing down the path of what the FBI may know or what their pursuit may be.

Q: Also, you said, no Army fertilizer missing, I believe. And, you said there is no indication of military explosives or Army explosives used. Are there any kinds of bomb explosives missing? And how about detonators?

A: I would refer you back to the statement that the CID put out yesterday, Charlie. It's got a fairly long description of that. If you don't have that we can provide that to you.

Q: Can you talk about the availability of bomb-making manuals in military supply places all over the country? Are they available? Can you find this stuff at your Pentagon Bookstore? Can you talk about that for a second?

A: I have nothing on that. I'm not sure what's out there. I'm not aware of the products that may be available to... You're talking about military publications?

Q: Military publications that detail how to make bombs.

A: I'm sorry, I don't have anything on it.

Q: Is the John Doe 2 identity known or not?

A: Not to my knowledge. That's a question for the FBI.

Q: ...Justice Department?

A: I don't know. You should ask the Justice Department.

Q: On the question about the posse comitatus. The items that the White House put out talk about making changes and allowing military participation in crime fighting. What kind of participation are they talking about? Are they talking about joining in law enforcement arrest type of activities?

A: I think there's still some formulation to be done on precisely what the proposal will be. It will be a legislative proposal. It will have to amend the existing law. That formulation is still being developed. We would clearly view our role as a support role to the law enforcement function.

Q: Why is there a need to change posse comitatus when you're supporting now already? You had the investigators at Fort Riley helping out...

A: Again, I would have to defer until the legislation is prepared -- I think it would allow us to be more rigorous in our activities with certain kinds of specialized capabilities that we have in chemical, biological, nuclear, and technical expertise.

Q: Would it be designed to address only those instances?

A: Right now, that's the way it's proposed. Again, since it's not a final document, that certainly could change.

Q: Along the same line, there was a reference to using military expertise and weapons of mass destruction in these sorts of bombings. Would the Oklahoma weapon have been a "weapon of mass destruction," or are you talking about chemical, biological, and nuclear?

A: What I have, right now, would limit it to chemical, biological, or nuclear. So again, I think that's something that we would have to wait to see what the final legislative language turned out to be.

Q: Does this proposal -- it's a DOD/OSD proposal at the moment. Has OSD...

A: This is a White House initiative.

Q: Well, actually it was spoken of -- before Oklahoma City -- as an OSD proposal last week, in fact, as a result of Tokyo.

A: It was announced by the White House last night, so I would defer to them.

Q: My question is, does this proposal have the support of the JCS? Has anyone asked General Shalikashvili if he supports it, and does he?

A: I have not. I don't know the answer to that question. I would rather give a properly evasive answer rather than take the question. I'm practicing. [Laughter]

Q: And doing very well!

A: We will be involved in the formulation of the policy. No question. I'm certain that we will hear the Chairman's opinion -- and the Secretary's opinion -- as it goes through the process.

Q: What you're saying is the Joint Chiefs have not... If you're saying you will hear their opinion, they've not yet been consulted.

A: I think the process is still so early on that the actual formulation of the language is yet to be done, and I'm sure -- at that point -- we'll get a careful look at it.

Q: If there was information that chemical agents were being made on a farm, then, U.S. troops might take part in a raid on that? As opposed to say a military scientist taking an active part in...

A: Charlie, I'm at a real disadvantage to be able to try to speculate about what it might turn out to be. I just don't know what the final language of the legislation would be.

Q: Doesn't posse comitatus now allow the military to help investigate, take part in a peripheral...

A: We are very, very restricted to what we can do as a part of any law enforcement, domestic effort. That's really what I think the President is addressing, is a way to ease that -- and, yet, still be very careful about the importance of the original law. It is still a sound concept, we still believe in that concept. We have no desire to see dramatic changes to that concept. But we do bring certain specialized expertise to the table that I think makes sense to try to take advantage of in these sometimes very difficult situations.

Q: Are you aware of a publication called "The Resister?" And the existence of a Special Forces underground?

A: Yes, and no. I'm aware of a publication called "The Resister." I'm not aware of any Special Forces -- what did you call it?

Q: Well, "The Resister" bills itself as the official publication of the Special Forces underground. So what is being done about "The Resister?"

A: First of all, there are lots of underground publications in this country that bill themselves as a lot of things, so I don't know that I would, immediately, accept the premise of the publication's masthead.

We do not, at this point, have any evidence that active duty military personnel are involved in the production or publication of that product, nor do we have any indication that the product is produced on a military installation or with government equipment or on government time. So we are, certainly, aware of the publication. It is not permitted to be distributed on base. The regulation that I think Ken referred to -- and that I think we handed out to most of you at the last briefing -- addresses this subject, and I'll read a portion of it to you, in a couple of different locations.

The service member's right of expression "should be preserved to the maximum extent possible consistent with good order and discipline and the national security. On the other hand, no commander should be indifferent to conduct which, if allowed to proceed unchecked, would destroy the effectiveness of his unit. The proper balancing of these interests will depend, largely, on the calm and prudent judgment of the responsible commander."

Now, that commander, certainly, has the authority to deal with a publication that he feels violates that premise or the Uniformed Code of Military Justice. In the same regulation it says, "While publication of underground newspapers by military personnel, off-base, on their own time, and with their own money and equipment, is not prohibited, if such a publication contains language, the utterance of which is punishable under federal law, those involved in printing, publication, or distribution may be disciplined for such infractions."

So the commander clearly has the authority to deal with those issues, when he or she has evidence that there's active duty military involvement. At this point, at least, we are not aware of such in "The Resister" case.

Q: Does "The Resister" contain this prohibited language?

A: I think you'd have to look at it. I'm not sure we've made an assessment up here. I think, for that assessment, I would refer you back down to the individual commander.

Q: Has there been any effort to determine if Special Forces -- active duty Special Forces people -- are, in fact, publishing this publication?

A: I think, again, I would refer you down to Fort Bragg. I'm not aware of all the activities...

Q: Are you aware of any effort to find out if Special Forces guys were publishing this thing?

A: I would, again, refer you to the individual commander for that. But let me just comment, generally, on that.

I think we have to be very careful here to not undertake a witch hunt. I'm not suggesting that there isn't a proper role for the military to play in ensuring that its personnel are abiding by its rules and regulations and the law, but I think there is a line that you have to be careful not to cross, that doesn't violate the very things that the U.S. military stands for, in terms of the Constitution and individual rights.

Q: In the regulations that the Secretary was asked be re-sent to the commanders, they do not prohibit membership in any of these types of organizations, is that correct?

A: As I understand it, that's correct. Plain, pure, simple membership may not be, in and of itself, a violation. But, I think, you'd need to carry it the next step and look at each case, individually, in terms of what that participation is, how it's manifested, what the individual does, what the organization stands for, and on and on. But, to answer your question, no. It doesn't simply prohibit.

Q: Can you talk about the Office of Civilian Marksmanship and how a lot of these paramilitary groups seem to be getting on military bases and using military facilities?

A: I would be happy to, but I'd disagree with the premise of your question.

The Civilian Marksmanship program was Congressionally established under Title X, United States Code, which the Army administers. There is no evidence of any relationship, formal or informal, between the Civilian Marksmanship program and any of these self-styled, citizen militia organizations. The Civilian Marksmanship program was established in 1903. The primary emphasis of the program is teaching firearm safety and the sport of competitive marksmanship to young people between the ages of 10 and 20. The program promotes supervised marksmanship training and practice for individuals who already have an interest in marksmanship. The program is focused, entirely, on teaching firearm safety and the sport of competitive marksmanship.

Q: But in the process of continuing training -- not for 10 and 20 year olds, but continuing training -- do you concede that some military activists, or some paramilitary activists, might be getting on bases and learning how to use weapons?

A: No. By policy, the program does not grant club status to citizen militia groups, nor does it support their activities. We have ties to programs like the Boy Scouts and 4-H. That's where the program is intended, that's where it is directed, and that's where it is...

Q: An individual just can't walk into a base...

A: That's correct. Remember that military installations have facilities including rifle ranges -- where active duty, civilian, retirees, dependents are entitled to use some of those facilities. So I cannot stand here and be absolute and say that not anyone ever associated with any of the military organizations as an individual has not been on one of our installations and used it. I simply can't say that.

Q: Do you have any figures of how many people have gone through these programs over the last few years?

A: Actually, I did see some figures. I didn't bring them with me. There is a fact sheet on this program that we'll be happy to provide you through DDI.

Press: Thank you.