U.S. SENATE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE HOLDS A HEARING ON THE
RECENT ATTACK IN YEMEN ON THE USS COLE
OCTOBER 19, 2000
U.S. SENATOR JOHN WARNER (R-VA), CHAIRMAN, U.S. SENATOR STROM THURMOND (R-SC), U.S. SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), U.S. SENATOR ROBERT C. SMITH (R-NH), U.S. SENATOR JAMES M. INHOFE (R-OK), U.S. SENATOR RICK SANTORUM (R-PA), U.S. SENATOR OLYMPIA J. SNOWE (R-ME), U.S. SENATOR PAT ROBERTS (R-KS), U.S. SENATOR WAYNE ALLARD (R-CO), U.S. SENATOR TIM HUTCHINSON (R-AR), U.S. SENATOR JEFF SESSIONS (R-AL), U.S. SENATOR CARL LEVIN (D-MI),
U.S. SENATOR EDWARD M. KENNEDY (D-MA), U.S. SENATOR JEFF BINGAMAN (D-NM), U.S. SENATOR ROBERT C. BYRD (D-WV), U.S. SENATOR CHARLES S. ROBB (D-VA), U.S. SENATOR JOSEPH I. LIEBERMAN (D-CT), U.S. SENATOR MAX CLELAND (D-GA), U.S. SENATOR MARY LANDRIEU (D-LA), U.S. SENATOR JACK REED (D-RI)
GENERAL ANTHONY ZINNI, FORMER COMMANDER IN CHIEF, U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND
WARNER: A principle focus of this week's hearings is to review the procedures followed by the Department of Defense in consultation with other departments and agencies, which led to the initial decision to use the Port of Aden, Yemen, as a port of call, as we say in the Navy, for refueling of U.S. Navy ships transiting that area.
The American people are entitled to know the facts and understand just how these decisions are made, not only as they relate to the USS Cole, but to deployments of our Navy ships elsewhere in the world and when we station troops in-country and oftentimes with their dependents.
The one question all of us keep hearing and how many times -- I've been to Norfolk twice, visited with the families. This was given to me by one of the families. And they just simply say, "Senator, why Yemen? Senator, why Yemen when there are continuing State Department travel warnings in effect for others, be they tourists or persons engaged in commerce?"
Why Yemen, when the annual State Department report on global terrorism issued in April of 2000, just months ago, stated, and I quote that report, "The Yemeni government inability to exercise authority over remote areas of the country continued to make the country a safe haven for terrorist groups," end quote.
The ambassador from Yemen asked to come and consult with me. I invited my colleague, Senator Levin, and the two of us together with another colleague who is not with us this morning, but on this committee, we spent a better an hour and he stressed the open borders of this nation, the inability to control those borders, the fractured forms of government where there's a central government that looks over a province of many,, as they call it, tribal areas.
Then there is another governmental authority of Aden, the city, and then another governmental authority which has control over the Port of Aden. And how freely -- it's called a free port -- people can come and go with only a minimum passports and other forms of control.
That was a goal that nation has stated, and it is moving in that director. And we learn from the reports that the Federal Bureau of Investigation, I also talked with Director Louis Freeh, that the possible suspects in this particular case had been in and out of Yemen, but just for a brief period. These are questions that are on the minds of our citizens across the nation.
I understand that our Navy of necessity -- of necessity -- must use ports around the world for refueling and replenishment. As a former secretary of the Navy, I fully respect and appreciate the long- standing tradition, the value of flying a U.S. flag from a U.S. warship in a port of call throughout the world. Our Navy has been, from its very inception 200 years ago, ambassadors of goodwill and freedom throughout the world as they make these ship visits.
I also understand, as does every man and woman on this committee, that our military doctrine is predicated on forward-deployment of our forces, be they in ports with Naval assets or in-country deployments of our troops. We must be in those forward areas, first to deter a problem, but secondly, if deterrence and diplomacy fails, then a rapid engagement to stop the problem, together with our allies in most instances.
But these are things that aren't fully appreciated and understood by the American public, and I do hope today that we have given them a set of facts and a greater understanding as to the process.
We must strike, General, however, a proper balance between the ever-changing security relationships and threat relationships in these places with these long-standing policy decisions of forward deployment.
So we'll proceed today, again, to reach that right balance as best we can, and have an understanding with our members of the committee and the American public.
WARNER: Some people have questioned the timing of this hearing. We regret deeply that -- I checked with the department this morning; four are still missing, unrecovered.
But it was my judgment in consultation with others that we had a clear obligation, this committee. We waited until following the memorial services, and we're also faced with the fact that the Congress could finish its work and adjourn in a matter of days. So we have to go forward at this point in time with these hearings. We carefully evaluated all considerations to establish these dates.
Conducting these hearings is the responsibility of the Congress, and particularly of this committee. A clear duty of the Congress, it's a shared duty with the executive branch, to provide for the safety and the welfare of the men and women of the armed forces, wherever they are, together with their families. This committee is fulfilling that constitutional responsibility with this series of hearings tomorrow and today.
I thank you.
LEVIN: This hearing takes place at a somber moment as we bury those who lost their lives in a senseless and unprovoked act the USS Cole, just a week ago this morning. As we are still caring for the wounded, as we're still searching for the missing and as we are embracing the families of the crew, doing the best that we can to support them in their grief.
It is my fervent hope that all of the sailors and families who have been impacted by this tragedy have been able to draw strength from the outpouring of support from the Navy and from the nation, including the moving memorial service yesterday in Norfolk.
The sailors who were killed on the Cole gave their lives in the service of the country. We are all deeply grateful for their service and humbled by their sacrifice.
The captain and the crew of the Cole also deserve special praise for their actions in the aftermath of the attack. Their heroic efforts to rescue and care for their wounded shipmates and to save their ship are in the highest tradition of service in the United States Navy.
The attack on the Cole cannot be allowed to undermine the commitment of the United States to protect our vital national interests throughout the world, including in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf. Every member of this committee shares the determination of President Clinton and Secretary Cohen that we will not rest until we have tracked down and held accountable those who are responsible.
From my conversations with General Franks and U.S. Ambassador to Yemen Bodine, and from what we heard from FBI Director Freeh this morning on television, the government of Yemen has been actively investigating the attack and fully cooperating with our investigative efforts.
Ambassador Bodine told me that the information that had been handed over to our officials by the government of Yemen two days ago was, quote, "vital, critical and fundamental," close quote, in determining the perpetrators of this attack. And it was also her belief that the information that was handed to her will be useful in the broader investigation of who was behind the attack.
As we have in the aftermath of similar tragedies in the past, this committee has a responsibility to the Senate and the nation to review all the issues raised by the attack on the USS Cole, including the following questions: Was it appropriate for the United States Navy to begin using the Port of Aden for refueling when Yemen has been characterized by the State Department as a safe haven for terrorists? What was the threat assessment of the risks of using Aden as a refueling port compared to other ports in the region? Where there any recent warnings or intelligence indicators of an attack on U.S. military personnel in the region that might have suggested that the Cole was a specific target? Was there an appropriate force protection and security plan in place for Navy ships conducting refueling operations in the Port of Aden? And were our force protection and security plans carried out in the case of the Cole?
These questions and others must be asked not only to determine whether this tragedy could have been avoided but also to determine where there are steps that we can take to improve force protection, to prevent similar attacks, like the attack on the Cole, in the future.
LEVIN: Today to help us with some answers to at least some of those questions is General Zinni who served with such extraordinary distinction for so long and upon whose advice this committee has so often relied, and I want to welcome General Zinni again to this committee.
ZINNI: Thank you, Senator Levin.
WARNER: Thank you, Senator Levin.
I'll call on each member to have a few opening words if you so desire. But before doing so, we have a quorum present. I would like the committee to consider 28 pending military nominations.
In order for the committee to consider the nominations of two Army National Guard officers to be integrated as regular officers included in this list, it is necessary to waive the seven day rule for these nominations. I ask unanimous consent that the committee waive the seven day rule with respect to these two nominations, that we consider these military nominations en bloc.
Is there a motion to favorably report these nominations to the Senate?
THURMOND: Mr. Chairman, I so move.
WARNER: All in favor say aye?
(CHORUS OF AYES)
The nominations are carried and sent forth to the floor of the Senate.
Senator Thurmond, if you will?
THURMOND: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Although I have previously expressed them, I want to join my colleagues and again express my condolences to the families of the sailors killed and wounded in the attack on the USS Cole. This heinous attack again shows a constant peril faced by our military personnel and reinforces the need for this nation to always maintain its vigilance.
Mr. Chairman, I am disappointed to read that there are some individuals in government and the media who question the decision to refuel Navy ships at Aden. My response to these naysayers is that in the world today there's inherent dangers, especially if you are a representative of the United States. Our military services understand the risk and prepare appropriately. However, even the best precautions sometimes fail and result in the loss of resources and, most tragically, the loss of life.
I believe it is too early to make a judgment on what went wrong with the USS Cole. However, to say we should not be refueling in Aden is to say that our Navy must operate risk-free. If you prescribe to such a philosophy, you have succumb to the scenario that military operations must be risk-free. We all know that this is not so.
The attack should not cause us to shake our responsibilities, nor should it make us so cautious that we will not venture into areas of the world that are inherently risky. To do so would give the terrorists who carried out this attack the ultimate victory.
The attack on the USS Cole must reinforce the understanding that we have the responsibility to provide our military personnel with the best equipment and leadership to meet the risk inherent in military life and our nation's role as a world leader.
General Zinni, I join the chairman in welcoming you to today's hearing. As the former commander in chief of Central Command, you have played a key role in reaffirming the continued interest of the United States in this far region of the Middle East. You have never hesitated to speak bluntly on the issues under your purview, and I expect today's testimony will be consistent with that philosophy.
I congratulate you on your leadership while commander in chief, and wish you and your family a well-deserved retirement.
WARNER: Thank you, Senator Thurmond.
KENNEDY: Mr. Chairman, first of all, I want to thank you and Senator Levin very much for having these hearings. And I join with you in expressing what a moving ceremony it was yesterday and a correct tribute to really an extraordinary group of young Americans from all different parts of the country that were, indeed, proud of their service in the Navy. We're proud of them. We, again, extend our condolences to those families. We're proud of the Navy in all that it continues to do.
We welcome General Zinni, as has been pointed out, one of the really distinguished officers in the service of our country over a long period of time.
KENNEDY: And it's important for us to better understand how these decisions are made, what the considerations are. And I think this hearing is enormously important. It's very much welcomed. And I think it's important for the American people to have an understanding in the wake of these losses, and also with the involvement of the United States in a dangerous part of the world, how these decisions are made. So I thank the chair...
WARNER: Thank you, Senator Kennedy.
KENNEDY: ... for having these hearings. Look forward to the testimony.
WARNER: Senator Smith?
SMITH: Mr. Chairman, I, too, look forward to hearing the comments of General Zinni, the very distinguished officer, and also questioning him. I also want to express my condolences, publicly, to the families of the men and women who lost their lives.
I was privileged to attend the ceremony with the chairman and other members of this committee yesterday. And it was an emotional for me, because having been aboard ship during the Vietnam War, you have some sense of what they go through.
I think, Mr. Chairman, that it's appropriate, I liked to just read into the record a very -- take me less than a minute -- brief comment that was made by an SH-60 pilot, a helicopter pilot, who was watching -- who happened to be flying around that ship the other day, because it reminds that the men out there, and women, are still making tremendous sacrifice aboard this ship.
And I just want to read this quote. You can't say it really any better than this:
"I know what you all have seen on CNN, because we've seen it, too. I just want you all to know that what we see doesn't even scratch the surface. I'm not going to get into it for obvious reasons, but I will tell you that right now there're 250-plus sailors living in hell-on-Earth. I'm sitting in a nice air conditioned state room, and they're sleeping out on the decks at night. You can't even imagine the conditions they're living in.
"And yet, they're still fighting 24 hours a day to save their ship and free the bodies of those still trapped and to send them home. As bad as it is, they're doing an incredible job. The very fact that these people are still functioning is beyond my comprehension. Whatever you imagine is the worst, multiple it by 10 and you might get there.
"Today, I was asked to photo-rig the ship and surrounding area. It looked so much worse than I had imagined, unbelievably really, with debris and disarray everywhere, the ship listing, the hole in her side. I wish I had the power to rely to you what I have seen, but words just won't do it."
"I do want to tell you the first thing that jumped out at me: The Stars and Stripes flying. I can't tell you how that made me feel, even in this Godforsaken hellhole, our flag was more beautiful than words can describe. Then I started to notice the mass of activity going on below: scores of people working nonstop in 90-plus degree weather to save this ship. They're doing it with almost no electrical power. They're sleeping, when they can sleep, outside on the decks, because they can't stand the smell or the heat of the darkness in side. They only want to eat what we bring them, because they're afraid of eating something brought by the local vendors.
"Even with all of that, the USS Cole and her crew, is sending a message, guys." And it said, "Even acts of cowardice and hate can do nothing to the spirit and the pride of the United States of America."
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
WARNER: Thank you, Senator Smith. That's a very important message.
ROBB: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And I would agree with your assessment of the statement just read by Senator Smith. I think that reflects the kind of conditions and the kind of spirit that those who wear our uniform and serve our country around the world do, and are prepared to undergo. And I have shared with the chairman and many others on this committee more than one visit to the families and those who have been so devastated by the action taken by this particular terrorist attack. And I look forward to the hearing.
I must say, I'm particularly pleased that General Zinni, given his extraordinary record, and his consistent candor in telling it exactly like it is, to help both illuminate and help the American people better understand this particular situation and what, if anything, we can do about it.
And I would just underscore one point that was made by the distinguished senior senator from South Carolina, that there are real risks around the world every day to those who wear our uniform and represent the United States. And if we ever get to the point where we don't recognize that these young men and women are taking risks, and that we have to take risks, and that no operation is risk-free, will have lost something very important to the defense of freedom.
And I'm glad that General Zinni is here to help us better understand the situations that occurred throughout his watch in CENTCOM.
And, Mr. Chairman, I thank you for holding the hearing.
WARNER: Thank you, Senator Robb.
INHOFE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
And I would, of course, I identify with the remarks of everyone who has spoken, concerning the families of those who lost their lives.
INHOFE: I am very much concerned about this, and when this happens, like the Marines in Beirut, the 18 Rangers in Somalia with their naked bodies dragged through the streets of Mogadishu, the now- 17 sailors dead on the USS Cole, it's something that's out there and we all die a little bit when these things happen.
I'm very thankful for this hearing today with General Zinni. He's always been one of my American heroes, and he's had one of the most distinguished careers, and I hope that we'll be able to shed some light on this.
I have said on many occasions in this committee that I believe that this administration has downsized the military too much. We're at roughly just a little over one-half of the force strength that we were during the Persian Gulf War, and that can be quantified. I don't know they never talk about this in public, but we're talking about about one-half of the Army divisions, one-half of the tactical air wings, one-half of the ships.
And that brings me down to something I'll be asking you during question and answer time, General, and that is: The downsizing of the ships, going from a 600-ship Navy down to a 300-ship Navy, we've downsized our number of refuelers from 32 to 21. And I'd like to have you be thinking about what possible effect this could be having, because we used to be doing a lot more refueling out at sea than coming in to ports. And maybe that's partly at fault for the tragedy that took place.
I am very concerned about -- of course, coming from Oklahoma, where just a few years we had the most significant terrorist act in the history of America. We lost many, many lives. And yet the explosive power of that act was equal to one ton of TNT, approximately the same thing, I understand, that caused the damage on the USS Cole.
And yet, the smallest nuclear warhead that we know of is 1,000 times that explosive power. And so, you kind of think about, here we are in a situation where we don't have a national missile defense system in place. We should have had one. We're on schedule to have one.
And I agree with George Tenet, the director of Central Intelligence, that we are probably in the most impaired condition and the most threatened position as a nation.
And so I just want to get to the bottom of this and also do everything we can to prevent this type of thing from happening overseas or in this country, Mr. Chairman. So thank you for having this committee.
WARNER: Thank you, Senator Inhofe.
REED: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
First let me, along with my colleagues, give my condolences to the families and the shipmates of those who have fallen, and the commendation to the professionalism, skill of the crew of the USS Cole who today are fighting to save their ship and to recover their shipmates.
And, General Zinni, we're pleased that you're here today. I think you can, from your perspective as a military professional, give us an idea of the rationale that was used to begin these refueling operations, but I think more importantly, give us a feel for the context, the fact that this is not an isolated threat, that this -- I believe this is a series of daily threats that we face, some of which we have very successfully frustrated, others which we have compromised and prevented from happening.
But today we're here to hear you give us a context of why we were there, and also the continuing threat that our forces face.
And I thank you for your testimony. Thank you.
WARNER: Thank you very much.
The senator from Kansas.
ROBERTS: Mr. Chairman, Ralph Peters in his book -- and the book is entitled, "Fighting for the Future; Will America Triumph?" I made a copy available to all members about a year ago.
It made several observations that I think are germane on the attack on the USS Cole. He said, "We are entering a new American century in which we will become still wealthier and culturally more lethal and increasingly powerful. We will excite a hatred without precedent."
He said, "We are at our best fighting the organized soldieries that attempt a symmetrical response, but warriors respond asymmetrically, leaving us in the role of Red Coats marching into an Indian-dominated wilderness.
In comparing America to the Roman Empire, about Rome, he said, and I quote, "The Romans so cherished their civilized image of themselves that it blinded them to the strengths of the barbarians, and Rome's greatest failure was its inability to understand the changing world."
Now, Mr. Chairman, the Emerging Threats and Capability Subcommittee, of which I have the privilege of chairing, has been looking at what we call "asymmetrical warfare" for the past two years, and I must say the attack on the Cole is exactly the form of attack that many of the experts suggested would be the most likely.
Many members of the armed services have voiced their concern at our vulnerabilities to such attacks. Of such attacks they say it is not if but when and where. Sadly now, we have a when and where defined in the loss of the men and women in the attack on the USS Cole.
My concern is that this will not be the last in what we call an asymmetrical attack against our US forces, and that hopefully we will learn enough from this strike to greatly reduce the risk to our service members.
From the information I have, I do not fault the leadership of the Cole on taking the ship into Aden, or its reaction to the attack. As my colleagues have pointed out, to the contrary, every indication available indicates the crew of the ship was superbly trained and prepared and acquitted itself very well in regards to this tragedy.
ROBERTS: But I am concerned about the efforts to protect the ship prior to placing it in a very vulnerable position, in a harbor of a nation we know to be the crossroads of terrorism.
I want to make another quote from another book. Samuel Huntington in "The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of the World Order," said this: "Following the 1979 Iranian revolution, an intercivilizational quasi-war has developed between Islam and the West." He said it was quasi for three reasons: Not all of the Islamic states do participate and it is not against all Western states, mostly Britain and the United States. Except for the Gulf War, it has been fought with limited means. Terrorism on one side and airpower and covert action and economic sanctions on the other. While the violence has been continuing, it has not been continuous.
His point was that although it is a quasi-war, it is still war. And if Mr. Huntington is right, and I believe he is very close, then it would seem to me that extraordinary precautions are justified. No, make that required, in our operation in this theater, in particular, in a place like Aden.
I do not intend to perjure the need to further develop our ties with the nations of the Mideast, such as Yemen, nor do I believe that we should shrink from our responsibilities and presence in this region of the world. However, our view of our own, again, civilized image must not blind us to the strength of the barbarian, nor blind us to the willingness of this new warrior class to strike without warning at our weakness.
Now, I have a chart here that's unclassified. We had an intelligence briefing as of yesterday. I want to indicate that the press reports indicating there had been no increase in the threat level over a year ago are simply not true. This is the summary of the threat level here with the U.S. Central Command. If you look at orange, you see Yemen, and it is very high. And you look at Djibouti, and it is green, it is very low.
That threat assessment is about two inches thick with a lot of red flags in it for over a year ago. Those are the questions it seems we have to answer as to why this information was not provided in the proper way to the proper people in regard to the USS Cole.
WARNER: Thank you, Senator.
Before I proceed to Senator Allard -- Senator Allard, if you would just bear with me for a minute. Those following this hearing and hearing these opening statements should balance against that a record which General Zinni will expand on; that in, beginning in March of 1999, almost 18 months ago when this series of business began, there were 24 visits of U.S. ships presumably without incident and this was the 25th. So there's been a long pattern of our ship visits successfully. And we will touch on that as soon as we -- but I think it's important to inject that fact right now.
ALLARD: Mr. Chairman, thank you.
I would like to extend my sympathies to the families who lost loved ones at the catastrophe at the USS Cole. I'd also like to extend a comment that I recognize, at least, and I think the members of this committee recognize, is the supreme effort and courage by the sailors on the USS Cole. This is a trying time, I think, for all of them.
I would just state that I think this committee has a role in understanding what happened with the USS Cole, and my hope is that what we learn at this hearing will help us to shape public policy in a way that will help protect our fighting men and women across the world, and also to better understand what is happening politically throughout the world. I think there is some thought about what our role should be in the Middle East as far as foreign diplomacy is concerned.
I think that this incident points out that this remains a dangerous world. I think sometimes in this country we forget out dangerous it is and we take for granted the danger that we put our fighting men and women at risk at.
ALLARD: And so I hope that we can get a lot of valuable information out of this committee, and it will help us to better understand the environment in which we are working, which I believe is a dangerous world and probably getting more dangerous to this point and time.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
WARNER: Thank you, Senator.
HUTCHINSON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Let me join my colleagues in expressing my profound sadness for those who lost their lives, for their families. My deepest sympathy for those who are injured and their families as well.
As my colleagues have very rightly pointed out, it's impossible to provide 100 percent protection for our men and women who are forward-deployed, military service by its very nature is very risky. But force protection has to be one of our highest priorities.
I think we've made great stride since 1983 and the bombing of our Marines in Beirut. Since June of '96 and the bombing at the Khobar Towers, which 19 of our servicemen lost their lives, we have come a long ways.
But I will be very interested in number of things, General Zinni, and thank you for coming today. I'll be interested in as to when you were Central commander, how the threat was gauged at that time and what countermeasures you considered.
I'm also interested in exploring the area, and I'm not making accusations, but I think it's something we have to think about, as to whether or not our support for our ambassadors and our diplomatic goals in building positive relationships with various countries like Yemen, whether that causes direct pressure or an indirect pressure felt or sense of pressure to make decisions more on diplomatic factors than on strict military security analysis.
And I think also the issue of whether or not an attack like this on a United States Navy vessel should be considered an act of terrorism, and it certainly is -- it is terrible and it was terror -- but whether, legally, it should be considered an act of terrorism or an act of war. Which governs our reaction, our retaliation? Because it certainly makes a difference as to the kind of response that we can legally give, where we see in many terrorist attacks, it takes a decade or longer for someone to be apprehended and go through trial. And as a direct attack upon a United States naval vessel, does that constitute an act of war that gives us greater latitude in the kind of response that we give.
I think those are areas that need discussion, not only today, but as we go through this process.
And I really appreciate, Mr. Chairman, you calling the hearing today.
WARNER: Thank you for that statement.
CLELAND: Mr. Chairman, thank you very much, and ladies and gentlemen.
Let me just say that I have several thoughts: First of all, how precious life is, how quickly it can evaporate, especially if you're a military person. It is obvious that there are no front lines anymore, that any uniformed person or any U.S. military vessel or base around the world is now vulnerable and subject to attack by those who would like to make a name for themselves or make a point or a statement.
Therefore, I think it's even more important than what Senator Roberts and I tried to do all year long in our mission to try to define America's global interests and global role around the world, be pursued, because we are in 121 nations, we are scattered throughout the globe. And I think it is incumbent upon us here in the Congress, who ultimately authorize the commitment of armed forces and authorize the payment of those forces, that we be able to analyze in great detail the deployment of those forces, the disposition of those forces, the commitment of those forces and the exposure to those forces in harm's way.
So I'm pleased to be part of this panel. But it just indicates to me, Mr. Chairman, the preciousness of life and the risks that our servicemen and women around the world run every day.
CLELAND: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
WARNER: Thank you for that statement, spoken by someone who has served this country so admirably and continues to serve this country with even greater skill and courage.
SESSIONS: Mr. Chairman, I thank you for having this hearing. And all of us who were at the ceremonies yesterday, I know you led the delegation, were moved by those events. We could not help but be touched by the fact that so many were hurting and had lost loved ones.
And two from Alabama were wounded in that activity. But for the grace of God, they wouldn't be with us today. So it was really a touching event for all of us.
I know Admiral Natter closed his remarks with the phrase, "Remember the Cole." I believe at the conclusion of the ceremony, I think it was one of the sailors somewhere up on that great Eisenhower carrier yelled out, "Remember the Cole."
I think it's important for us to evaluate where we care; what happened. We know there will be risks around this world, and we have to be engaged around this world and there will always be risks, but did we take more risk than we needed to in this instance? I think that is proper oversight for our committee.
I also think it's proper for us to be serious that we follow up, we identify who these people are. We've been talking about doing that for quite a number of years now in response to quite a number of terrorist acts, but have been not very effective in identifying and actually carrying out an effective response.
So I think we need to remember the Cole. I hope that as part of our process, Mr. Chairman, we will make sure we're doing an effective job of identifying those who've done wrong and that they are held to account.
Thank you, Chair.
WARNER: Today's hearing record will contain the names of every person on the ship company of the Cole with the appropriate designations, because as a combined crew, they saved this ship in the finest traditions of over 200 years of the United States Navy. And we shall also print out the record of the these hearings, including such additional portions as we can obtain from declassified sources and such, that that would be given to each member of the family.
Now, General, will you please proceed?
ZINNI: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
First, Mr. Chairman, let me say that in the three years that I was the commander in chief of the U.S. Central Command, our naval component performed magnificently. I could not have asked for better. We saw the performance of the Cole and its crew under tremendous tragic circumstances. That performance was typical of the Navy performance that I had seen for many years.
My condolences, my heartfelt prayers, go out to the family and to the members of the Cole.
WARNER: General, I think it would be helpful if you would take just a moment to describe the Central Command, its area of operation, how you have the command over naval forces, Army land forces, Marines and, indeed, parts of the Air Force. I think those of us who understand this clearly can follow you, but many are following it who do not have that background.
ZINNI: Well, thank you for that opportunity, Mr. Chairman. And I'd like to also follow that up by giving some, as has been mentioned here, context to the environment, especially the security environment.
Central Command is one of nine unified commands and one of four geographic commands. That means that we have a part of the world that we are responsible for all military-to-military engagement, conduct of operations and anything that goes on involving the U.S. military. Central Command is unique in several ways. It's a relatively young command compared to the Pacific Command or the European Command or even our own Southern Command in our own hemisphere, what had been my sister unified commands.
We did not have any assigned forces. What that means is, I don't have ships -- or, I did not have ships or battalions or aircraft, tanks, that were assigned to me directly. I, in effect, borrowed forces from other commanders. They came to me from the European Command, Pacific Command and the then-Atlantic Command.
Those forward-deployed forces operated in our theater on an as- needed basis.
ZINNI: In other words, I made the requests. Those requests were approved by the Joint Staff for what forces I would get. For example, to use the Cole, the Cole was home-ported in Norfolk, as we all know. It is part of second fleet, standing part of second fleet. It goes into the Mediterranean, and it passes its command to the sixth fleet. It comes through the Suez Canal and it passes command to the fifth fleet. The fifth fleet is my naval component.
My naval component headquarters is in Bahrain, and it is the double hat of currently Admiral Moore and before him, Admiral Fargo, both of whom have been my naval component commanders, to be the naval component commander and the commander of the fifth fleet.
We operate with approximately 23 to 25 ships at any given time: a mix of aircraft carriers, surface ships, support ships, amphibious ships, et cetera. They conduct continuous operations in the Gulf. They conduct the enforcement of sanctions against Iraq, the Maritime Intercept operations intercepting smugglers coming out by sea. They also participate, along with our Air Force and with the British and other ground-based air, in the enforcement of the no-fly/no-drive zones over Iraq. So our Navy, in that region of the world, has been under two operations and continuously operating under extreme circumstances.
WARNER: General, at this point I think you should point out the missions being carried out as a consequence of Saddam Hussein's attack in '91 in the Peninsula, subsequent actions by the United Nations Security Council and, specifically, this ship was to perform missions to enforce those Security Council resolutions.
ZINNI: Yes, sir.
We enforce several UN Security Council resolutions. They come down to three continuing operations that we have had ongoing since almost the end of the Gulf War to this date.
One is the defense of Kuwait. We keep forces on the ground in Kuwait continuously that are our forward forces, that we build upon with prepositioned sets of equipment on the ground and at sea to enlarge that force to be able to defend Kuwait.
The second operation that we conduct continuously is the Maritime Intercept operation that I mentioned, where at sea we intercept smugglers coming out of Iraq violating the UN resolution.
And then the third is, as I mentioned, the enforcement of the no- fly/no-drive zones. There is a no-fly zone in the north, and in the south there is a no-fly/no-drive zone, which means Saddam is not allowed to use that airspace. He forfeited that right because of the attack helicopters and aircraft he used against the Shi'a or Marsh Arabs in the south and against the Kurds in the north.
We also enforce this no-drive zone, which means he cannot reinforce his ground forces in the south. In other words, his republican guard divisions can't come down, threaten the Kuwaiti border, as he's done in the past since the Gulf War, or further add to the counterinsurgency operation he conducts against the Shi'a or Marsh Arabs and the dissident groups in the south.
These three operations have been ongoing, as I said, almost since the end of the Gulf War. For example, in the no-fly zone, we have flown well over 200,000 sorties over Iraqi skies. I'm proud to report that we never lost an aircraft or a pilot over Iraq in all that time, which has been a phenomenal achievement in itself, given the circumstances under which we conduct these operations from desert bases that reach 140 degrees and the deck plates of those carriers that are the same out in that Gulf. And I've been out there and have watched operations off of flight decks of our carriers and it's amazing to watch the skill and the professionalism under those conditions.
WARNER: And do mention how we share those missions with Great Britain, and the operation missions in the Gulf with other navies.
The no-fly zone in the north is shared with Great Britain. Up until two years ago, France participated also in both the north and the south. France still maintains aircraft actually, as part of the joint task force that we have and combined task force we have, but they do not fly into Iraqi airspace.
Each of the six GCC countries, Gulf Cooperation Council Countries, provide support for these operations. Support comes in many forms: There is direct support to us. This support ranges from $300 to $500 million a year, in what's called assistance in kind. They have constructed special facilities, like the housing facilities for our troops at Prince Sultan Air Base and the facilities at Al Jaber Air Base in Kuwait, to name just two, to house our troops and to support our operations there.
They provide us with the basis, they provide us with other support. For example, when we conducted Desert Fox, the Kuwaiti air force flew the defensive air patrols to protect the bases that we operated out of in Kuwait. All six countries have supported us and agreed to actions that we have taken since the end of the Gulf War at one time or another.
I would mention here that Yemen, in agreeing to this refueling contract, was, in fact, added as a seventh country, which completed everyone on the Arabian Peninsula now, supporting sanctions. By refueling the Cole, she was supporting a ship that was about to engage in Maritime Intercept operations. So we had -- and I'll talk a little bit about Yemen and why Yemen, but we now had Yemen, a significant change from Yemen's attitude during the Gulf War -- now providing a support requirement for one of our ships engaged in a sanctions enforcement. And there were other things they were doing in this area which, again, I'd like to mention later on, either as a result of the questions or I can take that on in my opening statement.
Let me put this in context. Let me talk about the security environment in Central Command. I came to Central Command in 1996 as the deputy commander in chief.
ZINNI: I arrived about a month, or a month and a half, after Khobar Towers and our security assistance bombing at OPM/SANG. We had lost 24 military personnel, and a number wounded.
Needless to say, force protection had always been high on Central Command, but this certainly took it to another level.
The Downing commission did an investigation afterwards, and had something like 40 findings. It was my responsibility as the deputy commander in chief to implement all 40 of those findings.
The only one that did not get implemented was the recommendation to move our forward headquarters into the region, and I would argue, that would have compounded the problem rather than helped it, and that's arguable.
But all the other recommendations were achieved in short order by Central Command.
There is no commander in chief in Central Command that does not go to sleep at night worrying about that phone ringing, that there is going to be a terrorist act. My predecessor experienced several of them. I experienced the bombing in Nairobi, where I lost a fine Air Force NCO and two great civilian employees of the Department of Defense.
I think, as was mentioned here, we know we deterred a number of terrorist attempts. One example is those terrorists that were scarfed (ph) up near New Year's in Jordan. And our ability, through our relationships with Pakistan, to get to the core and the center of those guiding that effort, and General Musharaff and the Pakistanis, at my request, turning over the materials and the people to our officials.
That's an example of how engagement helps in this. I spoke to Director Freeh just before he left for Yemen, and his comment to me was, had it not been for our involvement and our connection with the Yemeni government, he doubts he would have had the cooperation that they now have.
Twenty-four out of 25 countries, in the time I was commander in chief, had a threat level. Now, we saw an example of the threat levels color-coded, presented by Senator Roberts.
There are four threat levels. Twenty-four out of 25 countries always had a threat level. That's a snapshot in time. Those threat levels go up and down. If something happens on the West Bank, they go up. If something happens in Iraq, they go up. If a specific report comes in, they go up.
We existed continuously with only one country not having a threat condition. For information, that was the Seychelles, the Seychelle Islands. There are only two ports in all of CENTCOM that did not ever have a specific terrorist threat: Masqat and Victoria, in the Seychelles.
And in fact, Aden never had a specific terrorist threat. All the other ports that have been mentioned here that we should have considered as options have had specific terrorist threats, and we've had to emergency-sortie out of them.
WARNER: Give the total number of reports, and who issues those specific assessments.
ZINNI: Those reports come to us through a variety of sources. Obviously, all the intelligence agencies that we have, our own ability in the region to connect with -- and I would add here, the relationships we build with the countries, and the intelligence exchange we have with the countries in the region, that help us with this sort of information.
By the way, this building of intelligence cooperation was one of our goals for Yemen that we were just beginning to initiate, that had not yet been put in place. But we look to a time of doing that. It's a slow process, and one that the government and agencies on the other side have to be carefully vetted.
When we chose the Port of Aden -- this goes back to 1997, and actually back to '96. From '91 to '96, there were no relations with Yemen, for obvious reasons: their position in the Gulf War. In 1990, they had just come out of their own civil war and begun reunification, and they were having a difficult time coming to grips with their own internal problems and security.
In 1996 and 1997, Yemen expressed an interest to improve relationships with the United States. I went through my notes and came across my meetings and my association with the Yemenis and with our own State Department and with my own component commanders on how we should approach this.
And really it began back in October of '97 when I met with the then-new ambassador headed out to Yemen, Ambassador Bodine, who has proven to be a great supporter of our military-to-military effort, and as a matter of fact, contrary to what may have been said in the papers and other places, she was an advocate of going slow in Yemen, and taking it carefully and building upon success and not rushing it.
And she was very security-conscious and has been. She, in fact, has advised us on canceling or postponing certain evolutions, based on situations that were taking place in Yemen.
I would like to say something about this pamphlet, because it's been quoted in the press. And, Chairman, you quoted one line from this.
This is the State Department publication, unclassified, on terrorism around the world. We have extracted this one little sentence that rightfully says that the Yemeni government has had instances where they're lax, and in the remote areas -- in the remote areas -- where the tribes are, it is dangerous. And I certainly would not advise any American to go out there.
Can I read you two sentences before that, the lead-in to the four paragraphs? It says, "Yemen expanded security cooperation with other Arab countries in 1999, and signed a number of international anti- terrorist conventions. The government introduced incremental measures to better control its borders, territory and travel documents, and initialized special training for a newly established counterterrorism unit within the ministry of interior."
It goes on to describe convictions that they have had, executions of terrorists they have captured. Attempts by their fledgling anti- terrorist force to rescue hostages did not go very well, but they tried, and they're building force, and it's one thing they've asked us to help them on.
And it talks about court reform and special prosecutors and new laws to handle this.
Is it a perfect solution? Absolutely not. Do they have problems? Absolutely they do. It is not the place we would like it to be. But they have asked for our help. They asked for our help in building their counterterrorism capability, help with intelligence, help with their security forces.
ZINNI: The president, the prime minister, the foreign minister and the minister of defense have personally asked me to help them with their border security. We were beginning to create a Coast Guard. Their coast is porous, it's a sieve, as are their land borders. They have no Coast Guard. They have a situation there, as a result of this civil war, that their security forces, their military, are really very, very poor.
Somali refugees poor into this area, other refugees from Africa. Terrorists transit this place.
Now, why Yemen, from America's point of view?
WARNER: Just one footnote. In talking to Director Freeh, you mentioned that they've asked for help. The FBI has given them help and trained a cadre. Would you cover that, and how those trained agents, Yemeni agents, are now working with our FBI in the investigation?
ZINNI: Yes, they are. And, Senator, that's exactly right. I don't have all the details. I'm familiar with the program. It, of course, was part of the overall engagement.
WARNER: For the information of the committee, I've scheduled a hearing with the Federal Bureau in S-407 at 3:00 today.
ZINNI: Senator, Yemen was chosen for several reasons. First of all, we needed to refuel around that region at the Bab el Mandeb, the choke point at the end of the Red Sea.
Now, I'd like to walk you down the Red Sea so you can see the options we had. If you leave the Suez and you head south and you're a ship like the Cole, where can you refuel?
Sudan? Obviously not.
Saudi Arabia? Back in 1997, when we were making this decision, we had just had two bombings in Saudi Arabia. We lost 24 people. Threat conditions were high. We were moving our aircraft that were stationed on the western side of Saudi Arabia to Prince Sultan in the center, at the request of the Saudis. There had been specific threats in this region. And actually, from an operational point of view, Jiddah and the other ports did not offer an optimal point to refuel. And I would ask that you talk at greater length with the Navy personal who had testified to that point. If you proceed on down, you then come down to Eritrea. We can't have any military relations with Eritrea. They were at war with the Ethiopia; the threat conditions in there were not good at all and the facilities were not that great.
We had been in Djibouti and refueling. We were interested in terminating that contract because at that time, Djibouti, the threat conditions were far worse. The port was extremely busy, many small boats, the conditions ashore and in the government were not satisfactory. We were looking for another port, partially because of the unsatisfactory conditions that existed in Djibouti at that time, '96 and '97.
Now, I want to say, since then, since President Guellah has come in, it has improved. And we are not precluded from refueling in other places like Jiddah or like Djibouti. It is that we have a contract in Aden.
We then go to Somalia. I don't think that we need to talk about Somalia as a potential refueling point, certainly not at this point.
We then go to Oman.
WARNER: General, in that you are our last military commander in Somalia, and very courageously led the withdrawal of the remaining forces under hostile fire.
ZINNI: We then come to Oman. Some have suggested Oman. The nearest port is Salalah. Salalah has great potential. It is a port that was under development when we were looking at these ports.
I have personally visited everyone of these ports, incidentally, including every port in my region and have done port surveys. I went into a launch in Aden with the harbor master and the director of the port and personally surveyed that port and surveyed those bunkering facilities.
Salalah has promise, but it's too far. Again, I would defer to my Navy colleagues on bringing a ship around and going that long without refueling. And at that point and time, Salalah had not been developed.
So we were limited with a choice, in terms of force protection, of options that were not very good. And, actually, and I think you'll hear this in further testimony -- especially in closed session -- the threat conditions in Aden, the specific threat conditions, were actually better than we had elsewhere. It was not good, certainly. There were threat conditions that existed, but certainly they were not worse than anywhere else.
We conducted several vulnerability inspections. We sent our inspectors in before we cut this contract. My brigadier general, Brigadier General Billy Cooper, in charge of my security that the point in time, went there personally, spent almost a week looking at it. I have made four visits to Yemen, two to the Port of Aden.
WARNER: I think that it's important, to the best you can, to reconstruct the dates of when these things took place -- your visits and that of your subordinates.
ZINNI: My first visit was in May of '98. My second visit was in December of '98. My third in April of '99. And my last one, in May of this year.
I want to say, in every visit, I was seen by the president. As a matter of fact, when the president came to Washington, he asked me to come to Washington to visit him. His interest in our military-to- military relations, his interest in our helping him develop this capability of counterterrorism, was direct and personal.
In May of '98 is when my chief of security, joint rear area coordinator -- military term that is used -- visited and spent the week there. Just to keep the time line in order, Congressman, we looked at late '96 to moving the contract out of Djibouti. We began in '97 looking at ports, and we began in late '97 looking hard at Aden.
My naval component commander asked the Defense Energy Support Center to conduct a survey of the port, and they did in November of '98, and they put bids out.
The contract was awarded in December of '98. Under the contract, the first ship, as you pointed out, Mr. Chairman, refueled on the first of March '99, although we had refueled three ships prior to that. So there were 27 ships that have gone into there and refueled prior to the Cole.
And before that, there were two ships that made ship visits in there. Now, when we made ship visits in there, this was carefully done. This was certainly not a liberty port. As a matter of fact, we did some basic civic action, painting of orphanages, that sort of thing, but they were very limited.
And we did not consider this a port that, you know, obviously, one we wanted to use for that purpose. There were a couple done early on, but none within the last two years. The cooperation of the Yemenis, I have to say, was very good. I have to say they had a long way to go. We set force protection standards at Central Command. My component commander set force protection standards, obviously specifically geared to the nature of their mission -- naval standards for ship visits or refueling, ground standards for Army, et cetera, et cetera. We provide overall standards. I think in closed session, my successor, General Franks, can review all of those.
WARNER: We, as a committee, will receive the force protection plan, which was filed and reviewed by CENTCOM just prior to the visit of the USS Cole.
ZINNI: Yes, sir.
WARNER: That is done as a matter of routine. I bring that out to explain this to those who are following this hearing.
ZINNI: Mr. Chairman, if could I make two other points and then go to questions. I said, why Yemen? It is a strategically important location. There is a choke-point there, the Bab el Mandeb, that we are in charged in Central Command to keep open. Like the Suez Canal and the Strait of Hormuz.
This choke point, as I mentioned, has Somalia, has Eritrea and Ethiopia at war, has Yemen, as has been mentioned here, until recently has not been friendly toward us.
ZINNI: There's been a dispute between Eritrea and Yemen regarding the Hanish Islands right at the choke point at the Bab el Mandeb. Yemen also had a dispute with Saudi Arabia over border issues. These often turn violent.
I'm happy to say Yemen and Eritrea resolved their border dispute, took it to international arbitration and resolved it. Thanks to the Crown Prince Abdullah, the Saudis and the Yemenis have resolved their border disputes. To the credit of President Saleh, he has moved to try to resolve and create stability here.
So strategically, geographically, this was an important country.
As has been said, in the past it was known to be a transit place for terrorists. We worry about the ability of terrorists to gain access to the Arabian Peninsula. We have had reports of terrorists that wanted to use Yemen or were using Yemen as a transit point into Saudi Arabia.
I don't need to tell you, because of where our troops are located, the potential for them bringing terrorist materials through here is considerably dangerous. It was in our interest to certainly help the Yemenis control their borders, to clamp down on terrorists, to stop that one soft spot on the peninsula.
I would just conclude my opening statement by saying that, in our part of the world in CENTCOM, we have been accused more often than not of being overly sensitive to force protection. I can give you endless examples of things that we have canceled, postponed or moved or changed that would have enhanced diplomatic relations with countries, but for force protection reasons, we moved and changed them.
We have canceled exercises. We have canceled ship visits. We have moved operational requirements, support requirements, like this, from locations where they benefited the people, made our access easier, but we moved them to other locations where we didn't get that benefit of engagement for security reasons.
We have insisted on policies, on carrying weapons, that were difficult to negotiate with host countries here. And in some cases, even our own diplomats were difficult to negotiate with. But we insisted on it.
I don't want anyone to think we ever in any instance, anywhere, in any evolution or event that took place in CENTCOM, ever took a risk for the purpose of a better relationship with a country and put a soldier, sailor, airman or Marine at risk for that reason. Absolutely not.
Refueling is an operational requirement. The conduct of operations is one of eight categories of engagement. This is not my definition, this is how we report our engagement activities.
This operational requirement requires a commitment on the Yemenis' part. They are supporting the enforcement of sanctions. There is a commercial benefit to them, obviously, in the Port of Aden. It helps us because of the location and the strategic direction our ships have to take, as I mentioned. But in no time was this a gratuitous offer to be made just to improve relationships with the Yemenis.
WARNER: Thank you, General.
Very clear. I expected exactly what you said, in terms of your professionalism. But it's important that I sort of walk you through what my understanding and your understanding is of exactly your day- to-day operations as you look at your assets, as you say, you borrow.
I want to go back and clarify the statement. You said, we're accused of over force protection. Maybe you want to revisit the word "accused." It seems to me that in making this decision, the Department of State works with you, the Central Intelligence Agency works with you, the Defense Intelligence Agency worked with you. And is it not a composite of all this information that you must assess and then you are the decision-maker, and you make that decision. And when you make that decision, the only one that can really overrule you is the president of the United States acting through the secretary of defense. Am I not correct?
ZINNI: Mr. Chairman, that is absolutely correct. It is my decision. The refueling of that ship in Aden was my decision. I want to be clear. I pass that buck on to nobody. And I want to be clear that the decision oftentimes that we take is not received or agreed with by others. But it is my decision.
And when I take an action regarding force protection, in some cases, Mr. Chairman, I have had to waiver force protection standards because they were physically impossible to achieve. I will not let any of my component commanders waiver it.
ZINNI: I accept that responsibility solely. And I wanted every single waiver, no matter how minor, to come to my desk. I was the authority. I was the one responsible for those decisions. And if I lessened the requirement for operational necessity, because it was physically impossible, or completely unaffordable to do it, and I had to take that risk, it was my risk.
WARNER: So when we go back and revisit the word "accused," it's simply when you make those decisions either to go forward with the deployment or cancel the deployment after weighing all of the risks, it's the other departments and agencies which will come back occasionally and say, "Well, we wish you had done this." But then you just said, "I made the decision, and I accept the responsibility." Am I not correct, that's what you meant by accused?
ZINNI: That is correct, but in fairness, I must say, as I mentioned with Ambassador Bodine, there were times when they recommended we cancel it, where they might have been the stronger proponent for that. And we certainly always opted in favor of greater force protection, unless there was an overriding operational necessity not to.
WARNER: Were there any times when through the chain of command, from the president on down to the secretary of defense, that they came and said, we think you should or should not do a particular operation, and you then carried out the orders of the higher authority?
ZINNI: I was never, ever overruled in my judgment and in my decision to opt out of something or to change something in the interest of force protection.
WARNER: Ambassador Bodine has been very cooperative with our committee. Perhaps my colleague will refer to conversations that we've had with her. She then actively reviewed much, if not all, the same information in her capacity as the United States ambassador in connection with each ship visit and then came back to you through her chain, presumably directly to you, and gave you such advice as she felt you needed, is that correct?
ZINNI: That is correct. In fact, and I will then go back -- there were several incidences where Ambassador Bodine requested that we postpone or cancel events, military-to-military events, either in the interest of security or she did not feel the Yeminis were ready for it yet, or the conditions were right, that they had met the conditions.
And in every instance, I can't remember one instance where -- certainly her representative was in Aden and oftentimes she came to Aden personally if there was a refueling or an evolution going down. She stood by my side as we handed out the diplomas to the humanitarian de-mining school in the class that we graduated down there that we trained to physically remove mines left over from the civil war in the south.
WARNER: Now, we're here days after this tragic incident. And all of us with some knowledge of ship operations ask questions, or questions are asked, of why didn't we do the following? Now this particular ship, the Arleigh Burke class, which is our newest class of U.S. destroyers, carries with it some small boats. And...
WARNER: Well, I was told two, but really one on this particular one?
ZINNI: I'm not certain, sir.
WARNER: Well, any way, let's say they do at least have one which they could, as they come into port and take on a pilot, which pilot is an employee of the harbor master or the nation that is hosting this port of call for the ship, we could have put that boat over with armed individuals and let it sort of circle as we move into the moorings. And the local authorities, the harbor master, provide individuals that tie the ship down with lines to the mooring and the dock. Was that ever a part of this plan, to put over the side its own security so that that security could monitor those individuals that normally perform the functions as you come in?
ZINNI: First of all, Mr. Chairman, one of the things that appealed to us in terms of using the Port of Aden is the need not to have to tie up to a pier. As I think you've heard reference to the Cole anchoring out and...
WARNER: Correct, to a special facility built which was quite remote from the other docking and pier facilities.
ZINNI: I would like...
WARNER: And that added a degree of security, in your judgment?
ZINNI: Yes, absolutely. And as I said, when I toured the port, when I went in the launch with the director of the port authority and with the harbor master, we went through that port in detail, every inch of it.
ZINNI: It was one of the hottest days I can remember being anywhere.
One of his concerns was derelict ships that were sunk in the channel in the harbor. Admiral Moore, my Navy component commander, sent Navy divers there to check the harbor, to advise them on what had to be removed, what presented a threat or a hazard to navigation, and to help them to clear the channel and to remove that; obviously, in our benefit, too, and in theirs. But we spent an exhaustive amount of time researching the port.
What I would ask, Mr. Chairman, is the details of the procedures be covered in closed session.
ZINNI: And I would ask that perhaps General Franks, since they're classified and certainly I don't have access to them now, that it would be appropriate that they either be presented for the record or in closed session the exact details of how our ships, in specific incidents or in general, conduct themselves in going into port.
WARNER: We will follow that.
The previous ship visits, some 23 in number over roughly 18 months, all of them were conducted in approximately the same manner and under comparable force protection plans?
ZINNI: Yes, Mr. Chairman.
To my knowledge, I don't know of any instance where one of those -- and I want to say 27 ship visits going back to the first ones we conducted in my time as the CINC -- that any of those deviated. I do know we never had an emergency sortie out of that port. An emergency sortie is done when a threat condition or a specific threat or a condition exists for force protection reasons would warrant us doing that. And I would say all the other ports that were possibilities, that has been done in the past.
WARNER: You have a procedure set up whereby the ship captain, as he's transiting down, in this instance, the Suez Channel and down through the Red Sea, could receive on a moment's notice any change of plan, which change was generated either by the ambassador or within your organization receiving current information.
ZINNI: Absolutely. We have in place a network, certainly in the aftermath of Khobar Towers and the other events there, that we can quickly, on an emergency basis, notify all our forces of any threat change, any specific intelligence that we receive. And there is a procedure that the ship goes through before it comes in to validate and check all this. And, again, I would ask because of the classified...
WARNER: Yes, I understand that. But I just want...
ZINNI: ... nature, it be in a closed session.
WARNER: ... it known that these ship captains and other commanders of units within your CINCCOM have the almost real-time intelligence coming to them, through you, together with such amendments to orders as you deem necessary.
ZINNI: Not only that, Senator, we have in place an emergency way to immediately real-time put out something that is pressing or urgent message on a threat.
WARNER: Thank you very much. My time is up.
LEVIN: Could you tell us who is responsible once the decision has been made to commence refueling stops or port visits in a particular country for making these specific arrangements for the visit, in terms of fuel, pilot services and the like?
ZINNI: It, first of all, is done under the conditions of the contract that is set. It includes our embassy working with us. I think, in this case, you've probably see that the military attache was down there coordinating this, was actually aboard ship, I believe, when the incident occurred. It is done with the port authority and the government of Yemeni officials, their security forces. So this coordination requires a number of different organizations and agencies. Our own naval component commander, in this case, NAVCENT out of Bahrain, is responsible for the details of the specific coordination from their end, from the Navy end, as this occurs.
LEVIN: And who is responsible for force protection?
ZINNI: The force protection in the port is the responsibility of the Yemeni government.
LEVIN: Who is the contractor with whom we entered into a contract in 1999, I guess you said?
ZINNI: Senator, I don't recall. I would have to check.
LEVIN: Were they checked out in terms of reliability?
ZINNI: As I said, the Defense Energy Support Center is the one who lets out the contract and receives them and part of their responsibility, as I understand it, is to look at the contractors we are working with to determine their viability and their ability to meet our requirement and our standards.
LEVIN: Also their reliability in terms of being...
ZINNI: I believe that's also -- reliability is also part of it, especially in regions of the world where that may not be always present. We are responsible for coordinating the force protection in Central Command, I was.
LEVIN: Now, we have a military-to-military relationship of some kind with Yemen, as I understand it, is that correct?
LEVIN: Could you give us a little more details, including where there's an IMET relationship, tell us what that is?
ZINNI: We have several programs that we began with Yemen. One was helping them train their special forces. We did some very, very rudimentary, low-level JCET training. This is small-level, joint training, Special Forces team basically teaching them individual combat skills and small-unit skills. They have a long way to go. They would like to bring this force up to speed to assist them in their security requirements internally along the border.
We began a program to help them develop a coast guard. And I must say, it's in its embryonic stages. They had to make some basic decisions, to put the coast guard in their ministry of defense, or else we can't help them. And they were making some decisions as to where to locate it. They had really nothing that we could build on, and this was going to have to be done from scratch.
We were hoping for some excess defense articles -- patrol boats -- send some of their people to our maintenance schools, our technical schools, officers to IMET, and help them in structuring and training a coast guard. Obviously, again, in our interest to cut off the porousness of that border.
We were helping them with humanitarian -- in a humanitarian sense. First of all, with humanitarian de-mining, one of the most successful programs in our region, the Yemenis turned to -- we were impressed with the attendance and the competence of their young trainees that we put out in the field by hand, and I watched them, clear mines in areas throughout the south that for decades have had mines in them as a result of the civil war, very dangerous mines.
We have an IMET program.
LEVIN: Could you just for the record say what that is? What IMET is.
ZINNI: IMET is where we bring their personnel, their leaders, NCOs, officers, to our schools in this country. That IMET program they wanted to grow rapidly. It was, again, at its very basic levels. I believe last year we had seven officers attend courses in our country from the Yemeni government, and there might be more scheduled for this year. But it was funded, I thought, fairly well for a start and a beginning.
One of my objectives was to get to the point where we had intelligence sharing and intelligence cooperation with their intelligence organizations. That is a difficult process. They have to be vetted. We have to be very careful with that. There's an obvious benefit in exchanging intelligence information, especially in the case of terrorists, and it's something that we had as a longer term goal, if they met the requirements and the procedures and we could move on.
They had asked for assistance, as I mentioned, to clear the Port of Aden. The president said to me that obviously economic conditions in Yemen are terrible. This is part of the problem, which results in disenfranchised, radicalized youth becoming extremists and fanatics in a lot of cases.
Obviously, we're not in that business, but there are things we could do to help and are in our own interest. I mentioned one, where Admiral Moore sent Navy divers there to look at the bottom and to help them clear hazards to navigation in the channel. And they asked for assistance like that.
Basically, what I have described is the military-to-military program as it exists and where we thought we were going with it.
LEVIN: You've described the efforts of the Yemeni government to address the terrorist threats in Yemen. Do you believe that they were sincere in that desire?
ZINNI: I believe they were sincere. I also believe they had a long way to go, Senator. I mean, they had an uphill climb. The government's control over the tribes -- I think the quote out of the State Department manual said remote areas. If you left Sanaa, the capital, or Aden, and went out at any great distance, you were in danger of being kidnapped.
Now, some of those kidnaps, the kidnapees came back gaining weight. I mean, the tribes did it either to make a statement against the government or it was almost an adventure to receive some money. But I would not play down the seriousness of it. There were instances that that was very serious, and it was not good business. They were attempting to deal with this. As I said, they had convicted and executed a number of terrorist. But they had a long way to go.
ZINNI: But they wanted to climb that mountain. They wanted to go that distance and try to get there.
LEVIN: The last question I have has to do with the question of the -- whether -- they've been cooperative, according to everybody. The ambassador says they're cooperative; General Franks says they're cooperative; Lou Freeh says this morning that they are cooperative. They've turned over a storehouse of information already, immediately to our people, that are significant leads in terms of identifying people and so forth.
There had been a suggestion that the small amount of aid which we provide, which I think is like $4 million a year, should be withheld unless there's a certain certification of cooperation from the president. Are you familiar with that proposal?
ZINNI: No, I'm not, Senator.
LEVIN: Just for the record, I have said that I think it's a mistake, given their cooperation, to threaten them with the withdrawal of support unless they do something which they're already doing. It seems to me that sends a negative message to the Yemenis, rather than a positive message to them, as to say, "Hey, we are glad that you're doing what you're doing according to all of our people."
Do you have a thought about that? Do you...
ZINNI: I agree, Senator. Let me say that in the Central Command region, there are rat's nests or havens for terrorists: Afghanistan with the Taliban; Sudan; Somalia. We don't need more of these.
I mean, one of my concerns about not having relationships with Pakistan to any degree, is we could create more. These sanctuaries cause us no end of problem. If you find the root causes of these actions, it's going to trace back to these rat's nests.
We don't need Yemen to become another one. They're trying to not do that. We need to provide every incentive to make sure they don't. It's going to be a long road. But they want to go down that road. And I believe we should help them.
WARNER: I need to ask a clarifying question. And I ask the deference of my colleagues.
The question of the readiness of the U.S. military is foremost in the minds of all of us. I happen to be among those that Senator Inhofe mentioned gravely concerned they were underfunding, under resourced, our military.
But can you in your professional opinion as the former commander state that there were any assets, militarily, dollar or otherwise, that you felt you needed that were denied you and such denial could have contributed to this tragic incident with regard to the USS Cole?
ZINNI: I was never denied anything I asked for. And I was never denied any capability that impinged on my ability to do my job, either conduct operations or to adequately conduct force protection measures as I saw they needed to be conducted.
I would only add, Senator, that I'm on the demand end. I told you that I didn't have any assigned forces. I go out to the other commands and say, "Give me your best." Give me your best and most ready carrier battle group, your best amphibious ready group, your best battalion task force, your best squadrons.
That price gets higher to pay. I never, ever in my time saw degradation in the quality of those units I had out there. But I do know that the price back home to get them out was getting steeper.
WARNER: Well, I thank you for that. Because in my own study of this case thus far, I find no connection between this very important debate on our state of readiness and this tragic accident. I do not believe that they are connected. This ship, as almost all of our forward-deployed units, are given the very best that we possibly can provide. And such shortages as do exist are largely remaining back home in the training commands as opposed to our forward-deployed assets. Would you agree with that?
ZINNI: That's been my experience, yes, Senator.
WARNER: Senator Inhofe?
INHOFE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I would have to say, though, that in many cases now some of the problems that we were talking about previously that were not felt in forward-deployed units, only in those back home, are now being felt there.
I'm talking about spare parts problems. As I go out -- and I'll be in the Middle East this week -- and I know I'm going to hear this, that those problems are there.
But you are saying in so far as this one incident is concerned, that wasn't a response to something that you had asked for and been denied?
ZINNI: That's correct. I would also, though, Senator, say that we had the highest priority of spare parts and the highest priority of manning, for obvious reasons.
I testified before this committee one time, and I believe Senator Cleland asked me a question about readiness. And I had said that I can only speak to the readiness of the first-out, best-dressed, because that's what I got. But I do know that price to put them out was getting greater and greater and greater. And I was...
INHOFE: I remember that hearing. And I was here and asked some questions along that line.
For clarification, I'm not sure I understood the answer that you gave. I think you said that while you make decisions concerning events or exercises, that Ambassador Bodine has routinely -- or, not necessarily routinely, but has on occasion asked you to cancel them. Is that correct?
ZINNI: That's correct. Now...
INHOFE: Go ahead.
ZINNI: Well, I as going to say, Senator, obviously in the conduct of operations, the ambassador is not in the chain.
ZINNI: But with the exception of that, anything that goes on in a country, it is with the approval, concurrence and complete visibility to the ambassador, that we do. That has been our -- that is not only the way...
INHOFE: No, I understand that, you had a good relationship with Ambassador Bodine. My question, though, was, if, on those occasions where she asked you to cancel them, did you do so?
INHOFE: OK, My concern is, as the chairman said, is -- I chair the readiness subcommittee, so that is my concern.
And prior to 18 months ago when you were not using this port, were you using other ports or were you using refueling at sea to a greater extent?
ZINNI: We were using other ports. In fact, prior to the contract of 1 March, we actually used this port on three occasions, you know, even though we didn't have a contract.
We can refuel anywhere. We have refueled in ports where we don't have a contract. If there's fuel there, and we do the force protection measures, we can go in and get fuel.
INHOFE: OK, what I mentioned, that...
ZINNI: ... using other ports.
INHOFE: ... in the downsizing, that we've gone down from 32 to 21 refueling tankers. You do not see that that would have had any effect on this, that you could have used those -- you had an adequate number of refuelers at your disposal if you chose to use them; is that correct?
ZINNI: I did not have an adequate number to use for this purpose, a single ship coming down through the Suez to have an oiler out there to meet those requirements.
Matter of fact, let me just mention something in a discussion I had with my naval component commander, Admiral Moore. He had said, you know, 10 years ago in the Navy, they hardly ever pulled into port; you refueled at sea. Now we almost refuel continuously in port.
I was never given an option to have an oiler full-time to meet these requirements. They could have refueled these 27 ships that were done in Aden, plus the other refuelings that were done in other ports in the region coming down into that point.
There obviously are oilers when you have carrier battle group or a significant large number of ships co-located, as in the Gulf. But to have them positioned and located there, we did not have the option.
INHOFE: Well, I know that Senator Smith served on such an oiler, so I'll let him pursue this further.
For clarification, I know the DLA has outsourced certain functions. Getting back to the boat that was referred to as the "suicide boat," do we know who owned that boat?
ZINNI: No, I do not, Senator.
INHOFE: I've been concerned -- we've spent many, many hours in this committee after the various BRAC rounds that we've had, for example, the air logistic centers, when they made the decision to -- since we had five of them that were operating at 50 percent capacity to close the two least efficient and transfer the workload. Then there's efforts to try to keep that from happening for political reasons.
But I wonder if we're getting to the point where we are so stretched, and we're outsourcing so much, that we're losing, through this privatization -- or exposing ourselves to outsiders over whom we don't have the control that we would have, corps-wise. What do you think about that?
ZINNI: Well, on specific -- let me backtrack. I saw some things out there that were experimentations on reducing the size of crews and outsourcing. And these were done -- matter of fact, one I specifically remember was the Navy, looking at the smart ships, an effort that Secretary Danzig had begun. And this was an effort to test, to see where operationally we should not do that for purposes of force protection, or where it could be done, or technology could be leveraged.
I think it's worth going down that path and looking at it. I think we have to be very careful, because there are things, if we contract out, we may not have that contract when the situation really requires, wartime.
INHOFE: That's the whole point, of course. In my example on the air logistic centers, that's the whole idea there, the corps responsibility -- those things that have to be done in times of war that we hold those more internally.
An one last question about that: On the boat that was used, was there any way to identify at that time as to whether or not that boat -- since we still don't know today -- was owned by the contractor to whom this was outsourced?
ZINNI: Senator, I left command over three and a half months ago, and I don't have the details, the specifics, of this incident. I would ask to defer to General Franks or to the closed session.
INHOFE: All right, are you -- anything you can say in open session concerning the quality of our intelligence in that region?
ZINNI: I've been satisfied overall with the quality of our intelligence. I am worried about the lack of human intelligence in the region. I think, certainly, on the technical side, I had everything I needed and could ask for. I was wanting on the human side. And I think that's a case throughout any command, that that's an area we need to redevelop.
Certainly, in what I saw in improvements in intelligence capability, over my time, were significant. For example, in Desert Fox we had the first cooperation of all the intelligence agencies in working the battle damage assessment. We took that a step further, and now we have cooperative targeting to begin with, what we call federated targeting. So I think the intelligence community has really leaned forward to help us.
INHOFE: Thank you very much, General Zinni. Those are very straightforward responses. I appreciate it.
Thank you, Senator.
WARNER: Thank you, Senator Inhofe, and also for joining me in raising the questions on the readiness, because that's an important debate and a proper one to be held. But I, as you, am concerned that the families are wondering today if some shortage of assets could have contributed. And I think you've given them that reassurance, General, that it didn't.
REED: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you, General, for your testimony.
Let me ask you a couple of general questions. First of all, regardless of the port, was this type of attack anticipated, a small boat going against our ship?
ZINNI: We worried about small boat attacks, Senator. There are many places in our region that we have to pull into port, several in the Gulf. Our biggest concern is the water-side. Obviously, you can put the physical protection and the measures shore-side. Swimmer attack and small boat attack has been a concern, and one difficult to deal with.
I don't want to speculate on this, because I think the facts need to come out in the investigation. But I think when they do come out, we'll find that this is a kind of threat that has become more sophisticated, and ratchets up the levels of threat to another level, much like what Senator Roberts said. I think we are entering a point where the enemy has found asymmetric ways, and has found the ability to apply the technology and get it there to do things now that we haven't seen before.
REED: But you would assume that this type of attack by a small boat was at least anticipated by the Cole when it went into the port?
ZINNI: Again, I can't speak specifically -- I have not been in command for three-and-a-half months -- as to what the Cole commander may have anticipated or the Naval component commander may have anticipated.
REED: Let me ask another question. Since you were involved in the contracting, in terms of the contracting was there background checks done on the companies that were bidding on these contracts?
ZINNI: I would have to defer to the Defense Energy Support Center that actually accepts the bids, as I understand it, and that's the company. So that part of the process I wasn't directly involved in.
REED: So that, as the commander, and presumably also your Naval component commander, you just got the bidder that the defense agency designated. You didn't have an active role in looking at the background, looking at the security, potential risks?
ZINNI: We certainly look at security. I don't want to move security into the realm of capacity or capability or reliability or those other issues. Our business was security. So, obviously, the force protection in the port, the reason we send vulnerability assessment teams, my senior general in charge of security, my personal visits in there, Admiral Fargo and Admiral Moore's personal visits were to look at the security.
REED: But, essentially, you accepted the contractor?
ZINNI: In terms of the contractor, yes.
REED: You accept the contract.
And as far as ongoing review of contractor practices, in terms of their, not only fidelity to the financial terms of the contract, but their scrupulousness in terms of security, in terms of operating effectively, that would have fallen upon the military attache in Aden?
ZINNI: If the attache or the embassy had reports, if Defense Energy Support Center, if we had complaints from the ship -- I mean, there were many avenues where we could take action or register complaints or cancel contracts that we weren't satisfied with. And it could have been for reasons of lax security, it could have depended -- it might not have been the contractor's fault -- if we had lax security and we felt the government of Yemen needed to do more, for example, that would have been issue we had to take up with them. But if it was a contractor responsibility, then we could work to have the contract canceled or removed. REED: Now, to the best of your knowledge in your tenure, there are no significant complaints about security in Aden as ships were being refueled?
ZINNI: That's correct, Senator, to the best of my knowledge. As a matter of fact, as I said before, it was the one port we didn't have to, emergency-sortie out of it in any of the 27 previous, where we had in virtually every other port we use.
REED: Again, I think we're all trying to wait for the final factual determination to see what happened. And also, what we can do to reform our practices to make our troops less vulnerable to these types of attacks. But it seems to me from the discussion we've had today, is that this was not an unreasonable commitment of a naval ship to be refueled in that port before this incident. Is that a fair judgment? Would that be your assessment?
ZINNI: That certainly was my assessment, since I made the decision, senator, certainly I didn't feel that way when I made that decision.
REED: Thank you very much.
WARNER: Thank you very much, Senator Reed.
SMITH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Good morning, general.
SMITH: I just want to follow up briefly on the point that Senator Inhofe made regarding tankers, not in an effort to second guess you or what happened in Yemen, but just in a broader concept. You outlined a series of bad options for the USS Cole as it comes down the Red Sea, in the event that it needed refueling. And then, you indicated that there were times when Ambassador -- you listened to the ambassador and did not bring a ship in.
But what happens -- getting to the tanker issue, why not have a tanker available? What happens if you come down the Red Sea and your options are bad, you're told that there is an increase theoretically, not this case, but theoretically an increased terrorist activity in Yemen or any other country, or perhaps some volatility has occurred there, and you don't have any options. You can't let the ship run out of fuel. Why not have a tanker?
ZINNI: Well, in those situations, as I said, senator, we have to take from somebody else. I would have to ask Sixth Fleet perhaps to have a tanker come and escort ships down. Now that's going to be minus an oiler in the Mediterranean. And I'm sure we have a commander in chief that would be complaining about that if we had to do it. Or, ask that one be deployed from somewhere else -- Specific Command, Atlantic Command then, Joint Forces Command now.
SMITH: So there would have been a tanker close enough to refuel the Cole if necessary, if you had to, you could have?
ZINNI: I would be careful in answering that, senator, because if you had an operation going on in Kosovo and we had an operation going on in the Gulf, we may not have had an oiler available.
SMITH: Well that gets to the point I think that Senator Inhofe was making. I think that's the point. And I'm trying to -- and I think you gave a very honest assessment of the situation. But I mean, the point is, if our options are bad and we don't have good options to choose where to refuel, I think basically if I -- don't let me misquote you, but I think I'm hearing you say we don't have enough tankers to be sure that we could do that, that we could cover our ships in the event of an emergency if some statement were made to you that said, "Look, we can't go into Yemen, or we can't go into some other country. We may not have enough tankers to cover all the bases." Is that...
ZINNI: That's my sense, senator. I would ask that obviously when Admiral Clark testifies that that might be a more appropriate question for him. But my sense certainly and knowing the region and the adjacent CINCS around me and their requirements.
SMITH: Thank you.
I know you said you, I think three or four times, had visited the area. There were some press reports about this house along the harbor. Staying in open session here, do you have any information about that house? Had you seen it or do you know anything about it?
ZINNI: I have not, and I don't have any information. Obviously, in my capacity now, I don't have access to that.
SMITH: What do we know, or what did you know at the time when you were there, of this contract that Senator Reed was just talking about, the construction company, how we got the laborers. What I'm trying to picture is, was this simply somebody who just brought a boat onto the scene and mixed in with the other tenders who were coming out to tend these lines, or was this part of the construction company or the contractor or the refuelers? Do we know?
ZINNI: Senator, I do not know. I have heard reports that this was not a boat that was part of the process. But, Senator, again, I have to defer to the investigation and the people on the scene now. I have no access to that information.
SMITH: So we don't know at this point whether it was part of this company force that would come out to do the...
ZINNI: Senator, I don't know. I don't know if Director Freeh or Central Command or somebody else, the embassy, has that information.
SMITH: Can you just clarify for me, you spent some time in your opening, how this interaction would occur between, say, the National Security Council, the State Department, the CIA, about a refueling such as Yemen? You're out there in the command. And how does all this interaction occur?
Just kind of walk me through it. You're coming in with a ship, you've got to refuel it, you want to go to Yemen, and how does all that interaction take place? Who initiates the shot here as to what we have to do, whether we shouldn't do it or should do it or if we can't do it? Can you tell me how that all works, because -- did we, for example, consult friendly governments in the area. And finally, another related question is, do we know if bin Laden, who we think has some background in construction companies, do we know of any link here with bin Laden?
ZINNI: Well, the first part of your question, Senator, we obviously have a continuous monitoring of the threat conditions in our entire region, and we obviously focus and bring together all the intelligence agencies on any specific threat. And sometimes, even though a specific threat may be geared to one location, we may -- let's say there was a threat in a port and we had that report that that port was Aden. We might take action in all ports we had ships, just to be careful, and notify everyone.
We have in Central Command, our intelligence organization is geared to fuse all this information collected from DIA, CIA, the Joint Staff intelligence and our cooperation with, as you mentioned, the friendly governments in the area, many of whom we have very close intelligence ties, to process that information, and as I mentioned before, get out immediately any change to the threat condition or any specific threat.
We obviously work closely with the embassy also, and with the chief of station in the country, very closely with him, too, and to make sure that we have the latest information going in.
We have people in Yemen. I mean, we have had the de-mining team on the ground working with the Yemenis, as a matter of fact in Aden, in that general location. So we have a continuous requirement beyond just events like this in countries where we have a presence that is ongoing. But that is consolidated, fused, in the terminology of intelligence, and disseminated very rapidly. And then we make a determination as to the action we should take, either at the specific location, or as I mentioned, in general.
We may take a specific threat and treat it as a generic threat. Again, a small boat, we may say, although we pick up the intelligence, it's in Aden, we need to take precautions, emergency sortie ships, in every port, or in ports along the Red Sea. We will make that determination as to the action.
SMITH: My time has expired. But just a final question: Who would make the final call? Would it be the skipper of the ship? Would it be you? Would it be the State Department? Would it be the CIA, NSC?
ZINNI: The actions...
SMITH: Who's going to say -- who would make the final call that said, "We can't put the ship in there"?
ZINNI: The actions would be in the military chain of command regarding the ship, which would be me, the naval component commander or commander of the fifth fleet, the ship commander.
SMITH: Thank you.
WARNER: Thank you, Senator Smith.
I wish to make it clear that when I talked with General Zinni about a hearing today, I fully understood, and we had an understanding, that he would talk to that period when he was commander, and give us such information as he could in open session, as well as respond to the questions. And I felt it very important that General Franks, who succeeded you, pick up with the next roughly 90-plus days, and that will be done tomorrow when he appears before this committee.
Senator Levin and I, in working with the Department of Defense in setting up the hearing, had urged perhaps that General Franks could come today and give some portion in open, so that we had this entire period since your initiation of these ship visits, through and including this incident with the Cole, were covered at this hearing. Senator Levin and I were not able to achieve that with the secretary of defense for, various reasons. So we will pick up tomorrow, colleagues, and I fully understand and commend you, General, to restrict your testimony today to that period when you were the commanding officer, and such other general knowledge as you have. Thank you.
ROBB: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and General Zinni, thank you. Your testimony, I suspect, has been able to fill in a number of blanks for many people who have been concerned about this terrible terrorist attack that took place.
Most of the things that remain, I think, will probably be best covered in closed session, but a couple of things that I think you might be able to comment on. With respect to the other port facilities that you have described and are available along the route, about how many of those used the anchorage out with the dolphin-type refueling activities, and how many of them would actually involve mooring along side a pier, or whatever the case might be? Just as an approximate mix.
ZINNI: Senator, I'm not sure of the exact number. The ports I visited, they were pier side. That was part of the concern we had. I don't remember another port in that area where we had a dolphin. But I would like to defer that to maybe General Franks and his naval component commander to give an accurate answer.
ROBB: Thank you, General.
Let me ask another general question, kind of a follow-up, because we're all interested in the AO question and how many we have and what kind of stress you put on other CINCs and other deployments if you defer. And I think it was Admiral Clark who said that he would never, in his experience, send an AO with a single ship. But the larger question has to do with the number of independent steaming that some combatants within a carrier battleground do transiting from one area to another.
Does this represent an area that we ought to take a special look at in terms of the available assets and/or any curtailment in the practice in certain areas of restricting independent steaming, so that you're not put in this essentially uncovered position for steaming under peacetime conditions?
ZINNI: I would defer to Admiral Clark on this, but I would say that if you -- you know, we have requirements beyond the carrier battle group. Obviously, for the Maritime Intercept operations...
ROBB: Oh, sure.
ZINNI: We have a certain level of TLAMs and other things we have to maintain, so there's a requirement beyond just the carrier battle group. This has meant, obviously, in the interest of efficiency, making forward deployments predictable usually by, as I said, since we have no assigned forces, taking ships and filling our requirement from the Pacific or the Mediterranean -- you know, from the Atlantic via the Mediterranean, to sortie then as a group and to do that. Again, I would defer to Admiral Clark, but my sense is that would become costly and add to the forward development requirement, to do it in that manner.
ZINNI: And there were times when we have had to have augmentation for some reason or another. You have a casualty, or there's tensions and you need an additional capability and you have to bring it in.
We have had situations where we have had to have ships leave us and go somewhere else because there was a crisis. And we've had to backfill with other ships for that reason, so that we could keep the integrity of the task force.
ROBB: Let me ask one other question. Again, each of these have been already addressed in part -- and certainly the cooperation between Ambassador Bodine and the Yemini government -- but in the larger question that was asked about the specific coordination and who has the final chop in this particular instance, how about the degree of stress, if you will, between -- differences between DOD and Department of State and their various areas of responsibility?
Was that a problem in other areas under the CENTCOM command during the time that you were the CINC, or was that -- is that normally fairly easily resolved?
ZINNI: No, Senator, I would tell you that we were proud of our cooperation. Our philosophy was nothing is done without the approval and authority of the ambassador and complete transparency to the ambassador as to what we do in that country. That ambassador is a representative of the president of the United States.
Obviously, in terms of military operations, that's done in a military chain, and that is different.
But I would say that where we had differences or where we saw things differently, it was done in a collegial and cooperative way. And I can think of no instance where we ever compromised on our part, and didn't get the cooperation of the embassy or the ambassador in a country on any issue such as these.
ROBB: In the entire theater?
ZINNI: In the entire theater.
ROBB: Thank you, General.
One last question with respect to individual ship protection and force protection. And this is not part of the classified background, but a number of activities were carried out by the USS Cole, including small boat protection exercises, underwater swimmers exercises, and other kinds of drills.
I wonder if you could just characterize -- and, incidentally, the Cole was considered one of the top ships in the United States Navy with respect to that kind of protection. I don't know whether it had an "E," or whether they even give one for that particular type of activity.
But could you talk about the kinds of activities that any of our individual combatants take in preparation for deployment, and then ultimately or specifically in terms of refueling or other stops or transit through areas that might involve increased risk?
ZINNI: Senator, before a ship deploys, it goes through a work-up period. Part of its work-up, as you described in a general sense, are these procedures that have to be done for force protection.
I would not like to go into detail for obvious reasons. First of all, of course, I'm not a Navy officer.
ROBB: I recognize that limitation.
Oh, I shouldn't put it that way.
ZINNI: But I am a naval officer...
ROBB: May I restate my comment, that I recognize that this falls within another area of responsibility.
ZINNI: But there is a requirement for them to go through a set of procedures, and as you accurately described, to be certified and to be vetted that they have met these.
My understanding -- although, again, after my time -- was that the Cole was an exceptional ship, and had done extremely well in these, and was by all judgment before it left Norfolk was estimated to be fully prepared for this.
And, again, the specifics of this are probably best left for closed session.
ROBB: General Zinni, I thank you. We very much appreciate your continued service to your country.
Mr. Chairman, my time has expired.
WARNER: Thank you, Senator Robb.
You raised an important question about the recognition that the Chief of Naval Operations gave immediately after this tragedy to the Cole for the exemplary way in which it prepared itself on that work-up for this mission. I think it got some special citation. And I'll ask our staff to put in today's record that.
And while I'm putting into the record, I also wish to insert a letter into today's record from Senator Levin and myself with regard to documents that we're asking from the Department of Defense.
Now we have our distinguished colleague. Mr. Hutchinson?
HUTCHINSON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
And thank you, General Zinni. I think, like Senator Robb said, we have kind of plowed this field as much as we can in a lot of ways, as far as what we can get in open session.
As chairman of the Personnel Subcommittee, this deeply concerns me how we go about minimizing the risk. And there's really two aspects of it. I think what we've talked about today is primarily force protection, the process, the contracting, the resources, whether everything is being done that we possibly can do to minimize the risks to our men and women.
The second aspect to it is, is how we respond to these acts. Because part of our national policy has been that when these kinds of acts occur, there will be a swift and severe response when we can determine who perpetrated the deed, and that that response should be sufficient. It should be severe and swift enough, if possible, to deter.
Now it can be argued that when you're dealing with radicals and extremists and madmen who are willing to give their lives in a suicide mission, that that kind of deterrence perhaps doesn't have the impact that we'd like it to have.
But nonetheless, it's been our policy, and I think the right policy, that terrorist organizations or states that would sponsor terrorism must know that there's a terrible price to pay.
So given the fact that, and I don't know how much more we can explore in open session on some of these other issues, I want to ask your professional military opinion on an issue I raised in my opening statement.
There was, to my at least, a thought-provoking column written by Seth Cropsey, who I understand is a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a former deputy undersecretary of the Navy and served as assistant secretary of defense for special operations in a previous administration.
And essentially his argument goes like this, that if you look at the Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, it took 11 years for justice to be meted out, under criminal law.
And then he writes, "But justice is only marginally the issue when an American warship is attacked. An attack on a Navy ship is an attack against the United States. It's an act of war. And as an act of war, it demands appropriate military response. We may not be able to do so because, as in this case, it may not be clear immediately who is responsible.
"Terrorism kills and threatens civilians in their person; acts of war threaten the collective body -- in this case, the United States. Those who commit acts of war against the United States need to understand that there will be a military response less discriminate than what is called for by the crime of terror."
Then he says, "To help prevent and surely lessen the chances that our ships and other forces deployed around the world will increasingly find themselves the objects of such acts of war, the United States must treat the attack on the Cole with the seriousness it deserves, not as a crime but as a deliberate assault on the American people. This is not to abandon our commitment as a law-abiding society; it is to reaffirm it. The law that governs the attack on the Cole is the law of war, not criminal law."
And that's the question I pose for you: What should govern our response if we're able to determine who is responsible, who perpetrated the act? Should it be as a terrorist act and the criminal laws govern? Or should it be, because it was an attack upon our destroyer, an act of war?
ZINNI: I think, Senator, we ought to begin with, in my view, with who we determine is responsible. If this is a case of state sponsorship, if we find one of the state sponsors of terrorism behind this, and its roots go to the senior levels that made this decision, then I think it is an act of war by a state, and I think appropriate action should be taken.
I think, as I...
HUTCHINSON: Does that apply to an organization, a terrorist organization, as well?
ZINNI: The trouble with an organization is, making war against an organization becomes extremely difficult. We have hundreds of terrorist groups in our area of responsibility -- my former area of responsibility.
ZINNI: We have umbrella groups, like Osama bin Laden, who provides logistics and financing. It's part of the new asymmetric threat. We now have independent actors, who have the wherewithal, the financing, the logistics, the transportation, the connection, the network to get things done that only states could do before.
So now he concludes together these disparate groups, ranging from the Philippines to Africa to Central Asia and Russia, into the Middle East and develop a network. We need to wage war against that network. But I would tell you that you probably are best doing it with the forensic investigation that goes on now by the FBI, that delivers to those that don't want to believe irrefutable evidence.
We are a nation of laws. I would be careful of backing off, as painful as this is. I'd love to send a TLAM into the headquarters of whoever started this, tomorrow, if I could find it. And I think if we did, we should.
But we are respected in this region, because we are disciplined, we respect our values and our laws enough to make sure we follow the letter of the law. That does not preclude us, as we have done in the past, from taking military action against those who have either committed an act against us, who intend to commit an act, or are preparing to commit an act. And we have done that.
I'm not sure who we would declare war against. I mean, should we go into Afghanistan now and conduct a military operation, which would be very difficult and very costly? Is that -- this is a rhetorical question, but I mean is that what we propose? There are all sorts of downsides to that.
I would make one other point, and this goes back to Senator Roberts' point. I strongly, strongly disagree that there is a class of civilization. We are not at war with Islam. I have many, many, many friends in this region, who are Islamic. It is not the teachings of the Koran or Islam to do this. These are extremists. These are radicals that you can find in any religion. Their numbers are increasing, but you have to go after the root cause.
Why are they increasing? Economic conditions are down. They feel injustice in many ways. They aren't satisfied with their own conditions, politically or humanitarian. And this is a breeding ground for these kinds of people, that commit suicide acts and young people that throw their lives away in these useless causes.
HUTCHINSON: Well, thank you very much. And my time is up. But I think -- and I don't want to put words in your mouth -- that you agree if we can find the evidence, the irrefutable evidence as to who perpetrated this, who's behind it, who's responsible for it, we should not be limited to and -- in fact, if it is an organization or a terrorist-state that is sponsoring it -- we should not be limited to criminal law, that the response should be so severe that the infrastructure of those organizations that would sponsor this and attack the United States, that we should give that kind of response.
ZINNI: I completely agree, Senator. I would just add, this has been another frustration for us. Many locations that we have knowledge of, the ability to act gets limited because of the potential for civilians, innocents that could be casualties. The terrorists aren't stupid, and they do that deliberately. But I do agree with you, that we should take action where we find those that are perpetrated and their hiding places.
HUTCHINSON: Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
WARNER: Thank you very much, Senator.
CLELAND: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. General, thank you very much for your service. You're a national resource and it's an honor to be with you again.
May I just connect some dots here and see if we can conclude anything; I'd like to get your point of view. 1983, 241 marines in a barracks in Beirut, surprise attack, maybe terrorism, maybe not, maybe a suicide mission, maybe not. Then a commission was put together, I'm not sure the conclusion. That was 1983, 241 Marines in a barracks in Beirut.
WARNER: Senator, I think it's important to mention -- that was Admiral Bob Long that did that very complete study of that tragic loss. And it -- of course, it's a public document.
CLELAND: OK, sir, thank you very much.
My line of questioning is, how can we learn from some of these, Mr. Chairman.
CLELAND: 1996, the bombing of a U.S. housing complex Air Force service men and women, Saudi Arabia, 19 American servicemen lives lost. 1999, the bombing of two U.S. embassies, one in Kenya and one in Tanzania, killing 224 Americans, mostly civilians.
UNKNOWN: Twelve Americans, senator.
CLELAND: Yes, sir, thank you.
This year, it's been the USS Cole. Is there a message to be drawn from this? It seems to me maybe that whether we are in the position to have either barracks in the Middle East, embassies in the Middle East, air bases in the Middle East, and now ships in the Middle East, that we have to be prepared in an unusual way. And it puts a new definition in terms of readiness before us, it seems to me.
That of all the places in the world, in which young Americans are put in harm's way -- and I've just gotten back from the DMZ in Korea, and Lord knows, we all pray that that situation goes better than it has in the past -- but of all the places in the world in which young Americans are put in harm's way, it does seem to me that military service men and women and American civilians, whether they reside in barracks or on air bases, at embassies, or now on ships, are in a special sense, in harm's way.
And in terms of preparedness, or in terms of force protection, we have to be smarter, because it does seem to me that the terrorists are getting smarter. They're able to penetrate in ways that we did not expect them to be able to penetrate. They are able to organize in ways we did not expect them to be more organized. And deliver ordinance in a massive amount, devastating amount on a particular U.S. target.
Is it -- is that your conclusion that from now on, when we send military personnel, civilians, military forces into the Middle East, that we have to have an extraordinary amount of sensitivity and force protection in that particular part of the world?
ZINNI: Senator, three years ago I appeared before this committee for my confirmation hearing. I was asked about the terrorist threat, and my view on it. I made a statement that in that region we were stalked. I noticed that -- I saw General Franks' confirmation testimony. He used the same term. I said to this committee that I could not give you a 100 percent guarantee we would not be subject to a terrorist act.
You mentioned the wave tops (ph). We have had the commander in chief of the European Command get an RPG in his car in Belgium. We have had service members killed in Germany, Greece, Turkey, terrorists acts in Italy and the Philippines -- all over the world in the last three decades. We cannot do our job, our mission and guarantee you 100 percent. When I was in the Philippines -- I went there twice reacting to the killing of Colonel Rowe (ph), the attache, and several airmen at Clark Air Force Base.
If you get terrorists that decide they are willing to sacrifice themselves in any numbers just to kill one or two enlisted men or women, that's almost impossible to stop. We have security assistance people in our region that day-to-day must go out and involve themselves with the cultures they are working with to help train, to help prepare, to help monitor our security assistance programs that we have out there.
They put themselves at risk every day, and that's about as mundane a job as you can imagine. These aren't pilots flying over Iraq or sailors aboard a carrier launching planes or boarding a derelict ship out there that you wonder what's in it when the SEALS or the Navy personnel climb aboard.
ZINNI: But virtually everybody, I think the implication of your question is, there are no rear areas out here, there are no safe barracks, there are no safe places you could move.
It's not just unique to the Middle East, although it's more intense and concentrated, as I mentioned in my opening statements. All we can do is continue to prepare our people, to make them aware, to learn. We will, in Senator Roberts' clear, I think, view, we will continual to face asymmetric threats. Where you shut them down -- and I think in the last probably dozen years we have shut them down many places, we have foiled or frustrated their attempts -- they go back and cook up a new way.
I think you're going to find in this incident this is a new way, a new technology. We're going to see that again. We will eventually see a weapon of mass destruction used in a terrorist act, somewhere, in this mode. And I would just say we had better start thinking about how we're going to be prepared for that, because we're woefully unprepared for that event. And that's inevitable, as this asymmetry continues.
CLELAND: That's a powerful statement, an incredible statement.
In the specific question of the refueling, do you think it would be wise to consider refueling U.S. naval vessels in that area of the world on tenders out in the ocean, as opposed to a port of call?
ZINNI: If we have the resources. That obviously takes away the force protection requirements and the considerations that we have in bringing it into port. But, again, force protection is extremely expensive for us, and in some ways it actually affects our ability to operate. Sometimes we have not been able to do operationally what is optimal, because of force protection considerations. And in closed session, I could give you examples of that we've had to undertake in the past.
This is a case where this would be expensive or we would have to draw these oilers from other commitments in order to meet them, as we have said here. Certainly that is another way to lessen it. It also will lessen our presence out there.
And I would emphasize that terrorists will find another way, and we will pretty soon find ourself withdrawing everywhere, in every manner, and do everything that's not visible, and the terrorist would have won. That's my dilemma as a CINC in many of these cases, or as a former CINC in many of these cases: What do I concede to the terrorist?
CLELAND: Powerful answers to serious questions, Mr. Chairman.
WARNER: It was a good question, as always from you.
Gentlemen and ladies of the committee, I have to depart for a brief period to accompany the speaker of the House and the majority leader, Chairman Spence and others to enroll the conference report of the authorization bill that we passed here in the Senate, and was joined in the House in the conference. That's a very important measure for the men and women of the armed forces, and as we complete our work here in 30 minutes, it will be on the way to the president for his signature.
Before doing that, I'll ask Senator Smith to take the chair. I intend to return. But I'd like to propound just one question using my next round.
And next round, Senator Smith, will be about three minutes for each question -- I mean each senator.
Do you agree with me on three points? One, this tragic incident in no way deters the mission of Central Command to continue those missions it is now performing in that region.
ZINNI: It absolutely does not deter the U.S. Central Command in any way from accomplishing its mission out there.
WARNER: As our country periodically assesses the missions that we're performing abroad, there are a number of categories and ways to describe it. It is my opinion that this Central Command AOR has a mission in each of these countries that you mentioned, and in this region, that are in the vital -- underline, the vital security interests of our country. Do you agree with that?
WARNER: And secondly, that while you very clearly, and I think forthrightly, said that at no time would anyone in the period that you were the commanding officer, any service person, be put at risk solely to promote our interests in connection with another nation, rather than they were only put at risk when it was in the vital security interest.
WARNER: Nevertheless, we have to recognize that vital economic interests of this nation, and that of our allies and much of the world, rests in this region because it has the largest, collectively speaking, known reserves of petroleum in the world. Am I not correct on that?
ZINNI: That's correct, Senator. Sixty-five percent of the world's oil is located in this region. Actually, in the CENTCOM region, it's more like 70, and will be greater when the Kazakhstan field is measured. And when you look at natural gas, it's probably 40 plus percent.
And one of our responsibilities was to maintain that flow of energy to the world.
WARNER: Thank you very much.
Senator Smith, will you recognize Senator Sessions?
SMITH: Senator Sessions?
SESSIONS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
General Zinni, in regard to the overall future here, you would agree (OFF-MIKE)
WARNER: Excuse me, Senator Sessions, I didn't -- the transition here, I made an error. It should be Senator Roberts. I apologize.
You know, we owe an obligation to the sailors and soldiers, the airmen, Marines, to find those whose (OFF-MIKE)
ZINNI: Yes, absolutely, Senator.
ROBERTS: ... morale and just our moral responsibility to (OFF-MIKE)
ZINNI: Exactly, Senator.
ROBERTS: I don't know exactly how you answered those questions, but I don't expect you (OFF-MIKE) limited warfare. But I do believe...
Thank you. I do believe that we can do a better job of identifying these people. And I don't believe we have to send a subpoena through Interpol, or send out a request to arrest to some country that may be intimidated or incapable of retrieving these people or unwilling to retrieve these people.
So sometimes that leaves us, I believe, in a legitimate position of being at war with a group that may not be a nation-state. Would you agree with that?
ZINNI: Yes, Senator, I agree.
ROBERTS: Let me just mention one thing that has troubled me. I believe the Senator from Virginia used the phrase "we can have ships at uncovered positions." I was concerned about what I heard in the response times of the Marine FAST teams and others to respond to this ship. My understanding was it was a 30 to 48 hours or more before security forces were able to arrive to provide security for a ship in trouble. Is that something we should be concerned about? Does that reflect a lack of capability or a lack of readiness to respond?
ZINNI: The forces -- and again, I'd have to defer to General Franks for the specifics in this instance. To the best of my knowledge, the forces were located in Bahrain. So you have to get the forces -- and there are forces, security forces there on alert. You have to get the airplanes, the clearance, get them moved and get them located.
I do not know the response times in this particular incident. And I would suggest that, Senator, if I could defer to General Franks to answer in this case.
ROBERTS: What troubles me a bit is that in any major metropolitan city, law officers are on call with beepers and they can be assembled and ready to go within two to three hours to respond to an emergency within their city.
Sometimes we have, I'm afraid, a more military view that everything has to be correct; we have to gather and we've got so many hours to get a team ready. Do you think that we may be -- we may be not where we ought to be in terms of immediate response to a crisis, within hours, where that on occasion could make a difference?
ZINNI; Again, Senator, I would suggest that the forces on the ground can meet that kind of readiness requirement. The problem we have is in positioning the transportation, getting the clearances we need for the overflights, and all those things that come -- it has been my experience those tend to be the long poles in the tent, rather than a force ready to go.
ZINNI: Both the Army and the Marine Corps keep contingency forces on alert in this country. Each of the commanders in chief have a CINC in extremis force that they can deploy. Each of my components, in this case, the naval component, the Marine FAST team, is prepared and ready to do. Again, it's usually the transportation and the...
SESSIONS: How many hours is it that they're supposed to be ready to load an aircraft to depart?
ZINNI: I would have to ask my former naval component commander at the time for the FAST team in particular. I know for the air contingency forces back here, it's four hours.
SESSIONS: I think that's getting in the range we need to be because if we have this kind of constant threat to our forces around the world, we may well find a team pinned down or under assault that has a short turnaround to get relief there. Would you agree that that's possible?
ZINNI: Yes, I do.
SESSIONS: And embassies and other.
With regard to the oil situation, one of the goals of Central Command in the effort in the Persian Gulf has been to stop smuggling by Iraq; is that correct?
ZINNI: Yes, sir.
SESSIONS: The reason Iraq smuggles -- they're already virtually at full capacity, I understand, now in oil production. Is it because they don't have to pay their reparations out of the money that's smuggled out? Is that the motivation they have to smuggle?
ZINNI: And that is not oil that goes oil-for-food and is monitored and contract supervised by the UN, so obviously Saddam can use it for whatever purposes he desires.
SESSIONS: And we represent the main force that's patrolling to stop that.
ZINNI: We do, with the help obviously of -- in the case of the Maritime Intercept operations, there are a number of countries that have contributed ships: the British, the Belgiums, the Australians, New Zealanders. That part of it, there has been a greater contribution, although I would have liked to have seen more burden sharing in my time there.
SESSIONS: I'm concerned about that. Do we receive any funds from the sale of that oil, some of which I understand goes for reparations to Kuwait, does it not?
ZINNI: It goes to the UN and the UN determines its distribution to reparations. When we turn it over to a country in the region -- now we have great cooperation in the Gulf -- actually, some of the Gulf states also participate and help us in the Maritime Intercept, but they also accept these ships and accept the oil and then have to, in turn, process the oil and then report the funds to the UN. Now, they will take their costs for this out of it, obviously, and the money is then supposed to go to the UN, and the UN then determine its distribution.
SESSIONS: Are we receiving any funds for our expenses in the Gulf? Do you know?
ZINNI: We are not receiving funds, to my knowledge, through that process. We receive, as I mentioned before, funds to support our presence there and assistance in kind: food, fuel, water for our troops from some of the nations in the Gulf, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia being extremely big contributors.
SESSIONS: Well, I'm very troubled about this oil situation. We've got now, I think 23 ships in the region, I believe you indicated earlier. As I understand it, this Navy has only about a little over 100 ships deployed worldwide. We have only about 316 in the entire Navy fleet, where a few years ago we were looking to have 600 ships. So we've got over -- about 20 percent or more of our fleet in the Persian Gulf.
It is a critical area. If the price of oil continues to rise unchecked, I'm convinced that this nation could suffer recession. Our goals that we dream for, to use this surplus that we've been talking about, could slip away from us. And so some people say, "Well, we shouldn't ask people to die for oil," but it's an at-risk effort to maintain the health of the world economy, in my view, that could be severely impacted if the terrorism continues and production were to be shut off again, as it has been recently. Would you agree with those conclusions?
ZINNI: Absolutely, Senator. Absolutely.
SESSIONS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
LEVIN: Senator Roberts, you're next. And I apologize to Senator Sessions and Senator Roberts for that mixup.
ROBERTS: I think my first observation is that the headline on the article submitted by Senator Hutchinson or that Senator Hutchinson read to the committee said, "war not terrorism," and I think that's the case.
ROBERTS: I feel compelled to return to the not-so-thrilling days of yesteryear, two years ago, when the Emerging Threats Subcommittee first met. We asked four experts -- and we've had General Zinni as an expert -- what keeps you up at night?
And they've indicated several things, but two primarily: the possible use of biological weaponry and then they mentioned the cyber- attacks. But they were really talking about terrorism in terms of access denial, and I think this is obviously part of the reason as to why we have suffered this terrorist attack.
I do feel, as Senator Cleland has indicated, General, you've made some very powerful and sobering comments about what lies ahead of us, and more particularly in your comment of the use of the weapons of mass destruction, that we had better be prepared. We're trying to do that on the subcommittee, the full committee, but we really have some very ominous challenges out there.
Samuel Huntington, when I read those remarks, he did use the word "Islamic nations," and I think you've made a good point in regard to the situation that now exists.
But I would point out that I think the situation has changed -- well, let me go back and say, when I was in Morocco and Tunisia and other parts of the world where your leadership has been so effective, they made a big point of saying, "Don't talk about Nation of Islam. This does not square with the Islamic religion by any means." And so you've made a good point.
But here's an article by Jim Hoagland of The Washington Post, and he calls it "Casualties of a Shadow War." So we have a "quasi war" and a "shadow war" and a "terrorism war," but it is war nevertheless. It certainly is war when you suffer 100 percent casualty to the families involved.
He says, "But what if these targets are being attacked because of the principles and policies of the United States? What if the extensive state resources needed to infiltrate the Aden port operation and gather intelligence on the Cole's movements were mobilized by a state friendly enough to Yemen and hostile enough to the United States to achieve the bombing of the Cole?"
And I think we have to really think about that.
I have another article here from the Wall Street Journal indicating that the "anti-U.S. fervor has hit the Mideast at levels unseen in recent times." The head of the Beirut University of there -- American University at Beirut -- General Otterberry (ph) notes that "20 percent of the Arab population is ferociously and irrevocably hostile to the U.S."
We have a warning here from King Fahd from Saudi Arabia, who has been one of our allies.
I think this situation has changed dramatically, more especially in the last couple of months after the chain of command situation involving you and General Franks. I think there's been a very dramatic change, and I think we have to take that into account in regard to our force protection.
I've probably go on a little too long here, but I just wanted to say, if I'm a terrorist and if this attack took about a year to plan, and it seems that that's the case from the reports that we're now getting, then I wouldn't wait -- or that I would wait until six, seven, eight, nine -- I understand there's been 12 dockings as of this part year -- until it became routine, and then I would attack. And that is exactly what I think has happened.
So what I'm saying is that repetition and safe docking does not really guarantee anything in regards to any kind of a terrorist attack.
Now in January of '99, we have a situation where the risk was changed, the general has indicated and is certainly right, this thing is not static, and it went to, you know, high risk.
In the Intelligence Committee, in terms of the hearing yesterday, I can say that there's a rather thick compilation of threat assessments that I think certainly pertain to this event.
This, by the way, is one year since the execution of the leader of the Islamic army of Aden was executed for his attack on a bus and the murder of those people.
In addition, you have the crises, which has now reached a boiling point in regard to the situation between the Palestinians and the Israelis, and there are several red flags, August and September, that I think would have caused anybody to take notice.
ROBERTS: So, if in fact, you add all those up and you're going down the Red Sea here, as you've indicated, General, and you have a choice to turn right and go to one port that is under the green flag and then Aden, I think I would have turned right rather than left.
And my question to you is, have you every experienced any situation where this kind of intelligence gathering, these kinds of changes in terms of the threat assessment, given this background, have dropped between slats? Do you have confidence that -- I mean, I can't understand if you add all these things up, why we didn't turn right instead of left? I still have some problems with that.
ZINNI: Well, first, Senator, I can't speak for this particular event. I hope you appreciate the fact that it's three-and-a-half months I've left command control...
ROBERTS: Right. And let me point out, again, that most of these events that I would think would be a red flag to say, "Whoa, wait a minute," have occurred since you, you know, have left the command.
ZINNI: And I don't know that this was in planning for a year. Now, I do know that we are -- I think implied in your question -- we try to be very conscious about setting patterns. Sometimes we set patterns we don't realize we're setting, and we can fall victim to that. We try to do self-analysis on this sort of thing. I know there's been questioned asked about notification of a ship coming in. How much time that takes? Who gets access to that? I think these are questions that have to be asked...
ROBERTS: We've heard everywhere from 12 to 30 days, is that correct? I mean, we've even heard it was on the Internet.
ZINNI: I don't know that, but I've heard it's been more like 10 to 12 days. But I think those are things we have to learn about this.
Have we ever turned right instead of left? Absolutely. And again, without discussing some of these in open session, there are things that we have done in places out there, traditionally, for a long period of time that work well, that work extremely well -- and our forces like it -- that I have ordered to move to places where they're not going to work as well. Now, excuse me for talking around it a little bit, but it's still in process. Where we do logistics evolution, where the relationship with a country is great, where actually the convenience in the operational optimization is what we would want it to be. But because, solely for force protection, we're going to go to less optimal where we don't get the benefits of this sort of engagement to do it.
We have canceled ship visits. We have pulled out of port on emergencies. We have canceled exercises, at the great disappointment of some countries and even others in our own government at some time, although, they clearly understood. Why we didn't do it in this? I would ask to defer it to the current command.
ROBERTS: We're going to be very interested in your suggestions as to what kind of package of force protection, given the new environment, would be helpful.
And my final question. I think you responded to the chairman, we'll I'm sure you did. You said that you were never denied support for force protection, but I seem to remember earlier you stated that there were some instances where support was a concern. Where are we with that?
ZINNI: Where I made a statement that support for force protection...
ROBERTS: Well, I thought I heard you say that under certain circumstances because of the draw down of infrastructure, et cetera, et cetera, I sort of got the connotation -- I know you cleared that up in your statement with the chairman -- that there were some instances there that had we had the kind of support that you would -- I'm not saying it's a blank check -- but I'm just saying that there might be some areas where we were deficient.
Now, I'm not going to ask you that to respond here, but I am very much interested in your recommendations, both to the Intelligence Committee and to this committee, in reference to what package you think is appropriate now, given the current situation.
ZINNI: I think the only mention I made, Senator, was regarding an oiler full-time or access...
ZINNI: ... to the individual ship. I mean, certainly, I never asked for that. I didn't think it was...
ROBERTS: If we had one, would we have gone into Aden?
ZINNI: Senator, I would tell you again what my Naval component commander told me. Ten years ago we did all the refueling at sea. We can't do that now. And I would defer to Admiral Clark as to what the cost and the ability to do that, do it immediately and do it over the long-term. That was not an option offered to me.
ROBERTS: I would tell the acting chairman, I think we ought to nominate General Zinni for the straight-talk award. He has provided a very valuable service to us here -- in his career, in terms of institutional understanding history and the personal relationships he's developed -- he's provided the country a great service.
SMITH: Thank you, Senator Roberts, comments I agree with.
SNOWE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I want to thank you, General Zinni, for being here today and answering some of the very difficult and tough questions.
This hearing is most appropriate to try to explore, you know, what we can do differently in the future, if anything.
SNOWE: I think this despicable act is a grim reminder of the dangers that our men and women find themselves in each and every day wearing our nation's uniform. And we certainly owe it to the families and the loved ones of the victims of the USS Cole to do everything we can within our power to get to the bottom of this, and to find the answers, and to diminish the likelihood and the risk that this would reoccur.
Let me just ask you several questions, General Zinni.
Ambassador Bodine, as you mentioned, vetoed some of the visits in the region. Did she veto any visits to Aden?
ZINNI: As I recall, we had looked at some ship visits. These are not refueling, these are visits where we could possibly stop, and we were exploring the idea. She did not believe they were appropriate, and we did not do them.
SNOWE: I see.
ZINNI: I believe also, if my memory serves me correct, Senator, that there were exercises that we had planned in Yemen that she recommended be canceled or postponed for a while. So there were several instances where her concern for the security situation caused us to change plans.
SNOWE: Was the ambassador involved in this type of decision with respect to refueling?
ZINNI: Certainly the embassy was aware of this. She had sent her attache down as the normal course to help coordinate this. So we obviously would not do this if there was objection from the embassy to this refueling. This is a decision we do in cooperation with the State Department.
But I want to be clear, this is my decision -- my decision.
SNOWE: Yes. I was just wondering if there were any dissents from the decision that you made?
ZINNI: I do not recall any dissents.
SNOWE: OK. You mentioned that our big concern was terrorists' ability to move in and out of Yemen. We wanted to make sure the Yemen military knew what they were doing, and knew to contact us if they had a situation.
Did we entirely rely on the military of the Yemen government to give us forewarnings? Did we not have the intelligence capability or sources to determine if there were any problems?
It seems to me somewhat of an ad hoc situation, given the high level of threat that the country of Yemen represented to our forces, that we would have had some alternative sources as well.
ZINNI: We do have alternative sources, Senator. And we do have other means of information. And we did receive intelligence reports regarding terrorist activity in Yemen from these other sources. And we obviously have capabilities there beyond that.
But my point was that it's important also to connect to the country, not just the military, but the civilian security, their intelligence organizations.
Throughout our region, we attempt to build these relationships. Some of them have saved lives, I'm convinced, these relationships and this warning. It is a careful process, again, because you have to vet the organizations you're dealing with. And it's a very deliberate and appropriately a very carefully monitored process before you get into full intelligence cooperation or sharing.
SNOWE: Obviously, we have to determine whether or not our national security interests outweigh the risks posed to our men and women in these instances. Obviously it is a high risk, and Yemen was considered a high risk since January of 1999, is that correct?
ZINNI: Yes, Senator. Probably before, I would say.
SNOWE: Probably before.
So were any procedures done differently as a result of changing that to a high risk category?
ZINNI: There are procedures, if the risk goes up, that change. There are force protection measures that are put in place. And we review evolutions like this, if that's the case, to determine whether we would even conduct the evolution. And there have been cases where we have canceled evolutions because of high threat conditions.
SNOWE: Did the government of Yemen assist in all respects in mitigating the risks and the concerns that had been raised?
Now I've read reports that that wasn't always the case. Were they helpful?
ZINNI: They were cooperative and helpful in my time. I cannot recall any instance where they did not cooperate or they did not provide the security as we had requested. I'll have to go back through my notes, but I don't recall any instance where they were not.
SNOWE: The screening of the contractor -- the last time, was it a full screening done in November of 1998?
ZINNI: November of 1998 according to my notes is when the contract was -- the port was surveyed and the contract was let out.
ZINNI: And the bids came in. And then in December of '98, the bid went to Aden.
SNOWE: And it's the same contract, I mean, that contractor or people involved had not changed since that time?
ZINNI: To my knowledge, it hasn't changed. That's the same contract that then began in first of March '99.
SNOWE: And were they re-evaluated on a periodic basis -- I mean, on a frequent basis, as well?
ZINNI: Senator, I would have to defer to the Defense Energy Support Center for evaluation of the contractor and the contractor's performance.
We, certainly, conducted two vulnerability assessments -- an assessment done by my Naval component commander, done by me personally, done by my security chief in that time -- before we even began the first under the contract refueling.
SNOWE: And in terms of the number of boats involved in this refueling effort. Do you know how many were involved?
ZINNI: No, I don't.
Are they identified in any way, are the personnel identified in any way, so they're readily identified?
ZINNI: Senator, I don't know. I'm not sure of the details exactly.
SNOWE: So who establishes those procedures? I mean, for example, when you're making the decision that Aden should be one of the areas for refueling, given the fact it's high risk, who develops those procedures? Are they reviewed by your command?
ZINNI: They are reviewed by my command. Those procedures are worked with the embassy, with the Yemeni government, my component commander. In this case, the Naval component commander would work the details for this to make sure the ships, obviously, were aware of how this was going to be handled, and the procedures that would be set.
And, again, because of the classification, and because I might be a little rusty, I would defer to General Franks and his Naval component commander on the details.
SNOWE: Thank you, General Zinni. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SMITH: Senator Levin, I don't have further questions, so I'll yield to you.
LEVIN: Thank you.
On a number of occasions this morning, you said that you defer to Admiral Clark, the chief of Naval Operations on the oiler question. I want to quote to you what Admiral Clark has said on that issue when he was asked at a press conference, and see whether you have any reason to disagree with it.
He said, "We've been working to improve our relations with Yemen for some time, and I'm sure that that was at the heart of the motivation of the unified commanders there, improving our relations in that part of the world. With regard to specifics, you need to talk to the CINC in question."
One might conclude from your earlier statements, that a shortage of oilers, or simply the stresses of deployment, resulted in this ship making a refueling stop in a more dangerous port, and had you had more resources that might not have been the case. Can you tell me whether that's a fair -- Admiral Clark -- "I'm on the record, I'd like to have more resources, but never would we send an oiler. I can't recall a circumstance in my career where we sent an oiler with a single ship."
Do you have any different recollection of...
ZINNI: First of all, I would say it is the service chief's responsibility to train, organize and equipment. I didn't want to be in a position of talking to structure equipment, when it's the purview of the service chief, as to whether we should have more oilers or that's the appropriate structure.
I take my Naval advice from my Naval component commander, and recommendations. He talks to his service. And we try to be reasonable. I certainly can make requests on the Joint Staff and on the Pentagon and on all the services that are unreasonable, and frankly, cover myself by doing so. I would never do that.
I mean, I understand what reasonable requests are from commanders in chief, and I don't want to pass that buck over to the service chief in any way. I did not have given to me an option for an oiler. Reason tells me that would probably be extremely difficult, given the resources that are available, to have it out there for a single ship. The options presented to me were to look for ports for contracting in refueling. I would say that the only other thing that I might have some disagreement with -- this was not a decision based --simply to improve relations with Yemen.
LEVIN: Can you recall a circumstance where there was an oiler sent with a single ship? ZINNI: No. It may have been, but I can't recall one, Senator.
LEVIN: And that goes way back. I mean, his career goes a long way back.
ZINNI: Almost as long as mine.
LEVIN: How many years would that be?
ZINNI: Mine is 39, so I'm not sure.
LEVIN: All right.
On the threats issue. You talked about the question of asymmetric threats, and I see Senator Roberts has left, but we're all interested in the subject. He has a special responsibility for it.
LEVIN: But we've received from the Joint Chiefs of Staff a threat spectrum: what's the most likely threat, what's the least likely threat. The least likely threat is strategic missile attack. The far more likely threats are terrorist attacks abroad -- 16 high- risk countries.
It seems to me we're going to have to respond to the likely threats, including terrorist threats, and that means applying our resources where the real threats are.
And my question to you is: When you talk about thinking about asymmetric threats, like a ship or a threat to a ship with a little boat filled with explosives, how do you deal better than we have with that kind of a threat? What additional resources would you apply?
For instance, should we take some of our resources and apply them to technologies which might be able to identify an explosive at a greater distance? Right now, we cannot, apparently, identify an explosive 100 yards or 200 yards or 300 yards, but there's research going on into those kind of technologies.
Is that the kind of thing that you would apply more resources to -- or if you could go into that subject.
ZINNI: I think, Senator, broadly speaking -- and there are people certainly more expert to me that can look at swimmer and small boat attacks and the procedures to take. But broadly speaking, I think technology is a possibility, as you mentioned, detection, providing through technology some sort of field, standoff distance. I think we ought to look at, obviously, procedures. We have procedures, but are there others? Are there existing capabilities we just need more of?
For example, I think I had a question about the number of boats aboard the Cole. How many boats does she carry? Could she carry sufficient to do her own line handling and that be a set procedure?
I think that with Admiral Gehman and General Crouch and this commission, we will find addressing and looking specifically at this, many recommendations come out in all those areas.
LEVIN: By the way, Mr. Chairman, I would ask that the statement of Admiral Clark that I just quoted be made part of the record.
SMITH: Without objection. LEVIN: The only other question I have has to do with -- I think you've answered the fact that you never made a request for additional capability that was not granted. Because we had a problem in that regard a few years back with another incident...
ZINNI: Yes, sir.
LEVIN: ... where there was a request which was not granted.
But in your case, when you were a commander...
ZINNI: Yes, sir.
LEVIN: ... in the Central Command, you don't remember at least that there was a request of any kind...
ZINNI: I have never had a request that I made...
LEVIN: ... that was not granted.
ZINNI: ... that was not granted.
LEVIN: All right.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SMITH: Before concluding, Senator Levin, I would like to respond to your point. I'm glad you brought it up, about what the Admiral said.
I think if you listen carefully to what General Zinni said, I served for two years aboard an oiler. Oilers, you are correct, and the Admiral's correct, do not accompany single ships. But the issue here is that if you have -- by moving an oiler in an emergency situation, should there be one -- if General Zinni had been requested to not go to Yemen and he needed to refuel the ship, where does he get his oiler?
And I think his comment was, "Well, it would have probably come over from the Persian Gulf." And then I asked him, "Well, if it came out of the Gulf, where are we then?" "Well, we don't have a tanker in the Gulf."
So I think the issue is not whether or not an oiler accompanies a single ship, which it does not, but when we move one oiler from one particular region to another region of the world, are we now deficient in the region that it left? And I think that's really the issue as I understood what you said.
ZINNI: Yes, Senator.
SMITH: As I understand the oiler issue, we have approximately the same number of oilers proportionate to the size of our Navy now as we did when we had a Navy which was almost twice the size. ZINNI: The only thing I would be -- I would comment on that, Senator, is the number of evolutions. You may have fewer ships, and have more commitments and more individual ships moving about and doing things. So the number of evolutions requiring oilers -- if you're in large task forces and you have oilers present, it's obviously easier than if you have a lot of smaller commitments around the world.
So it isn't necessarily the proportionality that may determine the requirement. I just offer that as a thought.
SMITH: I understand that. It's also accurate, is it not, that oilers need to be refueled?
ZINNI: I'd defer to Senator...
SMITH: Well, they've got to be loaded -- they've got to be loaded somewhere and they frequently go into ports to be loaded, I assume, is that not correct?
(UNKNOWN): Well, they can refuel themselves. It depends on what they're carrying. We carried a lot of JP-5 (ph) for those planes that were attacking in Vietnam.
SMITH: But, I mean, I take it oilers frequently go into a port?
SMITH: So they become vulnerable just the way the Cole would be vulnerable, unless they take adequate force protection measures? Isn't that an obvious statement?
ZINNI: Yes, Senator.
And I would just make another point: Ships have to go into port for a variety of reasons. You can't keep a ship out...
SMITH: To take care of the sailors, for one.
ZINNI: Well, morale is -- and we are woefully lacking in those kinds of ports in our part of the world. But certainly they go in for repairs, they go in for replenishment and many other reasons.
To do that all at sea and keep the sailors at sea I think is very difficult and even unreasonable.
SMITH: Well, thank you very much, General Zinni for your testimony. We appreciate it. As always, very direct, forthright, helpful. I really thank you.
ZINNI: Thank you, Senator.
SMITH: The hearing is adjourned.
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