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House: Lack of Data on Gulf Threats

May 30, 2001

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The United States needs more intelligence agents and analysts focused on security threats in the Persian Gulf to guard against terrorist attacks like the suicide bombing of the USS Cole last fall, a House investigation has concluded.

The Armed Services Committee’s investigation report, released Wednesday, also said the intelligence agencies need a better system for ensuring that useful and timely threat information is available to ship commanders.

The USS Cole, a $1 billion destroyer, was refueling in Aden harbor in Yemen last Oct. 12 when a small harbor skiff pulled alongside and detonated explosives that killed 17 sailors and nearly sank the ship. Navy investigators concluded that the ship’s captain was not fully aware of the terrorist danger in Aden and that the Navy had paid too little attention to waterborne terrorist threats.

The House report said intelligence ``shortfalls″ led to a failure to provide useful warning to the Cole.

``In spite of the fact that the intelligence community had known of general and ambiguous planning activities (by terrorists) for an unspecified action or actions for some time, the lack of specific information led to a failure to provide `tactical’ warning to the USS Cole,″ the report said.

It recommended adding ``intelligence collection personnel″ and intelligence analysts to provide better judgments about the credibility of information collected on threats in the Persian Gulf area.

The House report said there was no ``single point″ failure that led to the attack. Instead, it was a combination of factors, including a ``mindset″ in the military that tended to discount the likelihood of a terrorist attack against a U.S. warship.

It also faulted the Clinton administration’s policy of engaging the government of Yemen through port visits and other contacts.

``The desire for engagement outpaced an understanding of the terrorist threat in that country, increasing the risk to U.S. military personnel,″ the report said.

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On the Net:

House Armed Services Committee report: http://www.house.gov/hasc/reports/reports.html

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