- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 26, 2000

An analyst at the Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency resigned in protest after the attack on the USS Cole because his warnings of pending terrorist acts in the Persian Gulf region went unheeded.
During a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing yesterday, Sen. Pat Roberts, Kansas Republican, read portions of the letter of resignation. The letter is now in the hands of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, whose staff has spent six hours interviewing the unnamed analyst.
Mr. Roberts quoted the letter as saying the analyst had "significant analytical differences" with his superiors over a DIA terrorist threat assessment produced in June.
"He indicates his analysis could have played 'a critical role in DIA's ability to predict and warn of a potential terrorist attack against U.S. interests,' " said Mr. Roberts. "And [he] goes further to say he is 'very troubled by the many indicators contained in the analysis that suggest two or three other major acts of [terrorism] could potentially occur in the coming weeks or months.' "
The DIA agent's assessment was at least the second warning of terror attacks in the region that circulated inside the administration, but did not help the Cole's crew avoid the terrorist suicide bombing that killed 17 sailors and injured 39.
Senators questioned administration witnesses about a report in The Washington Times yesterday that said the National Security Agency issued a top-secret report hours after the Cole was attacked Oct. 12.
The report said terrorists were planning and organizing attacks on U.S. interests in the Gulf.
Walter Slocombe, undersecretary of defense for policy, confirmed the message's existence but took issued with how The Times characterized it.
"I have seen the messages in question, and I think it is highly questionable whether those messages constitute what The Washington Times story says they constitute, in terms of specificity," Mr. Slocombe said.
Gen. Tommy Franks, commander of U.S. Gulf forces, said if he had such a message he would have ordered force-protection measures.
"If that message contained those specific factors that indicated not only intent, but that there was an attack imminent, yes, senator, we would have taken immediate action," said Gen. Franks.
Appearing later before the House Armed Services Committee, Mr. Slocombe said there were two intelligence reports regarding terrorist activities but that "neither report said that there was an imminent attack on an American ship in Yemen or anyplace else."
One of the reports was issued about 12 hours before the explosion and a second report, disclosed in The Times, was sent after the blast, Mr. Slocombe said.
The second report "doesn't say anything about Yemen," Mr. Slocombe said.
Rep. Curt Weldon, Pennsylvania Republican, wondered why such information was not sent to commanders in time to warn the Cole.
"The question we have to ask is, are our current systems applicable to give us adequate warning that something may be about to occur?" said Mr. Weldon. "I'm convinced we don't have those tools."
The DIA analyst worked in the Office of Counterterrorism Analysis. He was responsible for the Gulf region, including Yemen, where the destroyer Cole was attacked by two suicide bombers in a small rubber boat.
His resignation letter was submitted two days later to Vice Adm. Thomas Wilson, DIA director.
The committee later conducted closed-door hearings to examine whether the analyst's concerns should have been or were passed along to military commanders.
The Senate Armed Services panel started the hearings last week, examining why Central Command picked the Yemen port of Aden to refuel the Cole and 24 others ships, starting in March 1999. The State Department calls Yemen a "safe haven" for terrorist groups who regularly infiltrate the country's porous borders.
Senators also expressed displeasure with the Pentagon for an erroneous bombing timeline. The Navy first said the Cole was attacked by a boat whose two occupants had helped the ship moor to an in-harbor refueling island.
After briefing that version to the committee last Thursday, the next day the Navy changed the chronology. It said that, in fact, the Cole was already moored and in the process of refueling when the terrorists approached.
The change matters because the revised timeline raises questions on what the Cole's commanding officer did to protect the ship while tied up and taking on fuel.
"I make no apologies for the fact that we came up here and gave the best information we had at the time we had it and said that what we were saying was subject to review as more information became available," Mr. Slocombe said.
The committee, whose members have been pressed by relatives of the dead and injured sailors for more facts, is trying to determine whether the Cole's captain followed a prescribed Force Protection Plan while in Yemen.
Committee Chairman John W. Warner, Virginia Republican, has said the Cole did not deploy small guard boats.
Mr. Warner also expressed concern about a statement made to the committee last week by retired Gen. Anthony Zinni, Gen. Franks' predecessor at Central Command.
Gen. Zinni, who made the decision to refuel U.S. ships in Yemen in March 1999, testified he chose Aden over the African country of Djibouti because he feared the terrorist threat was greater there.
Mr. Warner said that the State Department report on global terrorism does not mention Djibouti and that a public DIA document calls Yemen a high threat for terrorism and Djibouti a low threat.
Bill Gertz contributed to this report.

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