- The Washington Times - Friday, April 13, 2001

The Navy has begun procedures to permanently detach Cmdr. Scott Waddle from the USS Greeneville he commanded before the submarine rammed a Japanese fishing boat, The Washington Times has learned.
A Navy source close to the case said the fact that the Navy has begun such a basic procedure is a sign it will opt not to court-martial him, but instead punish him administratively.
"This step indicates a court-martial is unlikely, but still possible," the source said. "The fact they are pursuing this indicates the Navy is trying to get everything closed out."
The source said if a potentially lengthy court-martial were planned, the Navy would not be preoccupied by a procedure to remove Cmdr. Waddle, 41, from the ship's company. The procedure is called a "detachment for cause."
The removal process comes while a Navy court of inquiry moved ahead by one day its recommendation on whether the Navy should court-martial Cmdr. Waddle.
Vice Adm. John Nathman and Rear Adms. Paul Sullivan and David Stone will present their nearly 2,000-page report to Pacific Fleet Commander Adm. Thomas Fargo in a meeting at Pearl Harbor today, the Navy official told the Associated Press on the condition of anonymity.
Adm. Fargo had initially planned to receive the report tomorrow in San Diego, where he was to attend a celebration honoring a submarine squadron.
But the Navy official told AP that Adm. Fargo chose to remain in Hawaii for the arrival of the 24 detainees from the U.S. surveillance plane at the center of a two-week dispute with China.
The crew members are scheduled to leave Hawaii for Whidbey Island, Wash., at about 7:30 a.m. tomorrow after two days of debriefings.
The court of three American admirals and a Japanese observer heard testimony last month at Pearl Harbor on how the Greeneville executed an emergency surfacing drill and sliced into the fishing boat Ehime Maru.
Nine of 35 crew and passengers were killed. The Navy relieved Cmdr. Waddle of command shortly after the Feb. 9 collision but kept him on the ship's roster.
The decision on whether to start a court-martial, which rests with Adm. Fargo, turns on whether Cmdr. Waddle exhibited criminal negligence in mistakes the Navy said were made by the commander and his crew.
Adm. Fargo has 30 days roughly until mid-May to make his decision. But the Navy source said he wants to decide before Rear Adm. Albert Konetzni Jr., Pacific submarine commander, transfers to a higher command later this month.
Adm. Konetzni testified at the court's hearing, "I hold [Cmdr. Waddle] accountable." But he also said, under questioning by defense attorney Charles Gittins, that he did not believe the skipper acted criminally negligent.
Cmdr. Waddle is willing to submit himself to an administrative procedure known as an admiral's mast and then retire.
At a mast, Cmdr. Waddle would face a maximum penalty of 30 days confined to quarters, 60 days restriction, and forfeiture of one month's pay over a two-month period.
The stakes increase dramatically for Cmdr. Waddle at a court-martial.
He would likely face charges read at the court of inquiry: negligent homicide, negligent hazarding of a vessel and negligent dereliction of duty.
If convicted, he would face a maximum penalty of three years in prison for each homicide charge; two years for negligent hazarding of a vessel and three months for dereliction of duty. He could also be dismissed from the Navy.
At court-martial, the Navy faces a much higher burden of proof than it would at an admiral's mast.
A Navy report on the accident blamed a series of errors by the crew and Cmdr. Waddle for failing to detect the fishing boat before the submarine executed a rapid surfacing drill, or "blow."
The report singled out Cmdr. Waddle for failing to conduct a proper periscope check, saying his scan was too brief and not high enough out of the water. At the time, the Ehime Maru was about a mile from the Greeneville, traveling head-on, and was perhaps hidden in the choppy Pacific Ocean.
The Navy report also said a technician had tracked the boat to as close as one mile but failed to tell Cmdr. Waddle because of the large number of civilian visitors clustered on the periscope stand.
"These mistakes were honest and well-intentioned," Cmdr. Waddle told the court of inquiry.

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