Pentagon: Lapses In Gulf Security

001114 U.S.S. Cole
A Pentagon commission will recommend tightened security measures for U.S. troops in the Persian Gulf after concluding that there were significant security lapses in the region before the bombing of the USS Cole, The New York Times reported Tuesday.

The commission found flaws in security for ships and aircraft moving through the region, which the Cole was doing when it stopped in a Yemeni port on Oct. 12 and was attacked, the Times said. Seventeen sailors were killed and 39 were wounded.

Sweeping security changes were implemented at U.S. bases throughout the world after an Air Force barracks in Saudi Arabia was bombed more than four years ago, but the commission found that commanders in the Gulf were not devoting enough attention to protecting their forces from attack.

One senior defense official told the Times there was a breakdown in communication between embassies and the military commanders of the U.S. Central Command, the Florida-based military headquarters for the Gulf.

The commission did not determine whether any measures could have been taken to avert the Cole attack or whether any U.S. officials should be held responsible for security lapses, a senior defense official told the Times. One of the commission's leaders, retired Army Gen. William Crouch, said the commission's goal was to improve security for U.S. forces in the region, not assign blame.

Secretary of Defense William Cohen appointed the commission after the Cole attack. It has not yet completed a written report, but its findings were disclosed to Cohen and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Henry Shelton just before Christmas, the Times said.

The commission is expected to present its final conclusions and security recommendations to Cohen this week.

A separate Navy investigation into actions aboard the Cole found that the destroyer's captain and crew failed to follow security procedures on the day of the attack. The investigation is still being reviewed but already has raised the possibility of disciplinary action against the captain, Cmdr. Kirk Lippold, or other Cole officials, the Times said.

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