Cole crew is faulted on safety

Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The crew of the USS Cole failed to implement every aspect of a self-protection plan the ship’s skipper had drawn up before it was hit by a terrorist bomb in Yemen’s Aden harbor, a senior defense official said Friday.

It could not be learned, however, whether Navy investigators determined that following the security plan to the letter would have averted the attack, which killed 17 sailors.

The official said it was too early to say whether the Navy would hold anyone from the Cole accountable.

The crew’s failure to fully implement its written security plan was first reported Friday by CNN. It quoted an unidentified Pentagon official as saying about the crew’s implementation of a security plan: "They didn’t do everything they said they were going to do."

Two men in a small boat laden with explosives maneuvered next to the 505-foot destroyer as the ship took on fuel in Aden harbor Oct. 12. The explosives detonated and ripped an enormous hole in the Cole’s hull.

In the weeks since, investigators have focused on whether the Cole had taken prudent security precautions and whether security activities spelled out in its operating plans were followed in all respects.

If Navy investigators determine that important security measures were not taken, then Cmdr. Kirk Lippold, the Cole’s captain, could be held accountable and his career damaged, officials said. Navy officials stressed that the investigation is not complete, and preliminary conclusions are subject to change.

The Navy investigative report was transmitted this week from 5th Fleet headquarters in Bahrain to Adm. Robert Natter, commander of the U.S. Atlantic Command in Norfolk, Va. From there it will go for a final judgment to Adm. Vern Clark, chief of naval operations at Navy headquarters in the Pentagon.

Lippold, who previously served as an aide to Navy Secretary Richard Danzig, is highly regarded in the Navy. He has been credited, along with his crew, with saving the Cole from sinking in the days after the blast, which knocked out the ship’s power and threatened to tear it nearly in half.

Copyright ©2000 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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