WASHINGTON - A Pentagon intelligence analyst on terrorism in the Persian Gulf resigned one day after the deadly attack on the USS Cole, charging that he warned in June of possible "major" terrorist acts but his superiors failed to pass on the warnings to military commanders, members of the Senate Armed Services Committee said yesterday.
The name of the analyst, who worked for the Defense Intelligence Agency's Office of Counter-Terrorism Analysis, was not disclosed.
A spokesman for the DIA confirmed that a midlevel analyst resigned shortly after the Cole was attacked at the Yemeni port of Aden but denied that the agency had suppressed any information about the Cole, Aden or Yemen.
Sen. John W. Warner, the Virginia Republican who chairs the Armed Services Committee, told reporters that the analyst believed "his assessment was not given that proper level of consideration by his superiors and, as such, was not incorporated" in the intelligence conveyed to military commanders in the Persian Gulf.
But the senators released no specifics about the analyst's findings. Panel members, who were conducting a hearing on the Cole attack, said they would discuss the analyst's resignation during a closed session that included Vice Adm. Thomas Wilson, director of the DIA, and other Pentagon officials.
Sen. Pat Roberts, a Kansas Republican, quoted from the resignation letter, although the committee declined to release it.
"His resignation was due to 'significant analytical differences' with his management," said Roberts. "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.' And he goes on to say that he is 'very troubled by the many indicators contained in the analysis that suggests two or three other major acts of terrorism could potentially occur in the coming weeks or months.'"
Roberts said the analyst met this week with the staff of the Select Committee on Intelligence, on which the senator also serves, for six hours to discuss his findings.
The Kansas senator asked two committee witnesses, Undersecretary of Defense Walter Slocombe and Army Gen. Tommy Franks, commander of U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf, what would have occurred if the intelligence community had warned of possible small-boat attacks on Navy ships in the region, but offered no specifics.
"Our readiness conditions would have increased," Franks said.
However, Slocombe said that there was no such warning. "Information of that kind would be - if it existed, and it didn't - would have been disseminated on the most-urgent basis to all the people who were potentially affected by it."
A spokesman for the DIA, Capt. Michael Stainbrook, said: "One of the specific missions is to analyze information and provide threat assessments and warnings. We categorically deny that any threat information has been suppressed in the case of the USS Cole, Yemen or Aden, nor would we ever suppress such relevant information."
Since the Oct. 12 attack on the destroyer Cole, which killed 17 sailors and injured 38, Pentagon officials have said repeatedly that there were no specific threats leveled against the ship or Aden harbor.
Retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni, who preceded Franks as commander of gulf forces and stepped down last summer, told the committee last week that two dozen Navy ships had refueled in Aden since early 1999, and that there was never a threat that caused him to cancel any of those refuelings.
A Senate aide, who spoke on condition he not be named, said that the intelligence community reported in August a possible small-boat threat against Navy ships in the Mediterranean Sea. The aide was uncertain how widely the information was disseminated.
Such a threat would have been of primary concern to the Navy's 6th Fleet, based in Italy, and not the 5th Fleet, based in Bahrain.
The Cole was refueling in Aden when a small boat pulled alongside and detonated. The Navy ship was preparing to sail to Bahrain, where it was to join an international naval force patrolling the Persian Gulf for oil smugglers.
Meanwhile, another official at the hearing, Edward Walker, assistant secretary of state for near eastern affairs, said the U.S. ambassador to Yemen, Barbara Bodine, had recommended to U.S. military leaders in the region in March that they scrap a proposed port visit to Aden. She was not talking about the Cole, which was not in the area at the time.
A port visit, which usually involves sailors going ashore, is a much more elaborate operation than a refueling. That decision was made because of "the general tension in the region," Walker said, and because of the need for "a new review of the security situation in general in Yemen." Military leaders concurred with her recommendation, Walker said.
Also yesterday, Slocombe dismissed a Washington Times article which said that the National Security Agency, the U.S. eavesdropping entity based at Fort Meade, had issued a report on the day of the Cole bombing warning that terrorists were planning an attack in the region.
"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," he said.
Yemeni authorities, meanwhile, have detained a Yemeni carpenter and a Somali woman as part of their investigation, the Associated Press reported. Yemeni sources said the carpenter admitted helping two men modify a small boat to carry explosives. The woman confessed to buying the car used to haul the boat to Aden's port, paying for it with money the men provided. Charges have not been filed against either person, sources said.