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Saudi Arabia and Beirut : lesson learned on intelligence and counterterrorism programs : hearing before the Select Committee on Intelligence of the United States Senate, One Hundred Fourth Congress, second session ... Tuesday, July 9, 1995 online

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Online LibraryUnited States. Congress. Senate. Select CommitteeSaudi Arabia and Beirut : lesson learned on intelligence and counterterrorism programs : hearing before the Select Committee on Intelligence of the United States Senate, One Hundred Fourth Congress, second session ... Tuesday, July 9, 1995 → online text (page 1 of 5)
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\T\ \ S. Hrg. 104-689


Y 4. IN B/19:S. HRG. 104-689

Saudi Arabia and Beirut: Lesson Lea...












Printed for the use of the Select Committee on Intelligence

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35-123 CC WASHINGTON : 1996


For sale by the U.S. Govemmeni Printing OfTicc
Superintendent of Documents, Congressional Sales Ol'fice. Washington, DC 20402
ISBN 0-16-053898-X

\T\ \ S. Hrg. 104-689


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S)udi Arabia and Beirut: Lesson Lea...












Printed for the use of the Select Committee on


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35-123 CC WASHINGTON : 1996

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For sale by the U.S. Governmeni Printing Ot'fice
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ISBN 0-16-053898-X


ARLEN SPECTER, Pennsylvania, Chairman.
J. ROBERT KERREY, Nebraska, Vice Chairman



JON KYL, Arizona JOHN F. KERRY, Massachusetts




HANK BROWN, Colorado

TRENT LOTT, Mississippi, Ex Officio
THOMAS A. DASCHLE, South Dakota, Ex Officio

Charles Battaglia, Staff Director

Christopher C. Straub, Minority Staff Director

Kathleen P. McGhee, Chief Clerk





Hearing held in Washington, DC:

Tuesday, July 9, 1996 1

Statement of:

Kerrey, Hon. J. Robert, a U.S. Senator from the State of Nebraska 1

Lang, Colonel Pat, USA (Ret.) former Defense Intelligence Officer for
the Middle East 15

Long, Admiral Robert, chairman. Long Commission 8

Murray, Robert, president, Center for Naval Analysis, former member
of the Long Commission 18

Specter, Hon. Arlen, a U.S. Senator from the Commonwealth of Penn-
sylvania 1

Trainor, Lieutenant General Bernard E. "Mick", USMC (Ret.), former
deputy chief of staff" for Plans, Policies and Operations, U.S. Marine
Corps 4




U.S. Senate,
Select Committee on Intelligence,

Washington, DC.

The Select Committee met, pursuant to notice, at 11:10 a.m., in
room SH-216, Hart Senate Office Building, the Honorable Arlen
Specter (Chairman of the committee) presiding.

Present: Senators Specter, DeWine and Kerrey of Nebraska.

Also present: Charles Battaglia, Staff Director; Chris Straub, Mi-
nority Staff Director; Suzanne Spaulding, Chief Counsel; and Kath-
leen McGhee, Chief Clerk.

Chairman SPECTER. The Intelligence Committee will no\y pro-
ceed. Senator Kerrey has a commitment, so I will yield to him for
his opening statement at the outset.

Vice Chairman KERREY. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman
and the witnesses. My commitment requires me to go for about 5
minutes and I will be back, and I look forward to hearing your tes-

These hearings are, Mr. Chairman, I believe a very appropriate
and important response to the bombing in Dhahran, and it is al-
ways appropriate for this committee to look into intelligence sup-
port to our deployed military forces. Much has been made of the
defensive preparations undertaken by Air Force commanders in
Dhahran, but those defensive decisions are understandable only in
the context of the intelligence available to those commanders at the
time. The safety of our troops today, and our ability to go on the
offensive against the people who did this, are similarly dependent
on intelligence. So our committee has a significant role in the in-
vestigation of this bombing and in the correction of the intelligence
deficiencies that may be uncovered.

As we proceed, I have several concerns. But first, I want to avoid
a rush to judge or condemn without all the facts. I noted, for exam-
ple, a story in Sunday's New York Times that has been repeated,
that was repeated twice as I watched it on this morning's news,
that asserted that CIA misjudged, the "bomb-making capabilities of
militants in Saudi Arabia, concluding that they could not build a
bomb larger than two hundred pounds." I, as you as well, Mr.
Chairman, have checked with the CIA and they know of no basis
for this assertion. They understand the size of a bomb is simply a
function of the target and the amount of explosive available to the


terrorists, so they make no estimates of size. If there is evidence
to the contrary, that CIA did make such an estimate, I am cer-
tainly open to it, but I haven't seen it yet.

Second, I am concerned that in our response in Washington to
this attack, as we try to learn what mistake was made by Ameri-
cans or Saudis so we can defend ourselves better in the future, we
should also consider the big picture. The big picture is our mission
in the gulf region and our dedication to continuing that mission.
But there is another, new element to our presence in the gulf re-
gion. We were attacked in Saudi Arabia, and we have been at-
tacked twice. Someone is making war upon us.

Now, we Americans know something about making war. We
know the offense always, eventually, defeats even the best defense.
So while we review the situation in Dhahran leading up to this
bombing and use what we learn to defend ourselves more effec-
tively, we should also be seeking means to go on the offensive,
seeking ways to attack this new enemy and destroy his ability to
make war on us. However, we don't know who this enemy is at the
moment or where his center of gravity is, so our first requirement
is intelligence. That is why the most important question for our
own committee to ask is, is America dedicating the intelligence re-
sources necessary to this terrorist target, so we can have the
knowledge we must have to attack and destroy this group and pun-
ish its nation-state sponsor, if there is one. We should also ask, if
we concentrate our collection and analytical efforts against these
terrorists, how will our other high priority efforts around the world
be affected?

I myself am very concerned that we still appear to be thin in the
analysis and the ability to convert the intelligence into something
that is useful to our policymakers.

Without a concentrated intelligence effort, applying national in-
telligence assets of all types, America will not be able to go on the
offensive, and we will stay on defense. Our options will be limited
to how far to move the fence, and that is no way to win a war.

Mr. Chairman, as I said, I will be leaving, I'll be coming back,
and I look forward to the witnesses.

Thank you.

Chairman Specter. Thank you very much. Senator Kerrey.

I concur with Senator Kerrey's assessment that the hearings
should proceed on an investigation, an inquiry as to the adequacy
of U.S. intelligence. As Senator Kerrey has noted, we should not
rush to judgment.

The comments made in the press accounts as to CIA responsibil-
ity are matters which have to be inquired into without any pre-

This hearing was announced on July 1, and subsequent to our
setting of our hearings for today, the Senate Armed Services Com-
mittee announced hearings for the same time. We had suggested
with the Senate Armed Services Committee the possibility of joint
hearings, but that was declined. We had thought about deferring
our hearings until tomorrow and the bulk of our hearing will be
conducted tomorrow, but there are a number of witnesses who are
here today who could not be present tomorrow, so we decided to go

ahead with the first panel which we have with us at the present

We have a very distinguished panel. Admiral Long, who was
chairman of the Long Commission which investigated the bombings
at Beirut. Mr. Robert Murray, who is president of the Center for
Naval Analysis, was a member of the Long Commission. Lieuten-
ant General Trainor, and Colonel Pat Lang.

The focus tomorrow will be on the second panel on current Mid
East Security Assessment; the third panel, looking to the future;
the fourth panel on Executive oversight.

The experience from the Long Commission at Beirut is especially
appropriate because of the comments by Secretary of Defense Perry
in assessing the 3,000- to 5,000-pound bomb in Dhahran, saying
that this is more then tenfold larger than bombs that have been
used in similar incidents in the Mid East, which appears to be con-
trary to the fact as to what did happen in Beirut with a 12,000-
pound bomb having been involved there.

A major issue is to the adequacy of the intelligence work on the
efforts to question the four terrorists who were executed on May 31
for the assassination, terrorist murders of five Americans in Riyadh
back on November 13, of last year, the efforts made by the FBI to
do that questioning and what efforts were made by the CIA and
what efforts were made to pursue that questioning at a higher

In dealing with the Saudis, we are dealing with an ally where
there is a very substantial mutual interest in proceeding to protect
Mid East oil, to protect U.S. interests there. We are also very
aware of a very substantial difference in cultures. We have the ex-
perience at the beginning of the gulf war where U.S. military was
not permitted to question Iraqi prisoners of war; only by writing
given to the Saudis. We have the situation of the difference in cul-
ture illustrated by the prohibition which exists to this day that the
only religious ceremonies which may be practiced in Saudi Arabia
are those of the Moslems. Not so long ago, going back to the early
to mid-80's period, where Americans were actually detained and
arrested in their homes for praying in their homes, and detained.

We have the question of the moving of the fence, and we will be
making an inquiry as to the Pentagon published protocol, written
instructions, or established policy, and an issue as to appropriate
Pentagon oversight.

We had recently the report of the Inspector General of the CIA
saying that in the Aldrich Ames situation that the Directors of
Central Intelligence Woolsey, Webster and Gates, would be held ac-
countable under the captain of the ship doctrine, even though they
did not have specific information.

We frequently decry an attitude of business as usual, a necessity
for a sense of urgency where such important interests are on the
line and where there are very substantial warnings as to problems
of terrorism.

There is the issue of the stability of the Saudi government, which
is a matter which has to be inquired into, being very central to the
security of our forces there. A question as to the necessity for the
size of the military there, whether it could be reduced, whether
overflights could be conducted with less military, whether it could

be conducted from aircraft carriers without such a large presence
on Saudi soil.

I am pleased to welcome at this time our very distinguished
panel. Admiral Long, Mr. Robert Murray, former Lieutenant Gen-
eral Mick Trainor, and Colonel Pat Lang. As I said, we had consid-
ered putting the hearings off until tomorrow, but have decided to
go ahead.

Former Lieutenant General Mick Trainor was the Chief of Staff
for Operations of the Marine Corps during the Beirut bombing, and
currently is a member of the faculty of the Kennedy School of Gov-
ernment, a former author with the New York Times. He has com-
mitments which require an early departure, so we turn to you at
this time, General Trainor, with our thanks for your being here.


General Trainor. Thank you. Senator, and I appreciate the invi-
tation. I am sorry for the inconvenience of aslang you to adjust
some of the committee's schedule to accommodate my require-

I don't have an opening statement to make, in the interest of
time. However, I do want to say that, as you pointed out, I was the
Deputy Chief of Staff for Plans, Policies and Operations at the time
that the American Embassy was bombed, in April 1983, and also
when the Marine barracks went up in November of that year.

I had the honored but sad duty, after the Embassy bombing, to
accompany the team that went out there to return the bodies.

So between the Embassy bombing and the barracks bombing, I
was — I have been scarred by that experience and it has lived with
me to this day.

Subsequent to that we have had two terrorist bombings domesti-
cally in the United States, with the World Trade Center and with
the Oklahoma City bombing, and then of course, last November we
had the bombing in Riyadh, and I have to say to myself, do we
never learn. The MO of the terrorists are exactly the same in all
instances over these years, and yet we never seem to be able to ac-
commodate to them.

I feel that one of the reasons for this is that there is a sense of
complacency I think forces overseas just have difficulty in adjusting
to the fact that there is a real threat, and it becomes business as
usual. I think this latest incident in Dhahran is an example of
that. Steps were taken to improve the situation, but the threat was
real and it was imminent and those that had the immediate re-
sponsibility, in my judgment, were not — were not responsive to the
immediate threat.

There were passive steps that could have been taken in the in-
terim while negotiations were taking place to extend the perimeter,
such as moving the troops out of the building, doubling them up
someplace else or even putting them in tents. But I think there is
a tendency within the military today to put too much emphasis on
the quality of life and comfort to the detriment of security, putting
the troops at risk in the process because you are being nice to

them. I think that is a factor that played here that has not yet
been addressed by either press or in the pubhc forum.

I open myself to your questions, sir.

Chairman Specter. Well, just a few questions before proceeding
with the other witnesses, and I know you do have obligations oth-
erwise — other places.

What is the immediate lesson to be learned from the size of a
bomb which is placed in Beirut, some 12,000 pounds — and we'll get
into this in greater detail with Admiral Long and Mr. Murray —
what is the lesson to be learned from that?

General Trainor. First, as you have pointed out, intelligence. We
have to have a better intelligence system to estimate the threat.

Second, there has to be proactive steps taken to neutralize that
threat — proactive steps in terms of penetrating those who are wish-
ing us ill; proactive steps in terms of reaction forces that are on the
scene that can take action very, very quickly.

Then the passive steps. I think the passive steps are the ones
that are, in a sense, least costly, because these can be accomplished
by common sense; that if you are under an active threat — and in-
deed any time we are overseas, I think we are under an active
threat — make sure that the troops are in cantonments that are rel-
atively secure from the reach of any sort of explosive threat, which
seems to be the major threat that the forces face today, but not the
exclusive threat. In other words, a common sense approach to pro-
tecting the troops. You get the troops dug in as necessary to ensure
that the threat against them, while never being eliminated, will be

So those three points. The lessons learned are better intelligence,
a proactive and an active defense, and an effective passive defense.

Chairman Specter. General Trainor, what steps can be taken by
intelligence to alert the field commanders as to the kinds of risk
which you face in Beirut or the kinds of risks which were faced in

General Trainor. Well, I am not an intelligence expert, but as
an operational commander I would expect the Intelligence Commu-
nity to give me the general threat analysis that they have and then
be as specific as possible as the situation comes along, without rais-
ing false alarms, which is frequently the case with the Intelligence
Community. In a certain sense, to cover themselves, they are con-
stantly giving you threats. Well, I need some sort of an effective in-
telligence filter to tell me the degree of veracity of those threats.
But in no way does that absolve me from the responsibility to take
care of my troops.

So in the absence of concrete intelligence or uncertain intel-
ligence, I would take the steps or I should take the steps necessary
to minimize the threat to my forces until such time as the threat
becomes more specific and I can take some action on it.

Chairman Specter. Looking back at the threat to the troops in
Beirut, back on the October 23, 1983 incident, in retrospect, what
steps, if any, could have been taken to minimize that risk?

General Trainor. In the context of the threat at the time, there
were two particular threats. There was the threat of the car bomb-
ing or truck bombing, although it was cast in the terms of car
bombing at the time. The other threat which was the more active

threat, was that the Marines were being constantly shelled from
the Shouf Mountains and being shot at from the outskirts of their

The steps that were taken there were that the line-troops were
dug-in in trenches, a la Korea and World War I. But the most se-
cure building for the support troops was in the very building that
blew up. It had withstood the shelling and the bombing during the
battle for the Beirut airport between the Israelis and the Syrians.
In a sense, from the conventional threat of artillery fire, mortar
fire, and direct small arms fire, that building was probably the
safest place for them to be.

But in the process and in the face of that immediate threat
which was the constant shelling, the threat of the bombing was
overlooked. In the interest of preventing innocents from being
killed in the adjacent Beirut airport, in the fear of an accidental
discharge which might hit some civilians, the rules of engagement,
if you will, the interior guard orders were modified. The troops on
the post that were guarding the approaches did not have the maga-
zines in their weapons and therefore they couldn't bring immediate
direct fire on any threat from a car bomb, and that turned out to
be a mistake.

Chairman Specter. General Trainor, has your experience given
you any special insights into our relationship with the Saudis in
terms of how we deal with them on pressing to question people like
the Iraqi prisoners of war?

General Trainor. Well, of course, all of that took place subse-
quent to my retirement from the Marine Corps, and indeed after
I had left the New York Times. But I did co-author a book on the
Gulf War and naturally in the process of doing research on that,
delved into some of these cultural differences. Yes, there are enor-
mous cultural differences between the Western world, particularly
the United States, and the Arab world, and in particular the Saudi
Arabian world, which is the keeper of the sacred sites of Mecca and

Now, you're not going to change that, but what you do then is
modify your association to take that into account. If that is what
you have to live with, you take that into account, and in the proc-
ess, you try to modify it to your advantage insofar as you possibly
can. But again, in no way can you simply shrug your shoulders and
say, well, this is the way they do business, we can't change it, and
then assume that you have taken care of the problems.

That presumably was somewhat of — at least the evidence sug-
gests that was somewhat the case in this instance where presum-
ably the Saudis were asked to move the perimeter fence on two oc-
casions. They apparently dragged their feet and the sense was,
we'll keep working this issue without taking into account the im-
mediacy of the threat as represented by the Riyadh bombing and
the active threats against the Americans which resulted from the
beheading of the Riyadh bombers.

The fact that the Saudis were tied-up in some sort of a bureau-
cratic process in no way absolved the commanding officer on the
scene from taking the necessary steps to protect his troops.

Chairman Specter. Well, before moving to the steps which the
commander in the field might have taken to accommodate, in the

face of two requests and not an affirmative answer from the
Saudis, and looking to the future as to what we ought to be doing
to try to prevent a recurrence, what sort of a suggestion would you
have as to what our military should or must do when they make
a request on a couple of occasions and there is no affirmative an-


General Trainor. This is not peculiar to Saudi Arabia. It would
apply everywhere. The local commander on the scene and his staff
work with their counterparts, hopefully to solve the problem. If
that's not getting anywhere, then he has to kick it up the line. In
this instance, the commander should kick it up to the theater com-
mander. The theater commander, which in this instance was
CENTCOM, has the operational responsibility for the area, and
that includes security. The theater commander should weigh in
with his Saudi counterparts to solve the problem. If he is not get-
ting anywhere, the next thing is for him to kick the problem up to
the Department of Defense, to the Secretary of Defense who is the
immediate superior of the theater CINC.

Chairman Specter. Was this the kind of a threat with a perim-
eter of only 80 feet that should have been kicked up to those

General Trainor. Given the threat, the steps necessary to pro-
tect the forces required whatever action was required to increase
security. If it couldn't be resolved locally and it couldn't be resolved
at the theater level, and I don't know whether it ever was kicked
up to the theater level, but if it was and it couldn't be resolved at
that level, then it has to be kicked up to the national level to the
Department of Defense and the State Department to take the steps
necessary to make the necessary adjustments.

In the meantime, however, it is still the responsibility of the the-
ater commander, and it's still the responsibility of the local com-
mander to take the active and passive steps necessary, within their
means, to minimize the threat that has been clearly recognized.

Chairman Specter. You had talked earlier about the possibility
of moving into tents. Would you elaborate about that and what
other steps might be taken to minimize the risk to the troops if in
fact the perimeter cannot be moved farther out?

General Trainor. If the perimeter cannot be moved, and you
have troops that are clearly exposed to a threat then the thing to
do, in my judgment, you get the troops that are exposed out of
those exposed positions. Now, as I understand it, there were build-
ings further back in the compound that by doubling up, you could
put the forces in there. In terms of Building 131, which was the
target of the bomb, you could put your administrative activities,
the store rooms, the Xeroxes, that sort of thing, on the outside of
the building. The whole point is, get the troops away from the blast
effects of the bomb. If you don't have room further in the
compound, there is nothing wrong with putting up tents and put-
ting the troops in tents. The Marine squadrons that are in Aviano,
Italy, who have been flying over Bosnia and providing the air cover
for the dramatic rescue of the airman who was shot down there,
have been out there since 1993, are not living in hotels or fancy
billets — they're living in tents which are in secure compounds.

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Online LibraryUnited States. Congress. Senate. Select CommitteeSaudi Arabia and Beirut : lesson learned on intelligence and counterterrorism programs : hearing before the Select Committee on Intelligence of the United States Senate, One Hundred Fourth Congress, second session ... Tuesday, July 9, 1995 → online text (page 1 of 5)