WASHINGTON -- The crew of the USS Cole did not implement all of the self-protection measures the ship's skipper had drawn up before it was hit by a terrorist bomb in Aden harbor in Yemen, a senior defense official said.
It could not be learned, however, whether Navy investigators had determined that the attack, which killed 17 sailors, might have been averted if the Cole's security plan had been implemented in full.
The defense official, who discussed the matter Friday on condition of anonymity, said it was too early to know 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, which quoted an unnamed Pentagon official as saying regarding the crew's implementation of a security plan, "They didn't do everything they said they were going to do." The New York Times posted a similar report on its Web site Friday.
Two men in a small boat loaded with explosives maneuvered next to the 505-foot destroyer as the ship refueled 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.
Details of the Cole's self-protection plan, which were approved by higher-level commanders, have never been revealed.
If Navy investigators determine that important security measures were not taken, 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 that preliminary conclusions are subject to change.
"The public and the press need to avoid a rush to judgment" about the outcome of the probe, said Rear Adm. Stephen Pietropaoli, the Navy's chief of information. "The investigation continues."
The Navy investigative report was transmitted this week from 5th Fleet headquarters in Bahrain to Adm. Robert Natter, commander in chief 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.
Clark said last week that he would not comment on the investigation.
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