Report addresses USS Cole attack

July 23, 2004|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

HAGERSTOWN - Tom Wibberley said it will continue to hurt him emotionally, but he eagerly is awaiting a chance to thoroughly read the 9/11 Commission Report released Thursday, especially its section on the attack on the USS Cole.

Wibberley said he hopes to learn even more than he already knows about the Oct. 12, 2000, attack on the USS Cole, which killed his son, U.S. Navy Seaman Craig Wibberley, and 16 others.

"Getting information about this and all this information about the trial in Yemen and all this information about the sailors' families that have kids filing suit, it just keeps bringing it back. It upsets me a great deal," Wibberley said.


According to the 9/11 Commission Report released Thursday, President Clinton did not order a military response against al Qaeda in Afghanistan after the attack on the USS Cole or threaten to strike the Taliban if it did not immediately expel Osama bin Laden because administration officials said they were not presented with conclusive evidence that bin Laden was responsible.

Before such actions could be taken, Clinton said "the CIA or the FBI had to be sure enough that they would 'be willing to stand up in public and say, we believe that he (bin Laden) did this,'" the report states.

Two Washington County men were among the 17 crew members killed in the al Qaeda suicide attack on the USS Cole as the U.S. Navy destroyer refueled in the Yemen port of Aden. At least 40 crew members were wounded.

The local crewmen killed were Fireman Patrick Roy, 19, of Keedysville and Wibberley, 19, of Williamsport.

Michael Roy, father of Patrick Roy, said he is in no rush to read the newly released report.

"I guess I'll get to it, eventually," he said.

Michael Roy declined to give further comment late Thursday evening.

In harm's way

Tom Wibberley, a former Williamsport resident now living in the Boonsboro area, said Thursday the information he wants to see most in the report is the identification of the person who came up with the idea to send the Cole into the Yemen port and the person who approved it.

"Who put them in harm's way? I just want to know if the commission did research on that," Wibberley said. "I was hoping it would come out."

Wibberley also said that strong suspicions by the Clinton administration should have been enough to warrant immediate military action against al Qaeda and the Taliban. Wibberley said he believes that not setting the U.S. military into action following the incident gave terrorists a reason to take a "bigger step" with the attacks on U.S. soil on Sept. 11, 2001.

"To sit back and do nothing about it was totally irresponsible," Wibberley said.

Wibberley also said he does not believe Clinton's statements in the commission report that he warned then President-elect George W. Bush that bin Laden and al Qaeda was the biggest threat to national security.

"I have a problem believing anything Clinton says. He's been proven to be a big liar," Wibberley said. "I believe he's as responsible for my son's death as anyone because of decisions his administration made."

Despite strong suspicions of bin Laden's involvement by intelligence agencies, Clinton Administration officials never thought they got such evidence before the administration's term ended, according to a section of the commission report entitled "From Threat To Threat."

Federal officials did not have evidence about bin Laden's personal involvement in the USS Cole attack until two key al Qaeda operatives were captured in 2002 and 2003, the report says.

Another target

The USS Cole was not the first warship the terrorists targeted, the commission report states.

On Jan. 3, 2000, terrorists attempted to attack the USS The Sullivans in Aden, but the attackers' small boat was overloaded with explosives and sank.

Terrorists again used a small boat laden with explosives in attacking the USS Cole.

In December 2000, President Clinton and Bush met to discuss national security and foreign policy challenges.

The two had differing stories for the commission about how much was said about al Qaeda.

"Clinton recalled saying to Bush, 'I think you will find that by far your biggest threat is bin Laden and the al Qaeda.' Clinton told us that he also said, 'One of the great regrets of my presidency is that I didn't get him (bin Laden) for you, because I tried to,'" the report says.

Bush told the Commission he was sure President Clinton mentioned terrorism, but did not remember much being said about al Qaeda. "Bush recalled that Clinton had emphasized other issues such as North Korea and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process," the report says.

After the Cole attack, candidate Bush said there must be a consequence to the attack, the report states.

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