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U.S. Military Moves to Highest State of Alert in Persian Gulf

Aired June 22, 2001 - 14:31   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: We have some breaking news here; a report of a U.S. military maneuver underway.

CNN's Jamie McIntyre is at the Pentagon.

Jamie, what's it all about?

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN MILITARY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, U.S. officials confirm to CNN that the U.S. military has moved to the highest state of alert in the Persian Gulf region on the basis of U.S. intelligence, determining that there is a credible, although nonspecific threat against American interests in the Persian Gulf region.

The threat, we are told, is not necessarily against the U.S. military, but U.S. military facilities in the region, including the U.S. fifth fleet, have gone on what's called threat con delta, which means that threat of a terrorist attack is imminent.

Under those standard procedures, the U.S. Navy puts all of its ships to sea, a procedure that was instituted after the attack on the USS Cole last year. Putting the ships to sea makes them less vulnerable to attack, obviously.

Right now the U.S. carrier group, the Harry Truman is operating, I believe, in the Persian Gulf at this time, but there are other ships as well operating in the Persian Gulf.

So the U.S. military moving to the highest state of alert, threat con delta, on the basis of this nonspecific, but credible terrorist attack, which is believed to be tied to the group that is supported by wanted, alleged terrorist Osama bin Laden -- Lou.

WATERS: Any information at all, Jamie, of what this terrorist threat might be connected to? Recent cases in the United States, for instance?

MCINTYRE: Well, it obviously -- there is a strong belief that this threat as it comes following the indictment of 14 people for the Khobar Towers bombing in -- five years ago in Saudi Arabia. The indictment of those individuals, which was announced yesterday in the United States, is one of the reasons that the United States was looking for possible threats, and it is believed that this threat may be tied to those indictments, or somehow in reaction to those indictments. But we don't have much specifics on exactly the nature of the threat.

WATERS: All right, we'll be in close touch. Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon -- Donna.

DONNA KELLEY, CNN ANCHOR: Let's see if we can't get another little bit on this and some more information with our David Ensor out of Washington -- David.

DAVID ENSOR, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Donna, I don't have much to add except to say that, as Jamie pointed out, this threat is seen as a threat to Americans and American targets in general, not specifically to the military.

We understand that a number of steps have been taken by other federal employees at embassies and other and facilities around the world, specifically worried about the Persian Gulf region. But no sense that there is a particular place or a time where terrorism may take place.

What they have is what they believe is specific and credible evidence that there is a terrorist threat in this time frame. They do not know where, though. It could be anywhere. So they're taking precautions at a number of facilities around the world. The State Department is revising its worldwide caution, which is a general statement of the kinds of steps that Americans who are traveling abroad should take in order to make sure that they're safe. They are revising it somewhat.

And we understand from officials in a number of different branches of government -- a number of different agencies, rather, that they believe the threat is -- that the reason for the time frame has to do with the Khobar Towers indictments that we heard about yesterday and the fact that next week will be the fifth anniversary of the Khobar Towers bombing -- Donna.

KELLEY: David, let me just correct one thing: We said the USS Truman, it will be the, actually -- the USS Constellation.

When you talk about a time frame, David, can we go anything on past history or what's happened when we've had these credible threats how long the caution stays before folks are allowed back in or before they let warships back in?

ENSOR: Officials I spoke to were very unwilling to be specific about what the time frame is, how long it is. So I really can't help you on that at the moment. They do say they have a specific sense of how long it is, but they're not willing to say at this point. They don't want to give, I suppose, some sense of how much information they have that might be useful to those who are, perhaps, trying to do something.

KELLEY: Yes, I would imagine. All right, David Ensor in Washington, thanks very much.

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