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Pentagon rejects report on barracks bombing

building January 30, 1997
Web posted at: 11:40 p.m. EST (0440 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Top civilians in the Pentagon have rejected an Air Force report which found no one at fault for security lapses that allowed a truck bomb to kill 19 U.S. airmen and wound hundreds of others in Saudi Arabia last June.

Air Force investigators have been told to go back and do more work on the report, although it's not clear that it will change their overall conclusion.

Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania voiced support for the move. "I think this is really very, very bad to have the families told no one is accountable," he said.

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CNN first reported in December that Air Force investigators were at odds with a report by retired Army General Wayne Downing which found fault with U.S. commanders up and down the chain of command.

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The Downing investigation was also sharply critical of the on-scene commander, Air Force General Terry Schwalier. Investigators concluded that Schwalier ignored clear warnings of a possible attack and failed to take adequate security measures to protect his troops.

A scheduled promotion for Gen. Schwalier was put on hold only this week, amid word the Pentagon and Air Force's civilian leaders ordered the Air Force report reworked.

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"Drafts are not final, and they're subject to change until they're final," said Pentagon spokes Ken Bacon. "So... by mutual agreement, the secretary of the Air Force and the deputy secretary of defense decided that there was more work to do and that's being done."

Sources say it is unlikely that Air Force investigators will reverse their finding that U.S. commanders did the best they could given what they knew. But that will surely produce howls from those who say that accountabilty has become the 20th victim of the bombing.


 
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