Report of Investigation
THE KHOBAR TOWERS BOMBING, 25 JUNE 1996
The Inspector General and The Judge Advocate General
1. On 25 June 1996, a terrorist truck bomb exploded outside the northern perimeter of the US portion of the Khobar Towers housing complex, Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. The US controlled portion of Khobar Towers was a facility housing US Air Force, US Army and British and French allied forces supporting the coalition air operation over Iraq, Operation SOUTHERN WATCH. The explosion killed 19 Air Force service members and injured hundreds more. It also injured many Saudi Arabian citizens and third country nationals.
2. On 28 June 1996, three days after the bombing, Secretary of Defense William J. Perry issued a charter and appointed General Wayne A. Downing, US Army, Retired, to head an Assessment of the facts and circumstances surrounding the Khobar Towers bombing, and to make recommendations for improving force protection measures. General Downings Assessment was conducted from 29 June 1996 - 30 August 1996. In this Assessment, General Downing made 26 separate findings with concomitant recommendations. Two of these findings specifically related to the performance of the chain of command in the 4404th Wing (P).
3. The Secretary of Defense forwarded General Downings Assessment to the Secretary of the Air Force for review and appropriate action. Specifically, the Secretary of Defense asked the Secretary of Air Force to consider the issues raised in the Downing Assessment concerning how the Air Force organizes, trains and equips in order to support forces deployed to combatant commands, and to address issues of individual actions or omissions. On 4 September 1996, the Secretary of the Air Force and the Chief of Staff of the Air Force appointed Lieutenant General James F. Record, Commander, 12th Air Force, to consider and make recommendations on issues raised in General Downings Assessment regarding how the Air Force organizes, trains, and equips to support forces deployed to US Central Command (USCENTCOM). Lieutenant General Record conducted such a review and forwarded the first portion of his report (Part A) on 31 October 1996. Part A included 13 major action recommendations to improve the Air Force organization structure, education and training and the use of advanced technology to reduce the risk to Air Force personnel and resources from terrorist threats world-wide. The Air Force accepted these recommendations and is currently implementing them, in addition to other force protection improvements.
4. Lieutenant General Record was also appointed as the disciplinary review and court-martial convening authority for actions or omissions by Air Force personnel associated with the Khobar Towers bombing. The second portion of Lieutenant General Records report (Part B) concerning accountability was forwarded to the Secretary of the Air Force and the Chief of Staff on 20 December 1996. Lieutenant General Record found that all commanders in the chain of command acted in a reasonable manner under the circumstances as they were known at the time. He found no dereliction of duty warranting either disciplinary action under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) or adverse administrative action.
5. On 23 December 1996, the Secretary of the Air Force forwarded Lieutenant General Records report to the Secretary of Defense.
6. On 29 January 1997, the Deputy Secretary of Defense identified several areas of Lieutenant General Records report that required further examination. The Secretary of the Air Force and Chief of Staff agreed. Committed to ensuring all the facts and circumstances surrounding the Khobar Towers bombing are thoroughly reviewed and any additional lessons learned are identified and applied to Air Force units world-wide, on 5 February 1996, the Secretary of the Air Force and the Chief of Staff tasked The Inspector General and The Judge Advocate General to undertake an expanded analysis of these issues. This report is a result of those efforts. It presents a detailed discussion of the issues identified by the Deputy Secretary of Defense, an exhaustive review of the regulations and standards applicable to the 4404th Wing (P) on 25 June 1996, and a comprehensive expanded analysis concerning accountability of individuals in the chain of command.
1. The Deputy Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of the Air Force and Chief of Staff identified two separate areas meriting further explanation and/or analysis. The first area was further explanation or factual development of eight specific issues:
(1) Explain the rationale for Lieutenant General Records recommendations relating to command and control of HUMINT service personnel;
(2) Explain the rationale for Lieutenant General Records recommendations relating to the need for organic intelligence assets at the wing level;
(3) Explain the rationale for Lieutenant General Records recommendation to expand the rules of engagement in countries where there is no Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) in place;
(4) Examine further the facts concerning training, equipping, and manning the guard force;
(5) Develop facts concerning convoy and personnel transportation procedures;
(6) Investigate the adequacy of efforts to protect against threats from the perimeter exterior;
(7) Develop additional facts concerning evacuation planning, practice, and evaluation; and
(8) Assess communications deficiencies at the time of the bombing including the lack of automated building alarm system, the lack of direct links between sentries and the Giant Voice system, and the absence of full-time translators for the Saudi security forces and the US Air Force Security Police.
2. Second, while the Deputy Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of the Air Force and Chief of Staff accepted Lieutenant General Records conclusion that no UCMJ action was warranted, they requested further consideration of the propriety of administrative action, including detailed identification of applicable standards and substantive analysis of the evidence.
C. SCOPE AND AUTHORITY.
1. On 5 February 1997, the Secretary of the Air Force and the Chief of Staff tasked The Inspector General and The Judge Advocate General to undertake an expanded analysis of eight specific issues and the propriety of administrative action. Pursuant to this direction, The Inspector General appointed an investigative team on 6 February 1997. The nine-person team was comprised of: an investigator (team chief) and legal advisor from The Inspector Generals office; experts in the fields of Security, HUMINT, Fire and Disaster Preparedness, Counterintelligence and Antiterrorism, and Intelligence; and an additional legal advisor. The Investigation was conducted using applicable guidance from Air Force Instruction (AFI) 90-301, Inspector General Complaints.
2. In the later stages of the investigation and during report production, an additional team of lawyers from the Department of the Judge Advocate General led by the Director, Air Force General Law, provided legal sufficiency reviews and further development of the accountability review.
1. Review of Evidence. The Investigation began with a thorough review of the Downing Assessment and the Record Report relating to the Khobar Towers Bombing. Then, all of the documentary evidence collected by the previous teams was reviewed. The Downing task force collected thousands of documents currently stored in 26 boxes in the custody of the Joint Staff. Additional documentation collected by the Record team filled a five-drawer safe. Also, individual members on the Record team were contacted and provided additional documentation. All of the documents were examined for information relating to the eight specific areas in the tasking and/or any information relevant to the issue of personal accountability.
a. As with the other documentary evidence, members of the investigative team reviewed the transcripts of all interviews available from the previous investigations. It was found reasonably early in the data gathering stage that not all of the taped interviews had been transcribed. In those cases, the tapes were listened to by team members, and the decision to have them transcribed was based on whether they contained additional evidence this team thought pertinent.
b. Notwithstanding the significant amount of testimonial evidence collected by the previous investigations, the level of detail requested for the specific areas under investigation required re-interviewing eight individuals and conducting interviews with twelve additional individuals. Consistent with standard Inspector General investigative practices, those witnesses who could possibly be subjected to adverse administrative action were first read their rights under Article 31, Uniform Code of Military Justice (the equivalent of their Fifth Amendment rights under the U. S. Constitution). One witness exercised his Article 31, UCMJ, rights.
3. Regulatory Guidance. Additionally, the investigation entailed identifying and reviewing all relevant regulatory guidance. Department of Defense (DoD) Publications, Joint Publications, USCENTCOM Publications, Air Force Publications, Air Combat Command Publications, and US Central Command Air Forces (USCENTAF) Publications were screened for relevant information. Using electronic databases (where available), searches were conducted using key phrases such as: installation commander, antiterrorism, force protection, and exercises. "Hits" on these phrases were then screened for applicability.
E. PUBLICATIONS AND DIRECTIVES.
1. Command Relationships. Command relationships establish the regulatory guidance applicable to the 4404th Wing (P). Briefly, USCENTCOM exercised operational control (OPCON) of the 4404th Wing (P) through US Central Command Air Forces (USCENTAF). Concurrently, the wing fell under the tactical control of Joint Task Force South West Asia (JTF SWA), USCENTCOMs most forward based component located in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. JTF SWA is charged with the execution of Operation SOUTHERN WATCH, the enforcement of the United Nations no fly/no drive sanctions against Iraq. USCENTCOM has responsibility for all Department of Defense Combatant Activities within their Area of Responsibility (AOR) including Southwest Asia. Finally, as a provisional unit, the wing was activated by Headquarters Tactical Air Command, which was later reorganized and became part of Headquarters Air Combat Command.
2. Applicability of Publications Based on Command. Based on these command relationships, the following sets of publications were applicable to the 4404th Wing (P) on 25 June 1996.
a. DoD Publications. These publications are applicable to all organizations and personnel within the Department of Defense.
b. Joint Publications. Joint Publications are applicable to joint activities. They set forth doctrine, principles, and policy to govern the joint activities and the performance of the Armed Forces of the United States applicable to combatant commands and their immediate subordinate commands, and to the Service forces of these commands. The guidance in Joint publications is "authoritative." Authoritative guidance "will be followed except when, in the judgment of the commander, exceptional circumstances dictate otherwise."
c. Air Force Publications. Air Force publications are applicable to all Air Force units. They do not distinguish applicability between permanent Air Force units and provisional units such as the 4404th Wing (P). Air Force publications supplement joint publications for units attached to a unified command. Air Force doctrine must be consistent with approved joint doctrine and, if the contents of Air Force publications conflict with the contents of Joint Publications, the Joint publications take precedence.
d. USCENTCOM Publications. USCENTCOM Publications are applicable to units deployed to USCENTCOMs Area of Responsibility (AOR) and under the OPCON of USCENTCOM.
e. ACC Publications. Air Combat Command (ACC) publications and supplements to Air Force publications are applicable to ACC provisional units attached to a unified command. They must be consistent with Air Force doctrine and approved joint doctrine. If the content of ACC publications conflict with the contents of Joint Publications, the Joint publication takes precedence.
f. USCENTAF Publications. These publications are applicable to Air Force units in USCENTAFs AOR and under OPCON of USCENTAF.
3. Antiterrorism Publications. There is a significant number of publications dealing with antiterrorism programs within the DoD.
a. DoD Directive 0-2000.12, DoD Combating Terrorism Program. This directive was applicable to all Department of Defense units and provided broad guidance. The directive was implemented for Air Force units by AFI 31-210.
b. DoD Instruction 2000-14, Combating Terrorism Program Procedures. This instruction established policies and procedures to implement the DoD Directive 0-2000.12. The instruction was implemented for Air Force units by AFI 31-210.
c. DoD Handbook 0-2000.12-H, Protection of DoD Personnel and Activities Against Acts of Terrorism and Political Turbulence. This handbook contained detailed discretionary guidance. The handbook was implemented for Air Force units by AFI 31-210.
d. Joint Publication 3-07.2, Joint Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures for Antiterrorism. This publication established procedures for the joint conduct of US antiterrorism operations. The tactics, techniques, and procedures in this publication are "authoritative, but not directive" and "should be followed, except when, in the judgment of the commander, exceptional circumstances dictate otherwise." This publication was implemented for Air Force units by AFI 31-210.
e. Air Force Instruction (AFI) 31-210, The Air Force Antiterrorism (AT) Program. This instruction was applicable to the 4404th Wing (P) at the time of the bombing. It implemented the DoD publications listed above as well as Joint Publication 3-07.2.
f. USCENTCOM Regulation 190-2, USCENTCOM Antiterrorism Measures.
(1) This regulation was not applicable to the 4404th because, according to USCENTCOMs office of primary responsibility, it was written to govern Security Assistance Organizations and joint military units, but did not govern single service military units attached but not assigned to USCENTCOM. Therefore, this regulation was not implemented for the 4404th Wing (P) and did not set accountability standards for personnel assigned to the wing.
(2) However, at the time of the Khobar Towers bombing this was the only USCENTCOM regulation available to carry out the Commander in Chief, Central Command (CINCCENT)s responsibilities in DoD Directive 0-2000.12 and Joint Publication 3-07.2 Further, according to the Unified Command Plan, USCENTCOM is responsible for the security of all military units in its area of responsibility, regardless of whether they are attached or assigned.
g. USCENTAF 208-1, USCENTAF Antiterrorism Program. This regulation was written in 1988 and referred to Air Force Regulation (AFR) 208-1, which was rescinded in 1994. The USCENTAF office of primary responsibility at USCENTAF was not aware of this regulation. It was written before the reorganization of 9th Air Force (and concurrently USCENTAF) as a tactical echelon under Air Combat Command. It contained oversight and management provisions which USCENTAF is no longer responsible for providing. Therefore, this regulation was not implemented for the 4404th Wing (P) and did not set accountability standards for personnel assigned to the wing.
h. Air Combat Command Supplement to AFI 31-210. This supplement was also applicable to the 4404th Wing (P) because it was a provisional ACC unit.
4. Summary. The review of publications highlighted several problems. First, the command relationships created ambiguity concerning the applicability of regulatory guidance. Second, AFI 31-210, the Air Force Instruction implementing the DoD and Joint Antiterrorism publications, made general references to the DoD and Joint publications but did not include specific requirements. This required review of five separate publications before the requirements for a unit antiterrorism program can be fully understood.
F. REPORT FORMAT. The following sections of the report are set forth based on the tasking document. Section II contains separate analyses of each of the eight specific areas identified as requiring expansion or clarification. Each of the separate areas is organized to: 1) describe the issue and the facts; 2) identify the applicable standards; 3) enumerate any unique known limitations; 4) analyze the facts, as applied to the standards; and 5) set forth conclusions. Section III addresses the issue of accountability. It is organized in a slightly different manner to accommodate additional factors relating to accountability that were not included in Section II. Finally, Section IV sets forth the overall conclusion of the investigation. Recognizing that the Air Force has instituted many organizational and procedural changes based on the earlier reports; some of those efforts, where applicable, have been recognized in this report. The complete transcripts of all the additional interviews conducted during this investigation are included at Tab 4 of the attachments.