US Navy: Some sailors "did not meet code of conduct" after being detained by Iranian forces

The Navy’s top officer said the performance of 10 of his sailors leading up to and following their capture by Iranian forces in January did not meet the high standards expected of them.

“Those sailors clearly know our actions on that day in January, and this incident did not live up to our expectations of our Navy,” said Admiral John Richardson during a press briefing with reporters Thursday announcing the findings of an investigation into the incident.  

One of Richardson’s top deputies said some of the sailors violated the long standing “code of conduct” that requires all service members to “I will make no oral or written statements disloyal to my country,” among the five articles. [read the code here]

According to the report, some of the Navy sailors gave up their passwords to their laptops, cellphones and sensitive data about their ships to their Iranian captors.

“The investigation also found that some crew members did not meet code of conduct standards while in custody,” said VICE ADMIRAL CHRIS AQUILINO (USN), DEPUTY FOR OPERATIONS, PLANS AND STRATEGY

Aquilino said the rules of engagement dealing with Iranian forces in the Persian Gulf “may not have been understood by the crews.”

Among the findings of the investigation was the crews failed to report they were off track after beginning their transit from Kuwait to Bahrain four hours behind schedule. To make up the time, the two Navy patrol boats decided to take a short cut, taking them inside Iranian territorial waters near Farsi Island, centrally located in the Persian Gulf.

Richardson said that Iran violated international law in their treatment  of his sailors by taking the sailors at gunpoint.

“The investigation concluded that Iran violated international law by impeding the boats' innocent passage transit, and they violated sovereign immunity by boarding, searching and seizing the boats and by photographing and videotaping the crew,” he said.

Richardson said when the boat crew was reported missing “alert launches” of F-18s from the aircraft carrier Harry S. Truman as well as US Air Force F-15s launched from bases on land nearby.  A US Navy cruiser, USS Anzio was dispatched near Farsi Island where the US sailors were taken.

Richardson said the task force commander for Task Force 56, who oversaw the two patrol boats has been relieved.  Richardson also said the commanding officer of the riverine squadron has been relieved. 

Another officer in charge of the boat detachment in Kuwait was also let go. Six other people face punishment as well, Richardson says.

“Big incidents like this are always the result of the accumulation of a number of small problems.  And so it's just the nature of these things,” said Richardson describing the incident.

Richardson said the lessons learned from the incident would be taught to sailors around the fleet and also to future generations of officers and enlisted sailors.

“So this will be something that we can mine for a lot of lessons,” said Richardson.

Admiral Richardson said he had not spoken to his Iranian counterpart to voice his displeasure over the incident.

Pentagon: No major strategy review underway to defeat ISIS

By Lucas Tomlinson, Fox News Pentagon Producer

Despite the fall of Ramadi to the Islamic State, the Pentagon has not been asked by the White House to conduct a wholesale review of the strategy to defeat ISIS, multiple defense officials told Fox News. 

"Why would there be? It was one battle," one official said. A separate official said the Pentagon "continuously" reviews its strategy and said a major review was "not necessary." 

A senior military official confirmed that the Obama administration is looking into arming Sunni tribes to help retake Ramadi, taking a page from the "Anbar Awakening" when 30 tribes united in 2006 to defeat Al Qaeda in Iraq with support from the U.S. military. 

But multiple defense officials said these arms would not go to the Sunni tribes directly. 

"I don't see that happening, everything goes through Baghdad," a defense official told Fox News.   

A White House statement released after President Obama met with his national security team Tuesday afternoon said support for "local tribal fighters" in Anbar was discussed. 

"The President reaffirmed the strong U.S. support for Prime Minister Al-Abadi's efforts," the statement said. 

A defense official in the Pentagon with knowledge of the talks at the White House Tuesday characterized the meeting as "tactical, not strategic."  

"The real question is what are the Iraqis going to do differently?" a senior military official told Fox News. 

Pentagon officials confirmed that one immediate result of ISIS' victory in Ramadi is a delay in the operation to retake Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city. "That is going to take place in the fall, at the least," according to one official. 

In February, the U.S. Central Command announced that an operation involving some 25,000 Iraqi troops would take place in the April-May timeframe. 

At the White House daily press briefing Tuesday, spokesman Josh Earnest mentioned Tikrit six times as an example of the U.S.-led coalition's successes against ISIS. On Wednesday, a Pentagon official said that Tikrit, despite being rid of ISIS fighters, remains largely deserted with many unexploded booby-traps remaining. 

Meanwhile, many uniformed members of the U.S. military are furious about the loss of Ramadi to the Islamic State. 

"It turns out the JV team is the Iraqi Army, not ISIS," said a U.S. military officer, in reference to Obama's remark in January 2014 about ISIS being a "JV team." 

"I was there for the Anbar awakening, and to lose this city is heartbreaking, knowing all those soldiers, sailors and Marines who fought there and died in vain," said a veteran special operations soldier currently deployed at an undisclosed location. 

"If our country wants to be led by sheep instead of lions, then so be it," he said.

Secretary Hagel: It's time for a "fresh" leader

By Justin Fishel, Fox News Channel

In what was likely his last appearance at the Pentagon podium, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel did his best to explain why he’s leaving the job, yet may have left more question unanswered than answered.

After delivering prepared remarks about the DoD’s response to sexual assaults, Hagel was asked why he resigned - and if he was in fact fired – as has been widely reported.

Hagel told reporters that it was a mutual decision that came about after a series of private meetings with the President.  “When I say private, no one else has been in the room,” Hagel said. 

“So with all the speculation and all the smart people figuring out what was said and what wasn't said, only two people know what was said.  That's the president and me.”

Hagel also called President Obama a “friend" and said he couldn’t point to one major issue or point of contention that led to his resignation, but wasn’t clear on the more subtle reasons. 

“This was a mutual decision based on the discussions that we had.  I don't think there's ever one overriding or defining decision in situations like this, unless there's some obvious issue -- and there wasn't, between either one of us.”

Hagel said repeatedly he felt it was time for a “fresh” leader and “you have to know when to leave.”

He suggested the next two years present a whole new set of challenges.  But, when asked if he meant he wasn’t up to those challenges, he scoffed.  “Whether I thought I could do the job was not the issue.”

“No one ever knows about a job, especially a big job, until you get in – until you’re the actual practitioner of the job.  Now – you can read about it, your predecessors can tell you about it, you can think you know about it, and you can write about it and broadcast about it, but nobody knows about these jobs.”

He also suggested it would be good to have new civilian leadership in the department as many of the Joint Chiefs, including the Chairman, are expected to rotate out early next year.

Finally, Hagel got emotional.

“46 years ago today I arrived at Oakland, California on a transit back from Vietnam after I’d spent one year in Vietnam.  46 years ago today.  If anybody would have told Sergeant Hagel walking off that plane with my duffel bag where I’d be 46 years down the road that would have been pretty hard for me to believe.”

States, Pentagon Conflict with White House on Ebola Quarantine Policy

By: David Bastawrous—Special Report College Associate

While the White House continues to cast the decision of Gov. Christie and Gov. Cuomo to implement a quarantine for health workers returning from Ebola-stricken countries to New Jersey and New York as anti-science and “just wrong”, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest on Tuesday justified similar US Army policies due to operational efficiency.

The US Army on Monday began isolating about a dozen troops, including a two-star general, returning from Liberia to a US Army base in Vincenza, Italy. About 75 more troops will return from Western Africa throughout the week and will be placed in similar conditions.

The conditions, which a Pentagon spokesman, Army Col. Steve Warren, called “quarantine-like”, consist of “being checked regularly by medical professionals” and the soldiers will not “have any interaction with other personnel” for a period of 21 days.

Earnest on Tuesday dodged questions of whether or not the White House supports this policy. Though, a source in the administration told Fox News on Monday that “the White House was not happy” with the Pentagon’s decision.  

But Earnest did state that it’s “not unusual” for civilian policy to differ from Department of Defense policy. He justified the Army’s actions in the name of efficiency, reasoning that it is easier for the US Army to monitor their high numbers of personnel if their “movements are restricted” and are “co-located.”

The White House continued to caution enforcing a similar policy on the civilian population.

Echoing the CDC, as well as statements from Doctors Without Borders and an editorial from the New England Journal of Medicine, Earnest said that “science does not back up” the notion that mandatory quarantines on civilian personnel will stop the spread of Ebola, and stated that such a policy would “dissuade” volunteer healthcare personnel from traveling overseas to aid the efforts.

Similarly, President Obama today said that military personnel have a “different situation” in that they're “not there voluntarily” and “not treating patients.”

But it’s for that reason that many have asked why the US Army has imposed quarantine-like conditions on personnel who are not directly treating patients, while the CDC and the White House continue to discourage such restrictions on volunteers who have directly treated patients infected with Ebola.   

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on Tuesday called the CDC guidelines “incredibly confusing.”

Christie claimed that the CDC has been too slow to act but are now “incrementally taking steps to the policy” put in effect in states like New Jersey.

On Monday, the CDC moved to encourage health personnel at high risk for developing Ebola, though they may be asymptomatic, to avoid commercial travel and “congregate gatherings” for an appropriate time consistent with the 21 day Ebola incubation period. Dr. Tom Frieden indicated that such personnel may be placed on a “Do Not Board” list for air travel.

“What’s the difference of telling someone who has been a health care worker at high risk that they can’t go in public places, public transportation, and we want them to work from home, what’s the difference between that and a quarantine?” Christie said. “They don’t want to admit that we’re right and they were wrong.”

Christie denied any political motivations for his decision, citing the six states, red and blue, who have implemented similar measures. 

Just In: Ebola Scare in Washington, DC

Just in: A woman got off a Metro bus this morning at the Pentagon and then boarded a shuttle bus that was headed to the Change of Command ceremony at the Marine Barracks at 8th and I in SE Washington D.C. Before that shuttle bus left the parking lot she got off and became ill. 

The woman is currently quarantined at a Virginia hospital and claimed to have been in Liberia two weeks ago.

The passengers on the bus were held on board for a period of time at the Marine Barracks. All passengers have now been let off of the bus before it drove away from where it had been parked.

All passengers who were aboard were questioned and screened--two of the passengers told our local FOX affiliate they were cleared and told to follow up with their individual doctors. The health department has not confirmed this information. 

More tonight on Special Report and we will bring you the latest on this story as we learn more. 

 

Women in combat--what do you think?

Four female service members have filed a federal lawsuit challenging the Pentagon's policy that bares women from serving in direct combat positions. Since 1994, the Department of Defense has excluded women from direct combat positions. The women say the current rules keep them from promotions.


 


Women make up more than 14% of active-duty military and 20% of new recruits.


 


So we want to know-- what do you think? Should the rules change to allow women to serve in direct combat? Share your thoughts with us here on the blog and on Twitter @BretBaier and @SpecialReport!

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