The Navy's top officer said Thursday 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, as he announced the long-awaited findings of a Navy investigation.
"Those sailors clearly know our actions on that day in January, and this incident did not live up to our expectations of our Navy," Admiral John Richardson told reporters.
One of Richardson's top deputies said some of the sailors violated the longstanding "code of conduct" that requires all service members to "make no oral or written statements disloyal to my country," among its six articles.
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," Vice Admiral Chris Aquilino, Deputy for Operations, Plans and Strategy, said.
Aquilino added that 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: 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 shortcut, taking them inside Iranian territorial waters near Farsi Island, centrally located in the Persian Gulf.
Richardson said that Iran violated international law in its treatment of his sailors by taking them 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 crew was reported missing, "alert launches" unfolded of F-18s from the aircraft carrier Harry S. Truman as well as Air Force F-15s from bases on land nearby. The USS Anzio, a Navy cruiser, was dispatched near Farsi Island.
Richardson said the commander of 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 faced punishment as well, Richardson said.
"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," Richardson said describing the incident.
Richardson added that 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," Richardson told reporters.
He said he had not spoken to his Iranian counterpart to voice his displeasure over the incident.