News Release

DoD News Briefing

Tuesday, September 15, 1998 - 2:15 p.m.
Presenter: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD PA


Q: Do you have an assessment of what kind of damage the Cuban spy ring might have done to security itself? And are there plans to beef up background checks and to even review the status of people who now work for SOUTHCOM as civilian employees?

A: First of all, my understanding is that only one of these people was a government employee. I think he was a fellow charged with handling hazardous materials, or as they say on the tunnel signs, HazMats. This could have been things like cleaning fluid or paints or disinfectants, a whole variety of things that would be considered hazardous materials.

This is a group that's been operating in one form or another, talking to each other for the last three years. I think they've been under FBI surveillance or monitoring since 1995. They did not succeed in penetrating into any military installation and I think that yeah, local commanders will have to make their own conclusions about appropriate checks. We think our security checks are generally pretty good right now, but they can always be better. But we're not dealing with any high level employees. I don't believe that the hazardous materials man had a security clearance that would have brought him into contact with classified information.

Q: So the U.S. Attorney's press conference yesterday indicated they were taking measurements of buildings, citing the men, checking out aircraft, doing all kinds of things after the indictment, so..

A: Well, he was an observant fellow, I guess, and this group had made all sorts of preparations for something. I'm not quite sure what. They'd bought wigs and hair coloring. They had bought material from a store called Spy World to help promote their operation. One of the things the FBI found was a bag filled with wigs and different colored sunglasses for disguises. So these guys had thought about what they were up to. I'm not trying to minimize the threat. This is clearly a serious potential espionage attempt according to the FBI, and we take it seriously. But the fact of the matter is, they did not get the type of penetration or secrets that they were looking for.


Press: Thank you.