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Context of 'March 1, 2005: Venezuelan Navy Detects Small Fleet of US Vessels in Caribbean'

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A close-up of the USS Greeneville, showing the gouges on her hull from the collision with the Ehime Maru.A close-up of the USS Greeneville, showing the gouges on her hull from the collision with the Ehime Maru. [Source: US Navy]The USS Greeneville, a fast-attack Los Angeles-class submarine, collides with the Japanese fishing training boat Ehime Maru, in the Pacific Ocean south of O’ahu, Hawai’i, sinking the vessel. Nine aboard the Ehime Maru are killed in the collision, including four high school students. [Honolulu Advertiser, 2/9/2001] The accident has political ramifications far beyond its immediate tragedy. The prime minister of Japan, Yoshiro Mori, will be forced to resign in part due to his callous response to the news. Already-fragile military relations between the US and Japan suffer further damage. And the accident is the first major foreign policy challenge for the new Bush administration. [Time, 4/15/2001] The next day Admiral Thomas Fargo, commander of the US Pacific Fleet, formally apologizes to the Japanese government and to the families of those killed in the collision. Fargo admits that the fault lay completely with the submarine, and says that the sub was surfacing after what is called an “emergency main ballast blow” when its stern collided with the fishing vessel. 16 civilians were on board, but initially the Navy fails to identify them, saying only that business leaders, lawmakers, and other notable civilians are routinely allowed on board naval vessels as part of the Navy’s community relations program. A Navy spokesman claims that the Greeneville’s mission is to support rescue operations. [Honolulu Advertiser, 2/10/2001] Secretary of State Colin Powell apologizes to the Japanese foreign minister the day afterwards; while National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice informs President Bush about the incident shortly after it happened, Bush chooses to let the State and Defense Departments handle the apologies and other official responses. [Gannett News Service, 2/11/2001] The Navy and the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the collision, as will interested journalists, who will find that the Greeneville was on a mission to give what amounts to a pleasure cruise to a number of influential Republican corporate donors, mostly from the Texas oil and gas industries. Investigations find that some of those civilians were actually manning the controls of the submarine when it hit the Japanese vessel. (See February 14-April, 2001.)

Entity Tags: USS Greeneville, US Department of the Navy, Thomas Fargo, George W. Bush, Ehime Maru, RobertMoomo, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, US Navy Pacific Fleet

Timeline Tags: US Military

Venezuelan Navy Commander Armando Laguna announces that the Navy has detected a small fleet of US military vessels off the coast of Curacao in the Caribbean. The Venezuelan Armed Forces are monitoring the vessels, but Laguna says that the US vessels are conducting routine procedures and there is no reason to be alarmed. The presence of the US military has led to rumours about a US invasion, and another coup. William Lara, National Assembly Deputy, and leader of Chavez’s MVR party, says that the US vessels are part of “a plan to intimidate and provoke.” Concern for the vessels is sparked by the fact that the US military did not notify the Venezuelan Navy of their presence as Laguna says they “traditionally have been doing.” [Venezuela Analysis, 3/1/2005]

Timeline Tags: US International Relations, US-Venezuela (1948-2005)

The British human rights organization Reprieve claims that the US has detained around 26,000 terror suspects in its network of secret prisons. It also says that several prisoners were held on a network of secret prison ships, both for detention and for interrogation sessions that were held “off the books.” The prisoners allegedly included American-born John Walker Lindh (see December 2001-January 2002) and Australian David Hicks (see July 3, 2003). Reprieve says that the US has used ships stationed off the Somali coast and off the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia to detain suspects (see June 2, 2008), including the USS Ashland, the USS Bataan, and the USS Peleliu; up to 17 naval vessels have been used, the group says. The Navy admits that its ships have sometimes housed prisoners for short periods of time, but denies that its vessels are used as long-term floating prisons. “We do not operate detention facilities on board Navy ships,” says Navy Commander Jeffrey Gordon, a Pentagon spokesman. Reprieve bases its claims on evidence from the US military, the Council of Europe, and testimony from a former detainee at the US prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. [Associated Press, 6/2/2008]

Entity Tags: David Hicks, Clive Stafford Smith, Council of Europe, US Department of the Navy, John Walker Lindh, Reprieve, US Department of Defense, Jeffrey Gordon

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

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