Ship movements kept under wraps in light of threats
BREMERTON – Normally the Navy gives a heads-up before an aircraft carrier comes or goes so locals can view the spectacle. It’s not much time. Maybe a day. The short notice is meant to safeguard the ship’s movements.
But when the USS Abraham Lincoln departed Puget Sound Naval Shipyard Jan. 13 after a nine-month overhaul, ship officials asked to keep it quiet until they were under way.
“We’re being really careful and not announcing our exact departure or arrival times,” spokesman Lt. Cmdr. William Marks said.
The extra caution stems from recent online terrorist threats directed at the Navy. The group al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, which has been linked to the Christmas Day airliner bomb plot, posted one of them on Dec. 29. It called on Muslims to gather information about Navy ships at sea, how they’re serviced during deployment, whether there are nuclear weapons on board, and about their crews and families.
“Now with the help of God, every American naval vessel in the seas and oceans – aircraft carriers, submarines, and all of its war machines within range of al-Qaida – will be destroyed,” the post stated.
Lt. Nate Christensen, from the Navy’s Office of Information, wouldn’t comment Thursday, but he said earlier statements attributed to him are accurate.
“The Navy has been aware of the al-Qaida threats since discovery on Dec. 31, 2009,” he was quoted saying in the Jan. 8 Washington Times. He said the Naval Criminal Investigative Service circulated information about the threat throughout the Navy.
Lt. Cmdr. Cindy Fields, spokeswoman for the John C. Stennis, said the ship wasn’t under heightened security and that information about the aircraft carrier leaving Bremerton could have been made public the usual day ahead of time.
“Generally we don’t put out information about ship movements until 24 hours, and we still don’t discuss specific times,” she said. “We try not to advertise unless we have to. We’re always concerned about operational security.”