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DoD 'Safecrackers' Help Safeguard Pentagon Documents
From: InfoSec News <isn () c4i org>
Date: Tue, 9 Oct 2001 06:22:21 -0500 (CDT)


By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service 

WASHINGTON, Oct. 3, 2001 -- Two Pentagon civilian employees have been
breaking into safes and moving some "hot paper" in the wake of the
Sept. 11 terror attack on the Defense Department's headquarters.

However, don't think Marion "Snake" Cochran Jr., 51, and assistant
Michael Dooley, 40, are thieves who specialize in counterfeit
currency. Rather, they're DoD locksmiths who've helped to safeguard
classified materials by opening more than 80 damaged safes that were
removed from offices near the Pentagon's ruined west face.

"All the metal was melted off the front of them and you couldn't
identify (which service) owned them," said Dooley, a Missourian who
retired from the Air Force a year ago. "I was opening safes when they
were still smoking. They were hot."

Dooley estimated about a dozen safes remain to be opened, which should
take the rest of the week.

Many of the safes, Cochran noted, contained classified documents that
had to be identified and secured, or destroyed in the Pentagon's

After the safes were opened, Cochran said, "appropriate authorities"
were on hand to determine where the recovered materials came from and
if they were classified. Decisions were then made to secure or destroy
the materials.

Cochran and Dooley work for Washington Headquarters Services, under
the Security Services Division of the Defense Protective Service.
"We're the main physical security branch for dealing with any kind of
locks, safes, security containers and access-control devices in the
Office of the Secretary of Defense," Cochran said.

The two locksmiths had been installing locks and other security
devices in offices in the Pentagon's newly renovated Wedge 1 section
in the days before the attack, said Cochran, an 11-year Air Force
veteran. Leaving the service in 1981, he secured a job with a local
lock service. He joined the Pentagon team in 1985.

Since Sept. 17, he and Dooley have been busy "cutting open safes that
came out of" the Pentagon, Cochran said. The two former Air Force
technical sergeants said they learned much of their locksmithing
skills on the job in the service. Cochran said those skills have come
in handy handling hot safes.

"The heat was so intense that most of the hardware on the outside was
melted," he said, adding that special saws and "jaws-of-life" devices
used in auto accidents have been employed to open the safes.

Cochran said each safe presents a different challenge, depending on
size, damage and the method used to open it. Time spent opening safes,
he said, has varied from 20 to 90 minutes.

"They're still pulling out safes as far as I know," he added.

The North Carolinian said he received his "Snake" moniker from a
supervisor when he was in the Air Force. "Marion is sort of a rough
name to live with, and I used to have a pet boa constrictor," he

Dooley said he had been working "close to 12-hour shifts" since Sept.
17. He said he was bruised "black-and-blue" from wielding the 52-pound
"jaws-of-life" to pry open the safes.

He recalled that he had always thought that if the Pentagon were ever
attacked that such an assault would come from a car or briefcase bomb.

"I never, ever thought it would be an airplane," he added, noting that
the explosion "shook our room like you'd never believe." After the
impact, Dooley said he and Cochran helped to evacuate people from the

A television news broadcast about the World Trade Center attacks may
have saved his and Dooley's lives, Cochran recalled. The two had been
preparing to head out for work when news of the New York attacks broke
on an office TV. They became transfixed.

"We were sitting there watching the TV when (the airliner) hit us," he
said. Otherwise, he and Dooley would have been working in Wedge 1 --
the impact zone.

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