Defense Secretary Carter on Naval sailors: ‘It was clearly a mistake’

The ten U.S. Navy sailors detained and released by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard earlier this week were trained not to enter Iranian waters, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter told Fusion’s Jorge Ramos in an interview Thursday.

“They were aware they should not get into Iranian territorial waters, absolutely,” Carter told Ramos. “They obviously mis-navigated. That’s what they report. That’s how they believe they ended up in this circumstance.”

The navigational error, which Carter said was not reported at the time, is still being investigated by the Department of Defense, he added.

News of the sailor’s brief detention cast a shadow over President Obama’s final State of the Union address earlier this week. Republican presidential hopefuls, and other Washington officials painted the incident, which was ongoing when Obama made the address, as a failure of his controversial Iran policy.

The sailors were released from detention the following morning.

“This is the kind of thing that’s not abnormal as countries enforce territorial waters,” said Carter.

Asked of images circulated by Iranian state TV, showing the sailors on their knees with their hands over their heads, Carter said it made him uncomfortable.

“I don’t like to see our guys in the custody of someone else, no question about that,” said Carter. “That is Iranian TV [that] took those films of them. The context — we need to wait and see what the full context of that is.”

“By the way that’s not something we would have done,” he said of making the video.

Ramos pressed the secretary on whether video circulated on Iranian TV of an American soldier apologizing for the incident runs counter to the Obama Administration’s insistence that there was no formal apology issued as a result of the incident.

“It clearly was a mistake,” Carter said of the navigational error which led to the incident. “That much seems to be clear by now — it was a navigational mistake by the part of our crew.”

Watch the full interview below: