Once Again: White House Fabricates a False Threat

January 22nd, 2008 - by admin

The Navy Times & The Associated Press & Iran’s Press TV – 2008-01-22 22:10:30


Iran Releases Footage of PG Naval Check
Iran Press TV

(January 10, 2008) — Iran releases the video of Sunday’s maritime identification check in the Persian Gulf waters involving Iranian boats and US warships. Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) says the US-released footage of the incident is fabricated and the audio of it is fake.

Brigadier General Ali Fadavi, an IRGC senior official, has said that the US vessels’ registration numbers had been unreadable to the Iranian guards. He added that the guards approached the US ships only to examine the numbers. The Iranian footage also includes the original radio communication between the Iranian guards and the US warship.

Iran ‘Did Not Harass US Warships’

(January 7, 2008) — An Iranian official has dismissed Washington’s claims that IRGC speedboats harassed three US navy warships in the Strait of Hormuz. The US vessels approached the Iranian boats in the Persian Gulf on Sunday, warning they were in the red zone, the official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Press TV on Monday.

He added that the Iranians had asked the warships to identify themselves, as such radio communications are usual between vessels in the Persian Gulf. Although the Pentagon claimed that US sailors were given orders to open fire on the Iranian boats, the official confirmed no hostile encounter took place.



Persian Gulf Prankster
Fingered in US-Iran Boat Brouhaha

The Associated Press

(January 14, 2008) — Sailors in the Persian Gulf have known him for years: a radio operator who taunts and insults passing ships.

But now the phantom voice has taken centre stage in the latest flurry of claims and counterclaims between Iran and the United States following a tense high-seas confrontation — raising new questions about whether Washington could have a key element of the story wrong.

The radio transmission — a staccato burst suggesting US navy ships were targeted for explosion — was a central part of an audio-video presentation US officials said showed Iranian speedboats swarming three navy ships Jan. 6 in the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow waterway that is the only entry and exit to the Gulf.

But an article in the Navy Times newspaper Sunday said veteran US sailors believe the threats could have been made by a well-known gadfly who has been pestering Gulf ships since at least the 1980s. It’s possible more than one broadcaster has been contacting ships over the years.

US sailors said they have heard the prankster — who is possibly more than one person — transmitting “insults and jabbering vile epithets” on unencrypted frequencies during navy exercises in the Gulf for years, said the Navy Times, a privately owned newspaper.

“Navy women — a helicopter pilot hailing a tanker, for example — who are overheard on the radio are said to suffer particularly degrading treatment,” the newspaper said Sunday.

Rick Hoffman, a retired navy captain, said a renegade talker repeatedly harassed ships in the Gulf in the late 1980s when US warships protected Kuwaiti oil tankers during the Iran-Iraq war.

“For 25 years there’s been this mythical guy out there who, hour after hour, shouts obscenities and threats,” Hoffman told Navy Times.

Seagoing exchanges between US and Iranian vessels are not uncommon in the crowded Gulf shipping lanes, especially near the Strait of Hormuz, where Iran’s coastline is within a few kilometres of international waters.

Last week, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said there had been two or three incidents over the last year similar to the alleged swarming on Jan. 6 but “maybe not quite as dramatic” as the most recent confrontation. None had been publicized until the eve of Bush’s trip to the region, even though in a December incident, a US ship actually fired warning shots toward an Iranian boat.

Confluence of factors prompted alarm: commander
The Pentagon said US navy commanders were considering firing warning shots in the Jan. 6 incident, before the retreat of the five speedboats, which the Pentagon said were operated by Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards.

Cmdr. Jeffery James of the destroyer USS Hopper, one of the US warships involved, said Sunday it was a confluence of factors that caused their alarm.

“Whether it [the radio threat] was coincidental or not, it occurred at exactly the same time that these boats were around us and they were placing objects in the water — so the threat appeared to be building,” James said.

Other evidence has cast doubt on whether the radio threat came from the Iranian boats, including a lack of background noise, such as boat engines or wind, on the audiotape. Other analysts have noted the voice does not seem to have an Iranian accent.

© The Canadian Press, 2008

Posted in accordance with Title 17, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

‘Filipino Monkey’ behind Threats?
Andrew Scutro and David Brown / The Navy Times

( January 15, 2008) — The threatening radio transmission heard at the end of a video showing harassing maneuvers by Iranian patrol boats in the Strait of Hormuz may have come from a locally famous heckler known among ship drivers as the “Filipino Monkey.”

Since the Jan. 6 incident was announced to the public a day later, the US Navy has said it’s unclear where the voice came from. In the videotape released by the Pentagon on Jan. 8, the screen goes black at the very end and the voice can be heard, distancing it from the scenes on the water.

“We don’t know for sure where they came from,” said Cmdr. Lydia Robertson, spokeswoman for 5th Fleet in Bahrain. “It could have been a shore station.”

While the threat — “I am coming to you. You will explode in a few minutes” — was picked up during the incident, further jacking up the tension, there’s no proof yet of its origin. And several Navy officials have said it’s difficult to figure out who’s talking.”

“Based on my experience operating in that part of the world, where there is a lot of maritime activity, trying to discern [who is speaking on the radio channel] is very hard to do,” Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead told Navy Times during a brief telephone interview today.

Indeed, the voice in the audio sounds different from the one belonging to an Iranian officer shown speaking to the cruiser Port Royal over a radio from a small open boat in the video released by Iranian authorities. He is shown in a radio exchange at one point asking the US warship to change from the common bridge-to-bridge channel 16 to another channel, perhaps to speak to the Navy without being interrupted.

Further, there’s none of the background noise in the audio released by the US that would have been picked up by a radio handset in an open boat.

So with Navy officials unsure and the Iranians accusing the US of fabrications, whose voice was it? In recent years, American ships operating in the Middle East have had to contend with a mysterious but profane voice known by the ethnically insulting handle of “Filipino Monkey,” likely more than one person, who listens in on ship-to-ship radio traffic and then jumps on the net shouting insults and jabbering vile epithets. Navy women — a helicopter pilot hailing a tanker, for example — who are overheard on the radio are said to suffer particularly degrading treatment.

Several Navy ship drivers interviewed by Navy Times are raising the possibility that the Monkey, or an imitator, was indeed featured in that video. Rick Hoffman, a retired captain who commanded the cruiser Hue City and spent many of his 17 years at sea in the Gulf was subject to the renegade radio talker repeatedly, often without pause during the so-called “Tanker Wars” of the late 1980s.

“For 25 years there’s been this mythical guy out there who, hour after hour, shouts obscenities and threats,” he said. “He could be tied up pierside somewhere or he could be on the bridge of a merchant ship.”

And the Monkey has stamina.

“He used to go all night long. The guy is crazy,” he said. “But who knows how many Filipino Monkeys there are? Could it have been a spurious transmission? Absolutely.”
Furthermore, Hoffman said radio signals have a way of traveling long distances in that area. “Under certain weather conditions I could hear Bahrain from the Strait of Hormuz.”

Cmdr. Jeff Davis, a Navy spokesman at the Pentagon, could not say if the voice belonged to the heckler. “It’s an international circuit and we’ve said all along there were other ships and shore stations in the area,” he said.

When asked if US officials considered whether the threats came from someone besides the Iranians when releasing the video and audio, Roughead said: “The reason there is audio superimposed over the video is it gives you a better idea of what is happening.” Similarly, Davis said the audio was part of the “totality” of the situation and helped show the “aggressive behavior.”

Another former cruiser skipper said he thought the Monkey might be behind the audio threats when he first heard them earlier this week. “It wouldn’t have surprised me at all,” he said. “There’s all kinds of chatter on Channel 16. Anybody with a receiver and transmitter can hear something’s going on. It was entirely plausible and consistent with the radio environment to interject themselves and make a threatening comment and think they’re being funny.”

This former skipper also noted how quiet and clean the radio “threat” was, especially when radio calls from small boats in the chop are noisy and cluttered.

“It’s a tough environment, you’re bouncing around, moving fast, lots of wind, noise. It’s not a serene environment,” he said. “That sounded like somebody on the beach or a large ship going by.”

He said he and others believe that the Filipino Monkey is comprised of several people, and whoever gets on Channel 16 to heckle instantly gets the monicker.

“It was just a gut feeling, something the merchants did. Guys would get bored, one guy hears it, comes back a year later and does it for himself,” he said. “I never thought it was one, rather it was part of the woodwork.”

The former skipper noted that he warned his crew about hecklers when preparing to transit Hormuz. “I tell them they’ll hear things on there that will be insulting,” he said. “You tell your people that you’ll hear things that are strange, insulting, aggravating, but you need to maintain a professional posture.”

A civilian mariner with experience in that region said the Filipino Monkey phenomenon is worldwide, and has been going on for years.

“They come on and say ‘Filipino Monkey’ in a strange voice. They might say it two or three times. You’re standing watch on bridge and you’re monitoring Channel 16 and all of a sudden it comes over the radio. It can happen anytime. It’s been a joke out there for years.”

While it happens all over the world, it’s more likely to occur around the Strait of Hormuz because there is so much shipping traffic, he said.

Chris Amos and Zachary M. Peterson contributed to this report

Posted in accordance with Title 17, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

Media Advisory: Perilous Journalism in the Persian Gulf
Uncritical Coverage of Strait of Hormuz incident

Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting / FAIR

WASHINGTON (January 16, 2006) — George W. Bush’s goal of elevating the Iran threat (New York Times, 1/8/08) got a major boost last week from the news media, who failed to question the Pentagon’s alarmist account of an encounter between US and Iranian boats.

On January 6 in the Strait of Hormuz, the entrance to the Persian Gulf, US Navy ships were approached by five small speedboats, allegedly affiliated with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. After some radio communication, the Iranian boats turned away.

Overwhelmingly, U.S. media took the White House’s alarmist version of these events at face value. The L.A. Times (1/8/08) reported:

Officials said the boats came within 200 yards of the warships and radioed the Americans. “They said something like, ‘I am coming at you and you will explode,'” a military official said. “That is overt aggression.”

Corporate media sometimes reported the official claims as fact. CNN’s Kyra Philipps (CNN Newsroom, 1/7/08) summed up this “high drama in the high seas”: “Five Iranian boats threaten three U.S. ships in international waters. One even radioed that the U.S. ship would soon explode.”

NPR host Renee Montagne (Morning Edition, 1/8/08) reported that “a group of Iranian boats charged and threatened American warships on their way into the Persian Gulf.”

Meanwhile, PBS Anchor Jim Lehrer reported (1/7/08), “The Iranians warned the ships they’d blow up, and then dropped boxes into the water.”

The proof the media offered to support these claims was a Pentagon video, broadcast on all major TV networks, that depicted some small boats approaching a US Navy ship. A radio transmission could be heard in which a voice made a threatening statement.

Following the White House line, the media represented the incident as a dramatic close call that could have led to a violent escalation. ABC News anchor Charles Gibson (1/8/08) reported that “President Bush called it a provocative act. And the Navy video would indicate that’s something of an understatement.”

And a New York Times editorial (1/9/08) chastised Iran for having “played a reckless and foolish game in the Strait of Hormuz this week that — except for American restraint — could have spun lethally out of control.”

After Iran released its own video recording of the event —which showed a more routine exchange between the US and Iranian vessels — the Pentagon distanced itself from the claim that the Iranian boats had issued a verbal threat.

Three days after its original report citing unnamed officials who implied the threat had been issued from the boats, the L.A. Times (1/11/08) “clarified” that a key part of the official version of events was inaccurate: “Clarifying earlier accounts, officials said Thursday that they did not know whether a radio call in which a voice threatened to ‘explode’ the U.S. ships came from the small boats or whether it came from another source.”

Retreating from the account that definitely attributed the transmission to the speedboats, the officials now said only that “the radio threat was received at the same time as the encounter with the Iranian boats.”

US officials conceded that the Navy’s video of the speedboats and the audio of the threat were discrete recordings that had been spliced together through editing. New York Times correspondent Nazila Fathi (1/10/08) wrote:

Naval and Pentagon officials have said that the video and audio were recorded separately, then combined. On Wednesday, Pentagon officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak officially, said they were still trying to determine if the transmission came from the speedboats or elsewhere.

Navy warship crews and veterans interviewed by Navy Times (1/15/08) raised the possibility that the voice featured in the video was a maritime heckler, well-known to American ships operating in the Middle East, “who listens in on ship-to-ship radio traffic and then jumps on the net shouting insults and epithets.”

Moreover, the media’s portrait of the Strait of Hormuz incident as a dramatic confrontation seemed to be contradicted by US Navy Commander Vice Admiral Kevin Cosgriff’s statement (1/7/08) in response to a question about the potential damage these small boats could have caused:
“They had neither anti-ship missiles nor torpedoes. And I wouldn’t characterize the posture of the US 5th Fleet as ‘afraid’ of these ships or these three US ships ‘afraid’ of these small boats.”

For all of the uncertainty that remains about the January 6 incident, one thing that was certain was that one of the goals of George W. Bush’s trip to the Mideast was to elevate the threat posed by Iran.

On January 8, Bush stated (New York Times, 1/9/08) his intent to “remind” allies in the Persian Gulf that “Iran was a threat, Iran is a threat, and Iran will continue to be a threat if they are allowed to learn how to enrich uranium.”

How convenient, then, that this incident — which happened just as Bush’s trip got underway — appeared to offer “further evidence that Iran is unpredictable and remains a threat,” as a Pentagon spokesperson told CNN (1/7/08).

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