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Report from the USA by Aleksandr SHALNEV. Part 4
They did not wake the President up. He woke up on his own at 07:10. California is three hours behind Washington and it was well into the work day in the capital. The President was just having breakfast with his advisers, but his secretary of state, who had stayed in Washington, was just about to begin a news conference that would inform the world that the night before a South Korean airliner had been shot down over Sakhalin.
Secretary of State George Shultze's statement, of which, as I recall, I later had to transmit an extremely rushed translation to Moscow, where it settled in folders marked "For Official Use Only", was made without even consulting the U.S. chief executive, President Reagan. In general, Ronald Reagan, who was at the time at his ranch in Santa Barbara, California, learned the details of what had happened in the Far East only after he woke up, that is almost 20 hours after the tragedy.
Actually, he had been told something the night before, about eight hours after the Boeing-747 had disappeared from the radar screens. But the report was very vague. Simply that a plane had disappeared. With that, Reagan went to bed. Only the next morning did presidential aides arrange a sort of a briefing for him and introduced the transcript of the radio transmissions between the Soviet pilots and their ground controllers.
"Unbelievable!", was Reagan's reaction.
His chronic laziness and indifference that manifested themselves during those tumultuous hours were in marked contrast with the actions of the administration as a whole, especially those departments that are directly related to Soviet-U.S. relations in all their areas and manifestations, including the propaganda one.
Eight hours after the incident there was already a special group, headed by Richard Burt, operating at the State Department. Richard Burt was the Assistant Secretary of State for European and Canadian affairs and was in charge of relations with Moscow at the State Dept. In addition to State Department staff, the group included people from the Defense Department, the White House, and the CIA. Why was Burt specifically chosen to head this group? David Person, one of the most unrelenting researchers of the circumstances surrounding the tragedy, gives two reasons. First, Burt was known for his particularly hardline approach to relations with the Soviet Union. Second, the propaganda significance of what happened was the most important in regard to Europe, which was getting ready at the time to receive the first shipment of American Pershing and cruise missiles. There was extensive opposition to the deployment of these missiles in Europe. The destruction of a passenger airliner by a Soviet fighter without doubt carried an enormous propaganda potential. According to the testimony of some eyewitnesses, it was not just by chance, that, after reading the cables from abroad which described the reaction of the public and the press on the incident R. Burt literally exploded with delight: "We have got them! We have got these bastards!"
One of the most serious actions undertaken by Burt's group, which also involved experts from the United States Information Agency, was playing the tape recording of the radio transmissions of our pilots at the UN Security Council meeting on 6 September.
When, in the complete silence that gripped the Security Council, a voice from the speakers said, "The target is destroyed," our delegation was not something you wanted to see.
While presenting the recording, Jean Kirkpatrick, at the time the U.S. representative at the United Nations, said, "This is an unedited recording."
Let us compare some facts. On 5 September, the White House announces that Kirkpatrick will present the recording that covers 55 minutes of radio transmissions. However, the recording, which was presented the next day at the Security Council, only lasted 49 minutes and 11 seconds. In David Person's opinion, this was a sign that the tape had been "worked on."
There are more substantial signs of that. In one of the previous articles of our investigation, I quoted some excerpts from the transcript of the radio transmissions of the Soviet pilots sent to intercept the South Korean Boeing. I have seen and studied the entire transcript, but did not notice things that immediately catch the eye of experts such as David Person. For example, in one part of the recording, played for the Security Council, the pilot says that he sees the target. But from what follows two minutes later, it is clear that he does not know where the Boeing is. Since he is asking the ground controller where the Korean aircraft is, "To the left, perhaps (he turned?author.), or to the right." In another example, the pilot informs the ground that he has two tons of fuel left. Several minutes later, if we are to believe the recording, he says that he will continue the search until he has two tons of fuel left.
What is the explanation for these discrepancies? Perhaps the fact that the tape had been, as they say in America "doctored." which means erased, edited, etc. But why was it "doctored?"
And another detail. According to Japanese reporter Eshitaro Masuo, "The quality of sound on these tapes was so poor that Japanese ham radio operators were shocked, since they can regularly hear Soviet pilot transmissions on their radio and hear them as clearly as the local radio station." According to Masuo, whose opinion is quoted in the book "KAL-007: Hiding the Truth," the governments of Japan and the United States "made public a fake tape that had undergone a variety of operations with the purpose of taking out key information."
By the way, this tape has no recording of the first 15 minutes of our interceptors' flight.
...According to information in the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) General Secretary's report, the Boeing-747 was built in 1972 for the West German airline Lufthansa. In February 1979, it was purchased by the Korean airline. The Boeing had flown a total of 38,718 hours and had made 9,237 landings. It had "two regular inspections" in August 1983: on 10 and 16 August.
But there was no mention in report about what type of inspection the Boeing with the identification number HL7442 had between 11 and 14 August. I will, however, quote David Person, who is considered to be one of the most serious researchers of the Sakhalin tragedy.
"At 10:30 on 11 August a KAL air company plane, accompanied by a reconnaissance plane RC-135, arrived at Andrews Air Force Base near Washington. Immediately after its arrival, the plane was towed to the far end of the air field, to building Nr 1752. This place is run by the E-Systems firm. This firm is based in Dallas, Texas and is a Pentagon and CIA contractor. It specializes in electronic equipment. It is assumed that the Korean plane was equipped with an undetermined type of electronic equipment. At 6:40 P.M. on 14 August, the plane departed Andrews, again in the company of the RC-135. According to initial information, the plane's tail number number was HL 7442."
"A reporter from a major U.S. newspaper was in Washington, when his editor called and tipped him off about Andrews. Later the same day the reporter, while sitting in a restaurant with an aide of Reagan's national security adviser William Clark, mentioned this story. The aide immediately went to call Clark, but as soon as he started to report to his boss on what he had heard, his boss exploded, "This is Soviet disinformation!"
"The same day Lt. Gen. Lincoln Faurer, director of the National Security Agency (the largest and most generously financed of the US. intelligence services, which is engaged in electronic intelligence. author), called in several editors and publishers and told them that the story about Andrews had been fabricated by the Russians. Similar and highly unusual measures were taken by the State Department to inform the editors that information about an alleged connection between KAL-007 and U.S. intelligence was Soviet disinformation." The State Department arranged a closed briefing for some members of Congress. Many congressional aides were not admitted to this briefing, because they did no possess a high enough clearance level. Congress was told that intercepted East block embassy communiques confirmed that the Andrews story was Soviet disinformation! This, in the opinion of one former diplomat, was extraordinary. "To prove a trivial matter, the State Department goes so far as to admit that U.S. intelligence intercepts the coded cables of the Soviet block embassy."
The result? The information, as they say at U.S. newspapers, was spiked, or, as we say, was thrown into the waste basket. Next, as David Person believes, the editors, who had initially invested considerable efforts and resources working on this version, then heard later that it was disinformation, quickly lost interest in following the possible intelligence connection of the KAL-007 affair. This was, probably, the main purpose of that short but very intensive work with the press...
It is hard to believe but true. The U.S. Government did not conduct an investigation of the events over Sakhalin. At least not a public investigation. There were some attempts to find out how it all happened. These attempts were limited to Congress and, as far as I know, did not produce any significant results. Actually, what results could there be, if the most important information is either kept behind seven locks or long ago disappeared without trace?
...Three hours after the Boeing was destroyed, James Michelangelo, head of the Anchorage branch of the National Transportation Safety Board, started collecting all information related to flight KAL 007. He decided not to limit himself to just Anchorage. Branch employees made reservations for the earliest flights to Tokyo and Seoul in order to collect information there also. Somebody was put in contact with Elmendorf Air Force Base to find out what they had.
The National Transportation Safety Board had the authority to conduct an investigation as there were American passengers on board the Korean airliner. That was one reason. Also, the flight originated in the United States. However, the very next morning the Anchorage branch received a call from department headquarters in Washington telling James Michelangelo to send all his information to the capitol in response to a State Department request. Several hours later he was informed that his branch need no longer be concern themselves with investigation. The State Department was taking over.
The basic reason given was that the event over Sakhalin was not an ordinary catastrophe but an act of terrorism, and the agency's task was to investigate regular catastrophes and accidents. Strictly speaking, this is true. But doesn't it seem at least a little strange that in a situation, where it would seem, all available means and resources should be used and especially those of the National Transportation Safety Board, which is well known for its persistence, thoroughness, and its investigative zeal, the main player is removed from the game, "not even to complete..."
The puzzlement increases when you learn that the State Department, which supposedly took over the investigation, did conduct one at all. They did not conduct a public one anyway. According to a magazine called the Nation, "about a year and a half after the events a high-ranking State Department official answered a question as to whether the State Department had conducted an investigation, "How was the State Department supposed to do that?" The woman who made this statement most likely was thinking that the foreign policy department did not have the necessary technology and experience for this kind of investigation.
...The more one investigates the story of the South Korean Boeing, the more puzzles one encounters.
I mentioned one of them in passing in one of my previous articles, which gave readers excerpts of our fighter pilots transmissions. Neither the recording nor the transcript contained the commands from ground. Speaking before UN Security Council, Jean Kirkpatrick did not offer any explanations for this. Actually, on that day the only one sentence from the whole 50-minute recording was necessary - "The target is destroyed." The Americans were not much interested in the rest.
However, if this tape is not to be considered propagandistic "material evidence" but as a source of information, the blank spots should be filled. Since my task is to try to show the American angle of the Sakhalin tragedy, my questions and bewilderment is mostly directed at the Americans. Although, of course, they could apply to us as well. After all, the commands originated from Soviet soil. The experts believe that both the Americans and the Japanese have complete recordings of the transmissions, with the voices of both the Su-15 and the MiG-23 pilots and two ground controllers with the call signs "Deputat" and "Trikotazh."
(I will interrupt my colleague's discussion for a minute. The facts surrounding the recordings of transmissions between the pilots over Sakhalin and the controllers on the ground is extremely muddled. Not only by the fact that special services possibly cleaned up, corrected, or in some other way modified the tape in the direction they needed. The first complication I personally encountered in my investigation of this stage of the Korean Boeing tragedy is the fact that several pilots were in the air and talking at the same time! Two of them were in immediate pursuit of the intruder. This was the Su-15, piloted by Gennadij Osipovich, who is already known to readers from our previous reports. The other was a MiG-23, which had been following Osipovich and constantly falling behind. I will remind the reader that this interceptor was falling behind because it was flying with three additional fuel tanks. He may have jettisoned them later. The discrepancy in the messages regarding how much fuel was left could have been caused by the fact that both pilots were informing the ground about their fuel supply. The situation is further complicated by the interference of other military pilots who were not in Osipovich's field of vision and who also maintained radio contract with the ground. During one of our interviews with Gennadij, we put in front of him the same transcript of the transmission Aleksandr Shalnev used. It was immediately clear that the pilot recognized his own words and some of the replies given to the ground by his MiG-23 "colleague" who was following him. But the call signs "Deputat" and "Trikotazh" did confuse him. They did not belong either to him or apparently the dispatcher of Sokol airfield from which Osipovich took off. But, as they say, we still have to investigate. As a starting point, I repeat, all recordings of the conversations made by the Soviet military will be required. - Andrej Illesh).
...On September 6 the Japanese KYODO TSUSIN agency quoted General Secretary of the Japanese cabinet of ministers M. Gotoda, who was a personal representative of the Japanese Premier at that time. He said that Japan "had copied the ground commands to the interceptors," but would not release them to the public. A day later Larry Speakes, deputy White House press secretary, denied that the U.S. had such recordings. He said that the Japanese had them, and that it was up to the Japanese to make them public or not.
David person, who had carefully analyzed the published transcript of the transmissions, concluded that even this transcript contained interspersion of ground transmissions. There were several recorded sentences that clearly came from "Trikotazh." This researcher believes other ground commands must have also been recorded.
In that case, where happened to them? Why are they being hid?
It is amazing. According to what "a anonymous military officer" told Andrey Illesh, "the Soviet recording of the transmission was cleaned up and underwent a cosmetic touch ups." But it turns out that the Americans and the Japanese did the very same thing with their recordings. If it were possible to compare what had been cleaned up on the recordings, several puzzles would probably be solved.
After letting the UN Security Council listen to the recording in Russian, with simultaneous translation through earphones, Jean Kirkpatrick said: "Perhaps the most astounding thing that is clear from this recording is the fact that not even once did the interceptor pilots raise the question of identification of the target plane, and not even once did the interceptor pilots refer to it as other than a target.
But perhaps it was the parts that did not get included in the public version of the recording, the ones that included the voices of the ground controllers, that there were commands about identification.
Alas, instead of an answer, another question.
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