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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Tracking Number:  236124

Title:  "Crowe Refutes ABC/Newsweek Charges on Vincennes." Statement by former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral William Crowe strongly refuting charges of a cover-up on the shooting down of an Iranian Airbus civilian airliner by the US cruiser Vincennes in 1988, during testimony before the House Armed Services Committee. (920722)

Date:  19920722


07/22/92 *

CROWE REFUTES ABC/NEWSWEEK CHARGES ON VINCENNES (Text: Crowe statement to HASC, 7/22/92) (5970) Washington -- Admiral William Crowe, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, strongly refuted charges of a cover-up on the shooting down of an Iranian Airbus civilian airliner by the U.S. cruiser Vincennes in 1988, during testimony before the House of Representatives' Armed Services Committee July 21.

The charges of a cover-up were made in a July 13 Newsweek magazine article by John Barry and Roger Charles and in a Nightline television program.

The following are Crowe's prepared remarks to the committee: (BEGIN TEXT) Mr. Chairman, I appreciate your invitation to appear this afternoon. I have been informed that your main interests are the recent ABC Nightline newscast with Ted Koppel and Newsweek magazine article by John Barry and Roger Charles addressing our Gulf convoy operations and the downing of the Airbus by the Vincennes on 3 July 1988.

I would like to start with some prefatory remarks before proceeding to details. I have been reading military history for over fifty years. I am well aware of the temptation to refight and flesh out accounts of battles. With the passage of time it is often possible to uncover new material, correct errors and develop new perspectives. I have no argument with such efforts. I find good history both instructional and enjoyable. My main criticism of the ABC-Newsweek treatment, however, is the inflated and outrageous rhetoric employed on the basis of very slim and often mistaken information. I am even more appalled by the authors' tendency to leap from slim evidence to patently false charges of "cover-up," "secret war," and "conspiracy." I consider such sensationalism inexcusable and totally inappropriate for responsible news organizations.

Unlike ABC-Newsweek, I am, on request, prepared to cite my various sources today and give you the names of people who are both authoritative on specific questions and who are prepared to publicly state their views and, if you so desire, to testify. ABC-Newsweek refers only to mysterious "Navy sources," "former Pentagon officials," etc.

I should also mention that the Vincennes incident is now four years old. Believe me, it was a huge task for me to locate many of the individuals associated with it on short notice -- they are strung out from Cairo to Norway to Alaska and points in between. Memories, including my own, were difficult to energize. I have, however, in the last ten days spent a great deal of time talking to people, reviewing data in an attempt to refresh my memory. I believe that I can address most of the issues of interest to you. Where failing memory has defeated my efforts, I will say so.

Let me now move to substance. I strongly object to the fact that in an attempt to excoriate the Navy, ABC-Newsweek totally ignored the air of terrorism and peril that pervaded the Gulf at that time. Over 200 attacks were made on shipping in 1987, 1988 and 1989. Our units were working in a half-war/half-peace environment. This is the most stressful kind of challenge for commanding officers and crews. The Stark incident, the Bridgeton mining, the Roberts striking a mine, the inflated rhetoric coming from Teheran -- all were constantly on the minds of our service personnel.

Moreover, the U.S. rules of engagement -- neglected by ABC-Newsweek -- strongly emphasized that each commanding officer's first responsibility was to the safety of his ship and crew. If he was to err, it was to be on the side of protecting his people. In this day and age of supersonic missiles, our warships cannot be expected to take the first shot before reacting. It's a heavy burden but ships' captains are expected to make forehanded judgments, and if they genuinely believe they are under threat, to act aggressively.

Also unmentioned were two Iraqi attacks on ships in Iranian waters on 1 July 1988 and the U.S. intelligence estimate that in the runup to 4 July holiday we would very likely encounter a rash of Iranian activity. On the evening of 2 July 1988 an attack was mounted on the Danish tanker Karama Maersk just off Abu Dhabi. The USS Montgomery came to the assistance of this ship at its request and drove off the attackers. All of this background influenced the events of 3 July 1988, as well as the subsequent investigation and it was ignored by Newsweek and Nightline.

Likewise, nothing is said or written about the Iranian role in the Airbus tragedy. There was no coordination between Iranian surface raiders and civil air authorities. The tower at Bandar Abbas airport did not monitor emergency frequencies and therefore failed to alert the pilots of the Airbus. Had it done so the tragedy would have been avoided.

The Iranian Revolutionary Guard was portrayed as some sort of benign group, set upon by American forces bent on doing them harm. But these same Revolutionary Guards were vicious terrorists, attacking unarmed merchantmen and intentionally shooting at deck houses so as to kill innocent civilians. That is the reason our military forces were there. We had the difficult task of neutralizing these seaborne terrorists, and our people did a superb job of protecting ships and lives under the most trying circumstances. In fact, the convoying effort was eminently successful. I have even heard some members of the Congress who initially opposed reflagging express that opinion.

Let me now turn to some specifics. I would like first to address the charges of a "secret war." It graphically conveys the questionable quality of the Newsweek-Nightline research.

ABC-Newsweek contended that we were forced to covert means in order to keep our tilt toward Iraq from showing. This conclusion implies that Iran had not figured out the tilt. It was written about extensively in the U.S. press and a subject of considerable Congressional commentary. The Administration was confronted with a difficult choice. Of course, Iran didn't like what we were doing and Teheran complained loudly. The alternative was to let Iranian gunboats terrorize the Gulf. The Administration elected to intervene while at the same time going to great lengths not to extend U.S. involvement any further than necessary. A conscious and deliberate effort was made to keep our activities at sea and to stay off Iranian soil. I would suggest that ABC's characterization that the reflagging operation was a tilt against Iran is neither profound nor a new thought.

Breathlessly, the article charged that "secret operations were more extensive than reported." I certainly hope so. This is the nature of military operations -- to confuse your potential enemy and to be prepared for any eventuality. A number of operations were characterized in a sinister fashion, because they were not made public. Do Newsweek and Nightline suggest that we should have shared all of those details at the time with them ... and with the forces that opposed us? Should we have risked American lives so that the media could have a good story? I leave it to you to judge if we were mistaken in not also revealing our properly classified plans to Newsweek and Nightline.

More importantly, and this was at the heart of the Nightline accusations, the appropriate Congressional committees were consistently briefed on our various operations, including the intelligence exchanges with Iraq. Every exchange of fire was reported formally and in writing to the Congress. If Congress and the executive branch disagreed about the applicability of the War Powers Resolution, that argument was political. At no time was I told to conceal anything from the Congress; I never did conceal anything from Congress; I never ordered anyone else to do so.

Actually, a great deal ultimately did appear in the press about what was billed by ABC-Newsweek as a "secret war." Newsweek itself, in October 1987 issues, described an attack on the Iranian minelayer Iran AJR, the character of our night operations, and the role of small helicopters operating off ships. During this period, countless articles appeared in U.S. newspapers and magazines about our anti-mining efforts and night operations and revealing the existence of barges off Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, which acted as bases for helicopters and patrol boats. At one point we took American journalists and a camera crew to visit one of our barges.

Mr. Koppel, in a sarcastic tone, commented "for all the American public and the U.S. Congress knew in late '87 and early '88, the U.S. military was playing a rather passive role in the Gulf." Perhaps he was not reading the press accounts during those days -- even Newsweek articles by John Barry, one of the writers of the piece under present discussion, dispelled the impression of passivity. Short of releasing our detailed operational plans to Newsweek, I don't know what more we should have done.

Let me cite some of the significant and erroneous allegations. Ted Koppel on Nightline in alarming tones referred to an intelligence exchange between military intelligence services of the U.S. and Iraq and then accused the Pentagon of not informing Congress of these discussions. Simply not true. The talks that were conducted were fully reported to the appropriate Congressional committees before they commenced. Both the House and Senate oversight committees were briefed in September 1987 and again in July 1988 before the talks began. The project was terminated in September 1988. Some reference was made to an intelligence project called Eager Glacier; it was similarly briefed to the pertinent committees October 5 and 6, 1987, and again on 13 October. Incidentally, in my judgment, these exchanges were not especially profitable.

-- "Senior administration officials" are quoted as saying that we captured "several other minelayers" after the highly publicized seizure of the Iran AJR in September 1987, including the Rakish, but kept it quiet for fear of revealing a tilt toward Iraq. The reference to "other minelayers" was the cornerstone of Ted Koppel's argument that we were waging a secret war without informing Congress. Actually, the Iran AJR's pre-revolutionary name was Arya Rakhsh. They were one and the same ship. This fact was actually briefed to members of the press before Iran AJR was scuttled. The crew was repatriated to Iran through Oman. There were no other minelayers captured during the entire convoy operation. Certainly, we constantly attempted to track the remaining minelayers but after the Iran AJR incident, they didn't stray far from home. Aside from this vague reference ABC-Newsweek did not cite one specific regarding other minelayers. But the reader is left with a blatantly untrue impression.

On 8 October 1988 a patrolling helicopter was fired upon at night off Farsi island and in turn we sank three IRGC gunboats. Four Iranians (IRGC, not Iranian Navy) were subsequently captured in the wake of an incident and were subsequently repatriated through Oman. This encounter was reported both to the Congress and announced by DOD press spokesmen in Washington. It was neither a minelaying crew nor was it something that we were keeping secret either from the Congress or the public.

-- Their article charges that "a Task Force 160 helicopter was downed by friendly fire." I recently spoke with the commanders of the various helicopter units in the Gulf. No helicopters were downed in the Gulf by friendly fire or, for that matter, by hostile fire. We lost several helicopters during operations due to mechanical malfunctions, to pilot error or accidents on the pad. If you wish, I can furnish a list of those casualties.

-- Once again I quote Newsweek, "When he retired in 1991 Rear Admiral Dennis Brooks, the joint task force commander, gave Navy Secretary Lawrence Garrett a 200-page report on 'extra legal' operations in the Gulf." Actually, Admiral Brooks visited Secretary Garrett in the summer of 1990, while Brooks was changing duty stations. Secretary Garrett recalls Brooks leaving him a letter rather than a report. He characterized Brooks' letter as a communication from a disgruntled officer. In a recent phone call Admiral Brooks told me it was a private matter between him and the Secretary, and he didn't know where the 200-page figure came from.

-- Newsweek further charged, "American AWACS acted as air controllers for Iraqi raids against targets in Iran." Emphatically not true. In order to avoid another incident like the accidental attack on the USS Stark, our AWACS tracked Iraqi aircraft whenever possible and reported their positions to our ships. We told the Iraqis we would be doing this and, when their aircraft got close, our ships would also warn them via radio to stay clear. Our operational instructions specifically prohibited AWACS unit from providing any assistance to Iraqi aircraft attacking Iran or its shipping. The former commander of the AWACS aircraft is now a member of this committee's staff, and he confirmed the preceding account.

ABC-Newsweek also made vague references to U.S. contingency plans and possible strikes against Iranian installations. The most misleading statement was a reference to "former Pentagon officials" who differed on whether "mainland strikes were actually carried out." This statement defies my imagination. How could we mount such a strike without it becoming public? I can state unequivocally that no strikes were carried out on the Iranian mainland or on Iranian islands for that matter. Any other conclusion is sheer fabrication.

We retaliated twice in response to Iranian provocations -- both well documented and on the public record. The first was an attack on the ROTSAM oil platform in the central Gulf on 19 October 1987 in reaction to a Silkworm firing from the al Fao Peninsula against the U.S.-owned tanker SUNGARI and the U.S.-flagged SEA ISLE CITY. The second was an attack against oil platforms in the central Gulf after the Samuel B. Roberts struck an Iranian mine. These were highly publicized and, of course, reported in writing to the Congress. It is true we discussed a number of imaginative schemes for heavier retaliation and even drew up some contingency plans based on such ideas, but they were never implemented and could not have been implemented except by specific approval at the highest level of the government.

"A senior Pentagon official" was reported as authorizing the use of a "decoy ship" to lure out Iranian boats. This charge also has no basis in fact. I recall hearing discussed the possibility of employing some type of "Q" ships such as those used in World War I. But the idea never got out of the brainstorming stage. This week I polled the main operational commanders in the Gulf -- Admirals Bernsen, Less, and Fogarty and General Crist. Aside from measures to conceal our own ship movements, they know of no deception plans either being approved or employed. Certainly I did not approve or order any deception scenario. Frankly, we established control of the Gulf without resorting to such measures. More significantly, our first priority was not to lure them out, but to keep the Iranian units, both large and small, in port. Newsweek does not identify its senior Pentagon official.

I must reemphasize strongly, we were extremely careful to keep the Congress informed. Any engagement involving an exchange of fire was formally reported. In addition, a host of briefings of some type -- formal or informal -- both at the member and staff level were given to the Congress over a period of 30 months. In the course of the commitment to the protection of shipping, a number of legislators and their assistants visited the Gulf, where they received up-to-the-minute briefings from commanders. Some were taken aboard ships and some visited the barges. When Koppel says that Congress was not informed, he is clearly in error.

I would like now to turn to the Vincennes story, especially the vituperous charge of a "cover-up."

ABC and Newsweek were especially fascinated with Vincennes' entry into Iranian waters, suggesting that I had conceded the truth only when confronted on the Nightline program. It is accurate that I told the truth, but that was the first time I had ever been asked that question by a reporter. (Incidentally, the article in referring to my 3 July press briefing says I talked to Captain Rogers. I never met or saw Will Rogers until several months after I retired. The information I was using came from Vincennes messages.) At my 3 July 1988 press briefing, which Newsweek attended, not one question was asked about the geographic position of the ship. The ship's position relative to the air corridor, however, was the subject of several queries. For quite some time after that I was under the impression that Vincennes had not entered Iran's territorial waters but that matter was properly and appropriately left to the formal investigation to sort out.

Interestingly, when Secretary Carlucci and I appeared at a press conference on 19 August 1988 to present the Fogarty Report, Newsweek was again present. No one asked a question about the ship's track or position at the time of firing or whether the ship entered into territorial waters. When Admirals Fogarty and Kelly testified to Congress shortly thereafter, before both the Senate and House committees, not one question was asked about the ship's position. So what has become a central point of the so-called cover-up didn't seem terribly important at the time or throughout the past four years to either the media or Congress. The reason is simple: it was never viewed as a significant issue. Which side of the line the ship was on had nothing to do with the misidentification of the aircraft or the other circumstances that bore directly on the shootdown.

The Newsweek article insists that the Vincennes' entry into Iranian territorial waters was "clearly in violation of international law." I take vigorous issue with that view. A warship acting in self defense has the right under international law to enter the aggressor waters to defend itself. That was the United States' legal view for as long as I was in the Navy. Moreover, the rules of engagement which governed Rogers clearly permitted entering Iran's waters if his ship was under imminent threat or engaged.

Rear Admiral Fogarty's final report was classified secret, delivered to Congress and concluded that Vincennes did enter Iranian territorial waters. An exhibit attached to the report included the investigating team's navigational calculations, which illuminated the ships' tracks and placed Vincennes inside Iran's territorial waters at the time of firing. Several exhibits included navigational data, i.e., logs, etc., which were used to reconstruct the incident. When the report was redacted for public release, that information was withheld for two reasons: it could help define our rules of engagement in ways we did not want to disclose at that time, especially the fact that our rules under certain circumstances permitted entry into territorial waters. We were also concerned about the possibility of Iranian retaliation and didn't want to throw gasoline on the flames which we believed might follow the Vincennes incident. I remind you that the climate after the shootdown was a great deal different than today; it was, to say the least, tense, volatile and uncertain. The Iran-Iraq war was still in progress, and the verbal threats issuing from Teheran were loud and inflammatory.

Nevertheless, the classified report and the redacted unclassified version were transmitted to both the Senate and the House Armed Services Committees. Chairman Aspin released a statement on 19 August 1988 saying his committee had received both. ABC and Newsweek failed to mention this fact. There were some 308 exhibits and appendices. I know of no instance where Congress made an issue out of the fact the Vincennes had gone across the line into territorial waters, or any criticism of this portion of the classified report, or any suggestions that the Pentagon should release the conclusion. Again, I believe the congressional members and staff must have believed it more beneficial not to disclose the classified material at that time.

Very shortly after the shootdown, the International Civil Aviation organization (ICAO) inaugurated an investigation of the incident. This step was taken with the U.S. Government's support and encouragement. Secretary Carlucci and I both directed our representatives dealing with the ICAO to be fully forthcoming. This policy of cooperation was reaffirmed after we had the Fogarty Report in hand. All of the navigational data from the classified report was to be revealed during the deliberations. The U.S. Government did not want to repeat the KAL 007 experience, where Moscow provided ICAO with considerable misleading and false data.

ICAO completed its report in November 1988 and distributed it to the thirty-some member states of the ICAO Council. In December the report became public. Iran also received a copy. In March 1989 the report was approved by the full ICAO organization, distributed to the 165-member nations of the ICAO, and announced in an international press conference. The report cited the correct latitude and longitude of the Vincennes at the time of firing and included an easily understood chart portraying Vincennes' position. This information was furnished by the United States, as the chart made clear. It did not specifically state that Vincennes was in territorial waters, but using the mileage scale on the chart, a simple measurement shows Vincennes about 9.5 miles from Hengam Island at the time of firing, well within Iranian territorial waters. Clearly, the ICAO investigators also believed it had no bearing on the accidental shootdown. I have read many of the analytical articles that came out of the ICAO press conference -- thousands of words -- and not a one cited Vincennes' location. In any event, the ICAO report has literally been in the public domain since December 1988, over three years ago. Again, ABC-Newsweek either didn't know about or intentionally ignored the ICAO report.

The fact is the tragedy would have likely occurred whether Vincennes was within Iranian waters or not. ABC-Newsweek chose to concentrate on this peripheral subject and thereby create the leap to the dramatic accusation of "cover-up."

Perhaps at the time of the ICAO release (the international environment had then calmed and the terrorist activity in the Gulf had ceased), we should have declassified the ship's position and issued a press release pointing out Vincennes' location within Iranian waters at the time of the firing. With the prescience of twenty-twenty hindsight, I wish we had done that. It would have had no bearing on the conclusions of the Fogarty or ICAO investigations but might have avoided the hysteria caused by present-day reporting.

Before concluding, may I mention some lesser items but ones which I still believe to be misleading enough to mention:

-- One of Newsweek's colorful charts (page 31) asserts in bold print that Vincennes' helicopter was in territorial waters at the time it was fired on: I am aware of two independent groups working through the available data since the Newsweek article was published, and I personally reconstructed the incident. We all concluded that initially both the helicopter and the offending boghammers were in international waters. A most comprehensive effort was made by the Naval War College, and I will be happy to furnish Congress with a copy of its work and comments. The data is not as cut and dried as I would prefer. In addition, there are one or two verbal statements in the record estimating range to the helicopter that would have put it in a slightly different location, but those were eyeball judgments and not consistent with the available data.

In the process I ran across a mistake in Rear Admiral Fogarty's report which may have contributed to the confusion. On page 23 of the unclassified version of the report, Vincennes' 0610 position is in error. It places Vincennes approximately eight miles north of its actual location, which is confirmed by Fogarty's own investigative charts and independent navigational calculations. Newsweek reaches its own conclusion through methods it doesn't recount. Perhaps extrapolating from the incorrect position on page 23 may have contributed in some fashion to Barry and Charles erroneously concluding the helicopter was in Iranian waters when it came under fire. However, the narrative account and the report's other basic findings were not based on this incorrect position; so it had no adverse influence on the investigation's general findings.

-- Contrary to the contention by Barry and Charles, not all the boghammers retreated immediately into territorial waters. At least one lingered outside even after Vincennes crossed over. In fact, the article continually reaches conclusions about positions, ranges, and conduct of various boghammers and ships without citing any supporting data. Many of their observations are subjective and/or speculative. It's frustrating to attempt to refute material which is long on adjectives and short on cited sources. At one point the article says Captain Rogers was preparing to fire "still lacking a clear target." A review of the communications traffic doesn't support this statement at all. "The gunboats were just slowly milling about" -- an opinion at best. Several witnesses gave statements that belie that description. I have talked personally on the phone with the commanding officer of the Montgomery, and he gave me a vivid and dramatic account of boghammers moving at high speed toward both Vincennes and Montgomery. There was no doubt in Captain Kearley's mind that the two ships, and their crews, were being threatened. Moreover, there was clear evidence that Vincennes was hit by gunfire.

-- One of the sidebars in the article (page 32) showed pictures of the Aegis' large screen display which did not include Hengam Island. Newsweek with great delight accuses the Navy of "deleting" the island for sinister purposes. This shows a shallow understanding of the Aegis system. Aegis is not a navigational system and is not intended as such. Operators are specifically warned not to employ it for navigation. Representations of land masses are not detailed or necessarily accurate and do not come from Aegis radar returns but from preprogrammed information stored in the data bank in homeport by engineers. These representations are only intended to give the commanding officer some sense of the land picture, not details. A replay of all the Aegis tapes which were on Vincennes that day, at all range scales, found Hengam Island (as well as some other features) had never been put in the Aegis data bank. Consequently, Hengam could not have been displayed on the large scale screen.

Incidentally, this problem may explain Captain Rogers' belief that his ship was not in Iranian waters. The bottom line -- no one "deleted" the island as charged; the screens were accurately photographed -- this is a technical limitation of the system, not a covert plot to mislead the American public. It would have been a relatively easy matter for the authors to have discovered this feature of Aegis. In any event, I am not an expert on Aegis and would be glad to direct you to the commanding officer of the Aegis Training Center at Dahlgren, Virginia, and his Aegis engineers who are authorities and are more capable than I to elaborate on these matters.

In dealing with the carrier activity outside the Gulf, Barry and Charles took complicated operations, and attempted to make them simple for their own purposes. I recently talked to Rear Admiral Fogarty, who states he spent considerable time on this issue. In his view the air control, deconfliction and communication practicalities prevented a quick response. It is true that the E2C did not launch in time to assume control of the F-14s. If Vincennes was to call in the F-14s, it would have had to control them itself.

I also discussed the air picture with the Aegis expert at Dahlgren who handled the analysis of the Vincennes tapes. He described in some detail the arrival of the F-14s on station. The threat became apparent to the Vincennes around 0950 local, less than five minutes before the shootdown. At that time the F-14s were 58 miles away flying at 390 knots. In his view to close and identify the airbus in five minutes would have been virtually impossible even if the communication and deconfliction problems could have been resolved.

Also, I have consulted with the group commander who was aboard Forrestal. He had some concerns about the F-14s responding without good communications with Vincennes. He did not know if Vincennes was fully aware of the F-14's location or availability. The article points out that the commanding officer of Forrestal was not called by the investigation. The group commander did, however, file a full account of events from his vantage point for the investigation. Again, here is an example where the authors using a little information have drawn a firm conclusion with no willingness to admit any room for another view or interpretation.

For Vincennes to bring in the aircraft after 0950 would require everything to go exactly right. It would have been a near thing at best. Once they had been vectored in, Rogers would have had to give up the option of using his own weapons to protect himself. I personally suspect that the press of both a surface engagement and a closing unidentified hostile precluded Rogers from adequately turning his attention to the problem of ordering in friendly aircraft until the last moment.

Quick judgments have to be made in crisis. Subsequent analysis may lead critics to disagree with some of the decisions. That is the nature of combat. But that two analyses disagree does not necessarily connote cover-up. I can assure you the subject of possible air support was not ignored by the investigators -- or covered up. If you choose to pursue this subject, you need to call the individuals involved rather than rely solely on the simple statements in Newsweek and the Monday morning quarterbacking of the writers.

-- The authors stated that an F-14 could do little damage to the Vincennes. We had been receiving reports for over a year that Iran was considering kamikaze-style attacks on our ships and configuring some aircraft for this mission. We were particularly sensitive to that possibility. Barry and Charles apparently did not know that a suicide attack, if carried out, could do great harm to our ships.

-- The article makes a great deal of what they call the mysterious ship Stoval. Like Newsweek I am unable to find Stoval in the Liberian registry. Unlike Newsweek I could not find "two sources" who could confirm a deception scheme. As mentioned earlier, I could find no evidence of any type of "decoy operations." But frankly, the Stoval incident as described by Newsweek makes no sense whatsoever. First, we didn't want to lure out the attack boats, we wanted them to stay in port. The implication of the article is that once they were out we would destroy them. That is totally wrong; on the day in question Montgomery and Vincennes were off and on in the presence of Iranian small craft. As long as these boats behaved themselves, they were left alone. That practice was a matter of policy. As Vincennes was closing the boghammers that fired on its helicopter, it passed another boghammer which did not threaten Vincennes and was ignored. Moreover, there were Iranian boats "out" in the vicinity the day before and all night. Sometime before the name Stoval appears in the communications logs, the IRGC small craft were out and on the prowl. Fogarty's report specifically concluded that no merchant ships had requested assistance that morning. It was the querying of various merchantmen by the Iranians and the suspicious explosions that were worrisome and provoked the helicopter reconnaissance -- not Stoval.

In any event, I don't understand what purpose a fictitious ship would have achieved. The Iranians hear the transmission, come out and find no ship. What do they do then? Perhaps for lack of anything else to do, they would attack an American warship and fall into our trap? Not likely. I find the whole scenario silly. Also, there were other merchant ships being harassed by boghammers in the Straits that morning and the authors have not questioned their existence. Incidentally, merchant skippers did on occasion use false names in their radio transmissions to disguise their identity. I cannot determine whether Stoval was such a case. Again, I repeat, there was no decoy operation ordered or mounted during the entire convoy operation.

-- Before closing I believe a word about the Fogarty investigation is in order. Contrary to the Newsweek assertion, I did not appoint Admiral Fogarty as the investigating officer. General Crist did. Admiral Fogarty arrived in Bahrain on 5 July 1988 and commenced his investigation. He completed taking testimony on the 17th and turned to drafting the report. He returned to Tampa in late July and signed the report on 28 July. By any standards as investigations go, it was remarkable to complete such an involved effort so quickly.

Newsweek said darkly that I had sent my "legal advisor Captain Richard Debobes" to sit at Fogarty's side as he prepared his report. Nothing could be further from the truth. Captain Debobes arrived in Tampa on 31 July, three days after Admiral Fogarty had signed and submitted his investigation to General Crist. This is another example of shoddy research leading to inflammatory, accusatory and false conclusions.

I had actually sent Captain Debobes to Tampa to become familiar with the report so when it arrived in Washington we could expedite our own review process. Admiral Fogarty has confirmed to me that Captain Debobes offered no comments or advice or suggested changes at any time. Of course not, the report had already been completed. Captain Debobes did, at General Crist's request, talk with the General about some aspects of the completed report.

The article by implication suggests I was manipulating the investigation. Horsefeathers. I did not see or talk to Fogarty throughout the entire process (he was in Bahrain), nor did I send him any cables or messages through third parties. The first time I saw Admiral Fogarty was in Washington, the day before Secretary Carlucci endorsed the investigation and held a press conference addressing the subject (18 August 1988). The conversation was brief. I recall it lasting about 15 minutes. I had been involved with service legal matters many years and fully understood my role and the necessity not to interfere while the judicial process was grinding. Any suggestion that I influenced or manipulated Admiral Fogarty's efforts is false and a malicious attack on me personally.

Mr. Chairman, I think it is obvious why I am offended by the newscast and magazine article, and believe both were liberally laced with inaccuracies, half truths, unjustified conclusions, and accusations. More importantly, contrary to Koppel's very serious charge of some type of conspiracy, the appropriate committees of Congress were kept informed throughout. Similarly, the accusations of a cover-up are preposterous and unfounded.

There is no question that we kept many of our operations in the Persian Gulf secret. We would have risked Americans' lives had we not, and our mission would have been a great deal more difficult. We put American lives first. No one suggests that there were no mistakes made on the morning of July 3, 1988, and in the time that followed. But making mistakes is a long step from a deliberate "cover-up." We notified Congress accurately and speedily of all our engagements -- whether the news was good or bad. And we did not, I emphasize, at any time cover up, conspire or conduct a secret war, beyond the knowledge of our leaders, and you who are charged as the safekeepers for all the American people.


File Identification:  07/22/92, NX-302
Product Name:  Wireless File
Product Code:  WF
Document Type:  TXT
Thematic Codes:  1NE; 2FP
Target Areas:  NE
PDQ Text Link:  236124

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