Pentagon: Maybe that Borat Voice Came from a UFO

I suggested yesterday that the voice issuing threats to the US Navy during the confrontation between three US ships and five motorboats–"I am coming to you. You will explode after a few minutes"–sounded like a frat boy playing with helium. But LS had a better suggestion: Borat. And now the Pentagon is getting into the spirit of the absurdist fun by admitting that the audio it released along with its video of the confrontation with the Iranian motorboats may not have come from those boats after all.

The audio includes a heavily accented voice warning in English that the Navy warships would explode. However, the recording carries no ambient noise — the sounds of a motor, the sea or wind — that would be expected if the broadcast had been made from one of the five small boats that sped around the three-ship American convoy.

Pentagon officials said they could not rule out that the broadcast might have come from shore, or from another ship nearby, although it might have come from one of the five fast boats with a high-quality radio system.

Oh yeah. Those fancy Iranian motorboats have such high-quality radio systems that they filter out the ambient noise of an outboard motor working at full speed while the tape taken from the US ship, taken at least partially inside the bridge, itself has the noise of a ship at sea.

Mike Nizza, who seems to be having more fun with this story than I am, offers a reader’s explanation:

All ships at sea use a common UHF frequency, Channel 16, also known as “bridge-to bridge” radio. Over here, near the U.S., and throughout the Mediterranean, Ch. 16 is used pretty professionally, i.e., chatter is limited to shiphandling issues, identifying yourself, telling other ships what your intentions are to avoid mishaps, etc.

But over in the Gulf, Ch. 16 is like a bad CB radio. Everybody and their brother is on it; chattering away; hurling racial slurs, usually involving Filipinos (lots of Filipinos work in the area); curses involving your mother; 1970’s music broadcast in the wee hours (nothing odder than hearing The Carpenters 50 miles off the coast of Iran at 4 a.m.)

On Ch. 16, esp. in that section of the Gulf, slurs/threats/chatter/etc. is commonplace. So my first thought was that the “explode” comment might not have even come from one of the Iranian craft, but some loser monitoring the events at a shore facility.

So now we have Borat on a bad CB sitting on the shore of the Persian Gulf doing play-by-play of a confrontation between the US and Iran at a time of high tension. This gets more and more fun every day.

I’ll repeat what I said yesterday. Do you think maybe it wasn’t a good idea to add in the Borat audio to the video and release it, particularly if you weren’t absolutely certain that Borat was sitting in one of those Iranian boats? Do you think maybe you owe more to America’s already-damaged credibility than to enact such a parody of bad neocon propaganda?

69 replies
  1. Richmond says:

    Inspired (and oh so funny). Alas, also scary – not only because of the bomb-Iran push, but also because of how incompetent these people are, how stupid they think we are, and how stupid the MSM is in believing it all hook-line-and-sinker.

  2. drational says:

    Are we absoultely sure when the video was taken? Perhaps Baron-Cohen “offed” Borat a few weeks ago to try to get the CIA off his (g-string clad) tail.

  3. veblen says:

    Iran has released its own video of the encounter,

    …which it said showed its boats did not threaten U.S. navy vessels in the Gulf, countering Washington’s account of the event which President George W. Bush called “a provocative act.”

    The video, aired by Iran’s Press TV satellite station, gave a completely different version of Sunday’s incident in the Strait of Hormuz compared with one released earlier this week by the U.S. Department of Defense.

    Guards Brigadier General Ali Fadavi said Iran’s boats had only approached the U.S. ships to examine the registration numbers as they had been unreadable, Press TV said.

    The video showed an Iranian naval officer in a small craft speaking via radio to a ship which could not be clearly identified. A total of three ships could be seen on the video. One had the number 73 emblazoned on the side of its bow.

    “Coalition warship 73 this (is an) Iranian navy patrol boat,” the officer said in accented English.

    “This is coalition warship 73. I read you loud and clear,” the person replied in what seemed to be an American accent.

    The Iranian officer then appeared to ask for the ships to identify themselves, though his words at times were indistinguishable:

    “Coalition warship 73 this (is) Iranian navy patrol boat, request side number … operating in the area (at) this time.”

    You know you’re in a bad way when the Iranian Revolutionary Guard has more credibility than the US.

    Speaking of credibility, McClatchy has an article today on another bogus Bush claim.

  4. drational says:

    Me loves timelines:

    December 21, 2007
    Baron Cohen publicly announces death of Borat Character.

    January 6, 2008
    Date of Iranian Cigar Boat incident, per Pentagon.

    January 7, 2008
    Pentagon releases video showing Iranian Cigar Boats taunting US warships.
    Voice of Borat clearly coming from Cigar Boats.

    Either the Pentagon is lying about when the video was shot, or Baron Cohen has deceived us and has joined the axis of evil.

    • emptywheel says:

      Well, I took out explicit invocations of your name in the post about 4 times (and phred’s once–I was going to suggest her next appropriations campaign might be for radios that are as good as those Iranian radios).

      But deliberately baiting you? Me? Nahhhhh.

      • phred says:

        I’m all about low cost off the shelf solutions EW, they should just stick with Dixie Cups and string ; )

    • Tross says:

      Please, bmaz!

      I was reading the earlier thread on this last night and I stayed up WAY past my bedtime laughing my *ss off, thanks to you!

      I would happily stay up another night, if you are so inclined to indulge us.

  5. Leen says:

    LS’s comments on that voice yesterday had me shaking with laughter. I hope Colbert or Stewart take it up. Play that tape on their shows… Or have the people on the boat sucking helium as you suggested EW

    Borat speaking neocon..ese

    I just wish that encounter was not so potentially bloody serious.

  6. Leen says:

    US launches airstrike south of Baghdad

    US Bombers, Jets Unleash 40,000 Pounds of Bombs in 10 Minutes South of Baghdad

    AP News

    Jan 10, 2008 11:58 EST

    U.S. bombers and jet fighters unleashed 40,000 pounds of explosives on the southern outskirts of Baghdad within 10 minutes Thursday in one of the biggest airstrikes of the war, flattening what the military called safe havens for al-Qaida in Iraq.…..02008.html

  7. bmaz says:

    Oh, this is rich. From the Houston Chronicle:
    Telephone companies cut off FBI wiretaps used to eavesdrop on suspected criminals because of the bureau’s repeated failures to pay phone bills on time, according to a Justice Department audit released Thursday.
    Poor supervision of the program also allowed one agent to steal $25,000, the audit said.

    More than half of 990 bills to pay for telecommunication surveillance in five unidentified FBI field offices were not paid on time, the report shows. In one office alone, unpaid costs for wiretaps from one phone company totaled $66,000.

    And at least once, a wiretap used in a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act investigation — the highly secretive and sensitive cases that allow eavesdropping on suspected terrorists or spies — “was halted due to untimely payment.”

    • darrelplant says:

      Life follows art (following life). In the second season of The Wire on HBO, one of the characters — a dockworkers union leader — is tipped off that he might be under electronic surveillance when he’s chronically late with a cell phone payment and instead of encountering hassle from the phone company he’s told that someone’s placed a note on his account that it’s not to be shut off for nonpayment.

    • skdadl says:

      It occurs to me: this might not be the way to get immunity, eh?

      The telcos are cutting off FBI wiretaps for non-payment of the phone bills? Ernestine has not got the memo?

      • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

        You and I read that article the same way.
        We didn’t get our law?! We’ll show you who has clout…

        And this has happened just before Harry Reid takes up the FISA hearings… coinkydink…? It’s possible. Then again…

        • skdadl says:

          Well, that’s one way to think of it. My first thought was that someone should tell Ernestine about Joseph Nacchio.

          But no. It’s probably sillier than that. You have to laugh, don’t you? Otherwise …

  8. FormerFed says:

    It saddens me as a DoD employee for 32 years to think that our uniformed service people would be complicit in this kind of deception. But reading about the hate being spewed by the likes of Stephen Coughlin and other neo-cons in the Pentagon makes me think it might actually happen.

    One more year until there is a housecleaning the likes of the Augean stables from times of old. Hopefully we don’t kill or maim very many more people during that time.

  9. Leen says:

    On t

    Justin “‘A Heartbeat Away’ From War
    With Iran and Pakistan”…..leid=12184
    January 10, 2008
    Will Naval Incident Undermine Bush’s Iran Message?
    by Trita Parsi
    An Ominous Non-Event
    The Gulf of Tonkin and the Strait of Hormuz

    “Whether or not this current situation leads Congress to justify an invasion of Iran, or other actions that will lead to an invasion, remains to be seen. But the U.S. has not learned from its own history, and another repeat of an unneeded and catastrophic war is not, unfortunately, unthinkable. That the president will not stop it is not surprising; that Congress will be complicit once again is unspeakable.”

  10. CasualObserver says:

    I got interested in who wears the vessel number 73. Seems like it might be CG73, the Port Royal, an aegis cruiser. CG73 is part of the strike group associated with the aircraft carrier Stennis. One thing I’ve been told is to watch the number of carriers in the Gulf–that two carriers would be needed for Iranian hostilities. The Stennis is listed here as not being anywhere near the gulf.

      • bigbrother says:

        The bedazzling brilliance of this line of reasoning is breath takingly cerebrally nimble. Propaganda, statagizmic, sells lottsa arms …here’s an opportunity for more military outsourcing if ever I saw it…hire the cocaine cartel speedboat fleet and swiftboat the HRC campaign as she reports for duty with a patriotic salud!

  11. Leen says:

    Just have to bring this over from yesteday. Hope you do not mind LS.

    LS January 9th, 2008 at 1:12 pm

    I am coming tew yew. Yew will expleuoood after a few minutes.

    Fechez la vache, I pleuk my neuz in your generral dirrection….


  12. Neil says:

    Do you think maybe it wasn’t a good idea to add in the Borat audio to the video and release it, particularly if you weren’t absolutely certain that Borat was sitting in one of those Iranian boats? Do you think maybe you owe more to America’s already-damaged credibility than to enact such a parody of bad neocon propaganda?

    Who is making these amazingly incompetent decisions? FIOA request anyone?

    • bmaz says:

      Well, funny you should ask that. I have run the Borat voice clip by the most sensitive sound expert I could find on short notice* The report back was that the sound characteristics were precisely consistent with that portion of the tape having been recorded in a man sized safe.
      * = Kalea the Samoyed Audiowonderdog

      Speaking of asterisks. Ahem. The Jacksonville Jaguars have a power rankings page on their website. The patriots are ranked number one with an asterisk, which is specifically stated to represent

      “* Cheated in one game”

      • Neil says:

        I won’t defend the cheating but what is it to the Jags?

        The only thing that worries me about the Pats game against the Jags is that Collingsworth and Costas picked the Pats, as did Marino and Carter. Gametime is now 8:15: wasn’t it origninally the early game?

          • Neil says:

            Apparently, Bill Bell lawyered up and had the lawyer make a call threatening to sue, because they have removed it now it appears.

            Really? Very interesting! Isn’t the truth always a valid defense? I’m suprised Bele didn’t take it to the league office. They try to keep critcism of anything related to the cash cow under wraps.

            • bmaz says:

              I just said that; I have no idea why it is gone, but I clicked the original link I gave to the team site and it had been removed. Was there when I posted though…

              • emptywheel says:

                Glad you found a version with the asterisk–I thought you were pulling my leg, getting your revenge for baiting you and all.

                Though I would imagine it might not have even gotten to Bill Bell. An asterisk like this is just the kind of slight that might, um, motivate the Pats.

                • bmaz says:

                  Oh no, I’ll totally wreck your threads, but some things are sacred; would never mess with the Pats. If the Jags only took it down because of fear of motivating the Pats, then they are quite silly wusses. The web page was all over ESPN this morning so the Pats already have the material if they are so inclined; now the Jags are backing down anyway. It was kind of humorous, they should have had the cojones to leave it up. I was joking about Bill Bell and the lawyer.

  13. chrisc says:

    Is it just me or is anyone else fed up with the “Bush legacy” crap?
    The smirker is in Israel saying that he expects a peace treaty to follow soon.
    Yeah, right. Meanwhile, the propaganda team channels Borat to make him look tough.
    One disaster after another obscured by “Mission Accomplished” banners.

    • Leen says:

      It is really something that Bush’s visit to Israel and the history of the conflict is not being mentioned more in the so called “progressive” blogosphere this week. I still stand by that there is a “blog clog” in the progressive blogosphere on this critical issue.

      In Former Jimmy Carter’s book “Palestine Peace Not Apartheid” he debunks the MSM’s persistent claims that Arafat was the one to walk away from Clintons efforts to help resolve the conflict. Carter states that Barak had not and was not going to sign the agreement. Carters book is excellent

      This article explains the MSM spin on Arafat.

      • brendanx says:

        We’re down to two: Albania, Israel.

        Bush’s visit is the biggest thing in Tel Aviv since Whitney Houston.

        Interesting factoid: Ariel Sharon is still in a coma!

  14. oldtree says:

    like I mentioned yesterday, there are glaring contradictions to every aspect of this supposed event. The audio from the sailor’s camera tells the whole story. There was no noise coming from those boats that would not have been blanked by the motor noise of either the speed boat, or the ship from which the camera was on. The stock footage part was hilarious. the back of a ship and some honkey pretending to be a furriner talking through Rudy Vallee’s megaphone
    it is a joke folks. the kind of joke they will want to use for war

  15. Loo Hoo. says:

    US formally complains of Borat: (MSNBC)

    updated 14 minutes ago
    WASHINGTON – The United States has lodged a formal diplomatic protest with Iran over a weekend incident in which Iranian speedboats harassed U.S. warships in the Persian Gulf, the State Department said Thursday.

    The protest, which reiterates earlier U.S. complaints about the “provocative” action, was sent to the Iranian Foreign Ministry through the Swiss embassy in Tehran, which looks after U.S. interests in Iran, deputy spokesman Tom Casey told reporters. He could not say if the Iranians had actually received and acknowledged receipt of the protest

    “We have … prepared and given to the Swiss a diplomatic note formally protesting this incident,” he said.

  16. BlueStateRedHead says:

    Anyone remember the Joyce Hatto fraud, i.e. the concert pianist who claimed other people’s work as hers and was outed through comparative analysis by musicologists and musical sound experts of the visual version of her purported performance to the one plagiarized?

    IANwhoever they are, but it sounds like a job for them. DoD loves outsourcing anyway, why not outsource to (I could look it up, I know) Gramaphone magazine.

  17. JohnLopresti says:

    My take on the belligerence video exercise is it is a stalkingHorse taunt. Evidently US is on anothe arms sales spree in the region, part of western mercantilism; but also in an article I did not save last month, there was a lay report of a perennial given in gulf war games wherein land to sea missle merchants’ wares emplacements in Iran estuaryside hills in the simulation sank the US boats in the narrows. The strategist thinks first about preventing launch capabilities from those seaside lands. But also there are gulf islands territorially part of Iran, and evidently multiple kinds of boatseeking missiles sufficiently portable to fit on the fastboats for transportation to those islands. The progressive import of such arms from ’sinosoviet’ sources might be updated by monitoring the Iran response to a US propaganda film; likely such harrassments occur, and US probably always wonders if the fastboat has funny missles onboard; but also there might be command and control signals and movements of equipment traceable by space platform in response to the propagandavideo initiative. Without a link to the late 2007 wargames news, regrettably, here is one to the 2000 version showing the games continue to know the logistics are extreme; and here is a sectarian website link of some sort, trying to cover some of the arms buildups in the region. Fas probably has it more organized; I should check them.

  18. trianarael says:

    The Gulf of Tonkin Incident reportedly began with an attack by three North Vietnamese torpedo boats on the Maddox, a U.S. destroyer, in the Gulf of Tonkin on August 2, 1964. Two days later, that vessel and another U.S. destroyer (the Turner Joy) in the area both reported themselves under renewed attack, although North Vietnam subsequently insisted that it hadn’t attacked — and no attack is now believed to have occurred on August 4.

    • MsAnnaNOLA says:

      Took the words out of my mouth. It would only be a good idea if you are looking for an excuse. Cheney doesn’t need much. Bogus intel, bogus footage and threats, what is the difference.

    • phred says:

      You are on a roll my friend. McHale’s Navy indeed : )

      BTW, thanks for that link up at 12, good to know that revising FISA can’t possibly wait one stinkin’ minute since it is clearly so very very very desperately needed.

  19. Mary says:…..ref=slogin

    When the top federal prosecutor in New Jersey needed to find an outside lawyer to monitor a large corporation willing to settle criminal charges out of court last fall, he turned to former Attorney General John Ashcroft, his onetime boss. With no public notice and no bidding, the company awarded Mr. Ashcroft an 18-month contract worth $28 million to $52 million.

    The New Jersey prosecutor, United States Attorney Christopher J. Christie, directed similar monitoring contracts last year to two other former Justice Department colleagues from the Bush administration, as well as to a former Republican state attorney general in New Jersey.

    Hilarity ensued when reporters waiting for remarks from USAtty Christie accidentally recorded a string of curses and epithets, occassionaly intermingled with “where the &$#!^&*! is my (%$*&@^*! State Secrets stamp?!?” A transcript was in the process of being prepared, when apparently someone found the stamp.

  20. perris says:

    well this boat confrontation all sounds vaguely familiar, doesn’t it?

    in the run up to our invasion of Iraq, does everyone remember the classics?


    “aluminum tubes of mass destruction”, to which the very people that found those tubes said they were not for a nuclear program or weapons


    “balsa wood drone of mass destrcution”…this one was so laughable it made me cry, yet it was all over the papers, “we uncovered a drone”…it was a balsa wood prop plane with line of sight remote controll, in such disrepair it was held together with duct tape

    this was a toy, the kind of thing you give your nephew as a birthday present

    then there were those;

    “vans of mass destruction”…which the administration insisted was their “mobile chemical weapons labs”

    so now we have these “speed boats” of mass destruction comming from Iran

    it’s bring out the golden oldies all over again

    • klynn says:

      bmaz, wire reports are now releasing information that the Iranian boats had a crew totaling six people and translators picked up on a maritime channel wording which translated something about “a three hour tour” spoken in a Borat-like voice.

      Latest intelligence translated the name of one of the Iranian boats:

      The S.S. Minnow


        • klynn says:

          Thanks for the “official” link to the wire story!

          Agreed, same voice “fer surrrre”!

          I tried to link to one of these in my post but I cannot get anything to link onto this or FDL without the link being broken. Have yet to figure it out.

          Thanks for the

          LS @ 58

          It just keeps getting better. Amazing, we are building international policy on crap like this. We are gas bags in the international diplomacy ring. I feel so sad for those who have made it their life’s work to work on ME policy. Something like this just thumbs a nose of arrogance at their decades of efforts.

  21. perris says:

    think progress has this up right now and right on point it is;

    Pentagon Backtracks On Naval Confrontation With Iran, Says Threat May Not Have Come From Iranians…

    Some bloggers were immediately skeptical, noting the voice did not sound Iranian. Iran released its own video, arguing the footage did not show any Iranian boats approaching the U.S. vessels, nor any provocation.

    • Leen says:

      That Think Progress report is worth watching. Gates refers to Former Secretary of Defense Bill Cohen “Are you going to believe me or your lying eyes”

      Well you asked

    • phred says:

      Yep and that “skeptical” blogger link went straight to you know where, EW’s warm-up for bmaz’ night club act ; )

  22. JimWhite says:

    Would it be accurate to call the Iranian boats swift?

    If so, maybe there is a group out there just waiting to get at the trooth.

  23. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    EW: Do you think maybe you owe more to America’s already-damaged credibility than to enact such a parody of bad neocon propaganda?

    Yes, they owe an apology, followed by handing in their resignations.
    The soundtrack was almost certainly bogus; there’s no proof that the people actually in those boats were Iranians. Nevetheless, Bu$hCo has lost its credibility and I take that video clip as a measure of their desperation.

    Anyone reading “Iraq Oil Report’ ( for a few days begins to see that piracy is increasingly a problem around Basra, and the Gulf. Lots of oil is being sold on the black market. Which suggests that all kinds of non-state actors have incentives to present false fronts designed to unsettle, alarm, and create confusion and conflict. Cheney and the neocons have created a situation in which it’ll be extremely hard NOT to spark a war.

    Here’s hoping Big Oil gets p*ssed enough about the liklihood of a Gulf showdown choking off their liquid lucre that they give Fallon and Putin some serious assistance in calling off the braying hounds of war. I don’t know who else could muster enough clout on Bu$hCo.

  24. JimWhite says:

    I just ran across a CNN story from late November quoting Admiral Mullen that the Revolutionary Guard is responsible for patrolling the Persian Gulf while the regular Iranian Navy patrols the Straights of Hormuz? Isn’t the US claiming the Revolutionary Guard did this?…
    By the way, Glenn just posted on this topic and the discussion is lively.

  25. skdadl says:

    Am I right in believing that the Kyle-Lieberman amendment designated the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization? Does that mean that the gloves are off in any confrontation that occurs anywhere, any time?

    • Leen says:

      The stage has been set. It took five months before the Bush administration’s lies to congress about Iraq and their subsequent idiotic and bloody vote on the 2002 war resolution to be used to invade Iraq. Five months from the Kyl Lieberman amendment will be in late march.

      They know they have until Bush is out of office to keep coming to the brink of an attack on the Revolutionary Guard. Hell if Clinton or McCain get in they will have a much longer time to implement those PNAC plans.

  26. skdadl says:

    Oops. I apologize for misspelling Senator Kyl’s name.

    I’ve just been checking our list of what are called the “currently listed entities” (seriously: if you want to know who the CanGov considers terrorist organizations, you have to google “Canada listed entities”). The Iranian Revolutionary Guard isn’t there. Yet. I’m sure that our sycophant PM wants them there, so that’s a bit surprising. I’m not sure what is holding him up, but we take the small mercies where we can find them.

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