Reed Irvine - Editor
  May B , 1991 XX-10  

KAL-007: WHERE'S THE MEDIA?

 THIS ISSUE:
  • KAL-007: WHERE'S THE MEDIA?
  • Izvestia Shoots Down Soviet Lies
  • Lies vs. Reality
  • The Pilot's Story
  • Osipovich Salves His Conscience
  • Why The Lies?
  • Our Suckered Journalists
  •  What You Can Do
  • Notes
  • On May 14, CNN anchor Reid Collins interviewed Alexander Shalnev, a New York correspondent of Izvestia; about an extraordinary 17-part investigative series his paper ran between December 21, 1990 and February 6, 1991. The series reported on Izvestia's efforts to discover the truth about the 1983 shootdown of the Korean airliner, KAL-007, over Sakhalin Island, killing 269 persons. Collins commented that if an American newspaper had undertaken the project and published only a part of what Izvestia had disclosed, "it probably would be in for a Pulitzer Prize."

    This had been the big story of 1983. The U.S. accused the Soviets of a massacre of the passengers and crew of the plane, including Congressman Larry McDonald of Georgia. The Soviets countered with the charge that the plane was on a spy mission and claimed they were justified in shooting it down. The debate over this tragedy fascinated our media for years. Those who tried to prove that the Soviets were right and the U.S. was wrong were given lots of publicity. These ranged from those who argued that KAL-007 was spying for the U.S. to those who contended that the Soviets had mistaken the Boeing 747 for an Air Force RC-135, a Boeing 707 equipped for electronic surveillance missions on the periphery of the Soviet Union. As recently as November 1988, NBC aired Shootdown, a controversial two-hour docudrama starring Angela Lansbury, promoting the spy-plane theory and suggesting that a Congressional investigation was in order.

    As we said in the January-A 1989 AIM Report, this program sought to convey the message that there was no way for the plane to have gotten off course accidentally, that the over flight had to be planned. It was replete with the argument that the government had withheld vital information about the flight to cover up what really happened. At the very end of the film, Angela Lansbury, who played the role of Nan Oldham Moore, the mother (of one of the victims) searching for the truth, delivered a speech in which she said, "We want a full federal investigation. It would be a dangerous precedent to allow this matter to simply fade into oblivion."

    The best place for such an investigation is the Soviet Union. Izvestia, the official government newspaper, appears to have made a genuine effort to get at the truth, but it was handicapped by the refusal of the Soviet government to cooperate. Nevertheless; the Izvestia investigation answered some of the questions that have intrigued the U.S. media for years. But they were apparently the wrong answers from the point of view of the reporters and editors. Suddenly they were no longer intrigued. A few stories had appeared in the first week of January reporting that Izvestia was working on the investigation and that sensational revelations were expected.

    The story then dropped out of sight in this country until April 23, 1991 when an article about findings Izvestia had reported three months earlier appeared on the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal. It was written not by a journalist, but by Houston space engineer, author and KAL-007 buff, James Oberg. His article focused on Izvestia's interview with the Soviet pilot who shot down the airliner and the discovery of the wreckage and the recovery of the black boxes.

    Izvestia Shoots Down Soviet Lies

    One of the most interesting revelations was the admission by the Soviet fighter pilot, Lt. Col. Gennadi Osipovich that he was ordered to lie about key facts to support the Soviet disinformation story that KAL- 007 was a spy plane. The "libretto" that superiors gave Osipovich had him say the plane was flying with its lights out and that it ignored warning tracer shots and a radio message before he destroyed it. In fact, Osipovich told Izvestia, KAL-007's strobe lights were flashing, he fired no tracer shots, and he tried no radio warning. He also explained that he would not have had time to change the frequency of his radio and try to contact the intruder, which was about to exit from Soviet airspace. He also indignantly rejected the suggestion that he had mistaken the jumbo jet for an RC-135, saying that he had made more than 1,000 flights to intercept RC-135s and he knew their markings and their flight patterns.

    Osipovich told Izvestia that the fighter pilots charged with protecting Soviet air space in this region were very tense, because a special commission that had investigated a 15-minute American violation of Soviet airspace in April 1983 had given them a severe dressing down. He said they were under great psychological stress after that, and "for several weeks we kept our guns at the ready and waited." Describing what happened when he was ordered to intercept an intruding aircraft on September 1, he said, "The first thing I had to do was force it to land. And if he would not comply, then render him harmless at any cost. I simply did not have any other thoughts."

    The Izvestia articles also quoted Soviet Marshal of Aviation Pyotr Kirsanov as saying the Soviets found the wreckage of KAL-007 and a Soviet source as saying that perhaps three of the so-called "black boxes" carried on the plane were recovered. [The term is a misnomer; the boxes are actually bright orange or red for better visibility.] Instruments in the black boxes keep a minute-by-minute record of such things as the plane's speed, course and altitude. Conceivably these instruments showed why -- and at what point -- KAL- 007 strayed so far off course on a flight from Alaska to Seoul and got into Soviet air space. The fact that the Soviets had never admitted recovering the boxes (or the wreckage of the aircraft) shows they found nothing to substantiate their "spy plane" charge.

    The Soviet disinformation campaign following the KAL- 007 shootdown was one of their more successful active measures efforts. It helped spawn a clutch of conspiratorial books claiming KAL-007 was on a spy mission, and hence the Soviets were justified in shooting it down. Osipovich's original scripted interviews, publicized soon after the shootdown, were central to the cover story.

    Lies vs. Reality

    Izvestia reported that an air defense radar station on Kamchatka first located KAL-007 and that a fighter piloted by Major Vasiliy Kazmin was sent up to intercept it. Kazmin had to turn back because he was short of fuel. Izvestia explained that after one of their pilots, Belenko, defected to Japan with a MIG-25, Soviet military planes were limited on fuel to prevent them from being flown to the nearest foreign airfield. Izvestia commented, "To put it bluntly, Kazmin was compelled to cut off the interception and return to base. The Boeing was not lost. It simply and blindly continued its flight farther and farther in the direction of Sakhalin."

    As the jumbo jet flew toward Sakhalin, Lt. Col. Osipovich was sent up after it in a Sukhoi-15 interceptor. Col. Gen. S. Romanov, chief of staff of the Soviet air defense forces, told the press that the airliner, flying in violation of international rules, had its navigation lights and collision warning lights extinguished. He said that it ignored the repeated efforts of the Soviet pilot to contact it by radio and conduct it to the nearest airfield. Those were all lies according to the interview with Osipovich, conducted by correspondent Nikolay Burbygi and published in Izvestia on January 24 and 25, 1991. In this interview, Osipovich confirms what we already knew from the intercepts of his radio conversations with the ground controller on that fateful morning. He had informed the controller that the target was "flying with her flashing lights" and with her navigation lights on. That was a clear indication that it was a civilian airliner, not a military plane.

    Izvestia published portions of a transcript of the messages between Osipovich and his ground controller, as recorded by the Japanese Defense Forces. Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick presented this material to the United Nations in 1983, but Izvestia noted, it "up to now has not been published in our country." The Soviets had denounced Kirkpatrick's statement at the time as a lie, but Osipovich told Izvestia that the portions of the American transcript it published were probably accurate, that he recognized his own rejoinders on it. The paper said it would like to publish the Soviet stenographic record, especially what the ground controllers said (which was missing from the U.S. transcript). The government refused to release either tapes or transcripts. Reporter Andrey Illesh wrote that a Soviet military source told him that the Soviet tape "was cleaned up and cosmetic work done on it (it was allegedly re- recorded while an electric shaver was switched on, which created the 'necessary' interference, and so could not be completely trusted)."

    The Pilot's Story

    Izvestia said that as the airliner flew over Sakhalin with Osipovich in pursuit, he received this command from the ground: "The target has violated the state border. Destroy the target." Osipovich said, "I turned on the afterburner and the missile seekers started to flash. I reported back to the ground: target lock-on. And suddenly in my earphones I heard this: 'Abort destruction! Match altitude with the target and force it to land.' I was already approaching the intruder from below. I matched speeds and started to flash him. But he did not respond. 'Give him some warning bursts!' I heard from the ground. I fired four bursts, firing off more than 200 rounds. But what was the sense of that? I had armor-piercing rounds, not incendiaries [tracers]. And it was hardly likely that anyone would see them."

    The Izvestia interviewer interjected, "But in that case the pilots in the other aircraft (and this is exactly what foreign experts are claiming) really could not see you, could they?" Osipovich is quoted as replying, "I have no doubt that they noticed me. Their attention was caught by my flashing." We are not told what he flashed, but if he flashed anything it must have been his landing lights. Since he was behind the airliner, there is no way the crew would have noticed that. Osipovich, who still desperately wants to believe that he shot down a spy plane, not an airliner carrying 269 people, said, "The reaction of the pilots was unambiguous -- they quickly reduced speed. Now they were moving at about 400 kph. (250 miles per hour). I was moving faster than 400 kph. I simply could not go more slowly. In my opinion the intruder's reckoning was simple: If I did not want to stall and go into a spin I would be forced to overtake them. And that is what happened. We had already flown past the island; it is narrow at that point. And it was then that command was given from the ground: 'Destroy the target.'"

    The fact that KAL-007 slowed down just before it was shot down was seized upon by the spy-plane theorists as evidence that the pilot knew he was being pursued and was taking evasive action, as Osipovich suggests. But we know that 007 had just received permission from Tokyo to climb to 35,000 feet, and in doing so it lost speed, inadvertently forcing Osipovich to zoom past it and circle back, positioning himself behind and above his target. The theory that the Soviet pilot mistook 007 for an RC-135 rests on the mistaken belief that he was always below his target and could not see the distinctive silhouette of the Boeing 747.

    Osipovich explained what happened next, saying, "I had already managed to make a sharp turn and was now above and running on to him. But then I had a thought. I dropped 2,000.... I armed the missiles and brought the nose down sharply. It worked! I saw that I had lock-on. The first missile was fired when the distance between us was about five kilometers. Only now I could really see the Intruder. It was larger than an IL-76 and its outline was something like a TU-16." [These are Soviet craft. The IL-76 is a transport plane; the TU-16 a bomber; both are much smaller than the Boeing 747.] Osipovich continued, "The trouble for all Soviet pilots is that we do not study civilian aircraft belonging to foreign companies. I knew all the military aircraft, all the reconnaissance aircraft. But this was not like any of them." Soviet expert Albert Weeks points out that the Soviet military encyclopedia shows a silhouette of the Boeing 747, whose huge size and distinctive shape makes it unique even to untutored eyes.

    Osipovich Salves His Conscience

    Osipovich admits he knew the target was a civilian plane, not a U.S. RC-135 as many of the foreign apologists for the Soviet action have contended. But even now he won't admit that it was wrong to shoot it down. The Izvestia reporter asked him, "Did you at that moment have any doubts about the correctness of your action?" Osipovich replied, "I never thought for a moment that I could shoot down a passenger aircraft. Anything at all, but not that!

    How could I admit that I was pursuing a Boeing?"

    But he was troubled. While his comrades greeted him as a hero for shooting down the plane, he said, "I started to have a strange feeling." He telephoned his commander, Col. Kornukhov, asking, "Had it been one of ours?" Kornukhov reassured him, saying, "No, it was a foreigner, so make a hole in your shoulder boards for a new star." But he didn't get the new star or a decoration. Instead, an investigating commission arrived. Osipovich said, "And everyone suddenly started regarding me as a s.o.b."

    The investigators asked him if he knew there were 260 passengers on board the plane he shot down. He said, "I heard that question many times. Later I turned the situation over and over in my mind. And I can honestly say that I had no idea that it was a passenger aircraft flying ahead of me. I saw in front of me an intruder over the border, and it had to be destroyed. During my time in the service I have gone up many times to make an intercept, and I used to dream about the situation. I knew that if an intruder did appear I would not miss him.... So that it is, if you like, the destiny of an interceptor pilot not to miss an intruder. I repeat, all the talk about a civilian aircraft came later. But in the air it was an intruder.... Look, there is not a single hint in [the radio exchanges] that there might be passengers on the aircraft."

    Osipovich insists that he was only doing his duty and that he would do the same thing again. But he adds, "You understand, I am not talking about a civilian aircraft with passengers on board, but an intruder. I would do everything possible to intercept its flight. I was prepared and trained for that all my life." He was disappointed that the top officers did not uphold this position, saying "in the grand reckoning I have no doubt that we were right. A foreign aircraft was in our airspace for two and a half hours, and during that time it covered a distance of more than 2,000 kilometers. All the air traffic control services of foreign states said not a word, remained silent. What order can you give in such a situation? Sit on your hands? They were within their rights to shoot it down, but then they began to lie about the small things." The "small things" were the claims that efforts had been made to warn the airliner and force it to land.

    Anxious to salve his conscience, Osipovich won't accept the fact that he was responsible for the massacre of 269 innocent people. He told Izvestia, "You know, even now I cannot really believe that there were passengers on board....I am a supporter of the old version: It was a spy plane. In any event, it was not happenstance that it flew toward us."

    Why The Lies?

    The Izvestia interview of Lt. Col. Osipovich makes it clear that he and his comrades, including his superior officer, Col. Kornukhov, drew no distinction between military and civilian planes that might enter the air space they were assigned to protect. Any intruder, even a giant airliner, was considered to be a proper target for their missiles. This was as true in 1983 as it was in 1978, when another Korean airliner, KAL-902, accidentally strayed into Soviet air space near Murmansk. One of the Soviet pilots sent to intercept it revealed a few years ago that he informed ground control that it was a civilian airliner, but he was ordered to shoot it down anyway. He said he obeyed the order reluctantly. The plane was badly damaged and shrapnel killed two passengers, but it was able to make a safe landing on a frozen lakebed.

    The Soviet regime could have apologized for shooting down KAL-007, putting the blame on Osipovich for shooting down what he should have known to be an airliner. Instead, the Soviet high command mounted a disinformation campaign intended to shift blame onto the United States by suggesting that we had sent the plane on a spy mission. So pilot Osipovich found himself suddenly restored to grace, per order of Defense Minister Dmitri Ustinov, and the subject of interviews by Soviet TV, with orders to lie.

    Our Suckered Journalists

    It worked. Not only did the Soviets avoid indemnifying the families of the victims, but they were able to blacken the image of the United States in the minds of many people, including a lot of journalists who were all too ready to believe the worst of America and the best of the Soviets. The Washington Post reported on September 3, 1983 that the Soviets may have confused the airliner with a military spy plane, and it ran a story headlined, "Moscow Acknowledges Firing 'Warning' Shots." The same day, The Philadelphia Inquirer led with a banner headline reading, "Jetliner was Spying, Soviets Say." President Reagan's charge that the Soviets were flagrantly lying was relegated to second place.

    The New York Times told its readers in its "Week in Review" section on September 4: "Soviet fighters 'fired warning shots with tracer shells,' Tass admitted." That, of course, was no admission; it was a Soviet lie. The tapes of the pilot's conversations had made no mention of tracer shells being fired. This summary of the week's news also relied on Tass, not the Pentagon, for the report that the airliner "did not have navigation lights and did not respond to queries or react to signals and warnings from Soviet fighter planes that 'tried to establish contact' and 'take it to the nearest airfield on Soviet territory.'" Columnist Anthony Lewis, whose column for The New York Times is run by many other papers, expressed regret that this happened just when Ronald Reagan was beginning to win the confidence of Yuri Andropov, the Soviet dictator! Lewis said of the Soviets, "They may well have tried to signal the South Korean plane. But when, for whatever reason, it did not respond they shot it down." He added, "Conceivably, Soviet radar technicians could have mistaken it as an intelligence-gathering aircraft."

    Gennadi Gerasimov, then of Novosti Press Agency and now an official Soviet spokesman, appeared on Nightline on September 7 to reveal that KAL-007 had been on a spying mission, and he was able to cite as his source an article in the San Francisco Chronicle by its Washington correspondent, Knut Royce. A Chronicle columnist, Jon Carroll, followed with what he described as "a logical explanation" of what happened: The airliner, "covertly equipped with intelligence-gathering gear," had detoured over Sakhalin Island to spy.

    Phil Donahue did his bit for the Soviet campaign on his show in mid-September. Nearly all those he called on in the audience expressed suspicion of the U.S. role in this affair. Finally, one woman rose to say she didn't want viewers to think the whole studio audience was mad. She said a Donahue aide had gone among them before the show asking which of them believed KAL- 007 was on a spy mission!

    On September 19, ABC's John McWhethy reported that "the intelligence community" had concluded that the Soviets thought they were shooting down an RC-135 reconnaissance plane. He said the fighter pilot never got a good look at the target because he was "always several thousand feet beneath it, looking up at it in the night sky." This was subsequently picked up by David Shribman of The New York Times, columnist William Pfaff in the L.A. Times, and Stephen Rosenfeld, a member of the editorial board of The Washington Post.

    This is only a partial list of those who helped spread this Soviet disinformation. To our knowledge, The Wall Street Journal and CNN are the only ones that have given their readers and viewers an adequate report of Izvestia's findings. The media's blind eye toward the new information on KAL-007 shows a moral double standard. The same reporters and editors who were so eager to circulate Soviet disinformation are balking at setting the record straight now that the perpetrators of the lie have done so.

    What You Can Do

    According to Honegger, the Boston Globe located Casey's appointment book at the Hoover Institution. It reported no entries for the weekend of October 18 and 19, but on October 20 he had appointments scheduled for 8:00 a.m., 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. Honegger writes darkly that the "Globe could find no evidence that the appointments listed for the 20th had actually been kept." She wants to believe that they weren't kept, because her sources claimed that Casey met with the Iranians in Paris that day.

    Donald Gregg is accused by the conspiracy theorists of dashing off to Paris to help the Republicans negotiate a deal with Iran to block the release of the hostages at the same time he was serving President Carter on the staff of the National Security Council. Gregg testified that he and his family were at the beach on the weekend in question, but they could not provide documentary evidence to prove it. Finally, Richard V. Allen, who was also supposed to have been in Paris with Bush, Casey and Gregg, was actually credited by Honegger with having "an airtight alibi, at least for October 19." He was interviewed on a live television program that day,

    The Iranians have proven to be hard bargainers. The Iran-Contra hearings made it clear that the Iranians demanded arms-on-the-barrelhead before releasing any hostages. They showed their tenacity by dragging out the negotiations with the Carter administration for the release of the 52 hostages in January 1981 for four months. Gary Sick, Les Geib and others in the media who have given credence to his suspicions would have us believe that these tough bargainers were so charmed by George Bush and Bill Casey, after meeting them for a few hours that they did their bidding in return for nothing but a promise that if elected, Reagan would sanction the Israeli sale of arms to Iran. Sick professes to find proof of this in the fact that Israel did sell arms to Iran after Reagan took office.

    But Carter's National Security Adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, says in his memoirs, Power and Principle, that the Carter administration was willing to provide arms and spare parts immediately if the hostages were released. He said that by mid-October they were even discussing "the possibility of pre-positioning some of these spare parts in Germany, Algeria, or Pakistan, so that the Iranians could then promptly pick them up with their own aircraft." He notes that the NSC learned, "much to our dismay, that the Israelis had been secretly supplying American spare pans to the Iranians, without much concern for the negative impact this was having on our leverage with the Iranians on the hostage issue." Richard Allen says that Israel defended this as necessary to get Jews safely out of Iran, and there is evidence that they continued to ship some supplies, with or without U.S. approval in 1981.

    All of the Cockburns have used influential media organs to agitate against a strong U.S. military. Andrew Cockburn, who served as a contributing editor for the trade publication Defense Week, once took the line that we didn't have to worry about the Soviet military because it had inferior equipment. But he also doubted the effective- ness of U.S. weapons. He complained in a July 22, 1986 New York Times article that the Stinger anti-aircraft missile was too "puny" to do much damage to its targets. He claimed a "humid climate" could "play merry hell with the Stinger's electronic innards." Perhaps Cockburn was concerned about where the Pentagon intended to send the Stingers. During this period Stingers proved deadly effective in shooting down Soviet helicopters and MIGs over Afghanistan and Angola when used by Afghan freedom fighters and Jonas Savimbi's anti-communist UNITA forces. The Stingers are widely credited with helping to force the Soviets out of Afghanistan.

    Yet Andrew Cockburn also complained when our weapons worked. After President Reagan ordered air strikes against terrorist-related targets in Libya, he argued on ABC's "Good Morning America" that the raids were "callous" and "not the thing that a power like the United States should be engaged in."

    Brother Alex has enjoyed U.S. hospitality for more than a decade, deriding America all the while. His main American outlet is The Nation, but until recently his column appeared regularly in The Wall Street Journal. It was in the Journal that he maintained that manufacturers colluding with the Defense Department in the padded invoice and the faked test were sending American troops into battle in the Gulf." He repeated this charge in a Nation column before the ground war began. "From information surviving censorship in Saudi Arabia a somber picture emerges of poor liaison, dubious equipment (and) badly prepared troops," he wrote. "...Kuwait will most likely be vigorously contested, house by house, and just as the battle there could bog down, so too could the U.S. rush toward the rivers northwest of Basra come to grief."

    Cockburn's record is consistently spavined when he writes about defense. He charged in the September 24, 1981 Wall Street Journal that the AWACS "does not work" and is a "preeminent example of the Pentagon's disastrous high tech procurement policies over the past generation." So what happened when the weapon was tested in battle? Aviation Week & Space Technology said that the AWACS "played a pivotal role in crushing Iraq's air and ground- based military elements." AW&ST credited AWACs "with providing vital control and coordination services from the start of the air war January 17 to the attack and close air support missions conducted through February 28." Allied planes flew more than 110,000 sorties, and AWACS operators controlled the "great majority" of them.

    Despite these successes, the Project on Government Procurement still claims that some weapons didn't work well enough, or haven't really been tested. Research associate Kevin Paige is nagging at the Patriot's success by claiming that it only operated under "favorable combat conditions" and only demonstrated "part of its required mission capabilities." On January 21, after a Patriot knocked the first Scud out of the sky, former Pentagon analyst Pierre Sprey, who worked with Rasor over the years, claimed to the Philadelphia Inquirer that the Patriot was still hugely expensive and prone to break down. An unnamed defense analyst told the Inquirer, "I didn't think it would work at all."

    A current target of the Pentagon-bashers is the B-1 bomber and the B-2 Stealth bomber, which strategists would like to have configured so that they could be used both for strategic nuclear and conventional missions. The Air Force wants the B-1 as a replacement for the aged B-52. Lt. Gen. Charles A. Horner, air commander in the Persian Gulf, said he could have put both planes to deadly use in the air war. But Congressional delays supported by President Carter have delayed their development.

    Uninformed media reporting has particularly harmed the B-2 Stealth bomber. A new study, "The B-2 and Network News," by Stephen Aubin of Boston University's Center for Defense Journalism, published by the Aerospace Education Foundation, accuses the TV networks of distorting news about the aircraft and misleading the public about the stakes involved in the decision to fund it. Aubin documents the familiar pattern of emphasizing images of high cost, failed or delayed test flights, defective parts and corrupt or incompetent defense contractors. When the aircraft had a successful test on August 26, 1989, only the "CBS Evening News" covered it, and with a brief report. Aubin writes, "In the case of the B-2, any American who had the misfortune of getting all of his news from the networks would have no idea about how cost relates to its mission, the technological advances made, the links to arms control, or even some of the controversies surrounding its technical capabilities, like range and aero- dynamics."

    Bob Andrews, who fought in the battles for high-tech weapons over the years, has said, "The people who write about weapons systems should be as accountable as the people who build and use them." On that basis, our troops, the Pentagon and the defense contractors who supplied them should be hailed with flying colors. But many reporters deserve a dishonorable discharge.

    What You Can Do

    Send the enclosed cards or your own cards and letters to Robert C. Wright, Chairman, NBC; Roone Arledge, President, ABC News; and the third to an editor or broadcaster of your choice.

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    AIM Report NOTES FROM THE EDITOR'S CUFF

    THIS AIM REPORT IS ABOUT A JOURNALISTIC INVESTIGATION OF ONE OF THE biggest scandals of the 1980s -- the massacre of the 269 men, women and children aboard KAL-007 on September 1, 1983 and the cover-up that followed. The investigation was by the official government newspaper of the U.S.S.R., Izvestia. The cover-up was by the Soviet government. What Izvestia learned was damning of the conduct of the highest government and military officials in the Soviet Union from the time of the shootdown right up to the present day. Mikhail Gorbachev, the author of glasnost, is still keeping under lock and key the records that would tell the whole disgraceful story of the KAL. Izvestia has lifted the corner of the rug under which the dirt was swept. What it revealed should have ignited demands from our media and our government that the Soviet government come clean, acknowledge that what they did was wrong, compensate the families of the victims and tell all they know about what happened and the ultimate fate of those who perished.

    THANKS TO IZVESTIA, BUT NO THANKS TO MOST OF OUR OWN MEDIA WHO HAVE almost completely ignored the findings of the Izvestia investigation, we now know that the pilot who shot down KAL-007 knew that it was a civilian plane and that he made no effort to warn it or force it to land before firing two rockets that sent the plane and all aboard plunging into the sea. We also know that the Soviets located the wreckage and that their divers searched it thoroughly. They were looking for the "black boxes" (they aren't actually black) that contain the electronically recorded data and crew conversations during the flight. These would conclusively prove or disprove the allegations that the plane deliberately over flew Soviet territory on a spying mission. Izvestia talked to participants in the search who say that the boxes were found.

    IZVESTIA REPORTED WHAT FIVE PERSONS TOLD IT ABOUT THE SEARCH FOR THE "black boxes." (1) V. Zakharchenko, one of the divers, said he could not say positively whether the boxes were found or not, but he said that an underwater vehicle sent in by the Academy of Sciences retrieved and "handed over to us a bright orange ball." (2) Another diver, Zhan Aleshchenko, said, "I remember for sure. They found these boxes. The military took them away, the so-called 'black boxes'.... They said there were two, but I personally saw one -- a small red ball, the size of a volleyball." (3) A source who was promised confidentiality and was identified only as a person working on the Mirchink, the ship from which the divers operated, said: "Four 'black boxes' are supposed to be standard issue on a Boeing. Three were retrieved, two normal and one deformed. They look like large doughnuts covered with sealed lids; there are joints for plugging them into on-board circuits. They are usually mounted close to the side doors. In general, they are standard, as a rule, red or pink. These boxes are built especially in order to withstand a powerful shock. They were lifted on board in bags filled with water. The military hauled them away from the Mirchink on a patrol boat in the same bags filled with water." (A Boeing spokesman told us that the number, color and configuration of "black boxes" vary from airline to airline, but that the Izvestia description "sounds reasonable enough for Korean Air Lines.") (4) A navy man, who would not identify himself and would speak only on the phone but whose detailed knowledge satisfied Izvestia that he had participated in the search, said a "black box" was found and "delivered to Nevelsk where it was inspected by specialists from the aircraft industry. After this, it was placed in a container that was filled with seawater. Apparently it was impossible to do detailed testing on Sakhalin, and this super-secret package was sent to Moscow. I am a witness." (5) An officer who took part in the search who described in detail measures taken to thwart the American searchers. He said, "And finally -- success! What we had been searching for, the 'black boxes,' were found." He said three of them were taken aboard the ship.

    CLEARLY THE SOVIETS HAVE HAD THE PROOF THAT THEIR ALLEGATIONS ABOUT KAL-007 were false ever since November 1983. If the black boxes had supported their charges, they would have announced it triumphantly. Their silence is refutation of all the spy-plane conspiracy books and articles that have been published in the West over the past eight years.

    THE SKEWED PRIORITIES OF THOSE WHO DECIDE FOR US WHAT IS NEWS AND WHAT is not have been exposed by their reaction to Izvestia's revelations. They told us nothing about the confessions of the Soviet pilot when Izvestia published them last January. Even after the story was finally broken in this country by James Oberg on, of all places, the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal, they still ignored it. They were busy pushing for an investigation of the rumor that William J. Casey and George Bush had persuaded Iran not to release the 52 American hostages before the 1980 election. (See the May-A AIM Report showing how famous this story was. The New York Times, which gave the rumor respectability without investigating it, finally, on May 15, gave its readers some of the facts refuting it in an op-ed column by Lloyd Cutler, counsel to President Carter from 1979 to 1981.) ABC, NBC and The Washington Post have continued to ignore the Izvestia story even after we called it to the attention of some of their top executives (none of whom was aware of the story when we discussed it with them). These people owe it to the families of the hostages and the people of this country to help Izvestia put pressure on Gorbachev to come clean on this matter. But they don't even see its news value.

    MICHAEL GARTNER, PRESIDENT OF NBC NEWS, ASKED ME IF IT WASN'T IRONIC that AIM was willing to believe what Izvestia said. The fact that Izvestia, long the faithful lackey of the Soviet government, is willing to expose a major Soviet cover-up and disinformation campaign is itself news. It is ironic that the American correspondents in Moscow, who for years passed on the disinformation and propaganda published in the Soviet press, apparently pay less attention to it now that it is providing tough reporting about failures of the Soviet system. The KAL story is only one of many examples of good investigative reporting by the liberated Soviet press that have not found their way into our media.

    NOW THAT WINNIE MANDELA HAS BEEN CONVICTED, PHIL DONAHUE SHOULD take another look at her. It was on his show last summer that Winnie complained that she had not been given her day in court. Now she has had it. Jesse Jackson's Rainbow Coalition has issued a press release saying that a jury of her peers did not try her and that the judge was white. It says, "The truth surrounding the legal issues involving Mrs. Mandela may never be known."

    AIM HAS UNDER PRODUCTION A NEW HALF-HOUR VIDEO ON WINNIE MANDELA that we hope will be used to counteract the efforts of Jackson and Randall Robinson of TransAfrica to muddy the waters. It should be available soon. Here are some other videos that are available at discounts to AIM members. Add $4.00 shipping charge for the first tape and $1.50 for each additional tape. #1: The Hunt for Red October, list price $99.50, AIM member price $39.95 #2: Schwarzkopf: How the War Was Won, list $19.98; member price $17.95 #3: Nixon Reflects, list price $24.98; AIM member price $19.95

    IF YOU OR YOUR GROUP WANT TO PROMOTE YOUR PROJECTS ON RADIO TALK shows, you need AIM's TALK SHOW DIRECTORY, a how-to manual for people who want to become guests on radio talk shows, along with a directory of nearly 400 radio talk shows around the country that are constantly looking for guests. AIM's public affairs director, Debby Lambert, who compiled and edited the directory, tells me that we've sold hundreds of copies to top PR firms, including Hill & Knowlton and Roger Ailes. A pro-life organization ordered 100 copies for its chapters around the country. The directory retails for $6.95, but we're making it available to AIM members for only $3.95. Quantity discounts are available. Use the coupon below to order.


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