CBS’s Smith Wonders if Tape of U.S.- Iran Naval Conflict Was Fake

At the top of Thursday’s CBS "Early Show," co-host Harry Smith questioned the authenticity of an audio tape of the confrontation between U.S. and Iranian ships on January 6:

We're going to try to re -- to deconstruct the Pentagon tapes just released of that hostile incident in the Strait of Hormuz. Iranian speedboats taunting a U.S. ship. A tape the Iranians are calling a hoax. There's something strange about the audio.

In the later segment on the issue, Smith talked to international security expert, Jeff McCausland, and again wondered if the Iranian hoax accusation had merit:

Iranian officials are calling this video a hoax, saying those voices sounded like they were recorded someplace else...As you have looked at this tape, listened to -- especially the English coming from the Iranians, does it ring authentic to you? Does it seem real?

Smith’s questioning of whether or not this audio was "real," was reminiscent of left-winger Rosie O’Donnell on ABC’s "The View" in March of last year describing the Iranian capture of British sailors this way: "Gulf of Tonkin, Google it." Smith also sounds similar to a contributor to the left-wing Huffington Post, who today said of the January 6 incident: "On Tuesday, the Navy released video footage and an audiotape to back its claims that the Iranian boats acted in a threatening and provocative manner, but neither the video nor the audio are particularly convincing as proof that Iran had hostile intentions."

Already sounding like a liberal conspiracy theorist, Smith continued to question the tape:

The thing is though, you hear this Iranian voice saying basically 'we're coming to get you, we're going to blow you up.' You don't hear the sound of the -- of the motors on the boats. You don't hear the wind -- the boats look like they're going at least 20 knots. Could it have been broadcast from someplace else? And -- and if you're on the deck of a ship like this and this comes in, how do you determine if it's real or not?

McCausland brought some sanity to the segment as it concluded:

Well, in terms of the allegation by the Iranians that the Navy fabricated their particular video, I think we have to understand to begin with, that would be obviously illegal. I think furthermore, we've got to think about is who would benefit from ratcheting up tensions right now in the Gulf. As we've seen over the last few weeks and months, there's been some attempts, by the United States at least, to reduce tensions. In Iran there has been periodically attempts to ratchet up tensions largely, I think, to benefit them internally and politically.

Here is the full transcript of the segment:

7:01AM TEASER:

HARRY SMITH: We're going to try to re -- to deconstruct the Pentagon tapes just released of that hostile incident in the Strait of Hormuz. Iranian speedboats taunting a U.S. ship. A tape the Iranians are calling a hoax. There's something strange about the audio.

UNIDENTIFIED IRANIAN SAILOR: I am coming to you.

SMITH: That is just ahead.

7:09AM SEGMENT:

HARRY SMITH: There are new developments and building tensions in an encounter between U.S. naval ships and Iranian speedboats. The Pentagon has now released video of the incident that happened Sunday. Three U.S. warships were passing through the Strait of Hormuz when five small Iranian boats sped toward them, dropping unidentified white boxes in the water. The Pentagon says there was this warning from the Iranian boat.

UNIDENTIFIED IRANIAN SAILOR: I am coming to you. You will explode in a couple minutes.

UNIDENTIFIED AMERICAN SAILOR: He says you will explode after a few minutes.

SMITH: Iranian officials are calling this video a hoax, saying those voices sounded like they were recorded someplace else. Jeff McCausland is a former U.S. Army colonel and international security affairs expert who has spent a lot of time in the Middle East, he's also visiting professor at the Pennsylvania State University Dickinson School of Law. Good morning, sir.

JEFF MCCAUSLAND: Good morning to you sir.

SMITH: As you have looked at this tape, listened to -- especially the English coming from the Iranians, does it ring authentic to you? Does it seem real?

MCCAUSLAND: Well, it's possibly real, Harry, but, of course, this whole incident lasted about 20 minutes. And the only thing we see in the Iranian video is frankly how close these particular Iranian ships were operating to the U.S. Navy vessels. And second of all, it seems to underscore the fact that the U.S. Navy ships were in fact operating in international waters, something so far, at least, the Iranians have not disputed.

SMITH: Right. The thing is though, you hear this Iranian voice saying basically 'we're coming to get you, we're going to blow you up.' You don't hear the sound of the -- of the motors on the boats. You don't hear the wind -- the boats look like they're going at least 20 knots. Could it have been broadcast from someplace else? And -- and if you're on the deck of a ship like this and this comes in, how do you determine if it's real or not?

MCCAUSLAND: Well, in terms of the allegation by the Iranians that the Navy fabricated their particular video, I think we have to understand to begin with, that would be obviously illegal. I think furthermore, we've got to think about is who would benefit from ratcheting up tensions right now in the Gulf. As we've seen over the last few weeks and months, there's been some attempts, by the United States at least, to reduce tensions. In Iran there has been periodically attempts to ratchet up tensions largely, I think, to benefit them internally and politically.

SMITH: Jeff McCausland, thank you very much for taking the time to speak with us today.

MCCAUSLAND: My pleasure.

Editor's Note: For a related post, check here.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC