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Leaving the U.S.S. Liberty Crew Behind
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On June 8, 1967, Israeli leaders learned they could deliberately attack a U.S. Navy ship and try to send it, together with its entire crew, to the bottom of the Mediterranean – with impunity. Israeli aircraft and torpedo boats attacked the USS Liberty, a state-of-the-art intelligence collection platform sailing in international waters off the Sinai, killing 34 of the 294 crew members and wounding more than 170.

On the 47th anniversary of that unprovoked attack let’s be clear about what happened: Israeli messages intercepted on June 8, 1967, leave no doubt that sinking the USS Liberty was the mission assigned to the attacking Israeli warplanes and torpedo boats as the Six-Day War raged in the Middle East. Let me repeat: there is no doubt – none – that the mission of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) was to destroy the USS Liberty and kill its entire crew.

Referring last week to the controversy of the swap of five Taliban prisoners for Sgt. Bode Bergdahl, President Barack Obama claimed, “The U.S. has always had a pretty sacred rule: We don’t leave our men or women in uniform behind.” The only exception, he might have added, is when Israeli forces shoot them up; then mum’s the word.

USS Liberty (AGTR-5) receives assistance from units of the Sixth Fleet, after she was attacked and seriously damaged by Israeli forces off the Sinai Peninsula on June 8, 1967. (US Navy photo)

USS Liberty (AGTR-5) receives assistance from units of the Sixth Fleet, after she was attacked and seriously damaged by Israeli forces off the Sinai Peninsula on June 8, 1967. (US Navy photo)

Mr. President, try explaining that “pretty sacred rule” to the USS Liberty survivors. I know them well enough to sense the hollow echo that Obama’s claim will leave in their ears – and in the ears of the families of those who did not survive.

The crew of the USS Liberty has been “left behind,” in a figurative as well as a physical sense. There is no way to retrieve the bodies of those washed out to sea through the large hole made by the Israeli torpedo that hit the Liberty amidships, killing 26 of the crew.

There is a way, however, to stop throwing salt in the survivors’ wounds, as every U.S. president since Lyndon Johnson has done in acquiescing to the false narrative that it was all a terrible case of mistaken identity and confusion by Israeli command and control. That salt burns – especially on anniversaries of the tragedy, raising troubling questions about the power of the Israel Lobby and the Israeli government over U.S. politicians.

In apparent fear of the Israel Lobby and not wanting to offend the Israeli government, U.S. officials including the Navy have refused to come clean on what happened 47 years ago. The mainstream U.S. media has been a willing partner in this failure to face the facts and demand accountability.

No Accident

Here, for example, is the text of an intercepted Israeli conversation, just one of many pieces of hard, unambiguous evidence that the Israeli attack was not a mistake:

Israeli pilot to ground control: “This is an American ship. Do you still want us to attack?”

Ground control: “Yes, follow orders.” …

Israeli pilot: “But, sir, it’s an American ship – I can see the flag!”

Ground control: “Never mind; hit it!”

The Israelis would have been able to glory in reporting “mission accomplished, ship sunk, all crew killed” save for the bravery and surefootedness of then-23 year-old Navy seaman Terry Halbardier, whose actions spelled the difference between the murder of 34 of the crew and the intended massacre of all 294.

Halbardier skated across the Liberty’s slippery deck while it was being strafed in order to connect a communications cable and enable the Liberty to send out an SOS. The Israelis intercepted that message and, out of fear of how the U.S. Sixth Fleet would respond, immediately broke off the attack, returned to their bases, and sent an “oops” message to Washington confessing to their unfortunate “mistake.”

As things turned out, the Israelis didn’t need to be so concerned. When President Johnson learned that the USS America and USS Saratoga had launched warplanes to do battle with the forces attacking the Liberty, he told Defense Secretary Robert McNamara to call Sixth Fleet commander Rear Admiral Lawrence Geiss and tell him to order the warplanes to return immediately to their carriers.

According to J.Q. “Tony” Hart, a chief petty officer who monitored these conversations from a U.S. Navy communications relay station in Morocco, Geiss shot back that one of his ships was under attack. Tellingly, McNamara responded: “President Johnson is not going to go to war or embarrass an American ally over a few sailors.”

Getting Away With Murder

For the Israelis, the tight U-turn by the U.S. warplanes over the Mediterranean was proof positive that the Israeli government can literally get away with murder, including killing U.S. servicemen, and that Official Washington and its servile media could be counted upon to cover up the deliberate nature of the attack.

John Crewdson, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist for the Chicago Tribune, asked McNamara about this many years later. McNamara’s answer is worth reading carefully; he said he had “absolutely no recollection of what I did that day,” except that “I have a memory that I didn’t know at the time what was going on.”

Crewsdon has written the most detailed and accurate account of the Israeli attack on the Liberty; it appeared in the Chicago Tribune, and also in the Baltimore Sun, on Oct. 2, 2007. Read it and you’ll understand why Crewdson got no Pulitzer for his investigative reporting on the Liberty. Instead, the Tribune laid him off in November 2008 after 24 years.

Several of the Liberty survivors have become friends of mine. I have listened to their stories, as Crewdson did. When June 8 comes around each year I remember them. And on special occasions, as when Terry Halbardier was finally awarded the Silver Star for his bravery, I write about them.

The mainstream U.S. media has avoided the USS Liberty case like the plague. I just checked the Washington Post and – surprise, surprise – it has missed the opportunity for the 46thconsecutive year, to mention the Liberty anniversary.

On the few occasions when the mainstream U.S. media outlets are forced to address what happened, they blithely ignore the incredibly rich array of hard evidence and still put out the false narrative of the “mistaken” Israeli attack on the Liberty.

And they attempt to conflate fact with speculation, asking why Israel would deliberately attack a ship of the U.S. Navy. Why Tel Aviv wanted the Liberty and its entire crew on the bottom of the Mediterranean remains a matter of speculation, but there are plausible theories including Israel’s determination to keep the details of its war plans secret from everyone, including the U.S. government.

But there is no doubt that destroying the Liberty and its crew was the mission assigned to Israel’s warplanes and torpedo boats. One Navy Admiral with a conscience, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (and before that Chief of Naval Operations) Thomas Moorer, has “broken ranks,” so to speak. Moorer helped lead an independent, blue-ribbon commission to investigate what happened to the Liberty.

The following are among the commission’s findings made public in October 2003:

-That the attack, by a U.S. ally, was a “deliberate attempt to destroy an American ship and kill its entire crew”

-That the attack included the machine-gunning of stretcher-bearers and life rafts

-That “the White House deliberately prevented the U.S. Navy from coming to the defense of the [ship] … never before in naval history has a rescue mission been cancelled when an American ship was under attack”

-That surviving crew members were later threatened with “court-martial, imprisonment, or worse” if they talked to anyone about what had happened to them; and were “abandoned by their own government.”

Doing Justice

Will the USS Liberty survivors ever enjoy the opportunity to know and to tell the real story with all its evil cruelties? Or will silence continue to reign? In a different context, Russian dissident author Alexandr Solzhenitzyn wrote this warning about what silence about evil does to the foundations of justice:

“In keeping silent about evil, in burying it so deep within us that no sign of it appears on the surface, we are implanting it, and it will rise up a thousand fold in the future. When we neither punish nor reproach evildoers, we are not simply protecting their trivial old age, we are thereby ripping the foundations of justice from beneath new generations.” Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago

President Obama, the crew of the USS Liberty has been “left behind” for way too many years. Do the right thing by them. Face down those who warn that you cannot risk Israel’s displeasure. And add more substance to your rhetoric about our “pretty sacred rule” that we do not leave anybody wearing the American uniform behind.

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. He served as an Army infantry and intelligence officer and then as a CIA analyst for the next 27 years.

(Republished from ConsortiumNews by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Foreign Policy, History • Tags: American Media, Israel, USS Liberty 
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  1. A mention of James Ennes Jr.’s book Assault on the Liberty would be appropriate.

  2. Stan says:

    There was no attack on the Liberty. Israel is our only ally and the only democracy in the Middle East. Without Israel, we would have no friends.

    The attack on the Liberty was done by Osama bin Laden as an attempt to poison the special relationship the USA has with it’s only friend Israel. Fortunately, President Johnson was clever enough to see through the ruse and carefully avoided stepping into the trap.

    Like the Liberty, all of the multitudinous reports of Israel, our only friend and ally, spying on America have also been operations by Osama bin Laden trying to destroy the only democracy in the Middle East. Israel, as everyone knows, is America’s only friend and ally. Without Israel’s loyal friendship and support, America would surely fail. It is only because Israel is such a strong friend and ally of America that America is so well respected in the Middle East and throughout the world. Without Israel’s strong support and promises to help defend America, she would certainly be overrun by alien occupiers streaming across her southern border with Mexico. And without Israel’s tireless self-sacrifice, America’s air transport system would be a dangerous target for bad people everywhere.

    This writer should never again be allowed to write for anyone. He clearly doesn’t know or appreciate everything Israel, America’s only friend and ally, does for America. We must not allow him to continue spreading lies and slander about the only democracy in the Middle East. Without Israel, America would surely fail and this publication must print a full retraction to this story at once and then never ever mention it again. Remember, Israel is our only friend and ally.

  3. Excellent sarcasm, Stan.

  4. Dave37 says:

    Other allies have attacked our ships and planes over time so I’m not too surprised at Israel, which probably can’t give a good explanation, but I would like the US Government to do some explaining about their actions on this event.

  5. Sherman says:

    McGovern quotes an alleged conversation between an Israeli pilot and ground control in which the pilot is given orders to attack the Liberty.

    I challenge McGovern to provide the source of this alleged conversation.

    He won’t be able to because it never occurred.

    For starters, the Israeli military is notoriously informal. It is extremely unlikely that an Israeli pilot would address his ground control as “Sir”, especially right before a bombing run.

    This quote is just one of the many lies McGovern is peddling in this propaganda piece.

  6. Yakov says:

    Israel while fighting a war of survival on three fronts deliberately attacked a war ship of the strongest superpower that her biggest supporter? Sounds like an insane country. All American presidents, who don’t have a problem criticizing Israel were afraid of the Israeli lobby? Jimmy Carter was afraid of the Israeli lobby?
    I have to read more on the subject to have an informed opinion, but the author of this article does come across as a lier a day an anti-Semite.

    P. S. I’m an Israeli.

  7. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    You are entitled to your own opinions but not to your own facts. The dialog given is pure fiction, as phony as the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Give us a link to the tapes if it is not.

    Just the other day in Afghanistan, five fine American S.F. were killed by friendly fire. This is what happens in the fog of war. The Israelis thought that they were being shelled by an Egyptian destroyer. They thought wrong. Later they apologized and paid compensation. Why is this still being dredged up after 40 years? We have forgiven the Japanese for a deliberate attack on Pearl Harbor but this grudge must remain evergreen? The only way to explain this obsession is that it is the result of plain old-fashioned anti-Semitism.

  8. rod1963 says:

    People don’t get countries don’t have “friends” they have allies with common interests. Israel at the end of the day, is concerned what’s good for them not the U.S. so it’s not surprising they’d attack our spy ship. My bet they didn’t want the U.S. to see what they were really doing in the Sinai and decided to sink the ship and blame it on the Egyptians or were simply so sure of their power in Washington that they could do anything they want.

    Say like operate the largest spy ring in the U.S. outside of China which they currently do and are a major military technology conduit to China as well. Yet we won’t give their agents and people the boot to the behind they so deserve.

  9. fnn says:

    For starters, the Israeli military is notoriously informal. It is extremely unlikely that an Israeli pilot would address his ground control as “Sir”, especially right before a bombing run.

    No one is fooled by this sort of evasion. You are making a big deal about a single irrelevant word.

    Author James Scott at WAPO:

    …One reader wrote that there are “thousands of cases of friendly fire” yet the Liberty always seems to rise to the top. I think one of the reasons it does is the circumstances of the attack never fit the mold of a typical friendly fire incident. Most such assaults are over in seconds, maybe minutes, and occur at night, in inclement weather and otherwise poor conditions. In contrast, the attack on the Liberty lasted approximately an hour and happened on a clear and sunny afternoon. The attack was exceedingly brutal, leaving 821 shell holes in the ship in addition to a 39-foot torpedo hole. Those facts have made it hard – both in 1967 and today – for many to believe it could have been simply friendly fire.

    More importantly, as we now know from declassified Israeli documents, some Israeli personnel in fact knew the Liberty was an American ship. Early in the attack an Israeli pilot radioed in the Liberty’s hull number, and that information was passed to the Israeli Navy. Others inside Israel’s chain of command also later testified that they were aware of the ship’s identity before the torpedo strike. This is unfortunate, because had Israel stopped the attack at that point more than two dozen lives would have been saved. Based on this information, Israel’s ambassador to the United States in 1967, Avraham Harman, insisted that some of the attackers be prosecuted and that American journalists be invited to cover the trial, which unfortunately never happened.

  10. fnn says:

    From a former US Army Intelligence officer :


    Patrick Lang said…

    As I posted several years ago, The flight leader reported that he had the ship in sight and that it was displaying an American flag. He asked if he was still ordered to attack the ship. The answer was yes. My wife remembers that I mentioned it to her at the time. This was in the winter of 1967-68. I was attending the year long career course for military intelligence officers at the army intelligence school at Ft. Holabird, Maryland. i was taking an elective course in cryptology taught by staff from the nearby national cryptologic school at Ft. Meade. the transcript was in a booklet prepared fby the staff for some other course but used in this one as well. There are lots of old people out there who saw this. pl

    07 June 2010 at 11:53 PM

  11. Loud Zoo says:

    @Yakov: By inference, then, one must assume that not merely Mr. McGovern but former-CPO Hart and any survivors of the Liberty who may have spoken out are also liars and “anti-Semites”? I agree that you need ” to read more on the subject to have an informed opinion”; so do I, and I plan to read what little is available. I would also like to learn the source of the citation by Mr McGovern called into question by “Sherman”.

    That said, I am inclined to believe that Mr. McGovern is not a liar, and while he may be hostile to certain Israeli policies and actions, I do not believe that by default that makes him an anti-Semite; Zionism and Judaism are not synonymous. The issue in question calls for further investigation and true transparency.

  12. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Regarding Lang’s testimony, this is what is called “hearsay” evidence in a court (which is considered unreliable and not given any consideration). 32 years after the fact, a man remembers what he supposedly read in a booklet (which itself is hearsay). Where is this booklet? Where are the tapes that were transcribed? How did this paraphrased dialog become an exact quotation in McGovern’s recounting of it? Where are the “lot of people” who also saw the booklet? Can a copy of the booklet be found in the same place as the golden tablets that the Angel Moroni gave to Joseph Smith?

    Regarding the length of the attack and the extent of the damage, I have no doubt that the Israeli’s intention was to sink the ship and kill everyone on it, because they believed it to be an Egyptian enemy vessel that was shelling their coastline. They were going to give it all they had for as long as it took to send the ship to the bottom, until the mistake was realized.

    The idea that “real” friendly fire incidents are usually over in minutes is just wrong:

    If you believe you are attacking an enemy target, you will keep doing so until it is destroyed or until you learn otherwise. There are friendly fire incidents where a mortar falls short or the wrong coordinates are dialed in and these are over in seconds , but attacks of the type where you are mistaken as to the identity of the target sadly can and do go on for an agonizingly long time.

  13. geokat62 says:

    To all the hasbarists that are denying the attack on the USS Liberty was deliberate, I invite you to watch this BBC documentary:

    The highlight of the video is a quote by Research Officer, Dave Lewis, at 21:01

    “If it was an accident, it was the best planned accident I’ve ever hear of.”

  14. Yakov says:

    @Loud Zoo: I wouldn’t want to assume anything by inference. Today I ordered ‘ Assault on the Liberty’
    James M. Enter. I’m not going to comment more on the subject until I read the book.
    I do not consider people who critisise Jews or Israel to be automatically anti-Semitic as long as the criticism is substantive. We, like many other nations, have our national character traits and faults. Ray McGovern claims that all successive US governments suppressed the issue out of FEAR of the Jewish lobby. This idea could have come straight out of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion or Der Sturmer. This being the case, doesn’t mean that the issue shouldn’t be considered on its own merit.
    McGovern’s quote from Solzhenitsyn is also quite telling. Russian is my native laguage and I read Solzhenitsyn in the original from the age of 14. He had a great influence on my character development, however in ‘Gulag Archipelago’ overemphasizes the role of the Jews in the administration of the camps while underplaying the role of the Russians. sThat is context from which McGovern is quoting.
    In his other books I find Solzhenitsyn’s portrayal of the Jews is balanced and accurate.

  15. Dave Pinsen says: • Website

    An NSA surveillance plane recorded the conversations between the Israeli pilots and their ground control in the aftermath of the attack on the Liberty. Those tapes and translated transcripts of them were released in 2003:

  16. fnn says:

    Former Ambassador to Lebanon Dwight Porter saw proof that the attack was deliberate:

    During the summer of 1991 I was advised by an acquaintance that he had been a dinner guest of former American Ambassador to Lebanon Dwight Porter at his home in Silver Spring, Maryland, when the subject of the Israeli attack on USS Liberty had come up. During the conversation, Ambassador Porter mentioned that he knew the attack was deliberate because he had seen translations of intercepted communications between the attacking pilots and their headquarters before and during the attack on the ship. My caller said that Ambassador Porter had never spoken about this before, but would be willing to discuss it with me if I would call. He provided a telephone number.
    I called Ambassador Porter at home and found him friendly, cooperative and outgoing. He confirmed that a member of his staff at the embassy in Beirut had shown him intercepted communications between the attacking Israeli pilots and their headquarters starting some time before the pilot sighted the ship that was their target. Once sighting the target, the lead pilot informed his controlling headquarters that the target was in sight and it was an American ship flying an American flag. He asked for confirmation of orders to attack and was told to attack. The pilot expressed some reluctance but was ordered to attack and did so.

    Ambassador Porter said it was very clear from the communications that the pilots and their headquarters were both aware that they were attacking an American ship.

    Ambassador Porter was not aware of where or by whom those communications had been intercepted, only that they were received by his embassy staff and shown to him along with other intelligence information.

    …Rowland Evans confirmed the details with Ambassador Porter by telephone and then wrote a syndicated column that was widely distributed on November 6, 1991. Evans and his writing partner Robert Novak came under immediate and severe attack by Abe Rosenthal of the New York Times on November 8 (“a lie”) and by Hirsh Goodman on November 21 (“a piece of fiction”). Evans defended the original position in print on November 20 and again on December 19, 1991.

    …In this case, the intercepts seen by Ambassador Porter were almost certainly those intercepted by the Air Force C-130 operating near Liberty’s position, then sent in real time to the 6931st Security Group of the USAF Security Services stationed on Crete, where they were placed on dedicated Sigint communications by watch officer Captain Richard Block and subsequently received and read in Beirut by Ambassador Porter, in Vietnam by James Gotcher, by AF analyst Stephen Forslund, and others who have called us over the years to report having seen those same transcripts.

  17. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Again, FNN gives hearsay evidence – the Ambassador saw the transcripts, “others” saw the transcripts, etc. The CNN link translates (in part) the ACTUAL transcripts and they do not show a deliberate attack on a US target – they show the fog of war, as often happens in friendly fire attacks.

    At one point, the pilot does see a US flag but he (and the ground controllers) are confused by this, because in their minds they are attacking an Egyptian ship that is firing on their coast – they believe that they have numerous data points pointing in that direction and now there is suddenly one data point pointing in another direction. So should they discard their theories instantly?

    The human mind is a funny thing – we cling to our preconceived notions and they are hard to dislodge even in the fact of contradictory evidence which in the light of 20/20 hindsight is clear and convincing. We see this all the time with cops who shoot unarmed people – they swear on the Bible that they saw a gun, but later there is no gun. Again, they swear they saw a gun, that the gun must have disappeared later, that they really saw a gun at the time and had no choice but to kill this (innocent) person to defend themselves, to fire many many bullets into his body. They totally wrong but are not lying – their mind has played a trick on them.

    Likewise, you see a friendly flag on an “enemy ship” and your first thought is not that you and all your commanding officers have made a horrible, stupid error and have mistaken a neutral ship for an enemy ship and killed many innocent people, for which you and your commanders will get into a lot of trouble. Your mind hunts for other explanations to justify itself (denial ain’t just a river in Egypt, they say) – the enemy is flying a false flag to deceive us, I didn’t really see what I thought I saw, etc. Unfortunately, that is how human nature operates.

    But this is a far cry from a deliberate attack planned at the highest levels of the Israeli government. What did Israel have to gain from such an attack? So it could be hounded by anti-Semites 40 years later? Likewise, the families will always see conspiracy theories. It is one thing for their brave loved ones to die heroically as victims of a backstabbing ally, but to have such noble lives lost due to random stupidity – that must mean that there is no order or reason in the world and cannot be accepted. The families I understand, but the conspiracy nuts – they are just plain old fashioned anti-Semites.

  18. fnn says:

    Again, FNN gives hearsay evidence …

    The kind of ploy that might impress a daytime TV audience or the O.J. Simpson jury.

    “I was never satisfied with the Israeli explanation. . . . Through diplomatic channels we refused to accept their explanations. I didn’t believe them then, and I don’t believe them to this day. The attack was outrageous.”
    — US Secretary of State Dean Rusk

    “Accidents don’t occur through repeated attacks by surface vessels and aircraft. It obviously was a decision made pretty high up on the Israeli side, because it involved combined forces. The ship was flying an American flag. My judgment was that somewhere along the line some fairly senior official gave the go ahead. I personally did not accept the Israeli explanation.”
    — US Secretary of State Dean Rusk, Recorded interview,

    “…the board of inquiry (concluded) that the Israelis knew exactly what they were doing in attacking the Liberty.”
    — CIA Director Richard Helms in his book A Look Over my Shoulder

    “It was no accident.”
    — CIA Director Richard Helms in interview for Navy Times, 6/26/2002. Asked to say more, Helms remarked that he did not want to spend the rest of his life testifying in court about the attack.

    That the attack was deliberate “just wasn’t a disputed issue” within the National Security Agency
    — Former NSA Director retired Army Lieutenant General William Odom on 3 March 2003 in an interview for Naval Institute Proceedings

    Former NSA/CIA Director Admiral Bobby Inman “flatly rejected” the Cristol/Israeli claims that the attack was an accident
    — 5 March 2003 interview for Naval Institute Proceedings

    “I have never believed that the attack on the USS Liberty was a case of mistaken identity. That is ridiculous. Israel knew perfectly well that the ship was American.”
    — Admiral Thomas H. Moorer, former Chief of Naval Operations and later Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff writing for Americans for Middle East Understanding, June 8, 1997

    “To suggest that they [the IDF] couldn’t identify the ship is … ridiculous. … Anybody who could not identify the Liberty could not tell the difference between the White House and the Washington Monument.”
    — Admiral Thomas Moorer, Chief of Naval Operations and later Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, quoted in The Washington Post, June 15, 1991, p. 14

    Of four former NSA/CIA seniors with inside knowledge, none was aware of any agency official who dissented from the position that the attack was deliberate
    — David Walsh, writing in Naval Institute Proceedings

    “That the Liberty could have been mistaken for the Egyptian supply ship El Quseir is unbelievable”
    — Special Assistant to the President Clark Clifford, in his report to President Lyndon Johnson

    “Inconceivable that it was an accident � 3 strafing passes, 3 torpedo boats. Set forth facts. Punish Israelis responsible”
    — Clark Clifford, Secretary of Defense under Lyndon Johnson, in Minutes of NSC Special Committee Meeting, 9 June 1967

    “A nice whitewash for a group of ignorant, stupid and inept [expletive deleted].”
    — Handwritten note of August 26, 1967, by NSA Deputy Director Louis W. Tordella reacting to the Israeli court decision exonerating Israelis of blame for the Liberty attack. Dr. Tordella expressed the view that the attack was deliberate and that the Israeli government attempted to cover it up to authors James Ennes and James Bamford and to Congressman George Mahon (D-Texas), and in an internal memorandum for the record. He noted “a nice whitewash for a group of ignorant, stupid and inept (redacted)” in the margin of the official Israeli excuse for the attack as noted in the NSA Gerhard report 1982)

    “The attack was clearly deliberate.”
    — General Marshall Carter, former director, National Security Agency, in a telephone interview with James Ennes

    “The attack was deliberate”
    — Lucius Battle, former presidential advisor, as keynote speaker for 1982 USS Liberty reunion.

    “….did not buy the Israeli ‘mistake’ explanations either. Nobody believes that explanation.” When informed by author Bamford of gruesome war crime (killing of large numbers of POWs) at nearby El Arish, Morrison saw the connection. “That would be enough,” he said. “They wouldn’t want us in on that. You’ve got the motive. What a hell of a thing to do.”
    — Major General John Morrison, US Air Force, Deputy Chief NSA Operations during the attack and later Chief of NSA Operations as reported in Body of Secrets by James Bamford, p233.

    “I can tell you for an absolute certainty (from intercepted communications) that they knew they were attacking an American ship.”
    — Oliver Kirby, former deputy director for operations/production, National Security Agency. Kirby participated in NSA’s investigation of the attack and reviewed translations of intercepted communications between pilots and their headquarters which he reports show conclusively that they knew their target was an American ship. Kirby is considered the “Godfather” of the USS Liberty and USS Pueblo intercept programs. (Telephone interviews with James Ennes and David Walsh for Friendless Fire, Proceedings, June 2003)

    On the strength of intercept transcripts of pilots’ conversations during the attack, the question of the attack’s deliberateness “just wasn’t a disputed issue” within the agency.
    — Lieutenant General William E. Odom, former director, National Security Agency, interview with David Walsh on March 3, 2003, reported in Naval Institute Proceedings, June, 2003

    Inman said he “flatly rejected” the Cristol thesis that the attack was an accident. “It is just exceedingly difficult to believe that [USS Liberty] was not correctly identified” based on his talks with NSA seniors at the time having direct knowledge of intercepted communications. No NSA official could be found who dissented from the “deliberate” conclusion.
    — Admiral Bobby Ray Inman, USN, Director National Security Agency 1977-1981, reported in Proceedings, June, 2003

    “I found it hard to believe that it was, in fact, an honest mistake on the part of the Israeli air force units. I still find it impossible to believe that it was.”
    — Paul C. Warnke, Undersecretary of the Navy and later general legal counsel to the Department of Defense.

    Walter Deeley, NSA department head, conducted still-classified investigation of the attack and remarked later in telephone interview that he regards the attack as deliberate.
    — NSA Department Head Walter Deeley

    “The highest officials of the [Johnson] administration, including the President, believed it ‘inconceivable’ that Israel’s ‘skilled’ defense forces could have committed such a gross error.”
    — Lyndon Johnson’s biographer Robert Dallek in Flawed Giant, Oxford University Press, 1998, pp. 430-31

    Never before in the history of the United States Navy has a Navy Board of Inquiry ignored the testimony of American military eyewitnesses and taken, on faith, the word of their attackers.
    — Captain Richard F. Kiepfer, Medical Corps, US Navy (retired), USS Liberty Survivor

    “The Congress never investigated this matter, and I don’t detect much enthusiasm for getting into it now.”
    — Senator Adlai Stevenson III in letter to James Ennes dated September 9, 1980

    “American leaders did not have the courage to punish Israel for the blatant murder of its citizens. . . . The Liberty’s presence and function were well known to Israel’s leaders. …Israel’s leaders concluded that nothing they might do would offend the Americans to the point of reprisal. If American leaders did not have the courage to punish Israel for the blatant murder of American citizens, it seemed clear that their American friends would let them get away with almost anything.
    — George Ball, under secretary of state at the time writing in The Passionate Attachment: America’s Involvement with Israel, pages 57-58.

    “I don’t think that there’s any doubt that it was deliberate…. [It is] one of the great cover-ups of our military history.”
    — David G. Nes, the deputy head of the American mission in Cairo at the time

  19. fnn says:

    Remember there were Soviet ships in the area at that time. Now don’t you think the Israelis would have been very careful not to attack a Soviet ship?

  20. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    I’m known some IDF guys and they are rewarded for following their own initiative. They don’t just “Follow Orders”. That trait is encouraged. If it wasn’t a mistaken identity problem, they would have aborted on their own and sought clarification. These guys are SHARP. I regard them as professional warriors and not mindless minions.

  21. Sonny says:

    So sense this didnt happen, the holocaust didnt happen either. We know the holocaust happened because of the surviver’s and we know this happened because of the survivers of the Liberty….can’t have it both ways. It was an evil attack by Isreal, period.

  22. Hawkeye says:

    That the USS Liberty was deliberately attacked is not in question. That the Israelis knew that it was a U.S. ship was debunked in recent years when documents pertaining to the attack were declassified.

    Declassified documents in the United States and Israel have at long last revealed that the attack on the USS Liberty was indeed a tragic incident of accidental friendly fire, but Giraldi probably finds it more convenient to ignore that small fact. Closed door inquiries conducted by the CIA, National Security Agency, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as well as both houses of Congress all reached the same conclusion — that the Israeli attack on the USS Liberty was the result of error and nothing more. Some important facts about this tragic event. If this was a deliberate attack on a U.S. ship it stands to reason that Israeli missile patrol boats in the vicinity would easily off have finished the lightly armed Liberty. Dead men tell no tales and were this a deliberate attack the smart decision would have been to sink the ship outright rather than call off the attack and then attempt to render assistance. Prior to conducting the preemptive strikes into Egypt that set off the war, Israeli Defense Force Chief of Staff, Yitzhak Rabin requested the U.S. provide an identification of all U.S. ships in the vicinity, a request that was denied by the U.S. Moreover, Israeli Ambassador Harman requested a strategic liaison between Israel and the 6th Fleet, also denied. Ironically, the Liberty was supposed to remain in Rota, Spain, but dispatchers ordered the ship to a position off the coast of El Arish in the Sinai, but failed to notify the U.S. Naval Attache in Tel Aviv of the ship’s new orders. After the Liberty was hit, even the U.S. couldn’t locate the ship as it wasn’t where JCS thought it was. JCS placed the ship 60 – 100 miles north of Egypt, far from where the ship was actually located.

    Does anyone think for a minute that a military force that vanquished three Arab armies in six days was not capable of sinking a lightly armed ship and send most or all crewmen to the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea? Funny, how everyone admires the ability of the Israeli Defense Force, but they are incapable of sinking a ship. If the Israelis had targeted the Liberty for any reason it would never have survived to meet it’s ultimate fate of being carved up for razor blades.

    Of course, it is easy to dismiss the findings of the CIA, JCS, and NSA and the rest of this information. For the paranoid who look for a conspiracy in every shadow no amount of evidence will ever satisfy them and this discussion is moot, but given the findings of U.S. intelligence and defense agencies one would think we could finally put this to rest.

  23. fnn says:

    From Proceedings Magazine:US Naval Institute of June 2003:

    The jamming of unique U.S. frequencies during the Liberty incident seems to establish deliberate intent. And in exclusive interviews with this author, several former high-level National Security Agency (NSA) officials agree.

    On 14 February 2003, the “godfather” of the NSA’s Auxiliary General Technical Research program, Oliver Kirby, noted that the Liberty was “my baby.” Within weeks of the calamity, Kirby, deputy director for operations/production, read U.S. signals intelligence (SigInt)-generated transcripts and “staff reports” at NSA’s Fort Meade, Maryland, headquarters. They were of Israeli pilots’ conversations, recorded during the attack. The intercepts made it “absolutely certain” they knew it was a U.S. ship, he said. Kirby’s is the first public disclosure by a top-level NSA senior of deliberate intent based on personal analyses of SigInt material.
    In an interview on 24 February 2003, retired Air Force Major General John Morrison, the agency’s then-second-in-command (and Kirby’s successor), said he had been informed at the time of Kirby’s findings and endorsed them. Former NSA Director retired Army Lieutenant General William Odom said on 3 March 2003 that, on the strength of such data, the attack’s deliberateness “just wasn’t a disputed issue” within the agency. On 5 March 2003, retired Navy Admiral Bobby Ray Inman, NSA director from 1977-1981, said he “flatly rejected” the Cristol/Israeli thesis. “It is just exceedingly difficult to believe that [the Liberty] was not correctly identified.” He said this was based on his talks with NSA seniors at the time having direct knowledge. All four were unaware of any agency official at that time or later who dissented from the “deliberate” conclusion.

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