The USS Liberty

Chapter 7 of Paul Findley’s They Dare to Speak Out
discusses Israel’s attack on the USS Liberty in 1967.
Further background on this incident is provided
here (the quotations in this are really worth knowing about),
here (note especially the statement at the end: “Former NSA Officials Agree”),
here, here, here, and in Bamford’s Body of Secrets and reply to Aftergood.
Listen to Admiral Moorer (former CNO and JCS Chairman) here.
Finally, Wikipedia.

Remember the Liberty!
When Israel attacks, the Pentagon retreats
by Justin Raimondo
Antiwar.com, 2007-05-30

It was 40 years ago this June 8 that the USS Liberty
a large, armorless, refitted freighter
that was gathering intelligence in the Mediterranean
at the outset of the Six Day War –
was attacked by Israeli fighter jets and torpedoes.
Thirty-four U.S. sailors were killed, and 172 were wounded.
The Liberty limped back to Malta.
A U.S. Navy court of inquiry was on board investigating the damage,
but – for some reason –
the investigators were not allowed to proceed to Israel
to find out what really went on.
Orders from the top echelons of the Pentagon nixed the inquiry, and today,
the families of the fallen still haven't gotten any answers as to
why Israel was allowed to get away with it
without even so much as a slap on the wrist –
nor even any public acknowledgment that it was a deliberate attack.


Time for the truth about the Liberty
By Ward Boston Jr.
San Diego Union-Tribune, 2007-07-08

Forty years ago this week, I was asked to investigate
the heaviest attack on an American ship since World War II.
As senior legal counsel to the Navy Court of Inquiry,
it was my job to help uncover the truth regarding Israel's June 8, 1967,
bombing of the Navy intelligence ship Liberty.

On that sunny, clear day 40 years ago,
Israel's combined air and naval forces attacked the Liberty for two hours,
inflicting 70 percent casualties.
Thirty-four American sailors died, and 172 were injured.
The Liberty remained afloat only by the crew's heroic efforts.

Israel claimed it was an accident.
Yet I know from personal conversations with the late Adm. Isaac C. Kidd -
president of the Court of Inquiry –
that President Lyndon Johnson and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara
ordered him to conclude that the attack [on the Liberty]
was a case of “mistaken identity.”

The ensuing cover-up has haunted us for 40 years.
What does it imply for our national security,
not to mention our ability to honestly broker peace in the Middle East,
when we cannot question Israel's actions – even when they kill Americans?

Today, survivors of Israel's cruel attack will gather in Washington, D.C.,
to honor their dead shipmates as well as the mothers, sisters, widows and children they left behind.
They will continue to ask for a fair and impartial congressional inquiry that,
for the first time,
would allow the survivors themselves to testify publicly.

For decades, I have remained silent.
I am a military man, and when orders come in from the secretary of defense
and president of the United States, I follow them.
However, attempts to rewrite history and concern for my country
compel me to share the truth.

Adm. Kidd and I were given only one week
to gather evidence for the Navy's official investigation,
though we both estimated that a proper Court of Inquiry
would take at least six months.
[That seems eminently reasonable.
Note how long enquiries of other disasters and tragedies have taken.]

We boarded the crippled ship at sea and interviewed survivors.
The evidence was clear.
We both believed with certainty that this attack
was a deliberate effort to sink an American ship and murder its entire crew.

I am certain the Israeli pilots and commanders who had ordered the attack
knew the ship was American.
I saw the bullet-riddled American flag that had been raised by the crew
after their first flag had been shot down completely.
I heard testimony that made it clear the Israelis intended there be no survivors.
Not only did they attack with napalm, gunfire and missiles,
Israeli torpedo boats machine-gunned at close range
three life rafts that had been launched
in an attempt to save the most seriously wounded.

I am outraged at the efforts of Israel's apologists
to claim this attack was a case of “mistaken identity.”

Adm. Kidd told me that after receiving the president's cover-up orders,
he was instructed to sit down with two civilians
from either the White House or the Department of Defense
and rewrite portions of the court's findings.
He said, “Ward, they're not interested in the facts.
It's a political matter, and we cannot talk about it.”
We were to “put a lid on it”
and caution everyone involved never to speak of it again.

I know that the Court of Inquiry transcript that has been released to the public
is not the same one that I certified and sent to Washington.
I know this because it was necessary, due to the exigencies of time,
to hand-correct and initial a substantial number of pages.
I have examined the released version of the transcript
and did not see any pages that bore my hand corrections and initials.
Also, the original did not have any deliberately blank pages,
as the released version does.
In addition, the testimony of Lt. Lloyd Painter
concerning the deliberate machine-gunning of the life rafts
by the Israeli torpedo boat crews,
which I distinctly recall being given at the Court of Inquiry
and including in the original transcript, is now missing.

I join the survivors in their call for an honest inquiry.
Why is there no room to question Israel – even when it kills Americans –
in the halls of Congress?

Let the survivors testify. Let me testify.
Let former intelligence officers testify that
they received real-time Hebrew translations of Israeli commanders
instructing their pilots to sink “the American ship.”

Surely uncovering the truth
about what happened to American servicemen in a bloody attack
is more important than protecting Israel.
And surely 40 years is long enough to wait.

Boston served as chief counsel to the Navy’s Court of Inquiry
into the attack on the U.S. Navy intelligence ship Liberty.
He also served as a naval aviator in World War II on the carrier Yorktown
and as an FBI agent
prior to his assignment to the Navy's Judge Advocates General Corps.
He is a graduate of the the College of William and Mary School of Law
and a resident of Coronado.


Navy Vet Who Foiled Israeli Attack Honored
by Ray McGovern
Antiwar.com, 2009-06-02

[The beginning of this fairyly lengthy article:]

What’s the difference between murder and massacre?

The answer is Terry Halbardier,
whose bravery and ingenuity as a 23-year-old Navy seaman
spelled the difference between
the murder of 34 of the USS Liberty crew
and the intended massacre of all 294.

The date was June 8, 1967; for the families of the 34 murdered and for the Liberty’s survivors and their families, it is a “date which will live in infamy” – like the date of an earlier surprise attack on the U.S. Navy.

The infamy is twofold: (1) the Liberty, a virtually defenseless intelligence collection platform prominently flying an American flag in international waters, came under deliberate attack by Israeli aircraft and three 60-ton Israeli torpedo boats off the coast of the Sinai on a cloudless June afternoon during the six-day Israeli-Arab war; and (2) President Lyndon Johnson called back carrier aircraft dispatched to defend the Liberty lest Israel be embarrassed – the start of an unconscionable cover-up, including top Navy brass, that persists to this day.

Given all they have been through, the Liberty survivors and other veterans – who joined Halbardier to celebrate his belated receipt of the Silver Star – can be forgiven for having doubted that this day would ever come. In the award ceremony at the Visalia, Calif., office of Rep. Devin Nunes, the Republican congressman pinned the Silver Star next to the Purple Heart that Halbardier found in his home mailbox three years ago.

Nunes said, “The government has kept this quiet I think for too long, and I felt as my constituent he [Halbardier] needed to get recognized for the services he made to his country.”


[I think it is interesting that
at the time I make this entry, 2009-06-02 2230Z,
the top entry at Google for Terry Halbardier is
USS Liberty Survivor receives Silver Star for Valor,”
at www.davidduke.com!
A good clue on who are the real American patriots.]

Scott Horton Interviews Ray McGovern
Antiwar.com Radio, 2009-06-05

Ray McGovern, former senior analyst at the CIA, discusses
USS Liberty survivor Terry Halbardier’s belated Silver Star award,
LBJ’s personal involvement in
preventing military aid from reaching the besieged USS Liberty,
two major theories explaining why Israel attacked the ship and
Adm. Mike Mullen’s groundbreaking mention of the Liberty
in an apparent attempt to dissuade Israel from attacking Iran.

[This is an interview mainly discussing the above article.]

A USS Liberty Hero’s Passing
by Ray McGovern
Antiwar.com, 2014-08-17

Terry Halbardier, who – as a 23-year-old seaman in 1967 – thwarted Israeli attempts to sink the USS Liberty, died on Aug. 11 in Visalia, California. It took the U.S. government 42 years after the attack to recognize Halbardier’s heroism by awarding him the Silver Star, a delay explained by Washington’s determination to downplay Israeli responsibility for the 34 Americans killed and the 174 wounded.


Given all they have been through, the Liberty survivors and other veterans – who joined Halbardier to celebrate his belated receipt of the Silver Star on May 27, 2009 – can be forgiven for having doubted that the day of the hero’s recognition would ever come.

In the award ceremony at the Visalia (California) office of Rep. Devin Nunes, the Republican congressman pinned the Silver Star next to the Purple Heart that Halbardier found in his home mailbox three years ago. Nunes said, “The government has kept this quiet I think for too long, and I felt as my constituent he [Halbardier] needed to get recognized for the services he made to his country.”

Nunes got that right. Despite the many indignities the Liberty crew has been subjected to, the mood in Visalia was pronouncedly a joyous one of Better (42 years) Late Than Never. And, it did take some time for the moment to sink in: Wow, a gutsy congressman not afraid to let the truth hang out on this delicate issue.

I was present that day and I could not get out of my head the contrast between this simple, uncomplicated event and the earlier rigmarole that senior Navy officers went through to pin a richly deserved Medal of Honor on another hero of that day, the Liberty’s skipper, Captain William McGonagle.

Although badly wounded by Israeli fire on June 8, 1967, McGonagle was able to keep the bombed, torpedoed, napalmed Liberty afloat and limping toward Malta, where what was left of the bodies of the 34 crewmen killed and the 174 wounded could be attended to. Do the math: yes, killed and wounded amounted to more than two-thirds of the Liberty crew of 294.

I remembered what a naval officer involved in McGonagle’s award ceremony told one of the Liberty crew: “The government is pretty jumpy about Israel…the State Department even asked the Israeli ambassador if his government had any objections to McGonagle getting the medal.”

When McGonagle received his award, the White House (the normal venue for a Medal of Honor award) was all booked up, it seems, and President Lyndon Johnson (who would have been the usual presenter) was unavailable.

So it fell to the Secretary of the Navy to sneak off to the Washington Navy Yard on the banks of the acrid Anacostia River, where he presented McGonagle with the Medal of Honor and a citation that described the attack but not the identity of the attackers.

Please don’t misunderstand. The Liberty crew is not big on ceremony. They are VERY-not-big on politicians who wink when Navy comrades are killed and wounded at sea. The Liberty survivors are big on getting the truth out about what actually happened that otherwise beautiful day in June 1967.

The award of the Silver Star to Terry Halbardier marked a significant step in the direction of truth telling. Halbardier said he accepted his Silver Star on behalf of the entire 294-man crew. He and fellow survivor Don Pageler expressed particular satisfaction at the wording of the citation, which stated explicitly — with none of the usual fudging — the identity of the attackers: “The USS Liberty was attacked by Israeli aircraft and motor torpedo boats in the East Mediterranean Sea….”

In the past, official citations, like Captain McGonagle’s, had avoided mentioning Israel by name when alluding to the attack. I think former US Ambassador Edward Peck put it best in condemning this kind of approach as “obsequious, unctuous subservience to the peripheral interests of a foreign nation at the cost of the lives and morale of our own service members and their families.” Strong words for a diplomat. But right on.

Just a Guy From Texas

Were it not for Halbardier’s bravery, ingenuity, and technical expertise, the USS Liberty would surely have sunk, taking down much – if not all – of the crew.

You see, the first thing the Israeli aircraft bombed and strafed were the Liberty’s communications antennae and other equipment. They succeeded in destroying all the antennae that were functional. One antenna on the port side, though, had been out of commission and had escaped damage.

In receiving the Silver Star, Halbardier made light of his heroism, claiming that he was just a guy from Texas who could do a whole lot with simple stuff like baling wire. (In the infantry we called this kind of thing a “field expedient.”)

In any case, with his can-do attitude and his technical training, he figured he might be able to get that particular antenna working again. But first he would have to repair a cable that had been destroyed on deck and then connect the antenna to a transmitter.

The deck was still being strafed, but Halbardier grabbed a reel of cable, ran out onto the deck, and attached new cable to the antenna so a radioman could get an SOS out to the Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean.

Voila. “Mayday” went out; almost immediately the Israeli aircraft and torpedo ships broke off the attack and went back to base; the Israeli government sent a quick apology to Washington for its unfortunate “mistake;” and President Johnson issued orders to everyone to make believe the Israelis were telling the truth – or at least to remain silent.

To their discredit, top Navy brass went along, and the Liberty survivors were threatened with court martial and prison if they so much as mentioned to their wives what had actually happened. They were enjoined as well from discussing it with one another.

As Liberty crewman Don Pageler put it, “We all headed out after that, and we didn’t talk to each other.” The circumstances were ready-made for serious Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

The stories shared by Liberty survivors after the award ceremony, including descriptions of the macabre but necessary effort to reassemble torpedoed body parts, and the plague of survivor’s guilt, were as heart-rending as any I have heard. They are stories that should be shared more widely for those muzzled far too long.

These were the deep emotional scars to supplement the ones all over Halbardier’s body, some of which he uncovered when asked by the local press gathered there in Visalia. Typically, Halbardier made light of the shrapnel that had to be plucked out of his flesh, emphasizing that he was lucky compared to some of the other crew.

No Mistake

Despite Israeli protestations, the accumulated evidence, including intercepted voice communications, is such that no serious observer believes Israel’s “Oops” excuse of a terrible mistake. The following exchanges are excerpts of testimony from U.S. military and diplomatic officials given to Alison Weir, founder of “If Americans Knew” and author of American Media Miss the Boat:

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

Ground control: “Yes, follow orders.”

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

Ground control: “Never mind; hit it!”

Haviland Smith, a CIA officer stationed in Beirut during the Six-Day War, says he was told that the transcripts were “deep-sixed,” because the US government did not want to embarrass Israel.

Equally telling is the fact that the National Security Agency (NSA) destroyed voice tapes seen by many intelligence analysts, showing that the Israelis knew exactly what they were doing. I asked a former CIA colleague, who was also an analyst at that time, what he remembered of those circumstances. Here is his e-mail reply:

“The chief of the analysts studying the Arab-Israeli region at the time told me about the intercepted messages and said very flatly and firmly that the pilots reported seeing the American flag and repeated their requests of confirmation of the attack order. Whole platoons of Americans saw those intercepts. If NSA now says they do not exist, then someone ordered them destroyed.”

One need hardly add at this point that the destruction of evidence without investigation is an open invitation to repetition in the future. Think the more recent torture-interrogation videotapes.

As for the legal side: the late Captain Ward Boston, unburdened himself on his accomplice role as the Navy lawyer appointed as senior counsel to Adm. Isaac Kidd, who led a one-week (!) investigation and then followed orders to pronounce the attack on the Liberty a case of “mistaken identity.” Boston signed a formal declaration on Jan. 8, 2004, in which he said he was “outraged at the efforts of the apologists for Israel in this country to claim that this attack was a case of ‘mistaken identity.’” Boston continued:

“The evidence was clear. Both Adm. Kidd and I believed with certainty that this attack … was a deliberate effort to sink an American ship and murder its entire crew … Not only did the Israelis attack the ship with napalm, gunfire, and missiles, Israeli torpedo boats machine-gunned three lifeboats that had been launched in an attempt by the crew to save the most seriously wounded – a war crime …

“I know from personal conversations I had with Adm. Kidd that President Lyndon Johnson and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara ordered him to conclude that the attack was a case of ‘mistaken identity’ despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.”

W. Patrick Lang, Col., USA (ret.), who was the Defense Intelligence Agency’s top analyst for the Middle East for eight years, recounted the Israeli air attacks as follows: “The flight leader spoke to his base to report that he had the ship in view, that it was the same ship he had been briefed on, and that it was clearly marked with the US flag…

“The flight commander was reluctant. That was very clear. He didn’t want to do this. He asked them a couple of times, ‘Do you really want me to do this?’ I’ve remembered it ever since. It was very striking. I’ve been harboring this memory for all these years.”

Lang, of course, is not alone. So too Terry Halbardier, who told those assembled at his Silver Medal award ceremony, “I think about it [the attack on the Liberty] every day.”

Why Sink the Ship?

What we know for sure is, as the independent commission headed by former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Thomas Moorer put it, the attack “was a deliberate attempt to destroy an American ship and kill her entire crew.”

What we do not know for sure is why the Israelis wanted that done. Has no one dared ask the Israelis? One view is that the Israelis did not want the United States to find out they were massing troops to seize the Golan Heights from Syria and wanted to deprive the US of the opportunity to argue against such a move.

James Bamford offers an alternative view in his excellent book, Body of Secrets. Bamford adduces evidence, including reporting from an Israeli journalist eyewitness and an Israeli military historian, of wholesale killing of Egyptian prisoners of war at the coastal town of El Arish in the Sinai.

The Liberty was patrolling directly opposite El Arish in international waters but within easy range to pick up intelligence on what was going on there. And the Israelis were well aware of that. But the important thing here is not to confuse what we know (the deliberate nature of the Israeli attack) with the ultimate purpose behind it, which remains open to speculation.

Also worth noting is the conventional wisdom prevalent in our Fawning Corporate Media (FCM) that Egypt forced Israel into war in June 1967. An excellent, authoritative source has debunked that – none other than former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin! In an unguarded moment in 1982, when he was prime minister, he admitted publicly:

“In June 1967, we had a choice. The Egyptian army concentrations in the Sinai approaches do not prove that [Egyptian President] Nasser was really about to attack us. We must be honest with ourselves. We decided to attack him.”

Thus, the Israeli attack admittedly amounted to starting a war of aggression, and the occupied West Bank territories and the Golan Heights – gained by the Israelis in the 1967 war – remain occupied to this day. The post World War II tribunal at Nuremberg distinguished a “war of aggression” from other war crimes, terming it the “supreme international crime, differing from other war crimes only in that it contains the accumulated evil of the whole.”

Perhaps the attempt to sink the Liberty and finish off all survivors qualifies as one of those accumulated evils. Terry Halbardier summed it up this way when he was awarded his Silver Star: “There’s lots of theories but let’s just say they didn’t want us listening in to what they wanted to do.”

Getting Away With Murder

In sum, on June 8, 1967, the Israeli government learned that it could get away with murder, literally, and the crime would be covered up, so strong is the influence of the Israel Lobby in our Congress – and indeed, in the White House. And those USS Liberty veterans who survived well enough to call for an independent investigation have been hit with charges of, you guessed it, anti-Semitism.

Does all this have relevance today? Of course. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu understands that there is little that Israel could do that would earn the opprobrium of the US Congress or retaliation from the White House, whether it’s building illegal settlements or slaughtering civilians in Gaza. The Israelis seem convinced they remain in the catbird’s seat, largely because of the Israel Lobby’s influence with US lawmakers and opinion makers.

One of the few moments when a US official has had the audacity to face Israel down came from – significantly – a US Navy admiral. In early July 2008, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, was sent to Israel to read the riot act to then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who seemed to be itching to start hostilities with Iran while President George W. Bush was in office.

We learned from the Israeli press that Mullen, fearing some form of Israeli provocation, went so far as to warn the Israelis not to even think about another incident like the attack on the USS Liberty on June 8, 1967 – that the Israelis should disabuse themselves of the notion that US military support would be knee-jerk automatic if Israel somehow provoked open hostilities with Iran.

This is the only occasion I am aware of in which a US official of such seniority braced Israel about the Liberty incident. A gutsy move, especially with Vice President Dick Cheney and national security aide Elliott Abrams then in the White House, two hawks who might well bless – or even encourage – an Israeli provocation that would make it very difficult for Washington to avoid springing to the defense of its “ally.”

The Israelis know that Mullen knows that the attack on the Liberty was deliberate. Mullen could have raised no more neuralgic an issue to take a shot across an Israeli bow than to cite the attack on the Liberty. The Jerusalem Post reported that Mullen cautioned that a Liberty-type incident must be avoided in any future military actions in the Middle East.

Perhaps Mullen had learned something from the heroism of Terry Halbardier.

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. After serving as an Army infantry/intelligence officer, he spent a 27-year career as a CIA analyst. He is co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).


Not Remembering the USS Liberty
by Ray McGovern
consortiumnews, 2017-05-21


A new book by Philip Nelson titled:
Remember the Liberty: Almost Sunk by Treason on the High Seas,
is a must-read for anyone wishing to understand
what actually happened to the Liberty and to contemplate the implications.


Remembering the U.S.S. Liberty
The 50 year cover-up of a mass murder of U.S. servicemen
orchestrated by Israel and its friends
by Philip Giraldi
Unz Review, 2017-06-06


The most disgusting part of the tale relates to how
U.S. warplanes sent to the Liberty’s aid from an aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean
were called back by Defense Secretary Robert McNamara
acting under orders from President Lyndon Baines Johnson,
who declared that he would rather see the ship go to the bottom of the sea than embarrass his good friend Israel.
Ironically, the first ship to reach the Liberty and offer assistance was from the Soviet Union, an offer that was declined.

Johnson reportedly feared Jewish influence over Congress and in the media,
which might work together to block his “Great Society” legislative initiatives,
not to mention his expected reelection bid in 1968.
It was an early manifestation of the power of the Jewish lobby in American politics and foreign relations.
One has to hope that both LBJ and McNamara are currently burning in hell.

The incredible courage and determination of the surviving crew was the only thing that kept the Liberty from sinking. The ship’s commanding officer Captain William McGonagle was awarded a Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroic role in keeping the ship afloat, though President Lyndon Baines Johnson broke with tradition and refused to hold the medal ceremony in the White House, also declining to award it personally, delegating that task to the Secretary of the Navy in a closed to the public presentation made at the Washington Navy Yard.


The Spy Ship Left Out in the Cold
by James M. Scott
Naval History Magazine, June 2017, Volume 31, Number 3

[James M. Scott is the author of The Attack on the Liberty (Simon & Shuster, 2009),
which was named one of 20 Notable Naval Books of 2009 by Proceedings and won the Rear Admiral Samuel Eliot Morison Award for Excellence in Naval Literature.
Scott’s father, John Scott, was a U.S. Navy ensign and damage control officer serving on board the Liberty during the attack.
He received the Silver Star for his actions that day.]


President Johnson and his advisers gathered in the Situation Room the morning of the attack.
While relieved neither Egypt nor the Soviets were responsible,
Johnson and his team realized that an attack by Israel—
an ally with a loyal domestic following—
raised a host of other complicated political issues for the administration.
At the time, the United States was bogged down by the Vietnam War,
where 26 men died each day in 1967.
In May, that number spiked to 38 men a day.
Johnson’s approval numbers simultaneously were plummeting
from 61 percent in March 1966 to just 39 percent in August 1967.
It all came down to Vietnam.

Complicating matters, American Jews—
a powerful and important constituency for Johnson, who was facing reelection in 1968—
were at the forefront of the antiwar movement.
Adding to his frustration was the fact that
he had done more than any prior President to improve U.S.-Israeli relations.
“If Viet Nam persists,” one memo warned him,
“a special effort to hold the Jewish vote will be necessary.”

The Liberty—riddled with cannon blasts, her decks soaked in blood,
her starboard side ripped open by a torpedo—
evolved in a matter of hours
from a top-secret intelligence asset
to a domestic political liability.
That was evident by one proposal.
“Consideration was being given by some unnamed Washington authorities to sink the Liberty
in order that newspaper men would be unable to photograph her
and thus inflame public opinion against the Israelis,”
NSA Deputy Director Louis Tordella
wrote in a memo for the record.
“I made an impolite comment about that idea.”

The day after the attack, Johnson met with his Special Committee of the National Security Council.
The Liberty discussion was heated, minutes show, as Johnson’s advisers
spurned Israel’s claim that the attack was simply a tragic accident.
Clark Clifford, head of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board
and one of Johnson’s most pro-Israel advisers, demanded the attackers be punished.
“Inconceivable that it was an accident,” Clifford said. “Punish Israelis responsible.”
Clifford’s strong comments—echoed by others in the meeting, including the President—
reflected just how upset many in Washington were over the attack,
a hostility that was never shared with the American public.

To senior officials, the idea that the attack on the Liberty was friendly fire defied logic.
Friendly fire accidents often happen at night or in bad weather.
Furthermore, such accidents tend to be over in a matter of seconds, maybe minutes.

In contrast, the attack on the Liberty occurred on a clear, sunny afternoon in international waters.
No other ships were in the area.
The attack involved two branches of Israel’s vaunted military and raged for approximately an hour.

In the heat of battle, Liberty officers were able to identity the flag and hull number off a swift-moving torpedo boat,
yet Israel claimed its own forces were unable to identify a lumbering cargo ship
with towering hull numbers, her name on the stern and an American flag on the mast.
To many, that seemed impossible.
“I just don’t believe that it was an accident or trigger happy local commanders,”
Secretary of State Dean Rusk later said.
“There was just too much of a sustained effort to disable and sink the Liberty.”

But it wasn’t just politicians who disputed Israel’s explanation.
Senior intelligence leaders also were convinced the attack was no accident.
“It couldn’t be anything else but deliberate,” concluded NSA Director Marshall Carter.
“I don’t think there can be any doubt that the Israelis knew exactly what they were doing,”
recalled CIA Director Richard Helms.
“We were all quite convinced the Israelis knew what they were doing,”
added Thomas Hughes, director of the State Department’s intelligence bureau.

Many senior Navy officers agreed.
Vice Admiral Jerome King, senior aide to Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Admiral David McDonald,
challenged the claim of friendly fire.
“It certainly was not mistaken identity,” he later said.
“I don’t buy it. I never did. Nobody that I knew ever did either.
It wasn’t as though it was at night or a rainy day or anything like that.
There wasn’t any excuse for not knowing what that ship was.
You could divine from just the apparatus on deck—all the antennae and so on—
what its mission was.”


Israeli diplomats feared the United States planned to use the attack as a political tool
to dampen the U.S. public’s enthusiasm for Israel,
dangerous ground for the Jewish state as it prepared to negotiate a peace deal
that would involve controversial issues such as territorial gains and refugees.
Israel decided to fight back, launching a political and media spin campaign.
Israeli diplomats tapped influential American Jews,
many of whom were close friends with President Johnson, to help.
Documents show that Eugene Rostow, who was third in command of the State Department,
repeatedly shared privileged information about U.S. strategy with Israeli diplomats.
Others who assisted Israel included Supreme Court justice Abe Fortas and Arthur Goldberg,
who was the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.
Many of these and others who helped the embassy
are referred to by code names in Israeli documents.
For example, Democratic fund-raiser Abe Feinberg is identified in Israeli records
by the codename “Hamlet.”

Israeli diplomats likewise hammered the media to kill critical stories and slant others in favor of Israel.


In evaluating the Liberty court of inquiry,
it is worth comparing it to the court that examined North Korea’s capture of the Pueblo.
The Liberty court lasted just eight days,
interviewed only 14 crewmen,
and produced a final transcript that was 158 pages.
In contrast, the Pueblo court lasted almost four months,
interviewed more than 100 witnesses,
and produced a final transcript that was nearly 3,400 pages.

Captain Ward Boston, the lawyer for the Liberty court, broke his silence in 2002, stating that
investigators were barred from traveling to Israel
to interview the attackers, collect Israeli war logs, or review communications.
Furthermore, he said
Johnson and Defense Secretary Robert McNamara had ordered the court
to endorse Israel’s claim that the attack was an accident,

which Boston personally did not believe was the case. [22]


[Deputy Defense Secretary Cyrus] Vance clashed with NSA Director [Marshall] Carter over the Liberty,
ordering him to keep his “mouth shut,”
a demand that infuriated senior intelligence officials, such as NSA Chief of Staff Gerard Burke.
“There was absolutely no question in anybody’s mind that the Israelis had done it deliberately,”
Burke later said.
“I was angrier because of the cover-up—if that’s possible—than of the incident itself,
because there was no doubt in my mind that they did it right from the outset.
That was no mystery.
The only mystery to me was why was the thing being covered up.” [24]


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