USS Liberty: Why Investigate the Attack on a US Navy Ship?

USS Liberty: Why Investigate the Attack on a US Navy Ship?

Congressional investigations of the attacks on the USS Pueblo, USS Stark and USS Cole as well as the 1982 bombing of the Marine Barracks in Beirut were initiated almost immediately following each of those attacks.

The Israeli’s attacked the USS Liberty over 19,100 days ago with no Congressional investigation in sight.

What effect has Congress’ refusal to investigate the attack on the USS Liberty had on the survivors of the attack, our families and the families of our 34 fallen shipmates?

Do Members of Congress even care?  Hint: No!

by Joe Meadors

We’ve been approached by a staff member of a Member of Congress who solicited my input to be presented to his boss regarding the attack on the USS Liberty and the possibility of a Congressional investigation of the attack. In my email response to him I addressed the questions he posed as well as a question posed in an attachment he included.  To paraphrase his main question, “The attack happened over 52 years ago, why investigate the attack in the first place and why investigate now?” My response follows:
Thank you for reaching out to me. To get directly to the questions you asked. No Member of Congress (now or previous) has ever indicated an interest in a Congressional investigation of the attack on our ship.  In fact, they are so averse to anything USS Liberty that no Member of Congress has ever attended the annual memorial service we hold in Washington, DC.  Proof that Members of Congress perform a litmus test to determine whether or not the sacrifice of American KIA’s are worth publicly honoring. I know of nothing in the Constitution or statutes that requires Congress to conduct an investigation of the attack. That said, historically Congress has investigated all attacks on a US Navy ship since the end of World War II.  The attacks on the USS Pueblo, USS Stark and USS Cole have all been the subject of a Congressional investigation.  As have been the bombing of the Marine Barracks in Beirut and the attack on the SS Mayaguez. The attack on the USS Liberty is the only attack on a US Navy ship not to be the subject of a Congressional investigation since the end of WWII. This despite the facts that the attack included:
  • Unmarked aircraft;
  • Jamming of our radios on both US Navy tactical and international maritime distress frequencies;
  • Deliberate machine gunning of serviceable life rafts we had dropped over the side in anticipation of abandoning ship;
  • Slow circling of our torpedoed and burning ship by attacking torpedo boats as they fired from very close range at USS Liberty crewmen who ventured out to help our wounded shipmates trapped topside; and,
  • The decision of the attacking torpedo boats to depart the scene immediately after they ceased hostilities only to return some 90 minutes later in an obvious attempt to be able to claim they were coming to our assistance to drive off the aggressors.  International law obligates the aggressor to offer aid immediately after they cease hostilities, not 90 minutes later.
The Department of Defense, on the other hand, IS under an obligation to conduct an investigation.  Under the DoD’s Law of War Program (see link at the Department of Defense is obligated “to investigate all allegations of war crimes whether committed by or against the United States.”  This is not a suggestion or recommendation.  It is an obligation. On June 8, 2005 we submitted “A Report: War Crimes Committed Against U.S. Military Personnel, June 8, 1967” to the Department of Defense. (see link at The Department of Defense responded by claiming that the Court of Inquiry that they conducted shortly after the attack satisfied their obligation under their Law of War Program. Unfortunately, the independent Congressional Research Service disagrees with the DoD’s position. Some 25 years ago I had the opportunity, with the help of a mutual friend, to sit down with Mr. Clyde Mark, a Researcher with the Congressional Research Service. Mr. Mark was in the CRS when the ship was attacked and was the researcher to whom USS Liberty-related questions would be submitted to for response. I asked Clyde the direct question, “Has the US government conducted an investigation of the attack on the USS Liberty?” His response was immediate and emphatic.  “No.” In order for his response to be officially from the CRS, the question must be posed by a Member of Congress.  No Member of Congress will ask.  I know they won’t because I have asked them to – repeatedly – and they have refused. Members of Congress insist there has been an investigation of the attack on our ship. The Department of Defense insists there has been an investigation of the attack on our ship. The Congressional Research Service insists there has been NO investigation of the attack on our ship. Will you ask the CRS the question? Will I participate in a conference call with the Congressman? That depends.  And it should be noted that it comes at a personal price. I have been invested in the effort to persuade Congress and the DoD that an attack on a US Navy ship warrants a complete and comprehensive public US government simply because it happened since before the USS Liberty Veterans Association was created in June, 1982. There was a time when I could pursue that goal dispassionately.  Almost like the attack happened to someone else. That wall was destroyed years ago. Now I protect myself by confining my actions to the protection of a computer and word processor.  Unlike the Congressmen and their staffers I have interfaced with over the past decades, my computer doesn’t tell me anything I want to hear or make promises it doesn’t have any intention of honoring just to get me out of the office. To anticipate a question routinely asked during meetings with Congressmen:  Why after over 52 years should we now conduct an investigation of the attack on the USS Liberty? The answer is complicated and simple at the same time:
  • It happened.  That alone should suffice.  It worked for the attacks on the USS Pueblo, USS Stark and USS Cole as well as the 1982 bombing of the Marine Barracks in Beirut.  Not so for the attack on the USS Liberty;
  • War Crimes were committed by and against the United States during the attack;
  • While we were still under attack and calling for help, LBJ personally ordered the recall of two flights of rescue aircraft that had been launched to come to our aid and would have arrived in time to drive off the torpedo boats, saving the lives of 25 of our shipmates;
  • The US government, by its refusal to conduct an investigation of the attack, has allowed War Crimes to be committed against the United States with impunity;
  • The investigation should be expanded far beyond the attack to include a review of the reason why the US government has not conducted an investigation of the attack despite the pleadings of USS Liberty survivors who relate the account that includes violations of the Geneva Convention, the Laws of War, and the Uniform Code of Military Justice; and,
  • The families of our fallen shipmates have lived since June 8, 1967, with the knowledge that the US government thinks so little of the sacrifice of their sons or fathers that it won’t bother to determine the facts of the attack nor will they attend a memorial service honoring the sacrifice of their loved ones even when that memorial service is held literally in their back yard.
In the attachment you included with your email the question is asked, “Why did the government of Israel knowingly attack the crew and ship of the USS Liberty on June 8, 1967?” The question is one that should be addressed during the US government investigation we have been advocating for for decades.  The US Navy Court of Inquiry was directed NOT to pursue that question even though it was clearly within the scope as described by ADM John S. McCain, Jr. the Convening Authority. The NSA has acknowledged the existence of voice tapes that may address that question although they refuse to release the tapes referenced in their message.  The referenced message is at  Please help us by asking the NSA to release of the voice tapes referenced in the NSA message. My response to your email has been far longer than I anticipated when I began and has covered far more material than anyone can include in a brief, 5-minute conference call with a Member of Congress. If it’s all the same to you, my preference would be to allow these comments to be submitted for consideration in lieu of the phone call. I would also appreciate the courtesy of a written response from the Congressman. If you have any other questions or want any further information, please don’t hesitate to get back in touch with us. Warmest regards, Joe Meadors, USS Liberty Survivor Director of Operations USS Liberty Veterans Association Email: [email protected] NEW! Library of All USS Liberty-Related Information (Under Construction)