RADM Samuel Cox, USN (ret.), The US Navy Historian, Claims the Attack on the USS Liberty Was a Mistake. So Does CAPT. A. Jay Cristol, USN, JAGC (ret.), the Father of USS Liberty Revisionism, and the Congressionally-Anointed “Authority on US Government Investigations of the Attack”, the Jewish Virtual Library.
To No One’s Surprise, They Have Quite a Litany of Detractors who (unlike RADM Cox, CAPT Cristol and the Staff of the JVL) Bring a Significantly Higher Level of Experience and Credentials to the Issue.
By Joe Meadors
The following is a partial list of individuals and groups supporting the position that the attack was deliberate. This is the group that Israeli supporter Ahron Jay Cristol calls “conspiracy theorists”
“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, www.ussliberty.org
“...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.
“To me, the picture thus far presents the distinct possibility that the Israelis knew that the Liberty might be their target and attacked anyway, either through confusion in Command and Control or through deliberate disregard of instructions on the part of subordinates.” — CIA Deputy Director Admiral Rufus Taylor
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
“To me, the picture thus far presents the distinct possibility that the Israelis knew that Liberty might be their target and attacked anyway.” —Admiral Rufus Taylor, Deputy CIA director, as quoted by CIA director Admiral Rufus Taylor inA Look Over My Shoulder.
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.
“My immediate reaction was it was not an accident. It had to be a deliberate attack.” —Lucius Battle, in BBC Documentary “Dead in the Water”.
“….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 USSLiberty 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.
“In many years, I have wanted to believe that the attack on the Liberty was pure error. It appears to me that it was not a pure case of mistaken identity. . . . I think it is about time that the State of Israel and the United States government provide the crew members of the Liberty, and the rest of the American people, the facts of what happened and why it came about that the Libertywas attacked 30 years ago today.” Later, McGonagle remarked, “USS Liberty is the only US Navy ship attacked by a foreign nation, involving large loss of life...that has never been accorded a full Congressional hearing.” — Captain William L. McGonagle, Commanding Officer, USS Liberty, speaking at Arlington National Cemetery June 8, 1997.
“The Israelis told us 24 hours before that ...if we didn’t move it, they would sink it. Unfortunately, the ship was not moved, and by the time the message arrived the ship was taking on water.” —John Stenbit, Assistant Secretary of Defense for C3Im in an address to the AFEI/NDAI Conference for Net Centric Operations, Wednesday, April 16, 2003
State Department Legal Advisor and author of highly critical detailed analysis of the Israeli excuse in telephone interview from his home in France, Mr. Salans described the attack as deliberate. —Carl Salans, State Department Legal Advisor
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. —Walter Deeley, NSA Department Head
“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 evidence was clear. Both Admiral Kidd and I believed with certainty that this attack...was a deliberate effort to sink an American ship and murder its entire crew…. It was our shared belief. . .that the attack. . .could not possibly have been an accident…. I am certain that the Israeli pilots [and] their superiors. . .were well aware that the ship was American.” —Captain Ward Boston, JAGC, US Navy (retired), senior legal counsel to the US Navy Court of Inquiry
According to Kidd’s legal counsel, Captain Ward Boston, USN, Kidd discussed with him his belief that the attackers were aware they were attacking an American ship. The Court ruled otherwise because they were so directed by Washington. —Admiral Isaac C. Kidd, President of the Navy Court of Inquiry, as reported in Navy Times, 6/26/2002
“I feel the Israelis knew what they were doing. They knew they were shooting at a U.S. Navy ship.” —Captain Ward Boston, legal counsel to the Navy Court of Inquiry, as reported in . Navy Times, 6/26/2002
“No one in the White House believed that the attack was an accident.” —George Christian, Press Secretary to President Lyndon Johnson in letter to James Ennes, 1978.
After reviewing the Court of Inquiry in his official capacity as legal counsel to the convening authority, concluded that the evidence did not support the findings that the attack was an accident and declined to recommend that his Commander sign and forward it to Washington. —Rear Admiral (then captain) Merlin Staring, Staff Legal Office for Commander in Chief US Naval Forces Europe and later Chief Judge Advocate General of the Navy. Statement toNavy Times, 3 June 2002 and elsewhere
“This book [Assault on the Liberty] gives convincing evidence that the attack was deliberate and that the facts, including the Navy’s bungling before and during the attack, were covered up.” —United States Senator Adlai E. Stevenson III as reported in Congressional Record — Senate S13136 September 23, 1980. Senator Stevenson later announced his interest in holding Congressional hearings on the attack. He pointed out that the survivors have been consistent in their accounts of what happened and that the attack was, in his word, “premeditated.” Also reported by William J. Small, United Press International, September 28, 1980.
“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
“From what I have read, I can’t tolerate for one minute that this was an accident! … What have we done about the Liberty? Have we become so placid, so far as Israel is concerned or so far as that area is concerned, that we will take the killing of 37 (sic) American boys and the wounding of a lot more and the attack on an American ship in the open sea in good weather? We have seemed to say: ‘Oh, well, boys will be boys.’ What are you going to do about it? It is most offensive to me! —Senator Bourke Hickenlooper; From transcript of July 1967 Senate Foreign Relations Hearing on Foreign Assistance Act of 1967.
“I have read the Navy investigation of the Liberty, and the evidence adduced there, and I have read the Israeli court of inquiry records, and based upon their own records of the investigation, I cannot agree that it was accidental.” —Senator Bourke Hickenlooper; From transcript of May, 1968, Senate Foreign Relations Hearing on Foreign Assistance Act of 1968, page 444.
“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
“FBI officials counter that ‘friendly’ spying can be as damaging as spying for enemies, they note, as in 1967 when Israeli jets deliberately attacked the electronic intelligence-gathering ship USS Liberty….” —FBI Officials reported in Washington Times, November 26, 1998
“How much better if Congress would….call to account those who were involved in spreading lies about the tragedy.” —James Akins, former US Ambassador to Saudi Arabia James Akins in Special Report, The Israeli Attack on the USS Liberty, June 8, 1967, The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, December, 1999
“The attack was deliberate and not an accident.” —Victor Ostrovsky, author and former Mossad officer, in telephone conversations with former Congressman Pete McCloskey October 10, 1991, and with and several conversations with James Ennes.
“It’s an American ship!” the pilot of an Israeli Mirage fighter-bomber radioed Tel Aviv as he sighted the USS Liberty on June 8, 1967. Israeli headquarters ordered the pilot to attack the American ship. —former US Ambassador to Lebanon Dwight Porter describing transcripts of communications he saw, reported in syndicated column “Remembering the Liberty” by Rowland Evans and Robert Novak, November 6, 1991.
“The historical event which took place in June 1967 can hardly be called enigmatic and mysterious. ...It is difficult to understand that the Israelis could not identity the USS Liberty, since the ship had a unique antenna and equipment and especially since the Israelis had identified the ship with long term observation.” —Translated from a taped interview with Sergeev Oleg Korneevitch, retired Colonel, Soviet GRU.
“The government of Israel intentionally attacked the ship. ...The attack was not legally justified. …(there were) two further violations of international law...the use of unmarked military aircraft (and)...the wanton destruction of life rafts.” —Walter L. Jacobsen, Lieutenant Commander, US Navy, in Naval Law Review, Vol 36, Winter 1986
“The attack was not an accident.” —Stephen Green, author. Antelope Valley Press, April 5, 1984
“Certain facts are clear. The attack was no accident. The Liberty was assaulted in broad daylight by Israeli forces who knew the ship’s identity. ...The public, however, was kept in the dark. Even before the American public learned of the attack, U.S. government officials began to promote an account satisfactory to Israel. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee worked through Congressmen to keep the story under control. The President of the United States, Lyndon B. Johnson, ordered and led a cover-up so thorough that years after he left office the episode is still largely unknown….” —Paul Findley, author and former Member of Congress 1961-1983 in They Dare to Speak Out, by Paul Findley, 1985, page 166
“Is the Liberty episode being erased from history. So it would seem...What has happened to our prying journalistic corps and our editors, normally so indignant of attempted suppression of the news?...We believe that a joint select committee of Congress should investigate the strange case of the USS Liberty…” —William F. Buckley, journalist and publisher, National Review, June 27, 1967
(In a review of “Six Days of War“ by Michael Oren.) “Oren...frequently descends to vulgar propaganda. Deeming the Israeli combined air and naval assault on the USS Liberty ...an accident,’ Oren rehashes official Israeli tales and embellishes them with his own whoppers.” —Norman Finkelstein, PhD, author, professor of political science, DePaul University, writing in Journal of Palestine Studies, Spring, 2003, p85
“The attack on the USS Libertywas planned and there is and was a cover-up.” “If the very valuable lessons of the Liberty were known, the capture of the USS Pueblo could not have happened.” —Lloyd M. “Pete” Bucher, US Navy, Commanding Officer USS Pueblo when captured by North Korea in January 1968, in telephone conversations with James Ennes and on September 6, 2002, with Richard Schmucker.
“Nearly everyone who is not affiliated with Israel...and who has seriously looked into the attack believes that it was deliberate. ...The bare facts of the attack rule out any other conclusion.” —Donald Neff, author, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, August, 2002, p29
Ralph Hoppe, Colonel, US Army, retired, reports that dozens of intelligence reports soon after the attack described the attack as deliberate including a “consensus report” which summarized the collective view of the US intelligence community. Soon orders came from Washington to collect and destroy all such reports. Nothing more in official channels described the attack as deliberate. —Aerotech News and Review, March 2, 2001, by John Borne, PhD, and conversations with James Ennes
“It is clear that the Israelis knew that they were attacking a vessel of the US Navy, especially as it was flying a large Stars and Stripes at the time. The fact that they spent six hours reconnoitering and executing the attack, which included machine-gunning the lifeboats, attests to the deadly intent of the operation. —Andrew and Leslie Cockburn, Dangerous Liaison, the Inside Story of the US-Israeli Covert Relationship, by Andrew and Leslie Cockburn, p152.
“A. Jay Cristol’s virtual minority of one assessment is not supported by the detailed non-technical common sense evidence to the contrary in Body of Secrets (by James Bamford). “There is nothing surprising in Bamford’s conclusion that the attack was deliberate. Liberty survivors have made that case convincingly for years.” —Professor Hayden Peake, author, former CIA officer and member, Association of Former Intelligence Officers, The Intelligencer, Vol. 12, No.1, Summer 2001
Book reviews transcripts of communications during the attack which establish that the attack was deliberate. —Israel’s Wars, 1947-1993, by Ahron Bregman
Survivors of the attack are unanimous in their conviction that the attack was deliberate. Among other things, their belief is based upon the intense pre-attack reconnaissance, the fact that the firing continued from close range long after the attackers examined the ship and its markings from a few feet away, and because the Israeli version of events as reported to the United States is grossly untrue. —USS Liberty survivors
Several Air Force intelligence analysts who have come forward to report that they saw real-time transcripts of communications from the attacking forces which show clearly that they were aware they were attacking an American ship. Others who saw these transcripts include Dwight Porter and Oliver Kirby, mentioned above, and several top officials of the American intelligence community. —Former US Air Force intelligence analysts Ron Gotcher, Steve Forslund, Richard Block and pilot Charles Tiffany
Published doctoral thesis establishes that the attack was deliberate. —John Borne, PhD, adjunct professor of history, NY University.
Rejects the US Navy Court of Inquiry as inadequate, declares that the attack was apparently deliberate, and calls upon the United States to conduct a complete and thorough investigation. —Resolution #508 of the American Legion at its 49th annual national convention in August, 1967
“The [Navy Court of Inquiry] leaves a good many questions unanswered.” —The New York Times, July 1, 1967
“The naval inquiry is not good enough.” —The Washington Post, June 30, 1967
“They must have known...that Liberty was an American ship.” —The Washington Star, June 30, 1967
“The action was planned in advance“ —Drew Pearson and Jack Anderson in The Washington Post, June 30, 1967
“Only the blind or the trigger happy could have made such a mistake“ —The National Observer
“The attack was deliberate. Those responsible should be court-martialed on charges of murder.” —California Congressman Craig Hosmer in the Congressional Record—House, June 29, 1967, p. 17893
“How can this be treated so lightly? What complaint have we registered? — Mississippi Congressman Thomas G. Abernethy in the Congressional Record—House, June 29m, 1967, pp. 17894-5
“Certain facts are clear. The attack was no accident. The Liberty was assaulted in broad daylight by Israeli forces who knew the ship’s identity. ...The President of the United States led a cover-up so thorough that years after he left office, the episode was still largely unknown to the public — and the men who suffered and died have gone largely unhonored.” —Paul Findley, They Dare to Speak Out, Lawrence Hill & Co., 1985, p166
“Nearly as bizarre as the attack itself was the reaction of the American government to the incident. A foreign nation had butchered American servicemen, sending thirty-four to their graves… A virtually unarmed American naval ship in international waters was shot at, strafed with rockets, torpedoed, set on fire...then left to sink as crazed gunners shot up the life rafts. The foreign nation then says, sorry about that, and offers an explanation so outrageous that it is insulting, and the American government accepts it, sweeps the whole affair under a rug, then classifies as top secret nearly all details concerning it.” —James Bamford, author, “The Puzzle Palace”
The story has been hushed up.” —Louisiana Congressman John R. Rarick in the Congressional Record—House, September 19, 1967, pp. 12170-6