Toronto Star | Oct. 22, 2003. 10:43 PM
Lyndon Johnson ordered cover-up: Former navy lawyer
WASHINGTON - A former navy lawyer who helped lead the military
investigation of the 1967 Israeli attack on the USS Liberty that killed 34
American servicemen says former president Lyndon Johnson and his defence
secretary, Robert McNamara, ordered that the inquiry conclude the incident
was an accident.
In a signed affidavit released at a Capitol Hill news conference, retired
captain Ward Boston said Johnson and McNamara told those heading the navy's
inquiry to "conclude that the attack was a case of 'mistaken identity'
despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary."
Boston was senior legal counsel to the navy's original 1967 review of the
attack. He said in the sworn statement that he stayed silent for years
because he's a military man, and "when orders come, I follow them."
He said he felt compelled to "share the truth" following the publication of
a recent book, The Liberty Incident, which concluded the attack was
The USS Liberty was an electronic intelligence-gathering ship that was
cruising international waters off the Egyptian coast June 8, 1967. Israeli
planes and torpedo boats opened fire on the Liberty at what became known as
the outbreak of the Israeli-Arab Six-Day War.
In addition to the 34 Americans killed, more than 170 were wounded.
Israel has long maintained that the attack was a case of mistaken identity,
an explanation that the Johnson administration did not formally challenge.
Israel claimed its forces thought the ship was an Egyptian vessel and
apologized to the United States.
After the attack, a navy court of inquiry concluded there was insufficient
information to make a judgment about why Israel attacked the ship, stopping
short of assigning blame or determining whether it was an accident.
It was "one of the classic all-American cover-ups," said retired admiral
Thomas Moorer, a former Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman who spent a year
investigating the attack as part of an independent panel he formed with
other former military officials. The panel also included a former U.S.
ambassador to Saudi Arabia, James Akins.
"Why would our government put Israel's interests ahead of our own?" Moorer
asked from his wheelchair at the news conference. He was chief of naval
operations at the time of the attack.
Moorer, who has long held that the attack was a deliberate act, wants
Congress to investigate.
David Lewis of Lemington, Vt., was on the Liberty when it was attacked. In
an interview, he said Israel had to know it was targeting an American ship.
He said a U.S. flag was flying that day and Israel shot it full of holes.
The sailors on the ship, he said, quickly hoisted another American flag, a
much bigger one, to show Israel it was a U.S. vessel.
"No trained individual could be that inept," said Lewis of the Israeli forces.
Israeli Embassy spokesman Mark Regev disputed any notion that Israel
knowingly went after American sailors.
"I can say unequivocally that the Liberty tragedy was a terrible accident,
that the Israeli pilots involved believed they were attacking an enemy
ship," Regev said. "This was in the middle of a war. This is something that
we are not proud of."
Calls to the navy seeking comment were not immediately returned.
In Boston's statement, he does not say why Johnson would have ordered a
cover-up. Attempts were made to reach Boston at his home in Coronado,
Calif., but he did not return calls seeking comment.
Moorer's panel suggested several possible reasons Israel might have wanted
to attack a U.S. ship. Among them: Israel intended to sink the ship and
blame Egypt because it might have brought the United States into the 1967
Here' the second article..........
New charges vs. Israel in '67 ship attack
By Nicholas M. Horrock
UPI Chief White House Correspondent
Published 10/22/2003 6:22 PM
View printer-friendly version
WASHINGTON, Oct. 22 (UPI) -- A private commission investigating the 1967 attack on the U.S. spy ship USS Liberty on Wednesday released the sworn testimony of one naval investigator that the Israelis knew the ship was American and intended to "murder its entire crew."
Israeli aircraft and torpedo boats attacked the USS Liberty on June 8, 1967, killing 34 U.S. sailors and injuring 172 others in one of the deadliest attacks suffered by a U.S. ship that remained afloat.
The Israeli government claimed it was a case of "mistaken identity" and that their pilots were gunning for a 1937-era Egyptian freighter, but this claim set off a 36-year controversy between the two countries. Both U.S. and Israel groups have investigated the attack over the years, but the issue has never been settled.
Coming now, the evidence becomes part of a controversy over Israelis influence in Washington and whether it has tilted the Bush administration toward Jerusalem.
A private commission headed by a former chief of naval operations, retired Adm. Thomas H. Moorer, made public an affidavit by retired Capt. Ward Boston, formerly of the judge advocate general's office and one of two senior naval officials investigating the attack.
"The evidence was clear. Both Admiral (Isaac) Kidd and I believed with certainty that this attack, which killed 34 America sailors and injured 172 others, was a deliberate effort to sink an American ship and murder its entire crew. I am certain that the Israeli pilots that undertook the attack as well as their superiors who had ordered the attack, were aware the ship was American."
Though Boston had made these charges informally, this was the first time a sworn affidavit supported them. Boston said he had been a serving naval officer and followed orders keeping quiet about his knowledge for 36 years. "I am outraged at the efforts of apologists for Israel in this country to claim this attack was a case of 'mistaken identity,'" he wrote. "In particular, the recent publication of Jay Cristol's book, the 'Liberty Incident,' twists the facts and misrepresents the views of those of us who investigated the attack. It is Cristol's insidious attempt to whitewash the facts that has pushed me to speak out." Cristol, a retired Navy pilot and member of judge advocate's office, published a book in 2002 that found the attack was accidental.
Boston said "I saw the flag, which visibly identified the ship as American, riddled with bullet holes, and heard testimony that made it clear the Israelis intended there be no survivors."
With the help of Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., the private commission arranged a news conference in the Rayburn House Office building. Moorer said the group wants the official naval report rescinded and a new court of inquiry convened and investigations launched by appropriate Capitol Hill committees.
The first court of inquiry was ordered by Adm. John S. McCain Jr. -- father of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. -- who was then commanding in London and over the vessels in the Mediterranean. Kidd and Boston conducted the inquiry in Malta where the Liberty had been taken for repairs and care of the wounded. Though they both agreed the attack was intentional, Kidd prepared a report that went with the Israeli version. "I know from personal conversations I had with Admiral Kidd that President Lyndon Johnson and Secretary of Defense (Robert) McNamara ordered him to conclude the attack was a case of 'mistaken identity,'" Boston's affidavit said.
There are numerous discrepancies between the Israeli version and the U.S. sailors' report. The U.S. sailors reported they were under aerial surveillance by Israeli planes for hours before the attack and were flying the American flag. They said they were hit by aircraft, torpedoed and strafed by fast-moving surface vessels. The Israelis said only aircraft were used in the attack. The sailors said that when they tried to launch lifeboats to secure the wounded the torpedo boats strafed and sank them. They reported that the Israelis jammed the radio so they couldn't call for help, but later when American aircraft were launched to help, they were recalled. Moorer said he has interviewed officers on the USS Saratoga, where the planes were based, who said the White House ordered them to abandon the rescue.
The Liberty was a World War II freighter converted to the role of a spy ship that the Navy said was very distinctive with massive aerials and satellite dishes. These spy vessels and spy flights later were replaced by satellite surveillance.
Why the Israelis would want to attack an American vessel has never been explained, but the incident came a few months before the 1967 Middle East war in which Egypt and Israel were adversaries.
Copyright © 2001-2003 United Press International
Israel has been murdering with impunity since the treacherous attack on the USS Liberty in 1967 (in which 34 American sailors were killed and 171 were wounded) as the USS Liberty survivors have been trying to get an official investigation (to no avail) for decades :
Washington Post article: Israeli Attack on the USS Liberty:
From the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs Magazine (http://www.wrmea.com)
July/August 2003 Page 42
NAVY CAPTAIN, OTHER OFFICIALS CALL FOR INVESTIGATION OF
ISRAEL'S ATTACK ON USS LIBERTY
By Delinda C. Hanley
Nearly every former senior government and military official
who has examined Israel's 1967 attack on the USS LIBERTY agrees
it was deliberate. Now, thanks to the publication of Judge A.
Jay Cristol's book, THE LIBERTY INCIDENT: THE 1967 ATTACK ON A
U.S. NAVY SPY SHIP, they are going public. Cristol's book tour
included a December 2002 presentation at the Naval Historical
Center in Washington, DC, where he touted his version of the
attack which, based primarily on Israeli sources, he says was
unintentional. Ironically, it looks like what actually was un-
intentional is that Cristol's efforts to quell the debate have
had exactly the opposite effect.
Reading reports of Cristol's whitewash of the devastating
attack, which killed 34 American crewmen and wounded 172 others,
was the last straw for Captain Ward Boston, senior legal counsel
for the Navy's Court of Inquiry. Commander-in-Chief Naval Forces
Europe, Boston and the late Rear Admiral Isaac "Ike" Kidd were
given just one week by Admiral John McCain (father of Sen. John
McCain) to investigate the attack and gather testimony from
survivors still on board the crippled ship. Captain Boston asked
each witness to tell his story for a court stenographer.
"There is no question in my mind that those goddamned bastards
tried to kill everyone on board," Boston told the WASHINGTON REPORT.
"I was the counsel. I put witnesses on. I talked to kids never
exposed to combat who'd seen their friend's head blown off. Kids
who were crying as they told me what they'd gone through. Those
boys who had their heads blown away were not out fighting [the
Israelis]. They were sunbathing. They weren't even given a
chance to get to their machine guns."
Boston also watched the bodies of the dead carried out of
the hold, and saw boys throw up as they retrieved body parts
and mopped up after the shelling and torpedo attack. He recalled
seeing the shot-up U.S. flags that had clearly marked the ship
as an American vessel. Boston flatly dismisses the claims of
Cristol and Israel that Israeli fighter pilots mistook the
electronically advanced spy ship, complete with an 18-foot-wide
satellite dish, a microwave dish, and antennae, for the EL
QUSEIR, a 1920s-era Egyptian horse transport ship.
The Navy captain heard survivors' testimonies that the
Israelis even shot up the LIBERTY's lifeboats after they were
lowered into the waters to save the crew. That testimony was
excised from the official record at some point after it left
Boston's hands. (The tattered rafts now are proudly displayed
in an Israeli museum.) Boston recalls shaking hands with
LIBERTY skipper Commander William McGonagle, who had a big hole
in his leg. "He thanked me later for that handshake," Boston
recalled, "because it made some shrapnel pop out of his hand."
When Boston suggested going to Tel Aviv to have the Israelis
tell their side of the story, he was told, "You can't do it.
Come on home and present the evidence you have."
Armed with a gun to protect the evidence, which he had
attached to himself with handcuffs, Admiral Kidd, along with
Captain Boston took the records to London. As the week allotted
for gathering testimony came to an end, the team gathered 20
people to type up the report, which ended up being three inches
thick. After all the evidence painstakingly collected was turned
over to the U.S. Embassy there, the report may have been
altered. "I made lots of corrections which are no longer in the
report," Captain Boston told the WASHINGTON REPORT. "There are
even pages missing."
A U.S. Embassy official in London told Kidd that he and his
men must keep quiet. Ten days after the attack, the Navy's Court
of Inquiry, despite all the evidence to the contrary, somehow
exonerated Israel and ruled the attack was a case of mistaken
identity. Following the Court proceedings in London, Admiral
Kidd returned to Washington, DC and called Boston, with whom
he was very close. "We have to be quiet," he said. "We can't
talk to the media."
"LBJ [President Lyndon B. Johnson] had ordered us to put
the lid on it. Don't talk about it," Boston told the WASHING-
TON REPORT. "And after 35 years of active duty, when I get an
order, even from a yellow-bellied superior, I follow those
orders. All this time I've kept quiet until this [explicative
deleted, Cristol] book came out."
After years of obeying those orders, Captain Boston broke
his silence on June 26, 2002, when he told MARINE CORPS TIMES
reporter Bryant Jordan the attack was deliberate (see "Israel
Attack on USS Liberty 'No Accident' Says Helms" published in
the Navy Times July 2, 2002).
Boston said he just had to speak out after reading
Cristol's claim that Kidd, in interviews conducted in the early
1990s, had said Israel's attack was not intentional. The captain
told the WASHINGTON REPORT that he finds it hard to believe
Cristol's version of interviews with the now deceased Admiral
Kidd, a man Boston greatly admired. "Admiral Kidd called me two
hours after an interview with Cristol," Boston related, "and
said, 'I think Cristol's an Israeli agent.'"
According to Boston, both he and Admiral Kidd always be-
lieved that, despite the Court's official conclusion, the
Israelis knew the ship was American. "I have strong patriotic
feelings," he explained. "I believe the CIA slogan, 'the truth
will out,' and hate the Israeli Mossad's motto: 'Win By
"Madder Than Hell"
"Cristol now says I recanted my interview with the NAVY TIMES.
That makes me madder than hell," Boston said. "I have not
recanted one thing. If anything, now I'm going to speak out
louder than before and tell people what Admiral Kidd told me.
He and I were very close. He said, 'those sons of bitches
knew what they were doing when they killed innocent sunbathing
kids. They tried to sink that ship.'" Cristol may now be
kicking himself for waxing so eloquently about Boston's quali-
fications and skills, calling him a "man of integrity" on pg.
149 of his book.
LIBERTY survivor James Ennes, author the groundbreaking
book ASSAULT ON THE LIBERTY, also had numerous conversations
with Admiral Kidd over the years. Kidd never characterized the
attack as an accident. In fact, Ennes says Kidd told him many
times, "You are on the right track, Jim. Just keep on probing.
Keep on doing what you're doing."
When asked why he thought the U.S. government has covered
up the attack for 36 years, Captain Boston replied: "Iraq,
Vietnam, the LIBERTY -- it's the same old story. When people
are in power they don't want to upset people who may help them
get reelected. Maybe people didn't want the world to see that
Israelis were slaughtering Egyptian prisoners of war. Maybe
Johnson was afraid of upsetting potential voters."
As a captain and staff legal officer in London, retired
Admiral Merlin Staring reviewed the Court of Inquiry's report
in 1967. Before he could finish, however, the report was taken
away. Based on what he read however, Staring, who later became
the top JAG officer, has said the evidence did not support the
"accidental" attack contention.
Last year Richard Helms, CIA director at the time of the attack,
agreed that "it was no accident." Helms also told MARINE CORPS
TIMES correspondent Jordan on May 29, 2002, "I've done all I can.
I don't want to spend the rest of my life in court testifying
about the incident."
Helms' book, A LOOK OVER MY SHOULDER, written in collabo-
ration with William Hood, describes the LIBERTY attack as "one
of the most disturbing incidents in the six days [war]...Israeli
authorities subsequently apologized for the accident, but few in
Washington could believe that the ship had not been identified
as an American naval vessel."
Admiral Rufus Taylor, Helms' deputy, told his boss, "To me,
the picture thus far presents the distinct possibility that the
Israelis knew that LIBERTY might be their target and attacked
A fine article by David Walsh was released in the NAVAL
INSTITUTE PROCEEDINGS on June 3, 2003, (available on the USNI
Web site at <http://www.usni.org>). Walsh's well-documented
article notes that even Clark Clifford, chairman of President
Johnson's, Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board and a great sup-
porter of Israel, called Israeli claims that the attack was
accidental "unbelievable." Clifford told the president, "Some-
thing had gone terribly wrong and then it had been covered up.
I never felt the Israelis had made adequate restitution or
explanation for their...unprovoked actions."
U.S. Secretary of State Dean Rusk, Walsh's article adds,
had said there was "every reason to believe that the USS
LIBERTY was identified, or at least her nationality deter-
mined...one hour before the attack." Finally, Walsh notes,
former NSA and CIA director Admiral Bobby Ray Inman, based
on his talks with NSA seniors at the time, "flatly rejected"
the Cristol/Israel thesis.
Former Chief of Naval Operations and Joint Chiefs of
Staff Chairman Admiral Thomas Moorer has been on the record
for some time as saying the attack on the LIBERTY was delib-
erate. Among those agreeing with him are then-NSA Director
Marshall Carter, Carter's deputy, Louis Tordella, NSA
"LIBERTY Incident" analyst Walter Deeley, and Hayden Peake,
professor of intelligence history at the Joint Military
Intelligence College and a retired CIA officer.
Assistant Secretary of Defense for Command, Control,
Communications and Intelligence John Stenbit told an audi-
ence at a conference on "Transforming National Security and
Protecting the Homeland," held April 15 to 17 in Vienna, VA,
that the Israelis had warned the U.S. to move the USS
LIBERTY or they would sink it. His comments appeared in the
Israeli daily JERUSALEM POST and elicited a letter to the
editor in the online section of the magazine. Both the
letter and the article have mysteriously vanished from the
In addition to the many Americans noted above, Israelis
and even Russians are adding to the public record on the attack.
Nikolay Cherkashin, who has spent years investigating the
LIBERTY tragedy, quoted a recently published Russian trans-
lation of Joseph Daichman's HISTORY OF THE MOSSAD, which states
that it was perfectly clear to Israelis that the LIBERTY was an
American ship and that the attack was committed to deprive the
U.S. "of its eyes and ears."
Daichman also argues that Israel had every right to attack
the American ship. If the LIBERTY had reported that Israeli
troops had moved from the Egyptian borders to the Syrian front,
the Soviets, if they were eavesdropping on the U.S., could have
warned the Arabs. Eliminating any eyes and ears, Israel was
able to attack Syria and capture the Golan Heights.
Daichman also speculates that Israel may have tried to sink
the ship and blame Egypt, and thus provoke a lethal U.S.
response. That theory is the theme of the documentary "DEAD IN
THE WATER," nominated for Best Documentary at the Vancouver Film
Festival, and the new OPERATION CYANIDE book by Peter Hounam.
Despite overwhelming new testimony, however, Cristol's
version of the attack on the LIBERTY is gaining notoriety.
Michael Oren's SIX DAYS OF WAR won an award for best history book
at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. According to Ennes,
Oren's chapter on the treacherous attack echoes Cristol's version,
which Ennes describes as "pure Israeli spin and truth distortion."
That's not surprising, of course, since in his book's
acknowledgements Oren thanks the Shalem Center, where he is a
senior fellow and "under whose auspices this book was researched
and written." The center describes its senior fellows program as
"promoting the research and writing of agenda-shaping work."
Its journal, AZURE, with editorial offices in Jerusalem and Wash-
ington, DC, "champions...a strong, free and Jewish State of
Israel for the future of the Jewish people."
"Cristol, though discredited at every turn, continues to
hawk his book," Ennes says, "arguing endlessly that the attack
was a tragic accident and that we who say otherwise are simply
either anti-Semites or blinded by blood and what he calls the
'fog of war.' Cristol will be promoting his book in August
and speaking at a large veterans' forum in Pigeon Forge, TN,"
Ennes told the WASHINGTON REPORT. He added, "Knowing the
views of most veterans who know about the LIBERTY, I cannot
imagine that Cristol will be well received."
"Will the LIBERTY remain a sort of 'Flying Dutchman,'
sailing forever around her poor men's souls?" Walsh concludes
his LIBERTY article by asking. Until a congressional investi-
gation gives survivors the opportunity to tell their stories
before they die, and Americans can examine top-secret reports
still shrouded in secrecy, the LIBERTY's ghost will not rest.
Delinda C. Hanley is news editor of the WASHINGTON REPORT ON
MIDDLE EAST AFFAIRS.
Note: The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs is one of
the few magazines in the world that supports the Liberty
survivors and where you can get the truth about the Middle
East. It supports the UN resolutions and traditional American
support for human rights, self-determination, and fair play.
If you've never seen this magazine, call 1-800-368-5788.
They'll send you a free sample copy, and hope to welcome you
as a subscriber.
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