The USS Liberty, attacked by Israel, resurfaces on Washington
U.S. Says 1967 Attack Act of Negligence
By BARRY SCHWEID
.c The Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) - Reviewing documents covering 36 years, amid a lack of consensus, a State Department official concluded Monday that Israel's attack on the U.S. spy ship Liberty during the 1967 Six Day War was an act of Israeli negligence.
The United States also was negligent, the official maintained, for failing to notify Israel that the electronic intelligence-gathering ship was cruising international waters off the Egyptian coast and for failing to withdraw the Liberty from the war zone.
A daylong conference that studied fresh documents as well as the established record failed to produce a consensus for any of three views voiced most often: Israel intentionally attacked what it knew to be a ship of the U.S. Navy, the attack was accidental, or the attack resulted from faulty judgment.
Thirty-four Americans were killed in the June 8, 1967, attack, and more than 170 were wounded.
Israel long has maintained that the attack was a case of mistaken identity, an explanation the Johnson administration did not challenge formally. Israel said its forces thought the Liberty was an Egyptian horse carrier, apologized to the United States and paid almost $13 million in compensation, some to victims or their families.
Since the United States did not intercept the order to attack the ship with cannon fire and napalm, precise facts of the attack remain elusive, the State Department official said Monday, speaking on condition of anonymity.
He called the Israeli attack and the U.S. actions a classic example of Murphy's law: ``If anything can go wrong, it will.''
David Hatch, a technical director at the National Security Agency, said, ``The good news is that information long sought by researchers is now out, and the bad news is that it does not settle it.''
The occasion for the State Department conference was the release of historical documents about the 1967 war in which Israel defeated the combined forces of Egypt, Syria, Jordan and other Arab countries in six days.
Charles Smith, a professor at the University of Arizona, said in his presentation that Israel should have known the Liberty was an American ship.
``If they didn't know, they didn't try hard enough to find out,'' he said.
James Bamford, an investigative journalist who has written about the incident, demanded further investigation ``instead of people getting up here and giving their opinions.''
``There were cover-ups,'' Bamford said, citing a signed affidavit by retired Navy Capt. Ward Boston, who was a leader of a military investigation into the incident.
Boston said in the affidavit in October that then-President Johnson and Defense Secretary Robert McNamara had 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, 80, who did not attend Monday's conference, said the Navy investigators were given only one week but still were able to amass ``a vast amount of evidence, including heartbreaking testimony from young survivors.''
Accusing Israel of a deliberate effort to sink an American ship and kill its crew, Boston said in a legal declaration in Coronado, Calif., that he was certain the Israel pilots knew the Liberty, which clearly displayed American flags and had markings in English instead of Arabic, was a U.S. Navy ship.
Additionally, Boston said, ``Israeli torpedo boats machine-gunned three lifeboats that that had been launched in an attempt by the crew to save the most seriously wounded - a war crime.''
Jay Cristol, a U.S. bankruptcy court judge who has written about the incident, cited the finding of the Navy's inquiry as proof the attack was a mistake. ``There was no indication they had any knowledge they were attacking a U.S. ship,'' Cristol told the conference.
If the attack were deliberate, its motivation remains uncertain.
Adm. Thomas Moorer, a former chief of naval operations and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, wrote in a memorandum on June 8, 1997, the 30th anniversary of the attack, that Israel deliberately attacked to hide its intentions in the war.
``I am confident that Israel knew the Liberty could intercept radio messages from all parties and potential parties to the ongoing war, then in its fourth day, and that Israel was preparing to seize the Golan Heights from Syria despite President Johnson's known opposition to such a move,'' Moorer wrote.
``I believe (then-Israeli Defense Minister) Moshe Dayan concluded that he could prevent Washington from becoming aware of what Israel was up to by destroying the primary source of acquiring that information, the USS Liberty.'' Israel took the strategic Syrian territory and still holds it 37 years later.
01/12/04 21:18 EST http://news.ft.com/servlet/ContentServer?pagename=FT.com/StoryFT/FullStory&c=StoryFT&cid=1073280974558&p=1012571727162
Tempers flare over US spy-ship inquiry
By Guy Dinmore in Washington
Published: January 12 2004 23:14 | Last Updated: January 12 2004 23:14
Survivors of one of the most hotly disputed incidents in American military history - the Israeli attack on the USS Liberty spy-ship in 1967 - on Monday accused the US authorities, past and present, of a cover-up in backing Israeli claims that it was a tragic mistake.
Emotions boiled over in the basement of the State Department as the Office of the Historian opened a public conference on the six-day Arab-Israeli war with heated debate over newly released intercepts from the archives of the secretive National Security Agency.
Most of the basic facts are undisputed. On June 8 1967, Israeli aircraft and later torpedo boats struck the Liberty just off the Mediterranean coast, killing 34 crew and wounding 172. The ship, one of the world's most sophisticated listening vessels but only lightly armed, limped into port.
From there the controversy begins. An immediate US Navy court of inquiry backed the Israeli claim that it had been mistaken for an Egyptian warship. The US accepted $12m (?9.4m, £6.5m) in compensation.
While some historians have accepted this, survivors and a varied group of academics and former military officials insist the attack was deliberate.
"You're trying to whitewash it," one survivor shouted from the audience as Marc Susser, the State Department's historian, acted as moderator and sought to keep order, refusing to allow speeches from the floor. Even debate on the panel of invited historians descended into acrimony with one contributor accused of being an Israeli agent.
Two recent developments added fuel to the controversy.
Last week Ward Boston, a naval captain who acted as senior legal counsel for the Navy's court of inquiry in 1967, signed an affidavit declaring that the late Admiral Isaac Kidd, president of the court, had told him that President Lyndon Johnson and Robert McNamara, defence secretary, had ordered a cover-up.
And on Monday, David Hatch, the National Security Agency's own historian, elaborated on the recently declassified NSA material, the first time the eavesdropping agency had released real voice intercepts.
Mr Hatch confessed that the information "doesn't settle much". But his analysis of the conversations between an Israeli air controller and two helicopter pilots "suggested strongly" that the Israelis did not know at first they were attacking a US vessel, although there was mention of a US flag flying.
He also regretted that the new NSA material did not clarify why the Liberty had not received orders sent to it to leave a war zone.
Joseph Lentini, a survivor who has spent the past 36 years researching the tragedy, told reporters he remained convinced that the attack was deliberate.
He admits it is hard to understand why the Israelis would want to sink a ship of its closest ally at a time of war. Conspiracy theories abound.
The most important section of the following article is near the end where it is conveyed that James Bamford read Captain Ward Boston's declaration (it mentioned that Admiral Kidd thought that A. Jay Cristol was an Israeli agent):
Here is a copy of the declaration (Bamford read a signed copy by Captain Ward Boston) which James Bamford read during the USS Liberty attack panel discussion which was broadcast live on C-SPAN 2 earlier today (hopefully it will repeat as well):
DECLARATION OF WARD BOSTON, JR., CAPTAIN, JAGC, USN (RET.)
I, WARD BOSTON, JR. DO DECLARE THAT THE FOLLOWING STATEMENT IS TRUE AND COMPLETE:
1. FOR MORE THAN 30 YEARS, I HAVE REMAINED SILENT ON THE TOPIC OF USS LIBERTY. I AM A MILITARY MAN AND WHEN ORDERS COME IN FROM THE SECRETARY OF DEFENSE AND PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, I FOLLOW THEM.
2. HOWEVER, RECENT ATTEMPTS TO REWRITE HISTORY COMPEL ME TO SHARE THE TRUTH.
3. IN JUNE OF 1967, WHILE SERVING AS A CAPTAIN IN THE Judge Advocate General Corps, Department of the Navy, I WAS ASSIGNED AS SENIOR LEGAL COUNSEL FOR THE NAVY'S COURT OF INQUIRY INTO THE BRUTAL ATTACK ON USS LIBERTY, WHICH HAD OCCURRED ON JUNE 8TH.
4. THE LATE ADMIRAL ISAAC C. KIDD, PRESIDENT OF THE COURT, AND I WERE GIVEN ONLY ONE WEEK TO GATHER EVIDENCE FOR THE NAVY'S OFFICIAL INVESTIGATION INTO THE ATTACK, DESPITE THE FACT THAT WE BOTH HAD ESTIMATED THAT A PROPER COURT OF INQUIRY INTO AN ATTACK OF THIS MAGNITUDE WOULD TAKE AT LEAST SIX MONTHS TO CONDUCT.
5. ADMIRAL JOHN S. MCCAIN, JR., THEN COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF, NAVAL FORCES EUROPE (CINCUSNAVEUR), AT HIS HEADQUARTERS IN LONDON, HAD CHARGED ADMIRAL KIDD (IN A LETTER DATED JUNE 10, 1967) TO
"INQUIRE INTO ALL THE PERTINENT FACTS AND CIRCUMSTANCES LEADING TO AND CONNECTED WITH THE ARMED ATTACK; DAMAGE RESULTING THEREFROM; AND DEATHS OF AND INJURIES TO NAVAL PERSONNEL."
6. DESPITE THE SHORT AMOUNT OF TIME WE WERE GIVEN, WE GATHERED A VAST AMOUNT OF EVIDENCE, INCLUDING HOURS OF HEARTBREAKING TESTIMONY FROM THE YOUNG SURVIVORS.
7. THE EVIDENCE WAS CLEAR. BOTH ADMIRAL KIDD AND I BELIEVED WITH CERTAINTY THAT THIS ATTACK, WHICH KILLED 34 AMERICAN SAILORS AND INJURED 172 OTHERS, WAS A DELIBERATE EFFORT TO SINK AN AMERICAN SHIP AND MURDER ITS ENTIRE CREW. EACH EVENING, AFTER HEARING TESTIMONY ALL DAY, WE OFTEN SPOKE OUR PRIVATE THOUGHTS CONCERNING WHAT WE HAD SEEN AND HEARD. I RECALL ADMIRAL KIDD REPEATEDLY REFERRING TO THE ISRAELI FORCES RESPONSIBLE FOR THE ATTACK AS "MURDEROUS BASTARDS." IT WAS OUR SHARED BELIEF, BASED ON THE DOCUMENTARY EVIDENCE AND TESTIMONY WE RECEIVED FIRST HAND, THAT THE ISRAELI ATTACK WAS PLANNED AND DELIBERATE, AND COULD NOT POSSIBLY HAVE BEEN AN ACCIDENT.
8. I AM CERTAIN THAT THE ISRAELI PILOTS THAT UNDERTOOK THE ATTACK, AS WELL AS THEIR SUPERIORS, WHO HAD ORDERED THE ATTACK, WERE WELL AWARE THAT THE SHIP WAS AMERICAN.
9. I SAW THE FLAG, WHICH HAD VISIBLY IDENTIFIED THE SHIP AS AMERICAN, RIDDLED WITH BULLET HOLES, AND HEARD TESTIMONY THAT MADE IT CLEAR THAT THE ISRAELIS INTENDED THERE BE NO SURVIVORS. 10. 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.
11. ADMIRAL KIDD AND I BOTH FELT IT NECESSARY TO TRAVEL TO ISRAEL TO INTERVIEW THE ISRAELIS WHO TOOK PART IN THE ATTACK. ADMIRAL KIDD TELEPHONED ADMIRAL MCCAIN TO DISCUSS MAKING ARRANGEMENTS. ADMIRAL KIDD LATER TOLD ME THAT ADMIRAL MCCAIN WAS ADAMANT THAT WE WERE NOT TO TRAVEL TO ISRAEL OR CONTACT THE ISRAELIS CONCERNING THIS MATTER.
12. REGRETTABLY, WE DID NOT RECEIVE INTO EVIDENCE AND THE COURT DID NOT CONSIDER ANY OF THE MORE THAN SIXTY WITNESS DECLARATIONS FROM MEN WHO HAD BEEN HOSPITALIZED AND WERE UNABLE TO TESTIFY IN PERSON.
13. I AM OUTRAGED AT THE EFFORTS OF THE APOLOGISTS FOR ISRAEL IN THIS COUNTRY TO CLAIM THAT THIS ATTACK WAS A CASE OF "MISTAKEN IDENTITY."
14. 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.
15. IT IS CRISTOL'S INSIDIOUS ATTEMPT TO WHITEWASH THE FACTS THAT HAS PUSHED ME TO SPEAK OUT.
16. I KNOW FROM PERSONAL CONVERSATIONS I HAD WITH ADMIRAL 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.
17. ADMIRAL KIDD TOLD ME, AFTER RETURNING FROM WASHINGTON, D.C. THAT HE HAD BEEN ORDERED TO SIT DOWN WITH TWO CIVILIANS FROM EITHER THE WHITE HOUSE OR THE DEFENSE DEPARTMENT, AND REWRITE PORTIONS OF THE COURT'S FINDINGS.
18. ADMIRAL KIDD ALSO TOLD ME THAT HE HAD BEEN ORDERED TO "PUT THE LID" ON EVERYTHING HAVING TO DO WITH THE ATTACK ON USS LIBERTY. WE WERE NEVER TO SPEAK OF IT AND WE WERE TO CAUTION EVERYONE ELSE INVOLVED THAT THEY COULD NEVER SPEAK OF IT AGAIN.
19. I HAVE NO REASON TO DOUBT THE ACCURACY OF THAT STATEMENT AS 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 OFF TO WASHINGTON.
20. 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 I 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. FINALLY, THE TESTIMONY OF LT. 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 INCLUDED IN THE ORIGINAL TRANSCRIPT, IS NOW MISSING AND HAS BEEN EXCISED.
21. FOLLOWING THE CONCLUSION OF THE COURT OF INQUIRY, ADMIRAL KIDD AND I REMAINED IN CONTACT. THOUGH WE NEVER SPOKE OF THE ATTACK IN PUBLIC, WE DID DISCUSS IT BETWEEN OURSELVES, ON OCCASION. EVERY TIME WE DISCUSSED THE ATTACK, ADMIRAL KIDD WAS ADAMANT THAT IT WAS A DELIBERATE, PLANNED ATTACK ON AN AMERICAN SHIP.
22. IN 1990, I RECEIVED A TELEPHONE CALL FROM JAY CRISTOL, WHO WANTED TO INTERVIEW ME CONCERNING THE FUNCTIONING OF THE COURT OF INQUIRY. I TOLD HIM THAT I WOULD NOT SPEAK TO HIM ON THAT SUBJECT AND PREPARED TO HANG UP THE TELEPHONE. CRISTOL THEN BEGAN ASKING ME ABOUT MY PERSONAL BACKGROUND AND OTHER, NON-COURT OF INQUIRY RELATED MATTERS. I ENDEAVORED TO ANSWER THESE QUESTIONS AND POLITELY EXTRICATE MYSELF FROM THE CONVERSATION. CRISTOL CONTINUED TO RETURN TO THE SUBJECT OF THE COURT OF INQUIRY, WHICH I REFUSED TO DISCUSS WITH HIM. FINALLY, I SUGGESTED THAT HE CONTACT ADMIRAL KIDD AND ASK HIM ABOUT THE COURT OF INQUIRY.
23. SHORTLY AFTER MY CONVERSATION WITH CRISTOL, I RECEIVED A TELEPHONE CALL FROM ADMIRAL KIDD, INQUIRING ABOUT CRISTOL AND WHAT HE WAS UP TO. THE ADMIRAL SPOKE OF CRISTOL IN DISPARAGING TERMS AND EVEN OPINED THAT "CRISTOL MUST BE AN ISRAELI AGENT." I DON'T KNOW IF HE MEANT THAT LITERALLY OR IT WAS HIS WAY OF EXPRESSING HIS DISGUST FOR CRISTOL'S HIGHLY PARTISAN, PRO-ISRAELI APPROACH TO QUESTIONS INVOLVING USS LIBERTY.
24. AT NO TIME DID I EVER HEAR ADMIRAL KIDD SPEAK OF CRISTOL OTHER THAN IN HIGHLY DISPARAGING TERMS. I FIND CRISTOL'S CLAIMS OF A "CLOSE FRIENDSHIP" WITH ADMIRAL KIDD TO BE UTTERLY INCREDIBLE. I ALSO FIND IT IMPOSSIBLE TO BELIEVE THE STATEMENTS HE ATTRIBUTES TO ADMIRAL KIDD, CONCERNING THE ATTACK ON USS LIBERTY.
25. SEVERAL YEARS LATER, I RECEIVED A LETTER FROM CRISTOL THAT CONTAINED WHAT HE PURPORTED TO BE HIS NOTES OF OUR PRIOR CONVERSATION. THESE "NOTES" WERE GROSSLY INCORRECT AND BORE NO RESEMBLANCE IN REALITY TO THAT DISCUSSION. I FIND IT HARD TO BELIEVE THAT THESE "NOTES" WERE THE PRODUCT OF A MISTAKE, RATHER THAN AN ATTEMPT TO DECEIVE. I INFORMED CRISTOL THAT I DISAGREED WITH HIS RECOLLECTION OF OUR CONVERSATION AND THAT HE WAS WRONG. CRISTOL MADE SEVERAL ATTEMPTS TO ARRANGE FOR THE TWO OF US TO MEET IN PERSON AND TALK BUT I ALWAYS FOUND WAYS TO AVOID DOING THIS. I DID NOT WISH TO MEET WITH CRISTOL AS WE HAD NOTHING IN COMMON AND I DID NOT TRUST HIM.
26. CONTRARY TO THE MISINFORMATION PRESENTED BY CRISTOL AND OTHERS, IT IS IMPORTANT FOR THE AMERICAN PEOPLE TO KNOW THAT IT IS CLEAR THAT ISRAEL IS RESPONSIBLE FOR DELIBERATELY ATTACKING AN AMERICAN SHIP AND MURDERING AMERICAN SAILORS, WHOSE BEREAVED SHIPMATES HAVE LIVED WITH THIS EGREGIOUS CONCLUSION FOR MANY YEARS.
DATED: JANUARY 8, 2004
AT CORONADO, CALIFORNIA.
WARD BOSTON, JR., CAPTAIN, JAGC, USN (RET.)
SENIOR COUNSEL TO THE USS LIBERTY COURT OF INQUIRY
Subj: State Department Forum
Date: 1/9/04 9:39:14 AM Pacific Standard Time
Attendees should study
and especially http://www.usslibertyinquiry.com/commentary/cristoltravesty.html
Cristol's main crutch is to claim that 13 investigations have
all exonerated Israel. That is totally false.
NONE has exonerated Israel. See
which looks at the "13 investigations".
Who is A. Jay Cristol? See http://www.usslibertyinquiry.com/commentary/travesty/whoiscristol.html
When asked hard questions, Cristol's standard reply is
"Read the book." http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/story.hts/editorial/outlook/2348386
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