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    Veterans, documents suggest U.S., Israel didn t tell full story of deadly 67 incident New revelations in attack on American spy ship By John Crewdson |
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 3, 2008
      Veterans, documents suggest U.S., Israel didn't tell full story of
      deadly '67 incident

      New revelations in attack on American spy ship
      By John Crewdson | Tribune senior correspondent

      Bryce Lockwood, Marine staff sergeant, Russian-language expert,
      recipient of the Silver Star for heroism, ordained Baptist minister,
      is shouting into the phone.

      "I'm angry! I'm seething with anger! Forty years, and I'm seething
      with anger!"

      Lockwood was aboard the USS Liberty, a super-secret spy ship on
      station in the eastern Mediterranean, when four Israeli fighter jets
      flew out of the afternoon sun to strafe and bomb the virtually
      defenseless vessel on June 8, 1967, the fourth day of what would
      become known as the Six-Day War.

      For Lockwood and many other survivors, the anger is mixed with
      incredulity: that Israel would attack an important ally, then
      attribute the attack to a case of mistaken identity by Israeli pilots
      who had confused the U.S. Navy's most distinctive ship with an
      Egyptian horse-cavalry transport that was half its size and had a
      dissimilar profile. And they're also incredulous that, for years,
      their own government would reject their calls for a thorough

      "They tried to lie their way out of it!" Lockwood shouts. "I don't
      believe that for a minute! You just don't shoot at a ship at sea
      without identifying it, making sure of your target!"

      Four decades later, many of the more than two dozen Liberty survivors
      located and interviewed by the Tribune cannot talk about the attack
      without shouting or weeping.

      Their anger has been stoked by the declassification of government
      documents and the recollections of former military personnel,
      including some quoted in this article for the first time, which
      strengthen doubts about the U.S. National Security Agency's position
      that it never intercepted the communications of the attacking Israeli
      pilots -- communications, according to those who remember seeing
      them, that showed the Israelis knew they were attacking an American
      naval vessel.

      The documents also suggest that the U.S. government, anxious to spare
      Israel's reputation and preserve its alliance with the U.S., closed
      the case with what even some of its participants now say was a hasty
      and seriously flawed investigation.

      In declassifying the most recent and largest batch of materials last
      June 8, the 40th anniversary of the attack, the NSA, this country's
      chief U.S. electronic-intelligence-gatherer and code-breaker,
      acknowledged that the attack had "become the center of considerable
      controversy and debate." It was not the agency's intention, it
      said, "to prove or disprove any one set of conclusions, many of which
      can be drawn from a thorough review of this material," available at
      http://www.nsa.gov/liberty .

      An Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman, Mark Regev, called the attack
      on the Liberty "a tragic and terrible accident, a case of mistaken
      identity, for which Israel has officially apologized." Israel also
      paid reparations of $6.7 million to the injured survivors and the
      families of those killed in the attack, and another $6 million for
      the loss of the Liberty itself.

      But for those who lost their sons and husbands, neither the Israelis'
      apology nor the passing of time has lessened their grief.

      One is Pat Blue, who still remembers having her lunch in Washington's
      Farragut Square park on "a beautiful June afternoon" when she was a
      22-year-old secretary for a law firm.

      Blue heard somebody's portable radio saying a U.S. Navy ship had been
      torpedoed in the eastern Mediterranean. A few weeks before, Blue's
      husband of two years, an Arab-language expert with the NSA, had been
      hurriedly dispatched overseas.

      As she listened to the news report, "it just all came together." Soon
      afterward, the NSA confirmed that Allen Blue was among the missing.

      "I never felt young again," she said.

      Aircraft on the horizon

      Beginning before dawn on June 8, Israeli aircraft regularly appeared
      on the horizon and circled the Liberty.

      The Israeli Air Force had gained control of the skies on the first
      day of the war by destroying the Egyptian air force on the ground.
      America was Israel's ally, and the Israelis knew the Americans were
      there. The ship's mission was to monitor the communications of
      Israel's Arab enemies and their Soviet advisers, but not Israeli
      communications. The Liberty felt safe.

      Then the jets started shooting at the officers and enlisted men
      stretched out on the deck for a lunch-hour sun bath. Theodore
      Arfsten, a quartermaster, remembered watching a Jewish officer cry
      when he saw the blue Star of David on the planes' fuselages. At
      first, crew members below decks had no idea whose planes were
      shooting at their ship.

      Thirty-four died that day, including Blue, the only civilian
      casualty. An additional 171 were wounded in the air and sea assault
      by Israel, which was about to celebrate an overwhelming victory over
      the combined armies of Egypt, Syria, Jordan, and several other Arab

      For most of those who survived the attack, the Six-Day War has become
      the defining moment of their lives.

      Some mustered out of the Navy as soon as their enlistments were up.
      Others stayed in long enough to retire. Several went on to successful
      business careers. One became a Secret Service agent, another a
      Baltimore policeman.

      Several are being treated with therapy and drugs for what has since
      been recognized as post-traumatic stress disorder. One has undergone
      more than 30 major operations. Another suffers seizures caused by a
      piece of shrapnel still lodged in his brain.

      After Bryce Lockwood left the Marines, he worked construction, then
      tried selling insurance. "I'd get a job and get fired," he said. "I
      had a hell of a time getting my feet on the ground."

      With his linguistic background, Lockwood could have had a career with
      the NSA, the CIA, or the FBI. But he was too angry at the U.S.
      government to work for it. "Don't talk to me about government!" he

      U.S. Navy jets were called back

      An Israeli military court of inquiry later acknowledged that their
      naval headquarters knew at least three hours before the attack that
      the odd-looking ship 13 miles off the Sinai Peninsula, sprouting more
      than 40 antennas capable of receiving every kind of radio
      transmission, was "an electromagnetic audio-surveillance ship of the
      U.S. Navy," a floating electronic vacuum cleaner.

      The Israeli inquiry later concluded that that information had simply
      gotten lost, never passed along to the ground controllers who
      directed the air attack nor to the crews of the three Israeli torpedo
      boats who picked up where the air force left off, strafing the
      Liberty's decks with their machine guns and launching a torpedo that
      blew a 39-foot hole in its starboard side.

      To a man, the survivors interviewed by the Tribune rejected Israel's

      Nor, the survivors said, did they understand why the American 6th
      Fleet, which included the aircraft carriers America and Saratoga,
      patrolling 400 miles west of the Liberty, launched and then recalled
      at least two squadrons of Navy fighter-bombers that might have
      arrived in time to prevent the torpedo attack -- and save 26 American

      J.Q. "Tony" Hart, then a chief petty officer assigned to a U.S. Navy
      relay station in Morocco that handled communications between
      Washington and the 6th Fleet, remembered listening as Defense
      Secretary Robert McNamara, in Washington, ordered Rear Adm. Lawrence
      Geis, commander of the America's carrier battle group, to bring the
      jets home.

      When Geis protested that the Liberty was under attack and needed
      help, Hart said, McNamara retorted that "President [Lyndon] Johnson
      is not going to go to war or embarrass an American ally over a few

      McNamara, who is now 91, told the Tribune he has "absolutely no
      recollection of what I did that day," except that "I have a memory
      that I didn't know at the time what was going on."

      The Johnson administration did not publicly dispute Israel's claim
      that the attack had been nothing more than a disastrous mistake. But
      internal White House documents obtained from the Lyndon B. Johnson
      Presidential Library show that the Israelis' explanation of how the
      mistake had occurred was not believed.

      Except for McNamara, most senior administration officials from
      Secretary of State Dean Rusk on down privately agreed with Johnson's
      intelligence adviser, Clark Clifford, who was quoted in minutes of a
      National Security Council staff meeting as saying it
      was "inconceivable" that the attack had been a case of mistaken

      The attack "couldn't be anything else but deliberate," the NSA's
      director, Lt. Gen. Marshall Carter, later told Congress.

      "I don't think you'll find many people at NSA who believe it was
      accidental," Benson Buffham, a former deputy NSA director, said in an

      "I just always assumed that the Israeli pilots knew what they were
      doing," said Harold Saunders, then a member of the National Security
      Council staff and later assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern
      and South Asian affairs.

      "So for me, the question really is who issued the order to do that
      and why? That's the really interesting thing."

      The answer, if there is one, will probably never be known. Gen. Moshe
      Dayan, then the country's minister of defense; Levi Eshkol, the
      Israeli prime minister; and Golda Meir, his successor, are all dead.

      Many of those who believe the Liberty was purposely attacked have
      suggested that the Israelis feared the ship might intercept
      communications revealing its plans to widen the war, which the U.S.
      opposed. But no one has ever produced any solid evidence to support
      that theory, and the Israelis dismiss it. The NSA's deputy director,
      Louis Tordella, speculated in a recently declassified memo that the
      attack "might have been ordered by some senior commander on the Sinai
      Peninsula who wrongly suspected that the LIBERTY was monitoring his

      Was the U.S. flag visible?

      Though the attack on the Liberty has faded from public memory,
      Michael Oren, a historian and senior fellow at The Shalem Center in
      Jerusalem, conceded that "the case of the assault on the Liberty has
      never been closed."

      If anything, Oren said, "the accusations leveled against Israel have
      grown sharper with time." Oren said in an interview that he believed
      a formal investigation by the U.S., even 40 years later, would be
      useful if only because it would finally establish Israel's innocence.

      Questions about what happened to the Liberty have been kept alive by
      survivors' groups and their Web sites, a half-dozen books, magazine
      articles and television documentaries, scholarly papers published in
      academic journals, and Internet chat groups where amateur sleuths
      debate arcane points of photo interpretation and torpedo running

      Meantime, the Liberty's survivors and their supporters, including a
      distinguished constellation of retired admirals and generals, have
      persisted in asking Congress for a full-scale formal investigation.

      "We deserve to have the truth," Pat Blue said.

      For all its apparent complexity, the attack on the Liberty can be
      reduced to a single question: Was the ship flying the American flag
      at the time of the attack, and was that flag visible from the air?

      The survivors interviewed by the Tribune uniformly agree that the
      Liberty was flying the Stars and Stripes before, during and after the
      attack, except for a brief period in which one flag that had been
      shot down was replaced with another, larger flag -- the
      ship's "holiday colors" -- that measured 13 feet long.

      Concludes one of the declassified NSA documents: "Every official
      interview of numerous Liberty crewmen gave consistent evidence that
      indeed the Liberty was flying an American flag -- and, further, the
      weather conditions were ideal to ensure its easy observance and

      The Israeli court of inquiry that examined the attack, and absolved
      the Israeli military of criminal culpability, came to precisely the
      opposite conclusion.

      "Throughout the contact," it declared, "no American or any other flag
      appeared on the ship."

      The attack, the court said, had been prompted by a report, which
      later proved erroneous, that a ship was shelling Israeli-held
      positions in the Sinai Peninsula. The Liberty had no guns capable of
      shelling the shore, but the court concluded that the U.S. ship had
      been mistakenly identified as the source of the shelling.

      Yiftah Spector, the first Israeli pilot to attack the ship, told the
      Jerusalem Post in 2003 that when he first spotted the Liberty, "I
      circled it twice and it did not fire on me. My assumption was that it
      was likely to open fire at me and nevertheless I slowed down and I
      looked and there was positively no flag."

      But the Liberty crewmen interviewed by the Tribune said the Israeli
      jets simply appeared and began shooting. They also said the Liberty
      did not open fire on the planes because it was armed only with
      four .50-caliber machine guns intended to repel boarders.

      "I can't identify it, but in any case it's a military ship," Spector
      radioed his ground controller, according to a transcript of the
      Israeli air-to-ground communications published by the Jerusalem Post
      in 2004.

      That transcript, made by a Post reporter who was allowed to listen to
      what the Israeli Air Force said were tapes of the attacking pilots'
      communications, contained only two references to "American"
      or "Americans," one at the beginning and the other at the end of the

      The first reference occurred at 1:54 p.m. local time, two minutes
      before the Israeli jets began their first strafing run.

      In the Post transcript, a weapons system officer on the ground
      suddenly blurted out, "What is this? Americans?"

      "Where are Americans?" replied one of the air controllers.

      The question went unanswered, and it was not asked again.

      Twenty minutes later, after the Liberty had been hit repeatedly by
      machine guns, 30 mm cannon and napalm from the Israelis' French-built
      Mirage and Mystere fighter-bombers, the controller directing the
      attack asked his chief in Tel Aviv to which country the target vessel

      "Apparently American," the chief controller replied.

      Fourteen minutes later the Liberty was struck amidships by a torpedo
      from an Israeli boat, killing 26 of the 100 or so NSA technicians and
      specialists in Russian and Arabic who were working in restricted
      compartments below the ship's waterline.

      Analyst: Israelis wanted it sunk

      The transcript published by the Jerusalem Post bore scant resemblance
      to the one that in 1967 rolled off the teletype machine behind the
      sealed vault door at Offutt Air Force Base in Omaha, where Steve
      Forslund worked as an intelligence analyst for the 544th Air
      Reconnaissance Technical Wing, then the highest-level strategic
      planning office in the Air Force.

      "The ground control station stated that the target was American and
      for the aircraft to confirm it," Forslund recalled. "The aircraft did
      confirm the identity of the target as American, by the American flag.

      "The ground control station ordered the aircraft to attack and sink
      the target and ensure they left no survivors."

      Forslund said he clearly recalled "the obvious frustration of the
      controller over the inability of the pilots to sink the target
      quickly and completely."

      "He kept insisting the mission had to sink the target, and was
      frustrated with the pilots' responses that it didn't sink."

      Nor, Forslund said, was he the only member of his unit to have read
      the transcripts. "Everybody saw these," said Forslund, now retired
      after 26 years in the military.

      Forslund's recollections are supported by those of two other Air
      Force intelligence specialists, working in widely separate locations,
      who say they also saw the transcripts of the attacking Israeli
      pilots' communications.

      One is James Gotcher, now an attorney in California, who was then
      serving with the Air Force Security Service's 6924th Security
      Squadron, an adjunct of the NSA, at Son Tra, Vietnam.

      "It was clear that the Israeli aircraft were being vectored directly
      at USS Liberty," Gotcher recalled in an e-mail. "Later, around the
      time Liberty got off a distress call, the controllers seemed to panic
      and urged the aircraft to 'complete the job' and get out of there."

      Six thousand miles from Omaha, on the Mediterranean island of Crete,
      Air Force Capt. Richard Block was commanding an intelligence wing of
      more than 100 analysts and cryptologists monitoring Middle Eastern

      The transcripts Block remembered seeing "were teletypes, way beyond
      Top Secret. Some of the pilots did not want to attack," Block
      said. "The pilots said, 'This is an American ship. Do you still want
      us to attack?'

      "And ground control came back and said, 'Yes, follow orders.'"

      Gotcher and Forslund agreed with Block that the Jerusalem Post
      transcript was not at all like what they remember reading.

      "There is simply no way that [the Post transcript is] the same as
      what I saw," Gotcher said. "More to the point, for anyone familiar
      with air-to-ground [communications] procedures, that simply isn't the
      way pilots and controllers communicate."

      Block, now a child protection caseworker in Florida, observed
      that "the fact that the Israeli pilots clearly identified the ship as
      American and asked for further instructions from ground control
      appears to be a missing part of that Jerusalem Post article."

      Arieh O'Sullivan, the Post reporter who made the newspaper's
      transcript, said the Israeli Air Force tapes he listened to contained
      blank spaces. He said he assumed those blank spaces occurred while
      Israeli pilots were conducting their strafing runs and had nothing to

      'But sir, it's an American ship!'

      Forslund, Gotcher and Block are not alone in claiming to have read
      transcripts of the attack that they said left no doubt the Israelis
      knew they were attempting to sink a U.S. Navy ship.

      Many ears were tuned to the battles being fought in and around the
      Sinai during the Six-Day War, including those belonging to other Arab
      nations with a keen interest in the outcome.

      "I had a Libyan naval captain who was listening in that day," said a
      retired CIA officer, who spoke on condition that he not be named
      discussing a clandestine informant.

      "He thought history would change its course," the CIA officer
      recalled. "Israel attacking the U.S. He was certain, listening in to
      the Israeli and American comms [communications], that it was

      The late Dwight Porter, the American ambassador to Lebanon during the
      Six-Day War, told friends and family members that he had been shown
      English-language transcripts of Israeli pilots talking to their

      A close friend, William Chandler, the former head of the Trans-
      Arabian Pipe Line Co., said Porter recalled one of the pilots
      protesting, "But sir, it's an American ship -- I can see the flag!'
      To which the ground control responded, 'Never mind; hit it!'"

      Porter, who asked that his recollections not be made public while he
      was alive because they involved classified information, also
      discussed the transcripts during a lunch in 2000 at the Cosmos Club
      in Washington with another retired American diplomat, Andrew Kilgore,
      the former U.S. ambassador to Qatar.

      Kilgore recalled Porter saying that he "saw the telex, read it, and
      passed it right back" to the embassy official who had shown it to
      him. He quoted Porter as recalling that the transcript showed "Israel
      was attacking, and they know it's an American ship."

      Haviland Smith, a young CIA officer stationed in Beirut during the
      Six-Day War, said that although he never saw the transcript, he
      had "heard on a number of occasions exactly the story that you just
      told me about what that transcript contained."

      He had later been told, Smith recalled, "that ultimately all of the
      transcripts were deep-sixed. I was told that they were deep-sixed
      because the administration did not wish to embarrass the Israelis."

      Perhaps the most persuasive suggestion that such transcripts existed
      comes from the Israelis themselves, in a pair of diplomatic cables
      sent by the Israeli ambassador in Washington, Avraham Harman, to
      Foreign Minister Abba Eban in Tel Aviv.

      Five days after the Liberty attack, Harman cabled Eban that a source
      the Israelis code-named "Hamlet" was reporting that the Americans
      had "clear proof that from a certain stage the pilot discovered the
      identity of the ship and continued the attack anyway."

      Harman repeated the warning three days later, advising Eban, who is
      now dead, that the White House was "very angry," and that "the reason
      for this is that the Americans probably have findings showing that
      our pilots indeed knew that the ship was American."

      According to a memoir by then-CIA director Richard Helms, President
      Johnson's personal anger was manifest when he discovered the story of
      the Liberty attack on an inside page of the next day's New York
      Times. Johnson barked that "it should have been on the front page!"

      Israeli historian Tom Segev, who mentioned the cables in his recent
      book "1967," said other cables showed that Harman's source for the
      second cable was Arthur Goldberg, then U.S. ambassador to the United

      The cables, which have been declassified by the Israelis, were
      obtained from the Israeli State Archive and translated from Hebrew by
      the Tribune.

      Oliver Kirby, the NSA's deputy director for operations at the time of
      the Liberty attack, confirmed the existence of NSA transcripts.

      Asked whether he had personally read such transcripts, Kirby
      replied, "I sure did. I certainly did."

      "They said, 'We've got him in the zero,'" Kirby recalled, "whatever
      that meant -- I guess the sights or something. And then one of them
      said, 'Can you see the flag?' They said 'Yes, it's U.S, it's U.S.'
      They said it several times, so there wasn't any doubt in anybody's
      mind that they knew it."

      Kirby, now 86 and retired in Texas, said the transcripts
      were "something that's bothered me all my life. I'm willing to swear
      on a stack of Bibles that we knew they knew."

      One set of transcripts apparently survived in the archives of the
      U.S. Army's intelligence school, then located at Ft. Holabird in

      W. Patrick Lang, a retired Army colonel who spent eight years as
      chief of Middle East intelligence for the Defense Intelligence
      Agency, said the transcripts were used as "course material" in an
      advanced class for intelligence officers on the clandestine
      interception of voice transmissions.

      "The flight leader spoke to his base to report that he had the ship
      in view, that it was the same ship that he had been briefed on and
      that it was clearly marked with the U.S. flag," Lang recalled in an e-

      "The flight commander was reluctant," Lang said in a subsequent
      interview. "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."

      Key NSA tapes said missing

      Asked whether the NSA had in fact intercepted the communications of
      the Israeli pilots who were attacking the Liberty, Kirby, the retired
      senior NSA official, replied, "We sure did."

      On its Web site, the NSA has posted three recordings of Israeli
      communications made on June 8, 1967. But none of the recordings is of
      the attack itself.

      Indeed, the declassified documents state that no recordings of
      the "actual attack" exist, raising questions about the source of the
      transcripts recalled by Forslund, Gotcher, Block, Porter, Lang and

      The three recordings reflect what the NSA describes as "the
      aftermath" of the attack -- Israeli communications with two Israeli
      helicopters dispatched to rescue any survivors who may have jumped
      into the water.

      Two of the recordings were made by Michael Prostinak, a Hebrew
      linguist aboard a U.S. Navy EC-121, a lumbering propeller-driven
      aircraft specially equipped to gather electronic intelligence.

      But Prostinak said he was certain that more than three recordings
      were made that day.

      "I can tell you there were more tapes than just the three on the
      Internet," he said. "No doubt in my mind, more than three tapes."

      At least one of the missing tapes, Prostinak said, captured Israeli
      communications "in which people were not just tranquil or taking care
      of business as normal. We knew that something was being attacked,"
      Prostinak said. "Everyone we were listening to was excited. You know,
      it was an actual attack. And during the attack was when mention of
      the American flag was made."

      Prostinak acknowledged that his Hebrew was not good enough to
      understand every word being said, but that after the mention of the
      American flag "the attack did continue. We copied [recorded] it until
      we got completely out of range. We got a great deal of it."

      Charles Tiffany, the plane's navigator, remembers hearing Prostinak
      on the plane's intercom system, shouting, "I got something crazy on
      UHF," the radio frequency band used by the Israeli Air Force.

      "I'll never forget it to this day," said Tiffany, now a retired
      Florida lawyer. He also remembers hearing the plane's pilot ordering
      the NSA linguists to "start taping everything."

      Prostinak said he and the others aboard the plane had been unaware of
      the Liberty's presence 15,000 feet below, but had concluded that the
      Israelis' target must be an American ship. "We knew that something
      was being attacked," Prostinak said.

      After listening to the three recordings released by the NSA,
      Prostinak said it was clear from the sequence in which they were
      numbered that at least two tapes that had once existed were not there.

      One tape, designated A1104/A-02, begins at 2:29 p.m. local time, just
      after the Liberty was hit by the torpedo. Prostinak said there was a
      preceding tape, A1104/A-01.

      That tape likely would have recorded much of the attack, which began
      with the air assault at 1:56 p.m. Prostinak said a second tape, which
      preceded one beginning at 3:07 p.m., made by another linguist aboard
      the same plane, also appeared to be missing.

      As soon as the EC-121 landed at its base in Athens, Prostinak said,
      all the tapes were rushed to an NSA facility at the Athens airport
      where Hebrew translators were standing by.

      "We told them what we had, and they immediately took the tapes and
      went to work," recalled Prostinak, who after leaving the Navy became
      chief of police and then town administrator for the village of Lake
      Waccamaw, N.C.

      Another linguist aboard the EC-121, who spoke on condition that he
      not be named, said he believed there had been as many as "five or
      six" tapes recording the attack on the Liberty or its aftermath.

      Andrea Martino, the NSA's senior media adviser, did not respond to a
      question about the apparent conflict between the agency's assertion
      that there were no recordings of the Israeli attack and the
      recollections of those interviewed for this article.

      U.S. inquiry widely criticized

      Rather than investigating how and why a U.S. Navy vessel had been
      attacked by an ally, the Navy seemed interested in asking as few
      questions as possible and answering them in record time.

      Even while the Liberty was still limping toward a dry dock in Malta,
      the Navy convened a formal Court of Inquiry. Adm. John McCain Jr.,
      the commander of U.S. naval forces in Europe and father of Sen. John
      McCain (R-Ariz.), chose Adm. Isaac Kidd Jr. to preside.

      The court's charge was narrow: to determine whether any shortcomings
      on the part of the Liberty's crew had contributed to the injuries and
      deaths that resulted from the attack. McCain gave Kidd's
      investigators a week to complete the job.

      "That was a shock," recalled retired Navy Capt. Ward Boston, the
      inquiry's counsel, who said he and Kidd had estimated that a thorough
      inquiry would take six months.

      "Everyone was kind of stunned that it was handled so quickly and
      without much hullabaloo," said G. Patrick March, then a member of
      McCain's staff in London.

      Largely because of time constraints, Boston said, the investigators
      were unable to question many of the survivors, or to visit Israel and
      interview any Israelis involved in the attack.

      Rear Adm. Merlin Staring, the Navy's former judge advocate general,
      was asked to assess the American inquiry's report before it was sent
      to Washington. But Staring said it was taken from him when he began
      to question some aspects of the report. He describes it now as "a
      hasty, superficial, incomplete and totally inadequate inquiry."

      Staring, who is among those calling for a full congressional
      investigation on behalf of the Liberty's survivors, observed in an
      interview that the inquiry report contained several "findings of
      fact" unsupported by testimony or evidence.

      One such finding ignored the testimony of several inquiry witnesses
      that the American flag was flying during the attack, and held that
      the "available evidence combines to indicate the attack on LIBERTY on
      8 June was in fact a case of mistaken identity."

      There are also apparent omissions in the inquiry's report. It does
      not include, for example, the testimony of a young lieutenant, Lloyd
      Painter, who was serving as officer of the deck when the attack
      began. Painter said he testified that an Israeli torpedo
      boat "methodically machine-gunned one of our life rafts" that had
      been put over the side by crewmen preparing to abandon ship.

      Painter, who spent 32 years as a Secret Service agent after leaving
      the Navy, charged that his testimony about the life rafts was
      purposely omitted.

      Ward Boston recalled that, after McCain's one-week deadline expired,
      Kidd took the record compiled by the inquiry "and flew back to
      Washington, and I went back to Naples," the headquarters of the 6th

      "Two weeks later, he comes back to Naples and calls me from his
      office," Boston recalled in an interview. "In that deep voice, he
      said, 'Ward, they aren't interested in the facts. It's a political
      issue and we have to put a lid on it. We've been ordered to shut up.'

      "It's time for the truth to come out," declared Boston, who is now
      84. "There have been so many cover-ups."

      "Someday the truth of this will come out," said Dennis Eikleberry, a
      NSA technician aboard the Liberty. "Someday it will, but we'll all be

      James Ennes, now 74, who was officer of the deck just before the
      attack began, and later spent two months in a body cast, is one of
      the more vocal survivors. Like the others, Ennes is tired of waiting.

      "We want both sides to stop lying," he said.

      - - -

      How the attack unfolded

      National Security Agency documents recount the hours leading up to,
      during and after the attack on the USS Liberty by Israeli forces that
      killed 34.

      EVENTS OF JUNE 8, 1967

      6 a.m. An Israeli reconnaissance plane spots an unidentified ship 70
      miles west of Tel Aviv.

      9 a.m. A second Israeli reconnaissance plane spots an unidentified
      ship 20 miles north of El-Arish. Liberty's position is plotted on a
      map in green, designating a "neutral ship."

      10:55 a.m. A naval liaison officer at Israeli Air Force headquarters
      informs Israeli Naval Headquarters that the previously unidentified
      ship is an "audio-surveillance ship of the U.S. Navy" named Liberty.

      11 a.m. The acting chief of Israeli naval operations orders removal
      of Liberty from a plot table because he is no longer certain of its

      11:30 a.m. The Israeli Navy receives an erroneous report that El-
      Arish is being shelled from the sea.

      12:05 p.m. Three motor torpedo boats (MTBs) are ordered to proceed
      toward El-Arish.


      1:56 p.m. Two Israeli Mirage III aircraft, followed by two Super
      Mystere aircraft, begin their attack on the Liberty.

      2:14 p.m. The chief Israeli air controller in Tel Aviv tells the
      controller who is directing the attack on the Liberty that the ship
      is "apparently American."

      2:20 p.m. The Israeli naval commander orders the commander of the
      Torpedo Boat Division to attack the Liberty. At almost the same time,
      the Naval Operations Branch orders: "Do not attack. It is possible
      that the aircraft have not identified correctly." The commander of
      the Torpedo Boat Division says he never got any order to cease the
      attack, although the deputy commander says he passed the message to
      the commander.

      2:24 p.m. Liberty sights three MTBs 4-5 miles away and closing fast.

      2:26 p.m. Liberty raises its largest American flag, the "Holiday

      2:27 p.m. Three torpedo boats begin strafing the Liberty and launch
      their six torpedoes.

      2:28 p.m. Five torpedoes miss the ship, but one strikes the Liberty's
      right side, leaving a 39-foot hole.


      2:29 p.m. Starting time for an NSA tape of Israeli communications
      after the attack. A previous tape, which presumably would have
      captured the air and torpedo attacks, is missing.

      3:07 p.m. Israeli helicopters sent to rescue Liberty crewman from the
      sea arrive and "orbit" the heavily damaged vessel.

      3:12 p.m. The helicopters' communications with the ground are
      intercepted by an American aircraft circling high above the scene.
      One helicopter pilot reports that he sees an American flag flying
      from the Liberty's mast.

      3:16 p.m. An Israeli ground controller orders the helicopters to
      return to El Arish

      Sources: National Security Agency documents, Tribune reporting




      Can you hear me as I scream out from my watery grave in the
      Mediterranean Sea? Can you hear me from the tomb in the mass grave at
      Arlington National Cemetery? Can you hear me from my grave in the
      rolling hills of Kentucky? Can you hear me from my grave next to Mom
      & Dad's house in Wisconsin? I am in many graves throughout this land
      in America. Can you hear me, so my death was not in vain?

      …I was 19 years old and had the rest of my life ahead of me. I sure
      miss Mom and Dad, my kid brother. Most of all I miss the love of my
      life, Jenny. We met in second grade. We went to the prom together.
      She went off to college and I went off to the navy to serve my
      country. I loved her so much. How could I have looked into the future
      and known that my fate had already been sealed? I was to be murdered
      in cold blood…

      …I had been in the navy for 9 years and was a chief petty officer
      already. The navy was my life. My wife accepted my decision to retire
      from the navy. We had a home in Norfolk, VA with our two kids, Debbie
      and little Joey. Joey loved to put on my chief's hat and run around
      the house barking out orders. We all obeyed them. What good times we
      had together. As our ship left the pier, Cindy, my wife, would wave
      goodbye and stay until our ship was completely out of site over the
      horizon. I miss my family so much. How could I have known I was to be
      murdered, never to see my family again?…

      …I graduated from the naval academy. What a proud day for me, Ma and
      Pa especially! Everyone was there, even my great-aunt. She came all
      the way from Hawaii to wish me well. I will never forget the great
      big hug she gave me. It felt so good. I really enjoyed my jobs in the
      navy, starting out as a lowly ensign. But how exciting were the tasks
      asked of me. I was just glad to be in the navy. I was on a blind date
      along with my roommate from the academy when I met his sister. He
      fixed me up with her. I really didn't expect what I saw when I met
      her. Nothing against Tom but he wasn't the most handsome man on the
      block so my expectations were pretty low, to say the least. She
      opened the door and I fell in love immediately. She was beautiful,
      breathtaking is a more fitting word. We were married 6 months and 4
      days after I first saw her. We both wanted a family so we started
      immediately. I was blessed with three kids; two girls and a son. I
      had progressed in the navy and was now a Lt. Commander and the
      executive officer of my ship, the USS LIBERTY. How could I have ever
      imagined that sunny day in May as we set sail that I would never see
      my family again. God, I hope they all pull through this without me. I
      was to be murdered in the first week of June, 1967…

      …I was retiring from the navy. I had already put in all of my time
      and hated that. I wanted to stay in until I was 90 years old, that's
      how much I loved my job serving my country. My ship was about to sail
      off without me. I could not stand that I couldn't go with her just
      one more time. I begged the captain to change my orders and he
      finally gave in and said ok, I'll make sure you can make one more
      cruise with us. Now I had to go to my other captain, my wife, and
      tell her what I had done. My palms were sweaty, my heart was racing.
      Then I told her. I said honey the old man said I can make one more
      trip on the ship I love but I won't go unless you and the kids say
      it's ok. She started laughing, kissed me deeply and said I will not
      say no to something you love so much. I kissed my wife and kids
      goodbye, then hurried back to my ship. How her heart must have been
      broken when she heard I had been murdered aboard my good ship, the
      USS LIBERTY on June 8, 1967, by the Government of Israel….

      I hear your voices, shipmates as do your other mates. We promise you
      vain. I hear your voices, shipmates. You remember me? My name is Ron
      Kukal. I'm the one who brought your lifeless and blown-up bodies out
      of the torpedoed spaces. I hear your voices. I won't let you die in

      Forty one years ago, on June 8, 1967, my shipmates were murdered in
      cold blood by the Government of Israel in a sneak attack upon our
      ship in international waters. Our ship was attacked by jet aircraft
      using rockets and napalm to strafe our ship and burn us alive with
      their deadly napalm.

      The Israelis sent 3 torpedo boats in for the kill, firing five
      torpedoes at us with one hitting the starboard side of our ship,
      instantly blowing to bits 25 brave American sailors and marines.

      Our ship was in great danger of sinking so we put over our three
      remaining life rafts. The rest were shot up or burning. The Israelis
      shot two of the remaining rafts out of the water and took one aboard
      their boat. I guess they took it as a trophy for murdering their
      American friends. No survivors were to be allowed.

      They then sent troop-carrying helicopters to finish us off. If it had
      not been for an incorrect message that help was on the way, I would
      have joined my brothers in death that fateful day.

      Our government knew we were under attack and refused to come help us.
      Our government left us out there to die at the hands of our
      assassins, the Government of Israel. When it was all said and done
      our ship had over 800 canon and rocket holes. Thousands of armor
      piercing bullets were in her skin and a torpedo hole so big you could
      fit your house in it.

      The torpedo gunmen made sport of shooting our fire fighters and
      stretcher bearers. I know this first hand because I was on the
      receiving end of their bullets. Thirty-four sailors and marines were
      murdered, 174 were wounded, and a 40 million dollar ship was in ruins.

      The U.S. Government ordered all of us to never breath a word about
      what Israel did to us under penalty of prison or death. They made us
      part of the cover-up. Many survivors today will not speak of these
      war crimes for fear of our government. But many of us survivors chose
      to speak up and protest this act of treason by our own government
      officials who protect Israel with the phony excuse of `mistaken

      The congress, then and now, are under the thumb of the Israeli
      political actions committees in this country and it is disgraceful
      that our spineless elected officials have no guts to confront them.
      The media–with few exceptions–are bought and paid for by the same

      I hear my shipmates every night, crying out from their graves for
      justice so their lives will not have been taken in vain. The only way
      I can drown out their voices is with my own voice as I cry back to
      them–I hear you, mates, and I will speak up for you until my last

      Now America, you know the story. Speak out–SHOUT–from the rooftops
      for justice, for the dead, and the wounded aboard the USS LIBERTY
      AGTR-5. It's your duty as Americans.

      Written in memory of the 34 murdered aboard the LIBERTY and all of
      the wounded.

      Phillip F. Tourney, survivor and past president of the USS LIBERTY
      Veterans Association three times and co-host of the LIBERTY HOUR
      radio show through republicbroadcasting.org.



      December 3, 2008 — crescentandcross

      As I lay here in my hospital bed, cheating the grim reaper once more
      and as bad as I feel, I must write this article. I think back to June
      8, 1967 aboard the USS LIBERTY when the terribly wounded men had not
      a comfortable bed to lie on, only the comfort of a steel deck on a
      hard mess table to give them comfort. The heroic Doctor Keipher could
      only do so much for so many. We as a crew are eternally grateful for
      his life saving skills.

      As you may or may not know, our ship was savagely attacked by air and
      sea in a sneak, murderous, venomous, and brutal attack by the
      government of Israel, our only "ally" in the Middle East. We were in
      international waters on the high seas with our colors flowing in the
      wind for all to see. The government of Israel had positively
      identified our clearly marked ship as the USS LIBERTY, an American
      intelligence gathering ship, the most sophisticated listening
      platform in the world at that time.

      In this two hour attack, Israel attacked us with French mirage jets
      with the Star of David painted over to mask the identity of our
      attackers. The air assault lasted 30 - 40 minutes, dropping napalm on
      us, shooting us with rockets, canons, machine guns, whatever
      ordinance they had on those planes they used on their American
      friends, slaughtering and maiming as many of Americas' sons as
      possible. We got out a S.O.S. to the Sixth Fleet within 15 minutes
      into the attack that we were being attacked by unknown jet aircraft,
      may-day, may-day!

      Captain Tully scrambled conventionally armed aircraft from the USS
      SARATOGA to come to our aid. Even before the lifesaving planes hit
      the horizon they were recalled. Captain Tully was dumb-founded that
      his rescue aircraft had been recalled. He then launched a second
      strike force to come to our aid - same results- return to base.

      We were left out there to fend for ourselves when the United States
      Government knew we were under attack. This came from the chain of
      command from Admiral John McCain, Jr. up to LBJ. The bastards left us
      out there alone to die.

      The torpedo boats then showed up to finish us off, firing 5 torpedoes
      at us from three motor torpedo boats. One torpedo hit the starboard
      side, murdering 25 of America's greatest stars in the intelligence

      The torpedo gunmen would shoot at our fire fighters, stretcher
      bearers, and anything else that moved. The Israelis were having the
      time of their lives, causing this murder and mayhem.

      Two Israeli helicopters hovered over our ship for awhile with
      commandos at the doors, ready to board our ship and finish us off.
      But they suddenly left. We didn't find out until later the reason
      they left was they had picked up a false message that help would be
      there soon. But, just like before, help never did come to our aid.
      Over 800 canon and rocket holes were in our ship, thousands of rounds
      of 50 caliber armor piercing bullets riddled the ship and a hole left
      in her side was so big we thought our ship was going to roll over on
      us and there we would be at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea, 34
      Americans murdered and 174 wounded.

      I think about when the PUEBLO crew had met the same fate, only to be
      captured and tortured by the North Koreans for a year before their
      release. I can't imagine what those heroes went through serving their
      country then being thrown away as the LIBERTY crew had been. I wonder
      how I would have handled name, rank, and serial number only with
      torture awaiting me at any moment. When we were interrogated by our
      government about the attack, we all expected a hardy well-done,
      sailors! You saved your ship! I'll tell you what our ungrateful
      government did to us without torture but with intimidation from LBJ
      to Admiral John McCain, Jr. on down. Our ship had just come through
      one of the most miraculous arts of seamanship in the history of naval
      battle and our government ordered us to cover it up for the Israelis,
      never to breath a word about the attack or we would go to jail or
      die. Admiral McCain's son, Senator John McCain signed off on a book
      called "The Liberty Incident", which was a bunch of lies, as true
      facts. Like father like son.

      Our government left us out there to die and when we all didn't die
      they ordered us to lie! We gave our information freely and willingly.
      Our government broke our hearts, they broke our trust. They broke us
      like match sticks and threw us all to the wind. The United States
      Government is just as guilty of murdering Americans as the Zionist
      murderers are. All of them from LBJ to the new president should be
      brought up on charges of aiding and abetting murderers.

      They did that to us and they will do it to you! The crew of the
      LIBERTY should have stuck to name, rank, and serial number, only,
      when we were being interrogated by Israel's Zionist thugs calling
      themselves Americans.

      If the LIBERTY murders are so easily explained away, then haul the
      survivors in front of the senate panel and let's get history straight
      once and for all. Then we will see who the real patriots of this
      government are. They are definitely not the Zionist flunkies in
      congress who do Israel's bidding and have been doing so since June 8,
      1967. That's for sure.

      Phillip F. Tourney

      Three time president of the USS LIBERTY VETS ASSOC.

      Co-host of the LIBERTY hour with Mark Glenn
      Saturdays @ 11:00 A.M. EST



      Attack on ship never probed

      June 8 was the 40th anniversary of the attack on the USS Liberty, an
      American naval intelligence ship sailing in international waters with
      her flag displayed on a clear day. The result of the attack was 34
      dead and 171 injured. The event is the only U.S. naval attack never
      formally investigated by Congress.

      This anniversary received little significant acknowledgment in the
      mass media. The Press offered one sentence of recognition in
      its "Today in History" column. It basically ignored this anniversary.
      Contrary to the information provided by our government at the time,
      the assault lasted for nearly two hours. The Liberty experienced
      surveillance by Israeli jets for six hours, some as low as 200 feet.
      Israeli aircraft carrying napalm initiated the assault. Israeli
      torpedo boats blasted a 40-foot hole in the ship's side and machine-
      gunned her life rafts.

      Israeli citizens should not be held responsible for this horrendous
      act. But those living or dead who ordered the attack should be
      identified. Why did President Lyndon B. Johnson call back rescue
      planes from helping the USS Liberty twice and why did the U.S.
      government accept Israel's explanation and downplay the severity of
      the attack?

      Sailors from the USS Liberty have renounced the massive coverup
      foisted upon the United States for 40 years. They have repudiated the
      book written to substantiate Israel's excuse of "mistaken identity."
      Thomas H. Moorer, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has
      called on Congress to clear unanswered questions surrounding this
      tragedy. It is imperative that we learn the truth.

      Ronald D. Rufner



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