- After State Department officials and historians assembled
in Washington, D.C., last week to discuss the 1967 war in the Middle East,
I am compelled to speak out about one of U.S. history's most shocking cover-ups.
- On June 8, 1967, Israel attacked our proud naval ship
-- the USS Liberty -- killing 34 American servicemen and wounding 172.
Those men were then betrayed and left to die by our own government.
- U.S. military rescue aircraft were recalled, not once,
but twice, through direct intervention by the Johnson administration. Secretary
of Defense Robert McNamara's cancellation of the Navy's attempt to rescue
the Liberty, which I personally confirmed from the commanders of the aircraft
carriers America and Saratoga, was the most disgraceful act I witnessed
in my entire military career.
- To add insult to injury, Congress, to this day, has failed
to hold formal hearings on Israel's attack on this American ship. No official
investigation of Israel's attack has ever permitted the testimony of the
surviving crew members.
- A 1967 investigation by the Navy, upon which all other
reports are based, has now been fully discredited as a cover-up by its
senior attorney. Capt. Ward Boston, in a sworn affidavit, recently revealed
that the court was ordered by the White House to cover up the incident
and find that Israel's attack was "a case of mistaken identity."
- Some distinguished colleagues and I formed an independent
commission to investigate the attack on the USS Liberty. After an exhaustive
review of previous reports, naval and other military records, including
eyewitness testimony from survivors, we recently presented our findings
on Capitol Hill. They include:
- · Israeli reconnaissance aircraft closely studied
the Liberty during an eight-hour period prior to the attack, one flying
within 200 feet of the ship. Weather reports confirm the day was clear
with unlimited visibility. The Liberty was a clearly marked American ship
in international waters, flying an American flag and carrying large U.S.
Navy hull letters and numbers on its bow.
- Despite claims by Israeli intelligence that they confused
the Liberty with a small Egyptian transport, the Liberty was conspicuously
different from any vessel in the Egyptian navy. It was the most sophisticated
intelligence ship in the world in 1967. With its massive radio antennae,
including a large satellite dish, it looked like a large lobster and was
one of the most easily identifiable ships afloat.
- · Israel attempted to prevent the Liberty's radio
operators from sending a call for help by jamming American emergency radio
- · Israeli torpedo boats machine-gunned lifeboats
at close range that had been lowered to rescue the most seriously wounded.
- As a result, our commission concluded that:
- · There is compelling evidence that Israel's attack
was a deliberate attempt to destroy an American ship and kill her entire
- · In attacking the USS Liberty, Israel committed
acts of murder against U.S. servicemen and an act of war against the United
- · The White House knowingly covered up the facts
of this attack from the American people.
- · The truth continues to be concealed to the present
day in what can only be termed a national disgrace.
- What was Israel's motive in launching this attack? Congress
must address this question with full cooperation from the National Security
Agency, the Central Intelligence Agency and the military intelligence services.
- The men of the USS Liberty represented the United States.
They were attacked for two hours, causing 70 percent of American casualties,
and the eventual loss of our best intelligence ship.
- These sailors and Marines were entitled to our best defense.
We gave them no defense.
- Did our government put Israel's interests ahead of our
own? If so, why? Does our government continue to subordinate American interests
to Israeli interests? These are important questions that should be investigated
by an independent, fully empowered commission of the American government.
- The American people deserve to know the truth about this
attack. We must finally shed some light on one of the blackest pages in
American naval history. It is a duty we owe not only to the brave men of
the USS Liberty, but to every man and woman who is asked to wear the uniform
of the United States.
- Moorer was chairman of the joint chiefs of staff from
1970 to 1974. He is joined in the independent commission of inquiry by
Gen. Ray Davis (recently deceased); Rear Adm. Merlin Staring; former Judge
Advocate General of the Navy and Ambassador James Akins.
- U.S. Says 1967 Attack Act of Negligence
- GUARDIAN (London) Tuesday January 13, 2004 2:31 AM By
BARRY SCHWEID AP Diplomatic Writer
- 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
- 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.