The Lie that Won’t Die: the USS Liberty Attack Slander, Continued

Last June, I had written a post here commemorating the 45th anniversary of the attack on the USS Liberty. The post, in which I argued (in defiance of every conspiracy theory), that the Israeli attack on the American ship was a mistake, has been giving me considerable heartburn as of late. In the last several days, my e-mail and facebook page have been flooded with the harshest condemnations concerning the article, tarring me as being a “hack,” a “traitor,” and nothing less than a running dog for the “Jewish/Zionist/apartheid” lobby. My article, which scored a modest few dozen Facebook recommendations at the time, has now swelled to over 350 in just the last two days. I wish I could say I was pleased.

As  a non-Jewish American who strongly supports Israel, I believe it is very important for Americans not to believe that Israel would knowingly attack an American ship and lie about it. All of the facts regarding the attack are now a matter of public record, and as I argue down below, there is little basis upon which to continue to assert that the attack was deliberate; all of the evidence indicates otherwise.

To those of you who have addressed your arguments and criticisms toward me, let me  say this: I have little hope of swaying the  anti semites and Israel haters among you who continue to use this issue in your odious and repugnant campaign of slander and delegitimization against the Jewish state. But for those among you who mistakenly believe in good faith that Israel deliberately attacked the USS Liberty and are puzzled and troubled by it, I do hope I can go some way toward persuading you of the unlikelihood and the  implausibility of this scenario.


For those unaware of the circumstances of the incident, here, in brief, are the facts.

On June 8. 1967, on the fourth day of the Six-Day War between Israel and the Arabs, the USS Liberty, an American intelligence gathering vessel, found its way into the the middle of the war zone, some 15 miles from the Sinai coast. The American ship had originally been ordered to keep some 250 miles outside the zone of hostilities, but these orders got lost through a series of miscommunications with the American Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean Sea, and thus no one knew that the Liberty had sailed smack in the middle of a war zone.

Through a series of miscalculations, the Israelis then misidentified the Liberty as an enemy vessel at 1:51pm, and the American ship was first strafed and bombed by two Israeli warplanes from 1:58pm-2:02pm, and by another two warplanes from 2:06pm-2:11pm. At about 2:11pm, the Israeli planes ceased attacking when questions of the ship’s identity surfaced. 13 minutes later 3 Israeli Motor Torpedo Boats (MTB’s) got with 6000 yards of the Liberty, misidentified the smoke-engulfed vessel from this distance, approached it in an attempt to signal it, was fired on by the Liberty, returned fire, and then converged upon the American ship in an effort to sink her. After a brief exchange of fire (2:31pm-2:35pm) and a torpedo that slammed into the Liberty‘s starboard side, the Israeli vessels abruptly ceased attacking, got close enough to correctly identify the vessel, and extended help and immediate medical attention to the Liberty‘s crew at 3:03pm.

34 Americans died and 171 were wounded in the attack. The Israelis, who said they had mistaken the Liberty for the Egyptian ship El Quseir, immediately apologized to the U.S. for the attack, and assumed full responsibility. They would eventually pay some $12 million in compensation to the victims and their families, to survivors, and to the US government. Every investigation into the attack by both the governments of the United States and Israel over the years have confirmed that the attack was the result of an interlocking of errors that led to a case of mistaken identity, and the declassification of a wide array of material about the attack by both governments in 1997 only served to confirm this conclusion.

Here below I address six of the principal arguments/assertions by those who have advocated the theory that Israel intentionally attacked the USS Liberty.

1) The radio frequencies of the USS Liberty were jammed by the Israelis,  they were monitoring U.S. Sixth Fleet communications, and thus the Israelis knew they were attacking an American ship,  as documented by the BBC Documentary, “Dead in the Water” (2002).

There is no evidence that the frequencies were being jammed. According to the Naval Court of Inquiry, the first strafing run on the Liberty at 1:58pm, disabled the ship’s radio transmission capability to the extent that they were unable to transmit on the ship’s standard encrypted transmitters. They then began transmitting on the CINCUSNAVEUR hi-com unsecured high-frequency voice circuit, but to no result. It was then discovered that someone in the transmitting room had put the frequency dial one kilocycle off, and this was quickly corrected by Radioman Chief Wayne L. Smith, who testified to this at the Naval Court of Inquiry in June 1967, and how he then transmitted distress signals to the aircraft carrier USS Saratoga. This could not have happened if the Israelis were jamming all frequencies.

Also, there is simply no evidence that the Israelis positively identified the Liberty when it was targeted at 1:51 pm by Israeli Motor Torpedo Boat (MTB) Commander Moshe Oren, that they knew it was an intelligence gathering vessel when it was targeted, or that they intercepted any communications the Liberty was engaged in. And even if the Israelis were listening in, what could they have heard that could have given them any concern? Absolutely nothing. They would have learned that the Liberty was not even  monitoring their communications because the Liberty had no Hebrew linguists, only Arab and Russian.

The Israelis could also not have monitored any United States Sixth Fleet communications because those communications were taking place between Sixth Fleet Commander Vice Admiral William Admiral Martin on board the Sixth Fleet flagship USS Little Rock, which was some 500 miles west of the Liberty, to the carriers USS Saratoga and USS America, who were each, respectively, 700 and 600 miles to the west of the Liberty when Martin sent his communication to them at 2:50pm Sinai time.

Not only did the Israelis have no naval presence (or capacity) to monitor these communications more than 500 miles west of Israel, but even the USS Liberty could not have monitored these Sixth Fleet communications from where they were; the Liberty could only monitor communications in a line of sight range, i.e., about 25 nautical miles distance.

2) The attack on the Liberty lasted for an hour and 15 minutes, or more.

There simply is no record of any such attack after 2:35 pm occurring, and this is corroborated by a) the IDF investigation drawn from IDF Navy logs, b) the declassified NSA tapes of 2003 which monitored the chatter of the Israeli rescue helicopters and naval HQ in Stella Maris between 2:29pm and 3:19pm, c) both the Deck log and the Underway log of the USS Liberty, d) no mention of any such attack after the torpedo hit in the Naval Court of Inquiry, and e) the IAF transcripts.

It is thus corroborated by five sources, two Israeli and three American. There was no attack after Commander Oren ordered the attack ceased at 2:41 pm.

In fact, according to the testimony of Captain McGonagle, the skipper of the Liberty, and the Deck log of the Liberty, there was not even any exchange of fire after the torpedo hit the Liberty at 2:35 pm, and no record of any subsequent attack or exchange of fire anywhere except in the hearsay-laden world of the conspiracy, where anything is possible, and the tales become more lurid with time. This is simply one of the many fabrications embellished years after the event.

This also means that the actual naval attack lasted about 3-4 minutes.

The Israelis thus did NOT attack the ship “for an hour and fifteen minutes.” (Some versions, James Bamford’s, for example, have the attack lasting over two hours—it depends on the conspiracy theorist, I guess) The combined air attacks lasted all of about nine minutes (1:58—2:02pm + 2:06—2:11 pm), and the following naval attack about 3-4 minutes (2:31—2:35 pm). Again, there is no record anywhere of any attack or exchange of fire after 2:35 pm Sinai time.

3) During the naval attack, the Israelis fired on lifeboats with crew members in them, thus committing a war crime.

First of all, when the Israeli MTB’s got close enough to see hull markings on the Liberty at 2:41 pm, they cut off the attack. And though they had stopped firing for six minutes, they had still not got close enough to positively ID’d them. Four minutes later they radioed in that they might have hit a Russian vessel. A few minutes after that they picked up a few life rafts, saw the Latin markings on them, and concluded it was American. At 3:03pm they then approached the Liberty and offered assistance.

Secondly, they did not fire on the lifeboats of the Liberty with any sailors in them, and did not strafe either the ship or any lifeboats in the water after the torpedo attack. The lifeboats were strafed on the ship during the air and sea attacks, and the sailors of the Liberty, seeing them so damaged, threw them into the sea. This is attested to by former Liberty OOD Lloyd Painter, who testified at the Court of Inquiry, “We filed out to our life rafts which were no longer with us because they had been strafed and most of them burned so we knocked most of them over the ship.”

4)  Israeli Motor Torpedo Boats fired first on the USS Liberty

That statement is false. The Israeli MTB’s attempted to signal the Liberty before attacking. The Liberty was unable to signal back to the Israeli MTB’s because a) their signaling equipment had been damaged, and b) they were unable to clearly read the signals from the MTB’s because of the smoke (McGonagle noted this in his testimony to the Court of Inquiry). A gunner on the Liberty DID open fire while the Israeli MTB’s were approaching and still attempting to signal her.

This fact is supported by:

a) The Deck log of the USS Liberty, which stated:

“14:31 (2:31pm) machine gun 53 opened fire on center of three MTB’s. Commanding officer ordered Ensign Lucas to proceed to machine gun 53 and to cease firing.” (See pages 13 and 22 of the Deck log pdf here)

b) By the testimony of Capt. McGonagle in the Naval Court of Inquiry:

“From the starboard wing of the bridge, I observed that the fire from machine gun 53 was very effective and blanketed the area and the center torpedo boat…As far as the torpedo boats are concerned, I am sure they felt that they were under fire from the USS Liberty. At this time they opened fire with their gun mounts, and in a matter of seconds, one torpedo was noted crossing astern of the ship at about 25 yards. ”

(To access McGonagle’s testimony describing the attack and the aftermath, see pages 140-149 on the Court of Inquiry pdf here)

5) While the USS Liberty was under attack at 2:34pm, Secretary of Defense McNamara recalled fighter jets that had been sent to rescue the USS Liberty earlier at 2:09pm, thus sacrificing the Liberty to be destroyed in order not to offend Israel, and thus demonstrating the stranglehold of Jewish/Israeli power over the United States. 

Forgive me. But there are times when I am confronted with statements so offensive, so pregnant with ignorant implausibility, and so vacuumed of truth, that I actually need to read them twice or more to be sure I have understood them correctly.

In the first place, the communications records of the Sixth Fleet record the following message from the aircraft carrier USS Saratoga to COMSIXTHFLEET, i.e., Admiral William Martin, Sixth Fleet Commander in Chief:

“This station received attack report from station Rock Star [The Liberty] at 1210zulu” (i.e., 2:10pm Sinai time).

This is also corroborated by the Liberty’s radio logs, marked exhibits # 23 and # 24 in the Court of Inquiry. How then could there have been a launch of aircraft at 2:09pm when the USS Saratoga didn’t even get the first distress signal from the Liberty until 2:10pm?

The skipper of neither carrier could have commenced a launch into hostilities on their own initiative, and when Admiral Martin sent the order to the USS Saratoga and the USS America to launch aircraft to cover the Liberty at 2:50pm (15 minutes after the attack ceased), he commanded that the launch commence at 3:39pm—giving them 50 minutes to execute the launch for the simple reason that commencing a launch of four fighter aircraft into potential hostilities from an aircraft carrier is a rather involved process. And even then, the Saratoga didn’t even get its birds in the air until 4:01pm—71 minutes after the order.

The order commanded the USS America to launch four A-4 Skyhawks, and the USS Saratoga to launch four A-1 Skyraiders to cover the Liberty at 3:39pm, with ETA 1 hour and 30 minutes after launch. (There were no F-4 Phantoms launched from either carrier, and no record of any so ordered in the 2:50pm transmission—just four Skyhawks and four Skyraiders).

The Deck log of the USS America does not record when after 3:39pm the launch from her took place; the Deck log of the Saratoga records a launch at 4:01pm. COMSIXTHFLEET records show that Admiral Martin (not McNamara) issued the recall of the craft at 4:40pm: “Recall all strikes. Repeat recall all strikes.”

This means that the order for the launch was issued at 2:50pm, the actual launch was ordered for 3:39pm with ETA 1 ½ hour, the aircraft actually took off at 4:01pm, and the aircraft were recalled at 4:40pm when Admiral Martin received confirmation that the attack was a case of friendly fire by the Israelis. That means that neither in the Deck logs of the USS Saratoga and the USS America, or the in the COMSIXTHFLEET communications records is there any record of any order to launch before 2:50pm, and no record of any actual launch from either carrier until 4:01pm.

The COMSIXTHFLEET records thus show that Admiral Martin ordered both the launch at 2:50pm Sinai time and the recall at 4:40pm on his own initiative. The NSA in Washington received word of the attack at 9:11am Washington time (3:11pm Sinai time). National Security Adviser Walt Rostow, according to his own notes, informed the President at 9:49am (3:49pm Sinai). Johnson then said to press secretary George Christian, “George, if this attack is by the Russians, this means war.”

McNamara issued the recall at 11:25 (5:25pm Sinai time)—1 hour and 45 minutes after Admiral Martin had already done so. McNamara was not even in the Pentagon on the morning of June 8; he issued the order from the situation room at the White House. That was the extent of McNamara’s involvement, and he had no communications with Sixth Fleet at all that day.

6) The Tales of James Bamford

As anyone who has studied the matter of the attack on the Liberty knows, the incident that led directly to the attack was an explosion at an Israeli ammo depot at El Arish at 11:24am. It has never been established what, exactly, caused this explosion. The Israelis, spotting a ship some 14 miles to the northwest, assumed it to be an enemy ship shelling them. Through a series of miscalculations from the motor torpedo boats sent to engage the vessel, including that of the vessel’s speed, the Israelis concluded, from about 20 miles distance, that the ship was an enemy vessel at about 1:51pm. That is when they ordered the first air strike on the Liberty, thought to be an Egyptian vessel shelling them.

Author James Bamford, whose assertions concerning the Liberty attack have gained wide currency among so many other Liberty conspiracy theorists, posits the following misleading narrative in his book, “Body of Secrets” (2001),  implying that the Israelis knew that the ship they spotted off El Arish was the USS Liberty, knew it was incapable of shelling them, and then set out to attack it knowing it was an American ship because the ship had heard “secrets.”

Said Bamford, page 206:

“As any observer would have immediately have recognized, the four small defensive 50mm machine guns (Bamford is in error here; they were .50 caliber) were incapable of reaching anywhere near the shore, thirteen miles away, let alone the buildings of El Arish…And the ship itself, a tired old World War two cargo vessel crawling with antennas, was unthreatening to anyone—unless it was their secrets and not their lives they wanted to protect.


By then the Israeli air force and navy had conducted more than six hours of close surveillance of the Liberty off the Sinai, even taken pictures, and must have positively identified it as an American electronic spy ship. They knew the Liberty was the only military ship in the area. Nevertheless, the order was given to kill it. Thus at 12:05pm, three motor torpedo boats from Ashdod departed for the Liberty, about 50 miles away. Israeli air force fighters, loaded with 30mm cannon ammunition, rockets, and even napalm, then followed. They were all to return virtually empty.”

I hardly know where to begin with this tangle of fact, falsehood, innuendo, and deliberate omission. In the first place, if the Israelis had been able to inspect the USS Liberty up close they would surely have seen the ship as Bamford describes it. But they first noticed it at some 14 miles off the coast of El Arish at 11:24am, again at 1:47pm from 20 miles distance from a torpedo boat, and again at 2:24pm from the same boat while the Liberty was engulfed with smoke at 6,000 yards distance. Bamford neglects to mention this.

Also, the Israelis did not order an attack on the Liberty at 12:05pm; they were still uncertain about the identity of the ship at this time

At 12:15 pm the three motor torpedo boats (Division 914, commanded by Commander Moshe Oren) were ordered into the vicinity of El Arish to identify the vessel in question—that was all. They were not given orders to attack the vessel, and they were not “followed by Israeli air force fighters, loaded with 30mm cannon ammunition, rockets, and napalm.” No such air deployment was yet ordered or launched. At 1:41 pm Division 914 spotted a vessel on its radar some 20 miles northwest of El- Arish. The officer of the CIC on the flagship, Ensign Yifrach Aharon, miscalculated the Liberty’s speed once at 30 knots at 1:47pm, and, after a request for verification from Naval HQ, miscalculated it again at 28 knots at 1:51pm. (In naval circles it is common knowledge that a vessel steaming at over 20 knots in an area of belligerent operations is a warship).

The reasons for the miscalculation of the Liberty’s speed by Ensign Aharon are simple. The fix on the Liberty’s speed was being made in a small MTB bumping along at about 37 knots at about a 20 mile distance from the Liberty. The complex radar, radio, and navigational calculations (much of it guesswork or dead reckoning and done on primitive equipment) are rife with opportunities for errors. (The USS Maddox committed similar errors in the alleged second attack of the Gulf of Tonkin incident in August 1964. In fact, there probably was no such attack, and the “vessels” spotted were probably radar echoes resulting from atmospheric conditions). After the second fix on the vessel’s speed, the CIC felt sure that it was an enemy vessel, and then called in for an air assault, which occurred at 1:58pm.

Bamford omits this crucial information, implying that the MTB’s and the fighter aircraft were both launched to attack the Liberty at 12:05pm when no such attack had been ordered, and the Israelis were in fact still uncertain about the vessel’s identity.

The truth, of course, is that they were not ordered to attack the Liberty at 12:05pm. The first deployment of aircraft to attack the Liberty only occurred after Ensign Aharon miscalculated the Liberty’s speed for a second time at 1:51pm. That was the first air assault, the so-called “Kursa” mission of two Mirage IIIC’s. They were armed with 30mm cannon and possibly American Sidewinder air-to-air missiles; it is not clear if these missiles were used or were even on the planes during this mission. The first air attack lasted from 1:58 to 2:02pm.

The second air mission of two Super Mysteres, code-named mission “Royal,” was, like the two Mirages of the “Kursa” mission recalled from an air patrol, also recalled from a strafing mission in the Sinai and were only armed with 30mm cannon and four canisters of napalm—hardly appropriate ordinance for attacking a ship. This indicates the haste at which both air attack missions were recalled mid air from previous missions; neither had time to land, refuel, and rearm.

According to the IDF report on the Liberty attack, Colonel Kislev was told that the Royal mission was only “armed with napalm, not effective for attacking ships.” Kislev nonetheless “instructed the formation to join the attack with ‘whatever they have.’”

On the IAF transcripts, after the Kursa mission was completed (about 2:02pm), another one of the Israeli ground controllers, who was incredulous that napalm was actually going to be dropped by mission Royal on the ship, cried out, “What can napalm do?”

The answer: not much. Napalm can start a fire but fires can be extinguished. Bombs are far more effective, and if they had time to land and rearm, that is what they would have been loaded with.

This is important. Why? Because it demonstrates that if the Israelis, who had just destroyed the superior air forces of three countries on the ground and in the air in the past three days, had really been given an hour, or even a half-hour or so to plan for the attack, they would certainly have loaded their planes with the proper ordinance to attack and destroy the Liberty in a single sortie, probably within minutes, silencing her and her crew forever, and sending both to a watery grave. And again: bombs are much more effective than napalm. Nobody throws napalm at a ship: that’s dumb!

They first called in for an air-strike at about 1:51pm, the Kursa mission hitting the Liberty seven minutes later. The Royal mission was called in by the Kursa mission at 1:56pm, and they arrived at the scene sometime between 2:04-2:06pm, breaking off the attack at about 2:11pm when there were questions about the identity. The inadequacy of the ordinance on the first two air attack missions betrays the evident lack of planning, and clearly indicates the haste in which they were both recalled mid-air from their previous missions for the attack.

Also, Bamford to the contrary, the Israelis did not take any pictures of the Liberty, and did not conduct “more than six hours of close surveillance.”

Bamford here muddies the waters to confuse the reader by weaving facts and falsehoods into his narrative. First, (pge. 199) he has the Israeli naval observer on the Nord recon plane that first spotted the Liberty giving positive ID at 6:03 am instead of 9:00am. (They actually spotted the Liberty at about 5:45am but did not positively ID it until 9:00am).

Secondly, on page 206, by omission and fabrication, he misrepresents how the explosions at El Arish at 11:24am were believed by the Israelis to be coming from the ship that they had spotted off the coast, and how and why they misidentified the Liberty as an Egyptian ship shelling them.

This information, which explains how the Israelis ID’d the Liberty in the morning and then misidentified it as an enemy ship bombarding them later that afternoon, is critical to understanding how the tragedy unfolded.

Lt. Commander Pinchas Pinchasy, who had received the original report at 9:00am identifying the Liberty in the “pit” of the Kirya in Tel Aviv, had, by the time the explosion occurred at El Arish at 11:24am, assumed that the Liberty, which had been heading westward at about 15 knots when ID’d earlier, had long left the area (the green wedge marker representing the Liberty had been removed by Commander Lunz from the control board at Stella Maris at 11:00am, when he was relieved by Captain Rahav. More about that below).

Also, as he later commented, it did not occur to him at the time that an American intelligence gathering vessel that had been traveling westward for more than several hours would likely be shelling El Arish. For these reasons, he, like the others, assumed that an enemy vessel was bombarding them.

Why then did Lunz remove the green wedge marker representing the Liberty at 11:00am? Because he was of the opinion that the Liberty was at least 75 miles west of the point at which it had been first spotted 5-6 hours earlier, steaming at 15 knots, and at least 30 miles west from where it was when spotted again at 9:00am. When positively ID’d at 9:00am, the Liberty was at the extreme southwest end of the control board, and steaming west at 15 knots (this speed, btw, is confirmed by the Liberty’s own deck log).

According to these calculations, this would have put the Liberty in the direct vicinity of Port Said—about 70 miles west of the point at which the Liberty was first attacked at 1:58pm. In retrospect, Lunz’s action was not only proper, but followed standard operating procedure for removing old information from the control board. Captain Rahav, who relieved Lunz at 11:00am, thus had no knowledge of the Liberty’s existence whatsoever. It was thus even more logical for him to assume that an enemy ship was bombarding Al Arish at 11:24am.

Bamford thus misleadingly implies that the Israelis were tracking the Liberty from six in the morning right up until the moment she was attacked. That is not true. They positively ID’d her at 9:00am, marked her location at the extreme southwest end of the control board, marked her speed and westward course of direction, and logically concluded that the Liberty was 30 miles west of the point at which she’d been ID’d at 11:00am when they removed the green marker representing the Liberty.

The overflights occurring from 9am onward were not reconnoitering the Liberty; they were doing submarine reconnaissance in an area that was very heavy with IAF traffic going back and forth to the Sinai, which had been intensified after the discovery of an Egyptian sub off Atlit; they were not tracking the Liberty. “Tracking” a ship’s movements is a rather elaborate recon activity that involves close coordination between ground, sea, and air. According to the IAF records, the Liberty was once spotted (5:45am) and once positively ID’d (9:00am). That’s it. After 9:00am they completely ignored the USS Liberty. It was not being “tracked.” (See footnote # 14 on page 39 on the pdf format of the IDF report)

Bamford, of course, mentions none of this, despite the fact that the information had been available to him for four years prior to publishing his book.

Also, Bamford has the Israelis strafing the Liberty after the torpedo attack in an attempt to ensure that there would be “no survivors.” This is nonsensical.

As I point out below, if it was really the intention to destroy and sink the ship and kill the survivors, why did the air controller Col. Shmuel Kislev order the “Royal” air mission to cease attacking at 2:11 pm and scrub the “Nixon” air mission of two Mystere IV aircraft armed with 500 lb. iron bombs that would surely have blown the Liberty to smithereens, and with all hands? If not cancelled, the “Nixon” air mission would have reached the Liberty in half the time it was taking the MTB’s. Again, why cancel the mission if the intent was to destroy and sink the Liberty, and kill all the survivors?

The truth is that they cut off the air attack at 2:11pm because a pilot spotted Latin markings on the hull, and hence were uncertain about the identity. The Israelis were still uncertain of the ship’s identity when Commander Oren attempted to signal the Liberty at 2:30 from his MTB. Consulting his intelligence manual of Arab ships (he had no
“Jane’s Fighting Ships” with him), he misidentified the smoke engulfed ship from 6,000 yards, and concluded it was the Egyptian freighter El Qusier. Even as the MTB’s were approaching the ship they were still attempting to signal her, and it was only when the Liberty opened fire on them that they then concluded that she was indeed an enemy ship. Had Col. Kislev not cut off the air attack at 2:11pm, the Nixon air mission of Mystere IV’s would have destroyed and/or sunk the Liberty probably within the next five minutes.

Finally, in another deception, in order to give the impression that Israeli fighter pilots knew the identity of the ship they were attacking, Bamford interpolates quotes by the Israeli air and naval forces mentioning the American flag. Once again, Bamford misrepresents the sequence in which the American flag is mentioned in the IAF transcripts. As we now know, the NSA only began recording traffic on the attack at 2:29pm. The NSA’s 1967 summary is unequivocal: “There is no COMINT reflecting on the attack itself.”

What they recorded at that time, however, was not the MTB’s communications, but those of rescue helicopters sent out to pick up survivors from the stricken ship, as some were reported to be in the water. To wit: there is no mention of any American flag on either the IAF or the NSA transcripts until 3:12pm Sinai time—37 minutes after the naval attack had ceased, meaning that there was no mention of the flag during the air attacks, and no recorded mention of the flag from the MTB’s during the naval attack. (In fact, by coincidence, both transcripts mention notice of the American flag at this exact time).

Bamford knew this. He might not have had access to the NSA transcripts because they were only released two years after he published “Body of Secrets,” but he had access to the IAF transcripts, and he in fact quotes them in his narrative, albeit selectively and misleadingly. He therefore knew that there was no mention of an American flag there until 3:12 pm, and that before this there is recorded nothing but confusion from the Israeli air controllers about the identity of the ship. Naturally, Bamford deliberately omits any mention of this confusion, lest it get in the way of his false narrative.


Most of the conspiracy theories promoting a deliberate attack usually begin by attempting to discredit the myriad of investigations that have already been conducted, particularly that of the Naval Court of Inquiry conducted by Admiral Isaac Kidd in June 1967. There have long been charges that the investigations were “cover-ups” and documents were “doctored,” and “forged”—all the indispensable watchwords of the conspiracy theorist to refute documents and memoranda that foils and confounds their lurid fantasies

For example, if the deck log that was entered into evidence at the Navy Court of Inquiry in June 1967 was doctored, then where is the undoctored one? The deck log of the Liberty runs to some ten hand-written pages, all on Department of the Navy deck-log book stationery. Can it really be asserted that all of the entries in the entire deck log, including Captain McGonagle’s signature entries, were forged, by hand, in the four days between the attack and the inquiry? How was the original one obtained and tampered with, and the other forged within a few days? When? By who? On whose authority? Where, when, and how has this log been authenticated, and the one in evidence been discredited as forgery? And by who?

Btw, the deck log is not the only log on the Liberty. Other than the other technical logs not concerned with the timeline of events (the Radar Bearing Log, the Engineering Log, the Gyrocompass Log, the Bearing Log, the DRT Log) there is the handwritten Underway log. The timeline of events on both logs corroborate each other. Now, was the Underway log doctored too? If so, in the four days between the attack and the convening of the Court of Inquiry, there was certainly a lot of log doctoring going on.

Also, the timeline of events in the Israeli and the American Navy logs are a near perfect match. The timeline of the IDF investigation and the timeline from the Navy Court of Inquiry, though conducted apart from one another, essentially corroborate one another, with a few discrepancies here and there.

If anyone is going to prove that the documentation that has been in evidence in both countries for 44 years, and which has been corroborated by the hundreds of pages of declassified evidence that was released by both countries in 1997, has been forged or doctored, then the burden is on those asserting such to document how this was so, when this was done, and by who.

A conspiracy to fabricate the evidence denying and disproving a deliberate attack would have involved superhuman prodigies of effort in record time, not to mention a considerable staff of forging experts to accomplish the task, none of whom has yet to step forward with the “undoctored” originals: The re-forging of the COMSIXTHFLEET communications records showing Admiral Martin’s launch order at 2:50pm and his recall order at 4:40pm, the Radio log, the Deck log, and the Underway logs of the USS Liberty, and the Deck log of the USS Saratoga, all in the four day period between the attack and the convening of the Court of Inquiry in June 1967. Anyone who believes that this could have been done will believe anything.

The entire notion that Israel deliberately attacked the USS Liberty is, in short, a flimsy, fraudulent house of cards resting on shaky edifice buttressed by an assortment of lurid, conspiratorial fictions. To wit:

–The fiction that the Israelis planned in advance to attack the Liberty, despite the absence of any evidence that they even knew of the Liberty before 9:00am, the preposterous notion that they knowingly allowed the Liberty into the combat zone, in order to attack a ship of their strongest ally, that they scrubbed their planes of insignia and reconnoitered the ship for nine hours, thus giving the Liberty nine priceless hours to relay the very information that the attack was supposed to silence, before finally attacking her in broad daylight.

–The unsupported, undocumented fiction that the Liberty Deck log is a doctored forgery.

–The fiction that the Israelis “knew” that they were attacking an American ship and that they “knew” that it was an intel-gathering vessel despite the lack of any such mentioned in the NSA and IAF transcripts, and the fact that the transcripts of the IAF tapes indicate that the Israelis did not know they were attacking an American ship in both air attacks and, five minutes into the second air attack, immediately disengaged when they saw the Latin markings on the ship.

–The fiction that the attack continued for “over two hours” when the evidence shows that the air attacks lasted a total of 8 ½ minutes and the naval attack lasted about 10 minutes, that both took place within a 49 minute (1:58pm-2:35pm) time frame, that there is no record of any such attack after 2:35pm occurring, and which is corroborated by a) the IDF investigation drawn from IDF Navy logs, b) the declassified NSA tapes of 2003 which monitored the chatter of the Israeli helicopters and naval craft between 2:29pm and 3:28pm, c) both the Deck log and the Underway log of the USS Liberty, and d) the IAF transcripts .

Also that all available evidence, including IDF Navy logs and the Deck log of the Liberty, indicate that the Israeli boat captain misidentified the ship, then engulfed with smoke, at 6000 yards distance at about 2:30 pm, incurred fire from the Liberty as they approached her, returned it, cut off the attack at 2:47pm pending further ID, got close enough to identify the Latin hull markings of the Liberty, and offered help and medical attention to the survivors at 3:03pm.

–The fiction that USS Liberty crewmen were machine gunned in their life rafts, when the Liberty OOD who testified at the Court of Inquiry stated “We filed out to our life rafts which were no longer with us because they had been strafed and most of them burned so we knocked most of them over the ship.”

–The imaginary, undocumented launches of the aircraft at 2:10pm from the USS Saratoga toward the Liberty when they had not even received the first distress signal from the Liberty until 2:11pm.

–The imaginary recall by McNamara at 2:35pm—40 minutes before the NSA in Washington learned of the attack, 64 minutes before the President was informed of the attack by Walt Rostow, and several hours before McNamara was even in the Pentagon that day, thus also rendering it impossible for the President and CIA director Richard Helms to have been monitoring the attack while it was in progress and “receiving the radio intercepts in near real time.”

–The fiction that Johnson or McNamara, when apprised of the facts by the CIA, the NSA, and the Naval Court of Inquiry that the attack was a mistake, ever thereafter believed that the attack was intentional.

–The fiction that the Israelis attacked the Liberty to blame the Egyptians and lure America into the war, when the Israelis took responsibility for the attack moments after it happened.

–The fiction that the Israelis attacked the Liberty to hide its attack on Syria from the US, which is contradicted by diplomatic cables showing that Israel informed Washington of its intention to do so before the Liberty attack, and that Washington had not objected.

–The fiction that any of the nine official investigations, including those by the NSA, and the CIA ever concluded that the attack was anything but a mistake.

Any conspiracy for a cover up would have involved not only President Johnson and McNamara, but Chief of Naval operations David McDonald, US Naval CIC John McCain, Sixth Fleet Commander William Martin, and president of the US Navy Court of Inquiry, Admiral Isaac Kidd. All would be guilty of treason, and nothing less. To sully and defame the honor of these officers with such a heinous, unsubstantiated slander, is a calumny.

The notion that the United States government and military would, over the course of 45 years and 9 administrations all cover up what they knew to be a deliberate attack killing 34 American sailors and wounding 171 by any nation is preposterous. What sinister, far-reaching power was forcing their hand? The Jewish vote? The “Israel Lobby?” Please.

The American State Department, under George Marshall, strongly urged President Truman not to recognize the state of Israel in 1948 to avoid angering the Arabs. The simple truth, known to just about anyone but Chuck Hagel, is that the American State Department, like the British Foreign Office, has always had a strong Arabist bent. Like Marshall, most of the subsequent Secretaries of State like John Foster Dulles, Dean Rusk, William Rogers, Cyrus Vance, James Baker, Colin Powell and others had all made perfectly clear their belief that America’s relationship with Israel was a drag on our relations with the Arabs, and injurious to our interests.

The relationship with Israel in the 1948-1967 period, unlike today, though friendly, was far from tension-free, and American diplomacy in general attempted balance its interests in the Middle East, and not always successfully. Johnson was certainly friendlier to Israel than his two predecessors, though that had limits: He gave Israel $52 million in civilian aid, but hedged on military aid; he would sell M-48 tanks and A-4 Skyhawk fighters to Israel, but only through West Germany, so as not to offend the Arabs. Certainly America never armed Israel to anywhere near the extent that the Soviet Union had been openly arming Egypt, Syria, and Iraq, among others. Between 1956-1967 the Soviets poured about $2 billion in military aid alone—1700 tanks, 2400 artillery, 500 jets, and 1400 advisers, 43% all going to Egypt.

The trajectory of U.S.-Israel relations in this period was hardly favorable to Israel, and was unlikely to convince them that American obeisance, or even goodwill, could be easily got, or taken for granted. Eisenhower was severely critical of Israel on a number of issues, condemned Israel’s seizure of the Suez peninsula in the 1956 War in no uncertain terms, and threatened to sever relations with them if they did not return it, which they did in 1957. Like Eisenhower, Kennedy was sharply critical of Israel’s retaliation policy against Arab fedayeen raids, and its attempts to divert the Jordan River. He also criticized their refusal to repatriate Palestinian refugees—something the Arabs have never forgotten.

Johnson, though a friend of Israel, was not an uncritical one, often complaining that Israel was ungrateful for his support, and that their failure to support him on Vietnam was evidence of their ingratitude. He told Abe Feinberg “Israel gets more than it’s willing to give…It’s a one-way street.” The consequences of Israel’s disastrous Samu raid in late 1966, which did much to destabilize the regime of Jordan’s King Hussein, an Arab moderate whose goodwill and influence America had been cultivating to calm the tensions of the region, angered Johnson even more.

Prior to 1967 Israel’s primary military benefactors were Britain and France, not America. On the eve of the 1967 War, Israel asked America for assistance in the event of hostilities–and was refused. Even a modest, sensible request by the Israeli ambassador at the outset of the 1967 war that the US provide a naval liaison to coordinate communications between the two countries was refused by the US, and thus no one in Israel had been informed of the Liberty’s presence in the area—one of the reasons contributing to the tragic attack. At best, America gave Israel reluctant diplomatic cover both during and after the conflict–that was it. The nebulous charges of Jewish “power” here and elsewhere, lead where they always do when scrutinized–nowhere. It is a conspiracy so powerful that it leaves no trace of itself to be examined.

Of course the whole cottage industry of lies and fabrications about the attack on the USS Liberty are, and have long been, used as a tool to foment tension and discord between Israel and America on the part of haters and enemies of Israel, and, in the larger picture, are merely a bit part of the entire apparatus of long standing assault on, and delegitimization of, the Jewish state: The recasting of the events of the wars of 1948, 1956,1967, Lebanon in 1982 and 2006, and Gaza in 2009 into wars of unprovoked aggression; the release of the one-sided blood libel of the Goldstone Report in 2009; the recasting of the Mavi Marmara incident in 2010 into a vicious, unprovoked attack on “peaceful” club and knife wielding activists—it’s all a vast, sordid enterprise of brazen historical revisions, rewrites, distortions, and out and out lies in the service of the Big Lie: that this nation, Israel, is uniquely evil and whose antagonists are all, without exception, innocent, virtuous victims of the Jewish state’s unprovoked aggressions and unspeakable depredations. It is a slanderous lie, dishonors those both living and dead, and deserves its place in the ash-heap of history.

About the Author
Robert Werdine lives in Michigan City, Indiana, USA. He studied at Indiana University, Purdue University, and Christ Church College at Oxford and is self-employed. He is currently pursuing advanced degrees in education and in Middle Eastern Studies.