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Thread: Forty Years Later, Searching For Truth

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2005

    Forty Years Later, Searching For Truth

    Forty years later, searching for truth

    Ward Boston, Jr., The San Diego Union-Tribune, Jun 8, 2007

    This article was originally published by The San Diego Union-Tribune and is republished with the author's permission.

    Forty years ago this week, I was asked to investigate the heaviest attack on an American ship since World War II. As senior legal counsel to the Navy Court of Inquiry it was my job to help uncover the truth regarding Israel's June 8th 1967 bombing of the USS Liberty.

    On that sunny, clear day 40 years ago, Israel's combined air and naval forces attacked our American intelligence-gathering ship for two hours, inflicting 70 percent casualties. Thirty-four American sailors died and 172 were injured. The USS Liberty remained afloat only by the crew's heroic efforts.

    Israel claimed it was an accident. Yet I know from personal conversations with the late Admiral Isaac C. Kidd -- president of the Court of Inquiry -- that President Johnson and Secretary of Defense McNamara ordered him to conclude that the attack was a case of "mistaken identity."

    The ensuing cover-up has haunted us for forty years. What does it imply for our national security, not to mention our ability to honestly broker peace in the Middle East, when we cannot question Israel's actions – even when they kill Americans?

    On June 8th, survivors of Israel's cruel attack will gather in Washington, DC to honor their dead shipmates as well as the mothers, sisters, widows and children they left behind. They will continue to ask for a fair and impartial congressional inquiry that, for the first time, would allow the survivors themselves to testify publicly.

    For decades, I have remained silent. I am a military man and when orders come in from the Secretary of Defense and President of the United States, I follow them. However, attempts to rewrite history and concern for my country compel me to share the truth.

    Admiral Kidd and I were given only one week to gather evidence for the Navy’s official investigation, though we both estimated that a proper Court of Inquiry would take at least six months.

    We boarded the crippled ship at sea and interviewed survivors. The evidence was clear. We both believed with certainty that this attack was a deliberate effort to sink an American ship and murder its entire crew.

    I am certain the Israeli pilots and commanders who had ordered the attack knew the ship was American. I saw the bullet-riddled American flag that had been raised by the crew after their first flag had been shot down completely. I heard testimony that made it clear the Israelis intended there be no survivors. Not only did they attack with napalm, gunfire, and missiles, Israeli torpedo boats machine-gunned at close range three life rafts that had been launched in an attempt to save the most seriously wounded.

    I am outraged at the efforts of Israel’s apologists to claim this attack was a case of "mistaken identity."

    Admiral Kidd told me that after receiving the President's cover-up orders, he was instructed to sit down with two civilians from either the White House or the Defense Department, and rewrite portions of the Court’s findings. He said, "Ward, they're not interested in the facts. It’s a political matter and we cannot talk about it." We were to "put a lid on it" and caution everyone involved never to speak of it again.

    I know that the Court of Inquiry transcript that has been released to the public is not the same one that I certified and sent to Washington. I know this because it was necessary, due to the exigencies of time, to hand correct and initial a substantial number of pages. I have examined the released version of the transcript and did not see any pages that bore my hand corrections and initials. Also, the original did not have any deliberately blank pages, as the released version does. In addition, the testimony of Lt. Lloyd Painter concerning the deliberate machine-gunning of the life rafts by the Israeli torpedo boat crews, which I distinctly recall being given at the Court of Inquiry and including in the original transcript, is now missing.

    I join the survivors in their call for an honest inquiry. Why is there no room to question Israel – even when they kill Americans -- in the halls of Congress?

    Let the survivors testify. Let me testify. Let former intelligence officers testify that they received real-time Hebrew translations of Israeli commanders instructing their pilots to sink "the American ship."

    Surely uncovering the truth about what happened to American servicemen in a bloody attack is more important than protecting Israel. And surely forty years is long enough to wait.

    In addition to serving as chief counsel to the Navy’s Court of Inquiry into the attack on USS Liberty, Ward Boston served as a naval aviator in World War II on the carrier Yorktown, and as an FBI agent prior to his assignment to the Navy’s Judge Advocates General Corps. He is a graduate of the Law School of the College of William and Mary, and a resident of Coronado, California.
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Why did Israel attack USS Liberty?

    By Raffi Berg
    BBC News

    For former US seaman Gary Brummett, the 40th anniversary of the 1967 Middle East war has stirred painful memories.

    As a 21-year-old third class petty officer, Mr Brummett was serving on board the USS Liberty off the coast of Egypt on 8 June, when, without warning, the vessel came under fire, first from fighter planes, then torpedo boats.

    The attack, which lasted at least 40 minutes, resulted in the deaths of 34 of Mr Brummett's fellow crewmen, at least 170 injured and catastrophic damage to the ship.

    Alarmingly, the assault had been carried out not by enemy forces, but by the US' closest regional ally, Israel.

    Israel insists it mistook the Liberty for a hostile Egyptian ship, the El Quseir, and numerous US and Israeli inquiries have concluded the attack was accidental.

    But for Mr Brummett and a growing body of conspiracy theorists, the authorities are guilty of a cover-up.

    "I have more trouble with it today than when it happened because I know more of the facts about what was going on," said Mr Brummett.

    "There's been an egregious wrong done here, there's been an extreme number of lies told to the American people and the American people do not know the truth about what happened."

    'Sitting duck'
    The attack on the Liberty - the gravest incident in the history of US-Israeli relations - has been a source of controversy for the past four decades.

    Claim and counter-claim as to what happened have been fought out in every corner of the media, with the advent of the internet helping to reinvigorate the debate.

    Israel's supporters say the incident is merely being used as a tool by critics to malign the Jewish state, while accusers say the attack was a war crime which has never come to light.

    According to Israel, the incident was a tragic case of friendly fire occurring in the fog of war.

    It says it believed the ship had been bombarding Israeli forces fighting in the Sinai, and that its pilots did not see any US flags (survivors say there were three) on the vessel before they opened fire.

    Sceptics however claim the attack was premeditated and that the truth has been suppressed. The assertion of a cover-up was lent weight by a 2003 independent commission of inquiry which reported that the attack on the Liberty "remains the only serious naval incident that has never been thoroughly investigated by Congress".

    Among the most popular theories as to why Israel would take such drastic action against its superpower ally is that the Liberty, a $40m state-of-the-art surveillance ship, was eavesdropping on an Israeli massacre of Egyptian prisoners of war.

    Israel strongly denies its troops executed Egyptian POWs, saying those who died in an incident at that time were 250 armed Palestinian fighters killed in action.

    Another is that the ship had learnt of secret Israeli plans to invade Syria's Golan Heights two days later and had to be destroyed.

    'US collusion' theory
    Perhaps the most sinister motive is that put forward by journalist Peter Hounam in his 2003 book "Operation Cyanide".

    Mr Hounam claims secret elements within the US and Israeli governments colluded to bomb the ship and blame the attack on Egypt and their superpower ally, the Soviet Union, triggering massive retaliation which would ensure Israeli victory.

    "The attack on the Liberty was pre-planned, perhaps from at least a year beforehand," Mr Hounam says.

    "The Liberty was sent into a very dangerous situation, where it was, in my view, placed in a position to be attacked."

    Mr Hounam says the intention was to sink the ship and kill everyone on board, but as the Liberty remained afloat the plan was aborted and has been hushed up ever since.

    'Presidential order'
    Successive US and Israeli inquiries, and the declassification of thousands of pieces of information, have done little to dampen suspicions.

    One of the most powerful claims of a cover-up has come from retired US Navy lawyer Capt Ward Boston, counsel to the Navy Court of Inquiry into the incident conducted just days after the event.

    Capt Boston says the court's original findings, which he signed, were changed afterwards by government lawyers.

    He also claims the president of the court, Rear Adm Isaac Kidd, told him he was ordered by US President Lyndon Johnson and Defence Secretary Robert McNamara to conclude the attack was a case of mistaken identity.

    However, Capt Boston's version of events - and the notion that what happened was anything more than a tragic accident - are disputed by numerous academics and authors who have investigated the incident.

    "It was a series of blunders by both the United States and Israel that resulted in a terrible tragedy and nothing more," says Jay Cristol, a federal judge and author of the book The Liberty Incident.

    "All the official reports came to the same conclusion.

    "Unfortunately there are a number of people who are on the other side of the Arab-Israeli conflict who think this is a way to attack the otherwise very strong relationship between the US and Israel, and they keep stirring the pot.

    'No evidence'
    It is a view with which historian Michael B Oren, a senior fellow at the Shalem Center, a Jerusalem academic research institute, concurs.

    "Many thousands of documents related to the Liberty have been declassified and in none of these documents will you find a scintilla of evidence to suggest any of these conspiracy theories are true," he says.

    "The Golan one is the easiest to disprove because of where the Liberty was, not off the coast of Israel, but Egypt. Its listening devices weren't that powerful that they could listen in on communications in Tel Aviv.

    "Moreover the Israelis were very upfront in telling the US that they planned to capture the Golan Heights and the Americans agreed to it.

    "Regarding a massacre of Egyptian POWs, there's no evidence of that. And why would the Israelis try to cover up one atrocity by committing another?

    He says the attack has remained a source of controversy because "it has all the ingredients of a good spy scandal. It involves espionage and it involves the Israelis, who are forever a focus of conspiracy theories.

    "If I could prove the Liberty was attacked in a premeditated fashion, I would write it - it would be a great historical scoop - but the truth is far more mundane."
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Coverup theory alive at USS Liberty reunion

    By Oren Dorell, USA TODAY

    McLEAN, Va. — Former crewmembers gathered near Washington this weekend to remember a controversial attack 40 years ago today when a U.S. spy ship was nearly sunk by an ally.

    The Israeli naval and air bombardment of the USS Liberty on June 8, 1967, during Israel's Six Day War against three Arab nations left 34 Americans dead.

    Israel has always insisted the attack was a case of mistaken identity and 11 U.S. investigations over the years have reached the same conclusion.

    Although Israel apologized and paid restitution to the families of servicemen killed and injured, some of the men on the ship that day have for decades been pushing the theory that the Israelis intended to murder every American on board and that the Pentagon is covering up a war crime.

    "They knew exactly who we were," said Joel Lehman, 60, of Austin, Texas, who was a storekeeper for the Navy on the ship and wants a new investigation.
    FIND MORE STORIES IN: Israel | Israeli | Navy | National Security Agency | Joe Anderson

    Researcher Michael Oren says the case is closed. He says no one has found evidence that the attack was anything other than an accident.

    "I have never come across any evidence supporting it," said Oren, a senior fellow at the Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem. "Why would Israel … attack a ship that belonged to its only ally?"

    On Thursday several former crewmembers of the Liberty gathered at a hotel here to share stories and memories. Many believe the incident was not an accident and they want a new inquiry into the incident.

    According to a State Department summary, the Liberty had been sent to the area by the National Security Agency to find out if Soviet personnel were operating with Egyptian forces. Messages sent to the Liberty instructing it to remain 100 miles offshore were never received.

    The morning of the attack, several Israeli reconnaissance planes identified the ship as a friendly vessel in the war zone, 14 miles offshore. But later in the day, Israeli jets attacked, running six strafing runs.

    Lehman and others say Israel wanted to sink the Liberty because it hoped to blame the attack on Egypt and pull the United States into the war, or that it was worried the spy ship would find out about Israel's plans to attack Syrian positions in the Golan Heights. Oren says both are false because Israel did not need U.S. help in the war and had already told the U.S. government of its plans to attack the Syrians.

    A U.S. Navy Court of Inquiry completed 10 days after the attack concluded it was a case of mistaken identity. Ten subsequent inquiries by Congress, the CIA and the Pentagon found no evidence pointing to a deliberate attack.

    Dale Larkins, 61, of Lexington, Neb., a seaman apprentice who had just gone below decks before the start of the attack, said Thursday that the atmosphere was "very relaxed" in the moments before the attack.

    Larkins heard an explosion and the high-pitched sound of the ship's chemical attack alarm. When he reported to one of the ship's machine guns he found three crewmates shot to pieces. Next came a torpedo hit, "and the ship surged in the water," he said.

    Glenn Oliphant, secretary for the Liberty Veterans Association — who lost his hearing in the attack — believes in a conspiracy. He says people who saw transcripts of communications between Israeli pilots and their air-traffic controllers say the Israelis knew the ship was American and ordered the attack.

    Oren says a series of mishaps caused the attack. The Israelis lost track of the ship during a shift change at combat headquarters. When Israeli troops on a beach of the Sinai Peninsula thought they were being shelled from the sea, Israel ordered its navy to attack.

    Israeli jets were called in when the Navy could not get to the ship. When the pilots realized they were attacking a U.S. ship they stopped, "but nobody told the (Israeli) navy," Oren says. Israeli torpedo boats arrived on the scene and were fired at by the Liberty. The Israelis fired torpedos. One struck the Liberty, killing several crewmen. An Israeli officer saw the U.S. flag, called off the attack and offered to help.

    Mitchell Bard, a historian with the American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise, which promotes cooperation between the USA and Israel, maintains a website about the incident, which includes NSA transcripts of communications between Israeli pilots and their controllers, which illustrate the confusion.

    "The cockpit tapes say they (pilots) couldn't see the (ship's) flags. Then there was concern about its identity when they saw its hull number and the air-traffic controlers in Tel Aviv became concerned that it was an American ship," Bard says.

    "As far I know these are (the complete transcripts)," Bard says. "But this is something that a conspiracy theorist would say is missing."

    Oren agrees that a new inquiry should be held.

    "I think that is probably not a bad idea," he said.

    Meanwhile, the National Security Agency said this week it would release all documents relating to the attack.

    "We're hoping those documents are what we're looking for," said Glenn Oliphant, 62, of White Bear, Minn.
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG

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