Salient Facts on the USS Liberty

Thanks Ed Toner


"Q: Inevitably, when we discuss the Mideast, someone will bring up that the Israelis intentionally attacked the USS Liberty. You have some new information in your book I was not aware of previously?

A: There's quite a bit of new information in there.

Q: Tell us about the USS Liberty?

A: The USS Liberty is an incident very few people know about because it was kept so secret at the time. What happened was, in 1967, Israel and Egypt went to war – it was called "The Six-Day War" – and the U.S. was very interested in what was going on because it was a very dangerous situation. At the time, the U.S. was an ally of Israel. Egypt was an ally of Russia and the U.S. was worried that Russia might get involved.

Q: So what did we do?

A: Well, they sent this eavesdropping ship, working for NSA – NSA being the eavesdropping agency – and this ship was over there to collect intelligence, to eavesdrop on both Israeli and Egyptian communications. And then, to pass the information back to Washington, so they knew what was going on. The ship sailed over on June 8th. It was about the second or third day into the war. The ship was in international waters off the Sinai coast – about 13 to 14 miles off the coast of the Egyptian /Sinai desert. What happened was, in broad daylight, about two in the afternoon, the ship was attacked relentlessly by Israeli aircraft. They fired cannon fire.

Q: Now the Israelis always said they didn't know it was a U.S. ship. That was their story and they were sticking to it.

A: That's right. After they raked the ship with cannon fire and rockets – and even dropping napalm on it – they fired torpedoes into the ship. Three Israeli torpedo boats came up and took basically a firing squad stance and fired five torpedoes – which would have been enough to sink an aircraft carrier. Luckily, four of those missed, but one of them hit dead center and killed 25 American sailors instantly. All together, there were 34 Americans killed on the ship and 171 wounded – which was an enormous amount because that was a 70 percent casualty rate. As the ship was taking on water, and the captain gave the order to prepare for abandoning ship, the Israelis began shooting at the life rafts as they began putting them into the water – and shooting the people trying to get into the life rafts.

Q: How long did the attack last?

A: This went on for about an hour.

Q: So it was not an "aw whoops!" but an intentional assault?

A: Exactly. The Israelis claim it was a mistake. However, they did hours worth of surveillance over the ship before the attack. According to the documents I got, the Israelis knew it was the USS Liberty. They had been flying over it all morning. Then the Israelis said they had mistaken it for an Egyptian ship – yet it bore no resemblance to an Egyptian ship. The Liberty was flying the U.S. flag before, during and after the attack. It had USS Liberty on the back in U.S. letters – not Egyptian characters. And they said they thought the ship was going 30 knots which was absolutely ridiculous. The ship was going between three to five knots. Their explanation never made any sense.

The documents I've come across indicate NSA never believed the Israeli excuse. They always thought it was deliberate. Part of that reason – and something nobody knew about until I just finished this book – was the fact that at the time of the attack, there was an NSA eavesdropping plane flying directly above the attack. I talked to two of the Hebrew linguists – the intercept operators on the plane that were eavesdropping on the Israeli ships and planes below – and both of those people said they heard the Israeli pilots and Israeli crewmembers talk about the American flag.

Q: Probably the most crucial element you discovered, however, was the motive?

A: Exactly. Nobody knew this at the time – in fact nobody knew this until just a few years ago – but a few years ago, the details of what was taking place in the Sinai began coming out in Israel and it was reported in Israel and in the New York Times and Washington Post.

Q: So what was reportedly happening?

A: What was happening just on the shore, only about 12 or 13 miles away from the Liberty, was that the Israelis were committing enormous numbers of war crimes. They were killing Egyptian soldiers – some with their hands tied behind their backs, and some after making them dig their own graves. There were several hundred of them – there may have been a thousand all together in the Sinai.

Q: So you think they sank the Liberty to kill the crew, to keep the action secret?

A: The Israelis had an awful lot of secrets to keep – and the main thrust of this chapter was to say for once there should be a full U.S. investigation of what really happened.

Q: I received an e-mail from a listener who doesn't like your conclusions about the USS Liberty incident. He can't really refute it, but seems to fall into the category of one of those who doesn't like facts that contradict his preconceived opinion of what happened. How would you respond?

A: I'd suggest he do what I'm doing and call on the U.S. government to do an investigation – which is what they have never done in the past. These 34 people who were killed – and 171 wounded – were twice as many as were killed on the USS Cole. And when that took place, the U.S. sent planeloads of FBI agents into Yemen to begin an investigation. Just like they did when the Kobar Towers were blown up in Saudi Arabia and just like they did when the embassies were blown up in East Africa – they never did an investigation on the Liberty. I've interviewed many of the Liberty survivors and there are a great many Israeli apologists out there who would just as soon bury this incident. I would like to see – just like the survivors would like to see – a real investigation."

Ed Toner



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