The Liberty Incident

E-mail sent to James Bamford (3 March 2000)

Dear Jim,

As a followup to our e-mail and telephone exchanges, I am enclosing sensitive information about U.S. intelligence collection techniques that I engaged in during a career in the U.S. Navy spanning over 20 years. Like you, I am interested in preserving certain historical events surrounding SIGINT collection. I believe it is important that future generations understand and appreciate the efforts of the Cold War warriors.

In this correspondence, I am concentrating on a single event that involved the USS Liberty in June 1967. As you know, Jim Ennes and members of the Liberty crew are on record stating the ship was deliberately attacked by the Israelis. I think otherwise. I have first hand information, which I am sharing with you. I was present on that day, along with members of an aircrew in a COMFAIRAIRRECONRON TWO (VQ-2) EC-121M aircraft flying some 15,000 feet above the incident. As I recall, we recorded most, if not all, of the attack. Further, our intercepts, never before made public, showed the attack to be an accident on the part of the Israelis. [emphasis added]

To support my claim, I am forwarding four enclosures of information. My story is over 30 years old but there are certain events that are embedded in my memory, including a scary night flight into the battle zone and the attack on the Liberty. Enclosure 1 begins with a narrative entitled, "Assault on the Liberty: The untold story from SIGINT." Enclosure 2 provides a postscript to the attack in the years that followed. Enclosure 3 gives my views of additional evidence of a mistaken attack by the Israelis, contradicting Jim Ennes in his book. Enclosure 4 discusses Ennes' cover-up conundrum, asks who was ultimately responsible, and why the presence of our VQ mission was never revealed.

In addition, I am enclosing personal information about my 24-year career in the and Naval Security Group. I am doing this for the purpose of helping you see how I might assist you with other aspects of your historical account of SIGINT. You may, for example, be interested in stories how we hunted Soviet TU-95 Bears [Soviet turbo prop reconnaissance aircraft] in the Atlantic and searched for SA-2 [missile] sites in southern Algeria during flights into the Sahara. A chronology of my duty stations and professional experience is found in Enclosure 5.

Finally, on a cautionary note I would appreciate it if you would cull any information that crosses the bar of national security, in addition to the names of colleagues cited herein. I do not have permission to use their names. If you have any questions or need clarification, please do not hesitate to contact me. Thank you and good luck with your book.

Marvin E. Nowicki, Ph.D.