The Liberty Incident

Postscript to the attack on the Liberty

As mentioned in Enclosure 1, the next time I saw those voice tapes collected by our VQ-2 platform revealing the attack on the Liberty was over a year later when I was ordered to NSA for duty in 1968. I was assigned to G643, which was the organization responsible for the Israeli military problem. By this time, the tapes had been completely re-transcribed by a senior Hebrew linguist in the section. One of my first orders of business on reporting to G643 was to reread the complete transcripts. Up to this point, I always felt the evidence we collected showed the Israelis attacked the Liberty by mistake in the heat of battle. All my conversations with colleagues in G643 and reading of the voice transcript confirmed as much to me. Further, I assumed that NSA had shared this evidence with senior government officials who inquired into the attack on the ship. I certainly assumed that the Liberty's CO, her cleared officers, and CT personnel knew about the tapes and the fact they were collected by an airborne platform. I continued to make this assumption, but by the time I arrived at NSA a year later it was no longer a burning issue with anyone. The tapes and transcripts were simply filed away in the bottom of a desk drawer in G643. Nobody seemed to be interested in hearing about the USS Liberty any longer.

And so for the next dozen years, not much was said about the USS Liberty incident. The American public was told the attack was an accident. Only the Liberty crew was making rumblings about the attack being intentional while floating the idea of a grand conspiracy by the US government in collusion with the Israelis. I started thinking about that VQ flight again, feeling it should be made public. None of the senior officers with whom I was associated, however, was interested or concerned. Several months before I retired in 1979, I even wrote a personal letter to the Commander of the Naval Security Group, Rear Admiral Eugene Ince, saying I thought it was time to make the information public. Admiral Ince surely knew about the VQ-2 tapes because he was the senior NSG officer on the staff of CINCUSNAVEUR in 1967 during the attack on the Liberty. I received no reply from him.

I retired on July 1, 1979 with nothing further said about the tapes, which incidentally I last sighted during a TAD trip to NSA in the late 1970s. The tapes and transcripts were still in the bottom of a desk drawer in the Israeli military section in G643.

Forward 20 years, during which time Jim Ennes writes his book and the crew from the USS Liberty gets organized, subsequently going on record with strong words that the Israelis intentionally attacked the ship and that senior US authorities helped cover up the fact.

As we know, the world-wide-web and computers are wonderful technologies. It was through this medium that an old friend of mine from service in Kami Seya, Japan in the 1950s accidentally surfaced. After communicating with each other by e-mail for almost a year, a reference to the USS Liberty cropped up between [deleted] and me. [deleted] mentioned that he was on the Liberty and was wounded. My response, with sorrow and regrets, was that indeed it was a small world because I was above him that terrible day. I could tell by the tone in his reply that he was still upset (and rightfully so). He was really troubled when I told him my view of events. He wasn't buying the accident-pitch at all.

In a period of a week or two we exchanged e-mails at a furious pace, trying to gauge what each other knew about the attack. First assuring him I am not an Israeli hawk, only a former CTI who was trained in Hebrew and who worked the Israeli military problem for several years, I told him the attack was a mistake. Did he know a VQ-2 EC121M aircraft was there that day? No, he didn't know that, and didn't think anyone else knew of it either. He ostensibly contacted Jim Ennes, who likewise said he did not know of our presence. I asked [deleted] how did the Liberty crew know the Israelis attacked them intentionally. His reply: "the Israelis saw our flag." How did you know that, [deleted]? Well, someone in the CT crew heard the Israelis talking on their radios about the American flag. But [deleted], I reminded him, the Liberty had no Hebrew linguists aboard (she embarked only NSG and NSA Arabic linguists in Rota), so how did you know the Israeli aircraft and boats were discussing the American flag? He didn't know, so again he asked Ennes. Ennes responded that it was his understanding the Israelis used English during their attacks. My rejoinder to [deleted] was: this could not be the case; in all my years of working the Israeli air problem, their military personnel spoke only Hebrew. The only time the Israelis ever (repeat ever) used English was after they started receiving American F4 and A4 aircraft in 1969/70 (well after the Six Day War), and those conversations were limited to maintenance check-flights probably when American advisors were nearby. English was never used in combat situations involving those aircraft or any others to my knowledge. Besides, our VQ tapes and voice transcripts showed only Hebrew spoken that day during the attack.

At one point in our conversation, [deleted] urged that if I felt so strongly about this I should go public with my information. My riposte was that, while I would be willing to do so, I would want to be certain those voice tapes and transcripts were still existed at NSA. I doubted they were but who knows; they still could be in the desk drawer in G6. I, however, do not have the wherewithal to check for them.

On a final note, I can identify several NSG and NSA personnel who could vouch for my version of the attack. Besides I believe there is other evidence to support a case of a mistaken attack, discussed in the next Enclosure 3.