Sunday, May 31, 2009


Adam Larson / Caustic Logic
[USS Liberty series]
May 31 2009

So far in my investigation of the Liberty incident, I’ve reached a similar conclusion to that of many survivors – the ship’s identity was likely well known to its Israeli attackers, both at the tip of the spear and at the shoulder of command. However, one of the lynchpin arguments of the survivors - that the American flag flying from their main mast had to be visible and known throughout the day – comes in far down the list of egregious and persistent “mistakes” by the Israeli Defense Forces. These moves all share the common denominator of justifying the attack, with varying degrees of plausibility from the humdrum to the absurd, and beyond. I find failing to note Old Glory relatively believable, and, as if my opinion matters, I’ll explain why.

In my first arguments, I started to question how the pilots could miss the huge friggin’ American flag, but then decided I’d better check if I could see the thing. It took a little while to find a clear enough shot to even make out the little scrap nestled up there, less visible than the nearby signal flags. Along this line, accident advocate Dr. Marvin Nowicki makes a valid point:
”In reconstruction of the attack, the Liberty crew makes much of flying the American flag, as if it would somehow protect them in harm's way. Little does the crew appreciate the difficulty of identifying a ship from an aircraft merely on the basis of a flag or even a hull number (GTR 5 displayed by the Liberty). […referring to photograph below…] This crisp overhead photo does not clearly show the identity of the American ship. So how could the attacking Israeli forces conclude this was a friendly ship?” [1]

This is the photo in question, here with the flag area actually highlighted with realistic colors. It’s still hardly more than a speck. Now I do see a clear difference between the flag and the hull number, well-illustrated by the same photo, which does in fact identify the ship with or without the flag being noticeable. No one has had any doubts if the hull was fully extended or drooping and unreadable; the “5” in particular is ten feet high, all letters of the solid block type, with offset drop-shadows to enhance clarity. This designation belongs to only one ship in the world.

Among the Liberty’s own mistakes that clearly brought it on themselves, per IDF, are “failure to signal,” changing direction, “running away,” hiding under smoke, trying to guilt trip them with the dead guys bleeding on deck, etc. (okay, I made up the last one) “Another grave error” discussed in Col. Ron’s report is that “it seems that the ship made every effort to conceal her identity” by, for example, “flying a small flag which was unidentifiable from a distance.” [2] He doesn't clarify whether the flag was smaller than it should have been or just small enough to offer as an excuse.

IDF records have admitted absolutely no reports of a flag from their the eight-plus aircraft orbits conducted over the day. Official records show the attacking planes never noticed such a flag, nor the Motor Torpedo Boats that nearly sank the Liberty. As Judge Yerushalmi’s report put it (once translated) “throughout the contact no American or any other flag appeared on the ship, and it was only a helicopter, sent after the attack in order to render assistance--if necessary--which noticed a small American Flag flying over the target.” [3] This total absence I find both unlikely and at least faintly possible.

The Hull number on the other hand was something they couldn’t even pretend to miss, and was reported multiple times. The first such acknowledgment came after the 0600 Noratlas overflight; the accurate reading “GTR-5” generated a precise ID as the USS Liberty, which was almost instantly erased for still-debatable reasons. It was eight hours later when the hull no. was reported again as “CTR-5” - not enough to name the Liberty but enough it had the air attack called off after a fierce fifteen minutes. This failed to prevent the MTB surface attack, which was finally cancelled after all but one of its torpedoes were spent. It wasn’t a flag they explained this with, but the same hull no. seen again, not far from the bungalow-sized hole they just blew out of the hull. [details on this]

That’s a powerful identifier, and could have averted catastrophe, rather than just tripping it up a bit. If GTR hadn’t been erased, CTR would mean something, so this decision trumps the more wiggly flag issue in my mind.

At times it seems keeping this particular issue front and center is more motivated by symbolism and appeal patriotism than by pure evidentiary considerations. What it really does is dramatize the patriotic war/sacrifice/vengeance/etc. aspect and taps into the old us vs. them mentality. Consider the painting on the cover of James Ennes’ book – Star of David vs. Old Glory, emphasis on “vs.” Interestingly, it seems this painting is based on the same photo of the ship as above, but with the barely visible real flag eclipsed by the mammoth symbolism. Hardly any dedicated patriot can’t help but be effected by this dichotomy – whether it’s toward questioning the accident or away from it is bound to vary.

Now, clearly the U.S. flag is a crucial clue that should have been seen at some point. And given the general pattern of errors and missed signals in IDF command that day, I have a hard time accepting that – again - all parties had genuinely missed the flag from sunrise until just after the attack. Taken on its own, however, I admit it seems possible, and not even bizarre. So I can see both sides on this one and don’t normally go on about the flag when there are stronger cases to make. However, here are some final flag thoughts from both sides – “pro” means a point supports that the flag should have been seen and reported, and “con” indicates a reason maybe it wouldn’t be so clear.

Con: At one point at least, the flag then flying was found to be tarnished "tangled in the lines [...] dark with soot and badly tattered," according to James Ennes, who caught it and ordered a new flag up shortly after 0700. [4] This may well have been a factor in the 0600 sighting, which ironically was the only pre-attack inspection of the Liberty that yielded an accurate ID.

Con: Both the tarnished flag and its replacement were quite small relative to the ship – app. five by eight feet (see picture above, and K.J. Halliwell’s examination of flag size).

Pro: The ship’s weather log plus speed and heading shows the flag should have been at least largely unfurled as the air attack began; Ennes concluded 12 knots relative wind at 1300 (5 knots from ship speed. plus 7 of wind on a similar line back) [5].

Pro: Wind would probably be similar at 1400 as IDF sources cite “a run over the ship” by the fighters prior to attack, looking for a spread flag (“but found none”). [6] The witness record seems to show immediate attack. IDF transcripts show nothing but a one-minute distance survey (“warship” was the only conclusion) prior to strafing. [7] That someone apparently made up the looking for a flag, or removed the episode from the tapes, supports that the flag was visible.

Pro: unfurled or drooping is not as relevant as its made – if they could see it well enough to identify spread, they could have identified it limp as well, if they cared to. US would appear prominently as red and white jumbled, or “splashed” together, perhaps looking pink from a distance, with a blue corner visible even drooping. Either a Soviet or an Egyptian (U.A.R.) flag would stand out like – well, a red flag. Solid red is vivid, and it wasn’t there to see.

Pro: A photo as above is not a good model – they’d see the any flag moving over time, rippling even if subtly. You might glimpse a red-white-pink flicker, zero in and see a wobbling dark blue patch cover it, with no bold red visible. What flag can that be?

Con: As Nowicki wrote: “Based on my experience of flying many "low and slow" reconnaissance flights over ships in the Med and Atlantic with VQ2, unless the flights are almost overhead, target identification is virtually impossible." [8]

Pro: The attacking aircraft supposedly felt it was possible enough to try, they were directly over the ship, at close and low quarters, passing over it from different angles for at least five minutes each wave. In the early part of the attack at least the flag and hull no. should have been discernable to one of the pilots on one of the passes, at the very least.

Pro: Several witnesses (including Nowicki) claim they heard transmissions or saw transcripts of same showing the IDF pilots did spot the U.S. flag and reported it, either before the first strafing run, which was ordered regardless, or during the attack, causing it to be broken off. If so, this means the IDF altered their records, further illustrating guilty conscience.

Pro: If they were unable to verify a flag when it was up, the pilots became strangely able to know when it was down; the decisive “there’s no flag on her!” was reported at the end of the air attack, 1414, alongside the hull no. report. [9] By this time the statement was actually true; the halyard line it swung from had been severed in the attack, and the flag lay face down on the burning deck. This indicates to me he knew where it had been and wasn’t anymore.

Pro: The motor torpedo boat crews were perhaps close enough to actually observe the larger (8x13?) replacement flag being hoisted for their arrival, and it almost certainly should be visible by binoculars once they got closer. The ship was sailing at something over ten knots due north before they hit it, so some cross-wind should have been lifting the holiday colors.

Pro: The MTB crew don’t acknowledge (in their log, or that of Navy HQ) seeing the flag until the helicopters told them about it at 1512, after they’d spent the better part of an hour hanging out within a mile or less of the ship. This reeks more of omission than of anything else.

Con: The ship was of course by then emitting a mass of smoke from the air attack. The fires were partly under control, but still factors of some visibility impairment.

Con: In the photo above the flag seems perhaps 6-800 feet from the camera – the MTBs were app. ten times as far off (accounts vary), perhaps too far to identify, when they decided to drop their torpedoes at 14:35.

Pro: The IDF records flaglessness finally runs out with the second rescue helicopter pilot who finally saw the stars and stripes and reported it as such, verified in a second pass. It was 15:12. As a journalist reported of a 2003 talk with James Bamford, “if the helicopter pilot saw those identifiers, Bamford asks, why didn't the fighter pilots and torpedo boat crews?” [10] There may be legitimate technical explanations, but we can’t ignore the common theme among those who failed to see – they were the ones shooting the ship, perhaps sent to simply attack, not look at stuff.

[1]Nowicki, Marvin. Exculpatory evidence supporting a mistaken attack. Undated message to James Bamford.
[4] Ennes, James. Assault on the Liberty. 1979. P
[5] See [4]. pp 245-247 (Appendix H)
[10] Shane, Scott. NSA tapes offer clues in '67 attack on U.S. spy ship. Baltimore Sun. July 16 2003.

Thursday, May 28, 2009


Adam Larson / Caustic Logic
[USS Liberty series]
May 28 2009

Part one of this series listed the witnesses to secret attack-the-flag transcripts of the USS Liberty attack - translated copies of American (NSA) intercepts of the IDF communications proving the Israeli intent to attack a known American ship, for whatever reason. Therefore, perhaps the most informed witnesses would be the guys who made these recordings, apparently stationed on a US Navy controlled EC-121 aircraft circling 15,000 feet over the general war zone.

The plane was on a NSA SIGINT mission, and staffed to effectively spy on both sides. This plane contained the normal retinue of Russian and Arabic linguists, as well as three trained Hebrew Linguists (called “special Arabic” at the time). [1] Relative newcomers to the world of public scrutiny, two of the three NSA Jew-spying-spooks listening in from above have been named.

Dr. Marvin Nowicki is the more famous one of the two, starting with an e-mail to NSA’s nom d’plume James Bamford in March 2000, as he was assembling his magnum opus Body of Secrets. The insider enclosed five documents, including Assault on the Liberty: The untold Story from SIGINT, which explained their presence above the Liberty and what they heard there. This became the kernel of Bamford’s chapter on the attack, which came out highly critical of the IDF and supportive of the crew’s views. That Nowicki’s account was seamlessly worked into supporting this meant distortion was afoot, and he complained publicly in a letter to the Wall Street Journal:
“My position, which is opposite of Mr. Bamford's, is that the attack, though terrible and tragic especially to the crew members and their families on that ill-fated day in June 1967, was a gross error.” [2]

Accident advocate Judge Cristol took up Nowicki’s case, re-publishing this letter and all the materials sent to Bamford, who “claims the Nowicki letter told him that the tapes establish that the Israelis knew they were attacking a US ship,” Cristol explains. “Dr. Nowicki did not agree with Bamford's interpretation.” [3] The judge points to the e-mail and its five enclosures, which collectively offer a cogent and well-researched Cristol-light attempted absolution. He felt the attack on an ally was a mistake, and ironically that was from hearing and re-examining the same transmissions several others had said proved, once in print, that it was a purposeful decision. And his familiarity with the material didn’t end when he handed it over to the NSA’s analysts.
“[T]he next time I saw those voice tapes […]completely re-transcribed […] was over a year later when I was ordered to NSA for duty in 1968. […] 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.” [4]

The NSA had the audio, but decided against admitting it, or even acknowledging the plane was there. James Ennes’ 1979 book was written in complete ignorance of the flight, and it remained secret for another two decades past that. Nowicki’s second attachment explained his efforts to have it all publicized to quell the rumors.
"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.” [5]

Nowicki points only to one phase of attack halting as evidence of mistake theory, which fails to explain why it was brutally resumed minutes later. Apparently the tapes would make it all clear once publicized. By 2000 this had still not happened, and we had only the chief’s account to Bamford, the case it was woven into for Body of Secrets, and the rebuttals.

It’s true that Nowicki told Bamford up-front that “our intercepts, never before made public, showed the attack to be an accident on the part of the Israelis.” [6] The author could have mentioned this sentiment in the book but failed to. Otherwise I see no misrepresentation. He simply used the words to support a general picture already painted by plenty of other people and evidence. His account is high-quality, detailed and well-assembled, and of clear historical significance. Some key quotes mined from the various sources [emph mine throughout], with comparative notes added:
"After a couple of hours of hard work, I received a heated call on the secure intercom from Hebrew linguist [deleted]. [deleted] excitedly proclaimed something to the effect, "Hey, Chief, I've got really odd activity on UHF. They mentioned an American flag. I don't know what's going on." I asked him for the frequency and rolled up to it. Sure, as the devil, Israeli aircraft were completing an attack on some object. I alerted the Eval, giving him sparse details, adding that we had no idea what was taking place. The activity subsided." [7]
By this, the chief missed some of the audio, including the flag report, before getting the phones on to hear the end of an air attack. Such a report is not in the IDF’s tapes at all, with no flag mentioned (except once in the negative – “there is no flag on her!”). Air Force recordings, as now available, make no mention of a US flag at all until the rescue helicopters arrive, shortly after 15:00 – a half hour after the attack was finally called off, and nearly an hour after the attacking jets left the area.
"After some time passed, Petty Officer [deleted] called me again. He told me about new activity and that the American flag is being mentioned again. I had the frequency but for some strange reason, despite seeing it on my spectrum analyzer, couldn't hear it on my receiver, so I left my position to join him to listen at his position. I heard a couple of references to the flag during an apparent attack. The attackers weren't aircraft; they had to be surface units (we later found out at USA-512J it was the Israeli motor torpedo boats attacking the Liberty). […] Despite replaying portions of the tapes, we still did not have a complete understanding of what transpired except for the likelihood that a ship flying the American flag was being attacked by Israeli air and surface forces." [8]

There’s a time delay after the chatter subsides, maybe correlating to the air-MTB intermission of about ten minutes. Then the flag was mentioned again, multiple times during the renewed attack by torpedo boats. This is a new twist the other witnesses didn’t catch. He feels it’s this flag report that finally has the attack called off. If they said U.S. flag multiple times and the EC-121 heard it, that’s interesting since any such report during this time failed to make it into either the MTB or Navy logs.
“My personal recollection remains after 34 years that the aircraft and MTBs prosecuted the Liberty until their operators had an opportunity to get close-in and see the flag, hence the references to the flag.” [9]
"Although the attackers never gave a name or a hull number, the ship was identified as flying an American flag." [10]
This is just about dead backwards from the IDF’s tapes of their communications. As I’ve found, their records show it was not a flag, but rather the hull number GTR-5, and perhaps the name Liberty, that had the attack called off twice. The second time it was said these indicated a Soviet ship.
“We have no idea what time any […] information about the American flag was made available in the war room. I think it was probably during the MTB attack because the torpedo boats halted their attacks when they could have finished off the Liberty.” [11]

We know now what time they claim anyway – 1512 local time. Torpedo hit was at 1435.
“[O]ur intercepts […] showed the attack to be an accident on the part of the Israelis.” [12]
“Our intercepts further showed that perhaps the attack was a mistake.” [13]

Just how? The fact that the "flag" stopped it? That's not the reason the IDF settled on. This dangerously aberrant version has direct knowledge of American ID running openly throughout the attack, rather than concealed in double-talk as it seems from the available sources. Any report of a flag failed to make it into the IDF air control tapes and failed to prevent the ridiculous re-identification as El Quseir leading to the deadly torpedo assault [see above link]. The recollection he shares does seem vague enough that it’s open to interpretation – in the same data one person might see intent, the other confusion. Both see the stars and stripes specifically failing to stop the attack, in direct contradiction of the IDF's documentation.

The “teammate” cited by Chief Nowicki, the one excited about "something crazy on UHF," is apparently Petty Officer Michael Prostinak. He did not talk to and remained unnamed by Bamford, but did come out in his chief’s wake and spoke to John Crewdson for his 2007 Chicago Tribune article. Since those days intercepting war chatter, Prostinak had settled down in a small North Carolina town to be chief of police and later a town administrator. He told the paper "everyone we were listening to was excited. You know, it was an actual attack. […] We copied it until we got completely out of range. We got a great deal of it." Although this accounts is much thinner, at least once edited into the article, it verifies Nowicki’s recollection of flag reports at this time: “During the attack was when mention of the American flag was made." Crewdson explains how “[Prostinak’s] Hebrew was not good enough to understand every word being said, but that after the mention of the American flag "the attack did continue.”” [14]

Again, Crewdson was able to “twist” this into fitting with the shoot-the-flag transcript reports. It wasn’t difficult, since it has more attacking after the identification, just like Nowicki’s account. Both the linguists’ stories differ from what other witnesses in some key ways - the flag is not apparently not reported before either phase of assault, and they mention no pilots protesting or resisting their orders. So far however, all knowledgeable American sources agree that the flag was reported by the attacking forces and this somehow failed to halt the attack. Prostinak does not say that it was an intentional mistake – for all we know, he feels it’s just a mix-up in communications. Nowicki specifically says it was accidental, but many others from a wider field reached the opposite conclusion on seeing it in print. Nowicki summed up the answer to the dilemma as well as the other side might:

”How can I prove [my version]? I can't unless the transcripts/tapes are found and released to the public. I last saw them in a desk drawer at NSA in the late 1970s before I left the service.” [15]

Apparently spurred by the Bamford/Nowicki revalations, Judge Cristol filed a FOIA lawsuit against NSA in April 2001 to get the tapes. Not far from his home turf, Cristol wrangled with the Florida district court system and NSA’s lawyers for release of any transmissions to or from USS Liberty, USS Amberjack (submarine, long story), or the EC-121 everyone was talking about [16]. The lawsuit would eventually yield results, but this would take years to unfold, and one more post, part three, before I can use that to close up this story line with a final twist in part four.

[1] Bamford, Body of Secrets p. 205
[2], [15] Nowicki, Mavin. Letter to The Wall Street Journal. Published May 16, 2001, page A-23.
[3] Cristol. Nowicki Documents.
[4], [5] Nowicki, Marvin. Postscript to the attack on the Liberty. 2000?
[6] Nowicki, Marvin to James Bamford. E-mail, March 3, 2000.
[14] Crewdson, John. "New revelations in attack on American spy ship." Chicago Tribune. October 2 2007. (Additional material published Dec 2). Page 6.,0,1050179.story?page=6
[16]A. Jay Cristol, Pro Se, Plaintiff, v. National Security Agency, Defendant. U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida. Case No. 03-20123. Various documents.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


Adam Larson / Caustic Logic
May 25 2009

At least one photograph of presumed reconnaissance aircraft (above) has survived and is published on the USS Liberty survivors association image index web page with the following caption:
Israel says there was no pre-attack reconnaissance. Any aircraft we saw, they say, were high in the sky carrying troops to the battlefield. Not so. Here is an Israeli reconnaissance airplane that circled the ship about an hour before the attack. The pilot was heard reporting to HQ that he saw an American flag and men sunning themselves on deck. [1]
First, it does seem to be checking the ship out. It’s quite close, low, passing starboard side to the aft and clearly turning as if to keep circling. This is not a casual disinterested high-alt pass-over. However, that flag-n-sunbathers report is news to me, and so far I see no source aside from this image index. And also I’m pretty sure the time frame “about an hour” before the 1400 attack is wrong.

This photo would perhaps have been taken by Petty Officer Charles Rowley, the ship’s photographer, reportedly in the lab most of the morning during the earlier aircraft recon. [2] It could have been someone else as well. The picture was apparently taken from the aft (rear) portion of the ship, looking back and to their right of the rear antenna mast (visible at left). Its crossbars extend left and right, across the beam, and the small lights (lower corner) are fairly low to the deck, so the camera is apparently at main deck level and pointed up at a moderate angle. At right is a wire mesh thing I can’t locate in photos, and apparently anchoring cables for some antenna. My right-side reference is thus un-anchored. Should be TRSSCOM housing there (Here's a good view of the rear of the ship, seen from the middle - TRSSCOM is the big dish, rear antenna mast behind that).

Anyway, the aircraft is quite close off the port aft, not very high above the waves, banking and turning left. Both the fuselage shadow on left wing and the light falling on the mast and its lights shows the sun is quite high in the sky, meaning, in general, around mid-day. I checked with a solar calculator the lat-long points, date, year, time, and found solar noon on the Liberty's path would fall one second after 11:44 local time. (selecting Cairo, June 8 1967, UTC offset -2, will get you close).


In my previous analysis of aerial reconnaissance reports, I got a general grasp of what different craft are said to have circled the ship. Anywhere near mid-day we first have two delta-wing Mirage fighters orbiting the ship thrice at about 1000 or 1030 (accounts vary). This is clearly not one of those, and both slots seem too early for the sun here. This was followed by two or three visits, at perhaps 1030, and certainly at 1057 and 1126, by a craft thought by the crew similar to a “Flying Boxcar”, and called by its Israeli owners a Noratlas. The two do indeed resemble each other, but not the plane in this photo. So barring a problem with the accepted timeline, this must be after 11:26, and presumably after the subsequent course change at 11:32, where they turned thirty degrees to the north.

The aerial visits after that point are more sketchy for detail, but this photo is said to be “about an hour” before attack, so it could only be the last visit, what Ennes cites as another visit of the “Flying boxcar” at 1245 (second-hand – he was having lunch) [3] But as we’ve established that’s no Noratlas, and it seems the sun is no match for that late in the day either. Jundge Cristol describes a1200 flight, way up at 30,000 feet, and the wrong aircraft to boot; he cites as a “Vatour,” but it would actually be a Vautour, which is French for vulture. [4]

The plane we see here is not a fit with any of the over-flying craft I’m aware of. It’s non-descript, generic, bulky body, low-set wings with engines beneath like any smaller cargo plane or airliner. Something tells me those are propellers, not jet engines. I’m really no plane buff. It is a possible fit with one other reported aircraft never reported close by - [56, 50] a “fat little prop plane, maybe a light bomber” repeatedly traversing the beach, “just skimming the sand dunes.” This was first reported before 0700, with no specific mentions after. But as Ennes noted explosions ashore between 1130 and 1200, he did note “the little bomber that had patrolled the beach all morning could no longer be seen.” [5]

With no other planes besides Noratlas and Mirage jets mentioned before the 1132 turn, this is probably after that but apparently not much after. The next plane alleged is 11:45, a fit for the time of the explosions. This is one of the less verified, only mentioned in a list in the Salans Memo with no details (see previous post, link above). Who saw what plane do what at that time? Ennes was officer of the Deck, and would have seen such a plane, but there is no mention in his book, just the Noratlas again in his absence at 1215 and 1245. [6] Wrong plane and time for this case. Again with the time, how do I know what time it is here?

11:45 is one minute past local solar noon, with the sun at its highest elevation (82° above the horizon, so nearly overhead). and with an azimuth (direction to sun) of 180° - due south. First I presumed this was after the 11:32 course change, so I set my model on a 283 heading and set to narrowing down the solar azimuth angle which helps me get a close time estimate. I found the light angle, approximate, from the rear mast (lower left corner) by analyzing light fall-off around the mast’s curve and and shadow patterns on its attached lights. They indicated one general direction, which I marked with arrows – some to and some from the sun, whatever.

This I pasted back on the ship at the proper angle (not to scale, that doesn’t matter). To hit the mast at that angle with the ship at 283 true, the azimuth would be somewhere around 168, or in a range of, say, 162-174. This is consistent with a general noon-ish time frame indicated by the high solar elevation. And the Azimuth is much better at setting time - the change I'm seeing here is close to one degree per minute!

The exact minute is not to be taken too literally given the margins of error in each step – but the resultant azimuth range for a 162-174 spread is between 1132-1141 local time. I simply can’t see anything outside this range explaining that photo. Either this is Ennes’ 1126 misidentified “flying boxcar” (and the Captain’s 1126 “unidentified”), lingering quite a bit, or it’s the unknown rounded-to-1145 plane that Ennes missed as he wrapped up his shift.

Saturday, May 23, 2009


Adam Larson / Caustic Logic
May 22 2009

Welcome to my Caustic Logic USS Liberty inquiry!

For a while now I’ve been intrigued by the anomalous Israeli attack on the USS Liberty way back in 1967. I started out seeing the attack as presented in the video Dead in the Water. I don’t mean the cover-up of some war maneuver or massacre, which seems to me silly, for reasons I’ll explain more fully elsewhere. Rather I find merit in the attempted false flag interpretation, where the attack was to be blamed on the Egyptians and draw America into the war, or into something useful anyway. Obviously if that was the goal, it would require silencing the crew momentarily with total communications jamming, and then permanently by sending the ship to the bottom. If these were their goals, they failed decisively in both, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they didn’t try. Sometimes you start with one plan and then have to change in the middle…

Intriguing as this narrative can be, I never did quite believe it. Looking closer at the evidence, that possibility still lingers, but is less solid than I first thought, and I’m starting to feel it was perhaps more of a false “no flag” attack. The sticking point for me is identity – on at least some levels, if not all, the IDF knew they were attacking an American ship or, at the very least, that it was not the Arab ship(s) they were pretending it was. The blunders leading to the “mistaken” attack show the outlines of what might have been called “Operation Oops!” The goal may have been only to maim the ship and make a point of nearly sinking her in tragic error that might be avoided in the future by people minding their own business. There would be a small array of other possible motives to consider in regards to this.

The U.S. side of course has its own mistakes leading to the ship being where all later agreed it should not have been. This doesn’t well explain Israel’s “mistakes,” but it is true as they say this wouldn’t have – couldn’t have – happened if the messages pulling Liberty back had managed to get through to action. That two nations had to each commit their own inexplicable string of blunders all focused on this ship does not leave the two canceling each other out; rather, the strangeness is multiplied. If Washington were willing to somehow provide the Israelis with the target for “Operation Oops!” again, the issue of motive arises. And of course when dealing with two nations, we have the relative issues between them to consider – did their motives agree? Was there a double-cross halfway through? Why did this have to happen right before the U.S solidified its strategic partnership as Israel’s staunchest ally? High politics, way high up there… I’ve thought less and posted almost nothing yet on the American end and I’m not ready to make any case without more study.

My research is at the moment based on a critical examination of official and primary sources regarding the attack itself, in great detail. My sources are largely Israeli, with an emphasis on patterns of agreement or contradiction between each other, other sources, and logic. Eyewitness testimony is important as evidence, but prone to imprecision and embellishment, largely inconclusive on issues of intent, and well covered elsewhere by other revisionists. Therefore, at the moment I’m not basing much on the crew’s testimonies (although I m reading Ennes’ book at the moment and starting ti figure out who’s who a little more). The resulting posts are usually too verbose and detailed for most, but are compiled here for the advanced or intrepid.

Of course I am well aware this is a sensitive issue and one that raises questions about – well, anyone who’s so interested in re-visiting a sensitive issue. An issue that is also widely harped on by anti-Zionists, neo-Nazis, Muslim radicals, and other such rabble. Judging by Google searches, quite a few people are looking at this page and at me lately. Fair enough. I’ve actually been hoping for some feedback; the Comments section is open and easy to use (click the link at bottom of a post that usually says “0 comments.”). Who should click:
  • the curious with their questions, 
  • critics with rebuttals or debunks, 
  • compatriots not too alienated by my omni-direcitional iconoclasm, 
  • experts with a correction or a tip, 
  • anyone with a relevant opinion. 
You can also contact me privately by submitting a comment headed “private.” I will read but not post these. Also my contact can be found in the sidebar. Silent lurkers are so boring, and my CIA sting operation to draw out all the wierdos for further profiling will fail if no one is drawn out! (kidding). I invite the opinionated as well on all sides – I can moderate. Oh, and I approve first, rather than delete later, FYI. At this post I will accept general comments.

Thursday, May 21, 2009


May 21 2009

This is the best-made, most informative documentary I've yet seen on the Liberty Incident. I don't buy every theory presented, but there are definitely some valuable bits, and it's a good introduction for the novice trying to grasp the issue. I will add some notes and comments below when I have time.

Google video page.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


Adam Larson / Caustic Logic
May 20 2009
last edit 5/21, 5pm

One of the more convincing counter-arguments to the friendly fire theory, often pointed out by Liberty survivors and others, is the detailed aerial surveillance that followed the ship all morning prior to the attack. They were circled as many as thirteen times, by some counts [1], but these inspections only seemed to make the IDF less and less aware of the vessel as the day wore on and got weird in the middle. Lt. Col. Matti Greenberg’s 1982 IDF report complained of “those who would claim that Israel had tracked the "Liberty" constantly and that IAF planes had carried out several reconnaissance overflights to identify the vessel. These claims have no foundation in reality.” [2] His own claim is only half-rooted in reality, at best. It may be technically true, as records seem to indicate, that “the IAF did not direct any sortie over the "Liberty" until 1400 hours.” However, it’s probably not true.

The first eye in the sky for June 8 was barely noted by the Liberty’s crew an hour after sunrise; when James Ennes took over as Officer of the Deck shortly after 0700 am, he relieved John Scott, who reported that “about an hour ago, we were circled by a flying boxcar. Real slow and easy.” [3] This and the bulk of the other IDF Air Force inspections were recorded in Ennes’ book Assault on the Liberty (1979), compiled from his shipmates’ recollections and his own. This early passage is not recorded in the Liberty’s Deck log, nor mentioned in Captain McGonagle’s testimony to the Naval Court of Inquiry (NCOI).

But the flight happened, and is well confirmed by Israeli Defense Force records. What was called “flying boxcar” was actually a similar model plane known as a Noratlas; it was on a routine coastal patrol, and held a naval observer who examined the Liberty as they chanced upon her. This was first reported at 05:45, clarified five minutes later; at first it looked like a destroyer, but as Greenberg’s report explained “later, at 0603 hours, an additional report arrived from the plane, which described the vessel as a supply ship of the US Navy.” [4] Illuminated by the early sun’s horizontal rays, the hull no. “GTR-5” was accurately noted, if not reported ‘til after the pilot landed. He did not report a flag, but the number and Jane’s Fighting Ships helped the navy identify their guest as the USS Liberty, American “research” ship. [5]

A potentially important issue: In the graphic below, note a small V-shaped aberration of the path just before the 0630 mark, and just after the 5:45 pass. Judge Cristol speculates “the maneuvers may have been undertaken to deceive the Aircraft into thinking that the ship under observation was heading for Port Said.” [6] I see no good reason the captain would order such a thing, but the timing is close – 5:45 first sighting, 5:53 c/c. The deck log records the maneuvers, all apparently at the steady ten knots recorded. There is no mention of a reason for the turn, aircraft or otherwise. K.J. Halliwell speculated it was to “blow tubes,” a way of cleaning the boilers. “Depending on wind direction,” he explained, “the ship may temporarily change course to blow tubes, to prevent the black soot from falling on its decks.” His case is incomplete but logical. [7]
It was around 1000 before this was decided for sure, and this would be her last accurate hull number reading of the day. It earned the ship a green marker on Naval HQ’s big tactical map - identified neutral non-combatant ship. She shouldn’t be there, but they don’t shoot at the green ones.

There were no more over-flights reported by any party for three hours after this fruitful mission. At 0849, however, the Liberty reached its pre-set point Alpha, where it was to turn sharply west, heading 253° to point Bravo, and halve its speed to crawl along the Gaza/Sinai coast. Ennes oversaw this major turn, which was being executed as the second visitor was spotted behind them and to their right. Ennes claims this was just before 9:00, and that Captain McGonagle was next to him as they both watched “a jet” (no details) pass high along their starboard (right) side, then veer left several miles ahead east towards the Gaza coast. [8]

Neither the captain’s NCOI testimony nor the deck log note this aircraft. However, it happened, as again the IDF mentions it. A lone jet (no details) returning from some corner of the battlescape chanced up behind the ship. At first the pilot reported “gray, bulky, with its bridge amidships.” [9] Curiously, this pilot at first claimed he was shot at by Liberty, and this initiated a kneejerk sortie of two Israeli destroyers towards the hostile ship.

But just at the same time, the IDF’s story goes, the Liberty ID was agreed on, and they were recalled. Also the pilot said he wasn’t so sure he was fired on by the American ship after all. Lucky break for the hapless boat. Again, it was the last of the day. Point B would be reached at 1132, and a turn thirty degrees to the north towards distant point Charlie. By a twist, this final target was barely different from the Israeli Air Force “Point Boaz,” described by Greenberg as “the spot over which most IAF sorties would swoop into and out of Sinai.” This is probably where the 0900 flight came from, and their approach towards it in the mid-day means increasing air traffic, meaning some planes might have “appeared to the ship's crew as directed to them.” [10] This should be remembered and considered.

From there the tone changed; the L-shaped sweep across their path (see graphic below) – in retrospect - is like a cut-off line beyond which they were not interested in keeping track of this vessel. The IDF admit to no more reports attributed to the Liberty after 0900, even though apparent surveillance intensified and even took on a menacing tone, to read Ennes’s account. “Just before 10 o’clock the bridge lookouts reported jet fighters approaching from astern,” he writes. “Off the starboard side, high, I could see two sleek delta-wing jets in tight side-by-side formation, paralleling our course.” They were armed with bombs he could see, but had no markings visible at the range. They tuned left a few miles ahead, and doubled back down port side, and turned again to repeat the loop. “They made three complete orbits before disappearing from view.” [11]

Captain McGonagle does attest to a similar pass of “two unidentified Jet aircraft orbited […] three times at a distance of approximately two miles.” [12] The two disagree on the distance, Ennes of course closer, and they disagree on time. McGonagle places it at 10:30 to his OOD’s 10:00. So far Ennes has a better track record on this issue, and 10:00 I’m going with, at the risk of being wrong on a minor point.

A half hour later, at the time the Captain places the fighters, “we received another visit from the flying boxcar,” Ennes reports, “now more curious and coming closer.” This is probably a different Noratlas than the one circling around 0600, which had landed around 9:30 and reported the hull no. This one approached from behind, paralleling their path off the starboard (right) side, turning left ahead, a full 180 turn back and down port side, then behind them. Not satisfied with the horseshoe, he sliced a dramatic turn back to an aggressive low-level approach and mast-level diagonal pass over the ship. As it showed its full belly, camera ports, and Star of David marking to the intruders, the captain feared it was attacking, according to the book: “Watch him. If you see those bomb bay doors start to open, order an immediate hard right turn.” [13]

The Noratlas pass was placed by the deck log at 10:57, blandly, as “unidentified aircraft circled ship.” [14] The captain swore that “it was not possible to see any markings on the aircraft and the identity of this aircraft remains unknown.” Curiously, he decided to point out how “this aircraft did not approach the ship in any provocative manner.” [15] Then why mention how it “did not” do so? Was it supposed to have? Was he troubled that he wasn’t “provoked” into leaving when it swooped over them? Unanswerable questions must be regarded as unanswered.

Ennes and mcGonagle agree on at least two more visits from this plane “in a somewhat similar fashion approximately at 30 minute intervals,” the captain says, at 10:57 and 11:26. [16] After its first 10:30 pass, “the flying boxcar returned just before eleven o’clock,” writes Ennes, “and again thirty minutes later, each time executing the now familiar counter-clockwise orbit before completing a low-level, diagonal, direct overflight of the ship. And each time I verified the condition of our flag,” perfectly displayed each time, no doubt. [17] Repeated tight defined orbits, no direct communication attempted, but attention-getting moves that almost read like warnings, following an extended show of arms, all apparently directed at the Liberty. I imagine if I were in charge of that ship, orders be damned, I’d leave the area quickly. But hindsight is always so clear, and besides, Captain McGonagle was more steadfast than I.

As Lt. Col. Greenberg and other offical sources have said, any impression of IAF surveillance or anything directed at the Liberty is just an illusion caused by the steady traffic of war. Israeli historian Michael Oren admits “there may indeed have been additional Israeli overflights, but the IAF pilots were not looking for the Liberty.” [18] Neither was the 6:00 flight, or the 9:00 one, but they both saw and reported it and it connected back. But at least three, and perhaps four close-up flights specifically orbited the ship, just in the next 2.5 hours. And we have no available records of any such interactions, let alone any explanation. I don’t see any reason a plane approaching point Boaz, or scanning for Egyptian submarines, would repeatedly conduct unreported swoops over an unidentified ship. Was it just a pilot having some sport?

Shortly after the last verified Noratlas pass, Liberty arrived at point Bravo, and at 11:32 changed course to 283° to move towards point Charlie/Boaz. After that turn, Ennes was relieved briefly to get some lunch, leaving the deck in Lt. Painter’s hands from 1200-1300. He mentions “testimony from Liberty officers, ignored by the Naval Court of Inquiry, “of additional reconnaissance flights during the noon hour.” [19] From what I’ve seen (only part of the eyewitness reports), these are all equally vague regarding what craft, passing in what way, and just when and how often.

For example, Painter testified that somewhere in this hour “from the Bridge, I again observed the slow flying Israeli aircraft circle our ship.” [20] George Golden, considered the senior and “saltiest” sailor aboard, said he witnessed more surveillance in the noon hour and noted the flag extended at that time. [21] No details on the plane(s). The Salans memorandum, a State Department document from ’67 noted “testimony of various members of the crew indicate reconnaissance overflights of the Liberty at 0515 [sic], 0850,1030, 1056, 1126, 1145, 1220, and 1245.” No details. [22] This span remains an impressionist painting, for whatever reasons.

For Israeli records at this time, Cristol cites an unidentified ship “observed and even reported […] by other Israeli high-altitude aircraft the Liberty crew never sighted.” He cites a 1988 interview with an IAF pilot who flew 30,000 feet over the ship at noon, and reported it had ”no wake.” [23] This fits precisely with no shipboard sightings, meaning a 1200 entry needs to be added to the list, for four alleged encounters between 1130 and 1300. These would have been able to give excellent picture of speed and direction change if plotted as in the graphic below. A solid path from Liberty’s last location, on a near-west heading at a creeping five knots, slowness verified by report of “no [visible] wake.”

Although the data was all available, none of this was put together, at least not in the normal way. By 1300 everyone was wondering about the explosions on the Sinai shore, east and west of El Arish; the Liberty increased vigilance, and the IDF was following up, first hearing about the problem at about 11:30. Reports from land and unspecified air observations had either one or two unknown ships approaching and presumably shelling the shore at this time. As the last alleged overpass faded at 12:45, the torpedo boats of Division 914 were en route to investigate the mystery ship, with attack aircraft ready to scramble. You keep your recon planes away from your combat situations. This was the aerial calm before the storm.

So to summarize the IDF Air Force admits two Identifications at about 0600 and 0900, and then nothing, intelligence-wise, that was (or is now acknowledged to have been) connected back to this ship. There were overflights, sure, as many as eight of them - but officially these were on other business and any info that was accepted from them found no such link back. Somehow it was back to square one.

Of course this is all highly significant – the lack of new intelligence on the ship is the cited reason for Capt. Avraham Lunz at Naval HQ deciding to remove the ship’s neutral marker at 11:00 – leaving it unmarked at all – and not even mentioning this to the oncoming chief, Izzy Rahav. [24] Lunz’s decision has been the subject of some speculation; for example, he was the sole named part for possible court-martial in the Yerushalmi investigation. [25] The charges were dropped of course, and all the “mistakes” were ruled just that. He just didn't have current enough intelligence. (more detail in a later post)

The timing of the info cut-off is crucial, as that’s almost the moment she turned from point Alpha to Bravo and dropped from ten knots down to five. The heading change is less important – without turning she would hit the beach in less than an hour and halfway across the Sinai nearing the Gulf of Aqaba by noon. And if that fighter passed after 8:50, the new WSW heading was probably observed. Every Liberty overflight before 11:30 happened along that heading. It’s the logical path it would take if leaving.

Another aside and criticism: Cristol cites the ship as last seen “steering south at fifteen knots.” As I explain, the surest way to calculate speed is consider 9:00 position vs. 0600, which would verify a southeast path, app. 130° and 10 knots speed, as the deck log shows. Fifteen knots was not reached that morning, and “South,” “towards Port Said,” was only achieved once, during the possible tube-blowing event [see small text near the top], for about fifteen minutes, just after the first Noratlas pass. Although it’s possible this was seen, there is no evidence this minor movement effected Lunz’s decision, and even less reason it should have.
Far more important is the speed reduction of 50%, which occurred after the turn - at 9:05 by the deck log. This would be harder to predict and easier to miss; a single pass of a jet may be too short a sampling to determine speed very well. The better way is compare two positions over time; her speed until 0900 could well have been calculated for that three hour span. Only additional observation could help see the speed after 0900, and this was denied. Predicting a turn to the west, and projecting the 10 knots observed, would double her anticipated progress over the hours, taking Liberty much further out in the Mediterranean than she actually was.

This type of thinking is exactly what’s said to have influenced Lunz in his unfortunate erasure. As reported by Cristol “his explanation was that ships do not stand still.” They can actually, but this one was only close to still – five knots with “no [visible] wake.” But Lunz had cut off his awareness of the Liberty at some arbitrary point and “was of the opinion,” Cristol pleads, “that the ship had moved at least seventy-five miles from the point where it was previously sighted.” [25] For the Liberty to move that far since 0900, it would have to be going about 37 knots, twice her top speed, and more than seven times her current clip. If he meant since the first sighting at 0600, then he felt it was moving at 15 knots, 50% faster than it ever was that morning, and importantly he was foolishly ignoring the later sighting.

This ridiculous, ass-pulled-out-of “opinion” meant the fast ship was clearly of no concern to events in the area around El Arish. And that’s it. With no markers, no notes, or memories about an American ship recently in the area, any mid-size gray ship near some explosions was probably an enemy destroyer, and so on. The way was opened for an ensuing flood of errors, what can almost be seen as a well-orchestrated “Operation Oops!” The erasure was triggered Lunz's sheer ignorance, we're told, but as we can see, a lack of usable aerial surveillance was not the reason for that.

[1] Bamford, Body of Secrets, p 206
[2] Greenberg, Matti, Lt. Col. The Attack on the "Liberty" Incident: 8 June 1967. IDF History Department, 1982. p 39.
[3] Ennes, James M., Jr. Assault on the Liberty. Random House, 1979. p 50]
[4] See [2], pp 7/8.
[5] See [2], pp 8/9.
[6] Cristol, A. Jay. The Liberty Incident. Brassey's Inc. 2002. p 40.
[7] Halliwell, K.J. source
[8] See [3], p 152.
[9] Oren, Michael B. The 'USS Liberty': Case Closed. Azure, Spring 2000.
[10] See [2], p 10.
[11] See [3], p 53.
[12] Naval Court of Inquiry Report. p 32.
[13] See [3] pp 54-55.
[21] Ennes, p 152.
[22] U.S. Department of State. Legal Advisor Carl F. Salans. "The Liberty" -- Discrepancies Between Israeli Inquiry and U.S. Navy Inquiry. 21 September 1967.
[23] Cristol, p 89.

Saturday, May 16, 2009


Adam Larson / Caustic Logic
May 16 2009
last edit 5/23

Within the drama of the IDF tapes surrounding the Liberty attack is the mystery of numerous witnesses to orders sent, intercepted, and read by American eyes to attack the ship despite the American flag. The official transcripts allowed to the public, despite other inconsistencies, agree in containing no mentions of a flag until helicopters after 15:00, either well after the attack, or well after the worst of it, depending on the accounts you believe. The tapes do however contain mentions of “Americans” on at least three occasions during the attack, each seeming strangely out of place. It might be reasonable to presume these witnesses just saw these lines amid the chatter, and deduced it was from a seen flag, perhaps embellishing the memory later. Conversely these might be the responses to the flag reports, severed from their other halves in the edited final, left hanging as random musings and blurted hunches.

As the case may be, the first “Americans” mention is one of the most interesting lines in the episode, delivered by one Lazar Karni, a weapons system officer based at General Headquarters who remains otherwise silent. His role is generally described as “to listen to ground-to-air communications and make occasional suggestions,” and at 13:54, the first fighters were just within view of the Liberty, preparing to assist the torpedo boats by initiating the attack on a presumed enemy something-or-other. Karni, known as “L.K.” in the transcripts, made his dramatic cameo appearance at this point:“What is this? Americans?”

Arieh O’Sullivan, who heard the tapes, explained that was “blurted out,” but was based only on “what he later testified was a hunch.” My curiosity was piqued by this “hunch,” since an American ship had been identified in the area that morning and mightn’t be entirely out of everyone’s minds, despite the efforts of fate to erase it.

Judge J.A. Cristol’s transcript of these tapes, which I discovered later as appendix 2 in his book, gives the line as "what is that? Americans?" He also offers as a sub-appendix invaluable first-hand insight into L.K.’s thinking - his July 1967 testimony to the second Israeli (Yerushalmi) investigation. Apparently working from these basic tapes, and with the same question I had, the examining judge wanted to know what that line was about. In testimony declassified at Cristol’s request, the weapons system officer describes his duty and reason for speaking up.
“I was not the officer who would have been able to decide on an attack, but it was my duty to be as a passive part on the line in order to absorb information that might have helped, but like any officer I wanted to help …”
Karni said of his own actions “it is clear to me that I threw in the question – a shout which is written. It does not relate to the conversation that was conducted on the line at that same moment. […] In relation to this there are two possibilities.” Strange comments – apparently he means the remark seems disconnected, implying it was from some side conversation, somehow making it into the wrong transcript. In fact the active discussion his question was disconnected from “was about an attack on missile bases,” he says. He then decides one possibility is “that this question was asked during a conversation […] about the ship that purposefully was shelling El Arish, and the Air Force was about to attack it jointly with the Navy.”

Once turned around to the episode his words are publicly attached to, he offers his reasoning for the comment, if that’s what he was commenting on. (??) Most importantly he did confirm to the court, in the last sentence, “I did not know about the existence of an American ship in the morning.” He certainly should have, of course, but apparently this is just a hunch, not an intentional reminder of the GTR5 ship. If he had been in the loop back at about 10am, quietly forgotten in his passive role, he would probably have absorbed the identification of Liberty in that area. So either he came on line only after it was removed from the tactical info system at 11am, or his testimony is incorrect. On the thinking Karni claimed:
“I at that time expressed an opinion that we had taken only one action, that is to say, we had ascertained it was not an Israeli ship, and we did this through the naval representatives who were sitting with us.
like any officer I wanted to help, and therefore I wanted to suppose to the ears of those who were managing the war to a possibility – supposition that it was an American ship. That was only my supposition, since it was my assessment that it was not Egyptian, for they would not dispatch a solitary ship to our coast, and therefore I thought there was such a possibility.”

This logic consideration is a very good point Karni might bring up to explain his “supposition” and get people thinking, if only he were asked to explain his provocative comment. They would find it just a thought, but a good one, that it might be American or, for all they knew, Soviet. It’s somewhat reassuring that at least one soul in the IDF system showed the kind of sanity to put their neck out and blurt the unconsidered option everyone else had missed - they hadn’t yet identified this thing well enough.

“Shimon” (full name classified) is the deputy for one “Robert,” chief air controller at Air Control Central, who was on the line in Robert’s stead as LK dropped his thought bomb. The first to respond, Shimon asks as one might expect “what Americans?” This is included in Cristol’s version but not O’Sullivan’s. Kislev’s first response is to ask “Robert, what did you say?” (or “what are you saying?”) He may not have recognized “LK” as a participant and thought the question was posed by a returning “Robert.” Karni does not answer "Shimon's" query, nor does anyone respond to Kislev’s poorly-aimed question. The issue is apparently dropped like a hot potato and within seconds, all are proceeding with the attack on the mystery ship, which is but two minutes away.

Explaining the lack of response to the identification question, Cristol summarized “no one had any data on the location for Americans. Without hard data, the subject was not pursued further.” Strangely, Karni’s testimony implies a lively and curious response:
“All those who were connected on this line were able to hear me. Of course, all of them were overcome by this and they began to ask and then I did not want to delay the attack on the ship [because] they said it was shelling El Arish. And since the supposition was not based on data but on an assessment – supposition – therefore I did not want to delay the thing. Therefore I immediately retracted.”
So it seems by speaking up, the guy was willing to try and delay the attack with a worthwhile consideration - supposition. Something instantly changed his mind. It was the questions he cited, but if the transcripts are any clue, it wasn’t their number or their specificity. Perhaps something the transcript doesn't reveal, like the tone of either Shimon's or Kislev's voice, or how they emphasized their words, convinced Karni this was not a line of thought they were interested in.

Maybe his line was somehow cut off. It is curious he didn't follow-up with at least a "never mind." Such a line, if worth blurting, is worth a sequel as well. That it didn't get one is evidence something cut his train of thought off from the action. "My line went dead, so I guess I immediately retracted..." Hmmm... just trying the line out - not courtroom material, even if it were true.

Even the plain text of the audio released the controllers clearly showed an active disinterest in re-considering the situation; only two questions total were asked – "what Americans" and "what did you say." No answers was offered, pressed for or - it would seem - wanted. Ambiguity and second thoughts are the enemy of the decisive split-second life-and-death blahblahblah that had made Israel so great. As Karni’s testimony shows, nobody was willing to “delay the thing” that was already in mid-motion.
It was worth a try, Lazar, and we all thank you. You offered them a last chance out, and they refused to take it. You might rock the boat, but tipping it over is another story; ultimately of course you are a soldier of and loyal to Israel. You stood your ground and no one else's, and that's worthy of respect at least. Was it spooky, to be in the middle of all that blind volition?

Friday, May 15, 2009


Adam Larson / Caustic Logic
May 15 2009

Among the greatest controversies of the USS Liberty saga is the widespread allegation of “secret recordings” of the attack, which revealed that the Israeli pilots were ordered to attack the ship despite the US flag they reported. I haven’t examined the history of when the issue was first publicly mentioned and so on, and for the most part I’m relying on John Crewdson’s ambitious 2007 Chicago Tribune piece that cites at least eight witnesses (with accounts of varying quality) who claim first-hand knowledge of the transmissions that show IDF command knew full well what there ordering sunk. [1]

Judge Cristol’s 2003 book cites the allegation as pushed by survivors James Ennes and George Golden (among “many others”), neither of whom would be in a position for first-hand knowledge of the recordings. He names no others and give neither detail nor citation, and offers in retort “thus far, no one has produced such a tape.” [2] Mitchell Bard’s rebuff is the same; “also, contrary to claims that an Israeli pilot identified the ship as American on a radio tape, no one has ever produced this tape.” [3]

Most of the witnesses Crewdson cites, and I’ll present below, seem to have no problem with the lack of a hard audio copy. Well, of course we aren't going to hear that... now. They are fairly consistent on how they received this information; the evidence claimed is paper-printed, English-language translations of the original Hebrew recordings. These were seen at, primarily, Air Force intelligence stations, at different locales around the world, and seen within hours of the attack (or during it, depending).

The original tapes these would be of UHF transmissions, which the IDF used at the time, meaning line-of-sight, or limited rage, reception would be needed. That is, the listener had to quite near the scene of attack. The Liberty is of course a spy ship itself, quite capable of recording the attack on itself, but I’m aware of no reports of surviving material released and attributed back to Liberty – anything it recorded and survived the attack is secret and unacknowledged. There is also the little-known case of the submarine(s) allegedly in the area, swimming secretly beneath the Liberty, for some top-secret reconnaissance of their own [4] I don’t think receiver antennae work as well underwater, but it is an interesting aside.

Then there is the third level, an airborne platform also in the vicinity well above the Liberty – a U.S. Navy EC 121, obviously unacknowledged then and for decades since. Its presence and mission were only published with the release of James Bamford’s 2000 Body of Secrets, and since then presumed as the origin of any recordings of the attack. They had different linguists on board, including Hebrew – monitoring on many frequencies, recording some for later analysis, and taking notes along the way. Their stories will be touched on in part two, for now, suffice to say, they believe they recorded and brought back all relevant transmissions of a lengthy attack, by air and surface vessels, on a U.S. ship. [5]

Once these tapes were transcribed and analyzed, copies might well be forwarded to certain locations at some security level or other – I’m not certain the reason diverse stations would be informed of such details in such an unusual case, but it’s possible – according to the witnesses this is just what happened. As I list them and some key details of their account to Crewdson and elsewhere, The debunker/debunk-pre-emptor in me has to note questions about each account as well as boosters as they occur.

- Dwight Porter: U.S. ambassador to Lebanon at the time, Porter was a (relatively) early proponent of the recorded orders story; in a November 1991 interview with Rowland Evans and Robert Novak, as the website If America Knew reports:
“Porter says that during or immediately after the attack on the Liberty the CIA station chief showed him transcripts of intercepted Israeli messages. One has Israel ordering the attack on the Liberty, another has an Israeli pilot replying it’s an American ship. When the order to attack is repeated, the pilot insists he can see the American flag. The pilot is told again: “Attack it.” [6]
In Crewdson’s article, the transcript was shown through a different channel, an embassy official. Either is a bit unusual, as most other witnesses the Air Force loop. I’m not sure what to make of it.

- Oliver Kirby: Deputy Director of the then-secret NSA at the time of the attack on an NSA-commissioned spy ship. Decades later, when asked about the alleged transcripts, he said he “certainly did" read them, and it has “bothered me all my life.” He recalls the content, in part: "They said, 'We've got him in the zero […] And then one of them said, 'Can you see the flag?' They said 'Yes, it's U.S, it's U.S.' They said it several times, so there wasn't any doubt in anybody's mind that they knew it." [7] Of course the attack was then carried out. Sounds possibly authentic, and certainly no hack crank. We've got the big wigs testifying - this one on "a stack of bibles" if he had it, that they shot our flag knowingly.

- Richard Block: Capt. Block (USAF) commanding an intelligence wing monitoring the War from Crete, only 400 miles from thee Liberty attack. The “beyond top secret” translations re recalls reading demonstrated that “some of the pilots did not want to attack. The pilots said, 'This is an American ship. Do you still want us to attack?' And ground control came back and said, 'Yes, follow orders.’” [8] Sounds good – right job and location, a few details, consistent with the others. Unfortunately when he talked to the dismal American Free Press, as found re-posted on David Duke’s site, he sounded far less convincing. Calling the Israeli excuse “complete bull****,” he told the paper “They knew it was an American ship. We heard it with our own ears, several times.” [9] Ears? Indeed – Block’s story is that “We were getting the translations in real-time,” intercepted, tanslated, re-spoken, and broadcasting live for them? Even if that’s not quite what he’s arguing, it’s so far off the mark it can’t help but be an incorrect story. Block's hob-nobbing with the AFP crowd is also none too good for his credibility, and casts a pall over his public confrontations with Judge Cristol.

- Steve Forslund: An intelligence worker at Offutt AFB at the time, Forslund claims he saw the transcripts roll off at his station, and he gives a dramatic retelling:
"The ground control station stated that the target was American and for the aircraft to confirm it […] The aircraft did confirm the identity of the target as American, by the American flag. […] The ground control station ordered the aircraft to attack and sink the target and ensure they left no survivors. […] He kept insisting the mission had to sink the target, and was frustrated with the pilots' responses that it didn't sink." [10]
The details of his account carry a ring of authenticity to my ears. He asserts he was not alone; "everybody saw these." In a statement to the USS Liberty Survivor’s Association, he elaborated “We read these in real time during the day the attack occurred. […]On the day of the attack on the Liberty, I read yellow teletype sheets that spewed from the machines in front of me all day.” [11] His apparent claim of live transcription is about as dumb as Block’s real-time audio – perhaps he didn’t consider the hour as the attack was happening half-a-world away – 6:00 am Nebraska time, and continuing for about two hours maximum. If it was actually day, and “all day” when he read these, they weren’t real-time. This helps his case. But then he cites other gems including “intercepts of messages between the USA and Israel in which our government stated their knowledge of the Israeli's pre-emptive attack that began the war and warned Israel to cease their activities.” I see this as more diplomat talk than radio chatter material for "everybody" to hear, but I really am no expert.

- James Gotcher: Working at a NSA-linked Air Force Security Service center in Vietnam had the ink run past his eyes as well: “It was clear that the Israeli aircraft were being vectored directly at USS Liberty […] Later, around the time Liberty got off a distress call, the controllers seemed to panic and urged the aircraft to 'complete the job' and get out of there." [12] This account doesn’t sound totally right, but that could just be me. Gotcher is affiliated with the USS Liberty Survivors Association. In a sworn statement with them, he summarized the content in part: “the aircraft were flying a planned mission to find and sink USS Liberty. My understanding of what I read led me to conclude that the Israeli pilots were making every effort possible to sink USS Liberty and were very frustrated by their inability to do so.” No glitch this, he explains how the first time he saw it was a rough translation, and then the “final translations” were sent the same way the next day, even though there were “virtually no differrence between the two versions.” These were followed first by an internal NSA report announcing a deliberate attack, and then a conspicuous recall and order to destroy all three. [13]

- W. Patrick Lang: That copies of these papers survived any attempted erasure would explain Lang’s story. An Army colonel studying advanced military intelligence at Ft. Holabird, MD, he claims he saw these transcripts used as source material in an advanced intelligence class some time after the attack.
"In the transcript, the flight leader spoke to his base to report that he had the ship in view, that it was the same ship that he had been briefed on and that it was clearly marked with the US flag. I think he said that the ship was displaying the US flag on an upper deck, but my memory of that might be inexact. He asked for confirmation of his orders to attack the ship and seemed reluctant (understandably) to attack the ship. He asked more than once and was told to carry out his orders and attack the ship.” [14]
The implied “briefing” is very interesting, something I’ve not noticed in other accounts. Lang’s own website – which mostly reviews quality fictional films – explains more in detail how this came to be. The information was produced on the base for limited use in the class. I imagine these were not “take home” books. This was in winter 1967/68, so about six months after the attack, he recalls. Sounds plausible, just enough detail for a Tom Clancey flick.

All in all that’s a case – not a lot of credible witnesses, but how many would there be with top secret clearance at that time, or with talkative friends who did? Enough people have agreed in a fairly consistent manner that something interesting can’t help but be at work here – either a widespread campaign to lie this myth into being, or the transcripts really did show what these people have said they did. That a NSA deputy Director and a State Department diplomat are among the witnesses lends weight to the notion, and it seems highly likely that such transcripts were circulated at the time. If true, it is interesting to note – this stuff was not hushed up among the intelligence sector, even if the news media was gagged in the trunk over it. One at least saw it well after any “lid” was clamped on, and as only a prospective member of the intelligence community.

For all we know the transcripts were physically real but factually phony - some kind of forgery slipped in to the intelligence system by someone with a grudge against Israel. This sounds outlandish enough on its own, and gets further complicated if we’re discussing real-time dispersal. So probably not. Whatever its informational origin, if this were a real circulated artifact, there would be multiple copies still in existence – telex printouts on paper, or photocopies/photographs of same, and to my knowledge have never been published, posted on the internet, or definitively claimed by anyone, or even forged to my knowledge. Everybody seems to agree – once widely seen, the papers are all gone to oblivion or the vault, and only human memory cells hold the imprint. And presumably most of those are tighter-lipped than the ones we've heard.

The recordings themselves are at least as distant, and as noted at the outset, no one has produced such a tape. There were those on the U.S. side who said they recorded the attack, and the Israelis, to their credit, have produced their own tape of the incident. These will be the subject of part two.

[1] Crewdson, John. "New revelations in attack on American spy ship." Chicago Tribune. October 2 2007. (Additional material published Dec 2).,0,1050179.story
[2] Cristol, Jay A. "The Liberty Incident: The 1967 Israeli Attack on the U.S. Navy Spy Ship." Brasseys, 2003. Page 58.
[3] Bard, Mitchell G. "Myths & Facts Online: The 1967 Six-Day War." Jewish Virtual Library.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


Adam Larson / Caustic Logic
re-written with new info May 13 2009
last update 5/23

The deadliest phase of the attack on the USS Liberty was the surface torpedo strike that followed twenty minutes after the air attack ended; with six torpedoes pointed at her starboard side, and under the control of those to whom everything looked Egyptian, the defenseless ship could well have been sunk. For whatever reason, and this is a bit of a mystery, only one torpedo of the five launched made its mark, blasting a 30-foot hole just below the waterline, killing 25 and causing the ship to list dangerously, but leaving her afloat and eventually able to limp towards safe harbor unaided.

The sixth torpedo was held, and never fired, as the blitzkrieg assault was finally called off. Conspiracy Theorists have long argued the intent was to fully sink the Liberty, and only fear of a confrontation with US aircraft reported en route chased them off. As the epic Admiral Thomas H. Moorer wrote in his pivotal 30-year anniversary statement on the “ridiculous” Israeli story:
“As we know now, if the rescue aircraft from U.S. carriers had not been recalled, they would have arrived at the Liberty before the torpedo attack, reducing the death toll by 25. The torpedo boat commanders could not be certain that Sixth Fleet aircraft were not on the way and this might have led to their breaking off the attack after 40 minutes rather than remaining to send the Liberty and its crew of 294 to the bottom.” [1]

The Israeli Defense Force of course claims the whole attack was horrendous error, and this part in particular is painted as a final tragic glitch – it was simply called off when they realized they were wrong. A surface reading of the presented facts looks almost like IDF Naval Headquarters became aware finally what they were attacking, and tried to stop the torpedo attack, but the message came too late, or too far to the left, or whatever, to stop the near-fatal blow. I’ve seen just this interpretation argued, and based on two separate attempted delays, in favor of the friendly fire/fog of war rationale.

Such a reading is not, however, consistent with a careful examination of the IDF’s own self-exculpations, which reveal a more troubling reality in each case.

En route to the Liberty, the three Motor Torpedo Boats (MTBs) of Division 914, under Commander Moshe Oren, were in contact with the aircraft then attacking the ship. On this channel, they received early reports of a flagless, unidentifiable Arab Destoryer, in line with the Division’s own radar readings and reports of shelling. The problem for the attack came when the hull-marking “CTR-5” was reported to general HQ in Tel Aviv by the last attacking pilot, at 14:11. “Pay attention. This ship's markings are Charlie-Tango-Romeo 5.” [2] This was apparently not communicated directly to Division 914, but did go to their controllers at “homeland,” Air Force HQ in Tel Aviv, and from there to the Navy.

“CTR-5” is not exactly accurate, but reasonably close to the Liberty’s “GTR-5” that had been perfectly identified from the air hours earlier, and logged at Naval HQ in Haifa. Initially tagged as a US Navy supply ship, she was designated neutral by the navy chief presiding there, RADM Shlomo Erell, and by 10 am identified as the USS Liberty, spy ship. But that data was “removed from the agenda” in Haifa, as one IDF report accurately sums up, about an hour later. [3] (we’ll return to this below).

Arguably the Air Force could have and should have been aware of this known non-combatant vessel, and had their own notes to make the connection to this report, but apparently CTR-5 meant nothing in particular to them. However, it did clearly and loudly indicate one thing – it was not an Arab vessel, and Col. Shmuel Kislev instantly called the attack off with a terse “leave her.” [4] From this moment AF HQ became concerned about the ship’s identity, dreading a Soviet ID. This concern was passed to the Navy, who had their MTBs at the ready for attack – their records show it coming through to them at 1414, further garbled as “CPR-5.” [5] Michael B. Oren’s 2000 Case Closed is probably the most widely-read recitation of what happened next:
”While Egyptian naval ships were known to disguise their identities with Western markings, they usually displayed Arabic letters and numbers only. The fact that the ship had Western markings led [Gen. Yitzhak] Rabin to fear that it was Soviet, and he immediately called off the jets […] while the torpedo boat squadron was ordered to hold its fire pending further attempts at identification. Though that order was recorded in the torpedo boat's log, Oren claimed he never received it. [6]

The early IDF sources I’ve studied generally agree that a) the hold your fire order was sent, and b) Commander Oren claimed, in testimony along the way, he didn’t receive it. Neither the Ram Ron’s nor Yerushalmi’s nor Greenberg’s connect these two in the way modern apologists sometimes do. Greenberg’s 1982 report acknowledged the ambiguity; Commander Oren “later testified that he did not receive the order from Naval Operations/3. […] However, […] an attempt was made to identify the vessel, although this was difficult due to the billowing clouds of smoke […]. As a result, the Division Commander cancelled the attack order.” Here it’s Oren’s decision due to his own inability to clear up the confusion he – wasn’t told of? This report summarizes, whatever the reason, “the end result was the same - the torpedo Division held its fire and approached the target in order to more clearly identify the vessel.” [7]

However, this whole controversy illustrates and draws attention to an alarming reality, as shown in the primary evidence, that the IDF allowed its confusion to be canceled out by Division 914’s ineptitude. I found an English-language copy of the MTB logs, as well as those of their controllers at Stella Maris. obtained by Judge Cristol (I do appreciate this aspect of his work). These were translated by someone he knew, and I suspect they’re pretty accurate. “Sea/3” is Stela Maris, then under Capt. Izzy Rahav. “Div” refers to Division 914, the MTBs. The order “1 9 [Tesha Vuv],” is some code that clearly means torpedo attack.
1411 – Order from Sea/3 – “We told the birds to leave after this strike, you go in.”

1415 – Aircraft left.

1419 – Going in for torpedo attack. 1 9. [Tesha Vuv]

1420 – Order from Sea/3 “Do not attack. There might be misidentification by the aircraft. Did any men go overboard? An Air Force helicopter is coming.”

1426 – Our identification indicates it may be a commercial vessel. Reported to Sea/3. Order to Div from Div CDR, Cancel 1 9 [Tesha vuv].

From this we can see the change in orders clearly transmitted from HQ, logged at 1420, and repeated from Commander Oren to his boats six minutes later. “Order to Div” means from Oren, whereas “from Sea/3 is to him. Whatever he thinks he’s talking about not receiving, it’s clear this order was received and acted on.

Yet, as we know, about ten minutes later, he ordered the Division’s torpedoes launched. The reason was not that he thought the original orders stood; rather, he and his men created a new misidentification from the ground up, negating the aircraft’s observation. Worthy of note Is that the log entries regarding this are out-of-order and unclear, running 1433, 1436, 1427?, 1435, 1437.
1427? - We tried to establish identification by light signal, “What ship?” She replied: “AA.” The vessel is all in smoke. Only the front is visible with a gun.

1435 – Div commander detected firing flashes coming from the vessel.

1437 – T-203 Identified the El Quiser, a supply ship. We checked and it seems to be reasonable. Div reported to Sea/3 that we are going in for torpedo launch. Order to Div 1 9 [Tesha Vuv]

It is corroborated by the Liberty's crew that their ship fired first, in some unfortunate error, with their weak machine guns. But no provocative "AA" (identify yourself first) message was flashed by the crew - any signal the MTBs saw was some illusion, and one that reminded commander Oren of an Egyptian ship he once encountered. [9] Given the real firing and imagined signals, plus the semi-fit with the El Quseir, Egyptian enemy perhaps seems a justifiable conclusion (the misidentification is covered more in-depth in another post). Indeed, justifications have been offered.

So, in the larger context, Naval HQ/Sea/3 starts out with incorrect news of the shore being shelled, meaning a warship. They had just finished being aware of the unarmed Liberty GTR-5. The MTBs find a radar target going 30 knots to Egyptian port – attackable speed and attackable heading and both drastically wrong. Aircraft are called in, decide in bizarre error it looks like a destroyer with cannons, and attack repeatedly. Someone finally notices a single non-Arabic clue, throwing a wrench into the previously smooth operation of error. The dumb-asses of the air Force are ordered to leave the field while the experts on the surface come in to fix things. Known to only have ID books for Arab vessels, the MTBs are tasked with re-identifying it and decided it was an Arab auxiliary ship after all and hostile. What a Mitzvah it was to have kids like the ones of Division 914 handy to clear up the confusion and make attack kosher again.

Anyone paying attention and trying the slightest to avoid a mistake would:
A) Consider that the ship they were after – capable of shelling, and clocked at 30 knots – was getting away in all this distraction with a slow unarmed confusing vessel or
B) realize that that first ship never existed, and was just this ship that had been misidentified in at least five different ways already and refuse to accept another version as the basis for a final attack and the sinking of the ship.

But T-203’s “reasonable” decision was apparently good enough for both Commander Oren and thence to Capt. Rahav at Naval HQ. Just twenty minutes earlier he had been informed of the alarming non-Arabic markings that might mean a Soviet vessel had been mistakenly attacked. Now that that vessel was found to resemble one Arab ship (so the kids are telling him) and it was shooting some kind of gun, any certainty was apparently tossed aside. Sea/3 war log, 1436, reads “identification [as El Quseir] is definite. Approval was made for torpedo attack.” [10]

By this time, of course, the IDF’s info on *GTR-5 USS LIBERTY, neutral ship, in vicinity of el Arish* was lost to the ether; a simple note, any flicker of memory of anyone present before 11:00 might have helped avoid honest confusion. But Admiral Erell, who had overseen that identification, was out of the room as of then, down at Haifa harbor for some never-explained business. As he left Capt. Avraham Lunz erased the Liberty’s neutral marker, since he felt it was gone, without telling Erell’s replacement, Rahav, that it had ever been there. [11] As reports of shelling from that area started coming in a half hour later, he ordered the MTBs in and ordered an air strike readied. By the time the attack was half-done and the hull no. was reported to Stela Maris, at 1414 (garbled as “C P R 5”), Admiral Erell who might have understood, was still away from the command center – and so confusion reigned at naval HQ, which quite quickly devolved into the torpedo attack on the Liberty.

Cristol’s book argues that Rahav may have felt obliged to allow the Div to attack, since they were under fire. [12] Oddly, war log entry for 1437, right after sink approval “The target did not open fire, the Div is shelling it with gunfire.” [13] This must be a typo or translation error as the Liberty of course did fire and the MTBs recorded it in their log – and this was apparently part of the reason to re-justify the sinking of the CTR-5 ship.

It is true that command center has a less clear view of the physical operation; they rely on reports, and have to form mental images that can be wrong. But Cristol’s assessment is worthy of note here; first, hypothesizing Rahav’s awareness of the shooting, but not of their El Quseir ID, he mused “if the MTBs were engaging an Egyptian destroyer, they were in mortal danger,” and Rahav’s re-authorizing the suspended Tesha vuv order “was appropriate.” After this thought exercise, Cristol offers no evidence Rahav still though it was a destroyer. In fact, the author provides a small handful of clues to the contrary – he should have realized this was not a deadly warship, as had been presumed during the air attack. His authorization was based on the ID as El Quseir, which is nowhere near a warship. “Nevertheless, Rahav responded “Tesha Vuv approved.”” [14] Whether he meant to or not, Cristol is explaining how this decision was not appropriate in response to a mis-identified small vessel armed only with machine guns. Of course, it’s hard to get around the sense that something went wrong here, and inappropriate is perhaps softening the reality, but it’s at least a step past knee-jerk absolvism.

In his book, Cristol cites no controversy over the 14:20 “do not attack” order, taking as evident that fire was held until re-approved based on the “definite” Arab ID and some kind of “firing.” He instead places the controversy of Oren and his orders over a different attempted halt – from Admiral Erell himself, who had just then returned and ordered the attack stopped.

Ironically, Admiral Erell.’s own son Udi was among the MTB crew flailing in the dark just when his Dad’s knowledge was most needed – in fact, on the crew of T-203, who fired the successful hit. His knowledgeable father remained out for almost exactly the duration of the disaster, according to Judge Cristol, returning from the harbor apparently just after Rahav gave his approval for tesha vuv, but before the torpedo strike was reported – so between 1436 and 39 Sea/3 time. He quickly sent word to halt the attack – there had been a mix-up. “Commander Oren stated he did not receive the order,” Cristol writes, but “there is evidence that the order was received by the CIC officer on MTB 204.” Though he has no citation, and the MTB log at least shows no such order from Sea/3 at this time. [15]

The Liberty’s logs show the first torpedo pass at 1434 and the impact of the second at 1435 – eight minutes before the MTB log entry noting it at 1443. Other points support a time offset of about 8 minutes between their chronologies (MTBs ahead). So to avoid confusion, I’m dealing in MTB log time, by which the attack was canceled by Commander Oren at 1447, four minutes after the torpedo hit. The Div also seems ahead of Sea/3, by about four minutes, so I specify by whose time. Sea/3’s log reports torpedo hit at 1439, and their 1443 entry has the first thing like a cancellation; “if the target is sinking, stop fire and take survivors.” [16] This does correspond with Oren’s cancellation, but that was announced with the cryptic 1447 entry “One more attack. After identification of mark, order to the Div to cease fire. Attack called off.” [17] His decision was apparently informed less by any order from Sea/3 than by “identifying” a “mark.” Just what is not explained.

Sea/3’s 1446 entry (1450 MTB time, so a bit late) explains “The Div reports the marking is C T R 95.” [18] The 9 is an unusual variation I can’t imagine them actually seeing, so likely just a typo, and again, we’re presented with that giant “5” and mysterious CTR prefix that reads clearly in Hebrew as “not Arab.” This exact finding is not mentioned in the MTB’s log, but clearly the mark they noted is the same one the pilots had reported 30 minutes earlier. It was apparently enough for Oren to call it off over, and he was denied two different sources (Sea/3 and the aircraft direct) for variations of that mark. This does not excuse the decision to sink the ship, but it is curious how key facts just refused to get to the right people, spreading the blame around as Division 914 undid their predecessors’ findings only to re-create them again ten minutes and five torpedoes later.

Interestingly, Cristol’s book fails to mention the early identification of the ship’s “mark,” seen at the bow of the ship, right side, as he argues for utter confusion that lingers. * He does mention the episode five minutes later when some letters were found on the back of the ship that indicated to them Soviet. But not the giant letters on the front five minutes earlier. [19] The reason for this omission is not entirely clear.

* Note: I goofed this - the same identification, along with the name "LIBERTY" are on the rear of the ship. Took me a while to find a photograph of this. So they could have seen "the mark" at either end. But again, their log puts it at 1447. Sea/3's 1451: "My [sic] be Russian nationality, based on writing on aft," matches the MTB log's 1451: "Report to C3: "Vessel may be Russian [...] based on writing on back of vessel." Da, "Liberty" does have that Stalinist flavor, don't it? Can't read English? They could have spelled it out like they did C-T-R. But they apparently missed it until just before their 1640 entry where "Liberty" is first mentioned nearly two hours after they first floated past it.

[1]Moorer, Thomas H. Adm. “Attack on the USS Liberty, June 8,
1967.” Memorandum to Americans for Middle East Understanding. June 8 1997.
[2], [4] Air-Ground communications, transcript. Jerusalem Post, 2004. 14:11. My re-post.
[3], [7] Greenberg, Matti, Lt. Col. "The Attack on the Liberty Incident." Israeli Defense Forces history department. 1982.
[5] Israeli Defense Forces. Sea Section/3 war log. WARLN. June 8 1967. English language translation. PDF available at:
[6] Oren, Michael B. The 'USS Liberty': Case Closed. Azure, Spring 2000.
[8] Israeli Defense Forces. Division 914 war log. WARL914. June 8 1967. English language translation. PDF available at:
[9] See 6, also Cristol p53, etc.
[10] ...
[19] Cristol, p. 57