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Why You Shouldn't Pay Attention to the Claims that Israel Attacked the USS Liberty Deliberately

On June 8, 2007, the San Diego Union Tribune published an article titled"Time for the Truth About the Liberty," with a byline, Ward Boston, Jr.

Ward Boston, Jr.served his country as a naval aviator during World War II. He completed law school and then, after a stint with the FBI, he returned to the Navy as a legal specialist in the days prior to creation of the Judge Advocate Generals Corp. By 1967, he had been promoted to the rank of Captain and established a fine reputation as a legal officer. When the Liberty incident occurred, he was selected by then Rear Admiral Isaac C. Kidd, Jr. as counsel to the U.S. Navy Court of Inquiry, convened by order of Admiral John McCain (the father of Senator John McCain) Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Naval Forces, Europe.

When Boston reentered the Navy, he took an oath to faithfully perform his duties as a United States Naval Officer and upon the opening of the Court of Inquiry, on the record at page 106, he took another oath to faithfully perform his duties as counsel to the Court. Also sworn to faithfully perform their duties on the Court were Rear Admiral Isaac C. Kidd, Jr. As President, Captain Bernard J. Lauff, a highly respected veteran of Wake Island, and Captain Bert M. Atkinson, Jr., a Naval Academy Graduate, as members, Lieutenant Commander Allen Feingersch, as associate counsel and YNC Joeray Spencer, as court reporter.

The Court convened at forty-six minutes before midnight on June 10, 1967, in London, moved to the USS Liberty to take sworn testimony of the crew, and then back to London where it closed for deliberations at 16:45 London time on June 16 and filed its report on or about June 18, 1967 with Admiral McCain, who endorsed it."The foregoing comments by the convening authority lead to an overall conclusion that the attack was in fact a mistake." It was sent immediately to Washington to the Chief of Naval Operation Admiral David McDonald, being carried personally by Admiral Kidd in a brief case chained to this wrist.

The Boston article goes on to recite some hearsay,"I know from personal conversations with the late Adm. Isaac C. Kidd - President of the Court of Inquiry - that President Johnson and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara ordered him to conclude that the attack was a case of mistaken identity." The article fails to explain how or when President Johnson or Secretary McNamara transmitted the orders.

Prior to the publication of the June 8, 2007 article, Ward Boston signed an affidavit which was released on October 22, 2003, making similar allegations and later supplemented the affidavit by declaration making additional allegations. So, Boston, who signed the Court of Inquiry findings under an oath in 1967, now says under oath in 2003 that he participated in a lie in 1967. If he is telling the truth now, he confirms lying in 1967, or if he was truthful in 1967, then obviously he is lying now. So how does one decide when Ward Boston was lying? Then or now?

Perhaps an analysis of the June 8, 2007 San Diego Times Unions article, Boston’s affidavit, and the supplemental declaration will help determine when, not if, but when, Ward Boston lied.

First, a look at the article raises a question of whether it was written by Ward Boston or written by someone else for him. The first paragraph talks of the"bombing" of the ship. Boston was aware and the record is clear, the ship was not bombed. It was attacked with 30MM cannons by the aircraft and then by 20MM cannon, 50 caliber machine guns and torpedoes by the torpedo boats. The second paragraph says 34 American sailors died. In fact, 33 sailors and one NSA civilian died. It says 172 were wounded. The official records show 171 were wounded. Next. the article says the cover-up has haunted us for 40 years. If the Johnson administration had engaged in a" cover-up," why did the next seven administrations, five Republican and two Democrat, continue the" cover-up"?

The next paragraph is a repetition of the demand of various conspiracy theorists requesting a congressional hearing and suggesting the survivors be allowed to testify. One hundred and fifty four pages of sworn testimony of the Liberty’s Captain, William McGonagle, the ship’s officers and key crew members was taken on June 13 and June 14, 1967 and is available for review by any member of the public. Not one shred of additional evidence has been produced or disclosed by the conspiracy theory supporters since 1967. What is being requested is a platform to make allegations and charges before TV cameras without any prior showing that there is new or credible evidence to support he allegations. In our system of justice, first there must be the presentation of some credible evidence of probable cause to support the charges. To date, neither Boston nor anyone else has produced such evidence.

The article confirms that"we," Boston and Admiral Kidd, boarded the Liberty and interviewed the survivors and states that"the evidence was clear" but does not state what that evidence was. What evidence was clear? This is the point where Boston makes a leap of faith. He says"we both believed with certainty that the attack was deliberate."

Boston, the lawyer, if he wrote those words, knows better. He could say"I believed" but when he attributes that belief to Admiral Kidd, he violated the hearsay rule and the Dead Man Statute which forbids quotation of a dead man because the dead man can neither confirm nor deny the statement. The article says"I heard testimony that made it clear the Israelis intended there be no survivor." What testimony did Boston hear? A careful reading of the 154 pages of sworn testimony does not even suggest it. Who testified about what? Since no Israelis participated in the Court of Inquiry, who was able to testify about he intent of the Israelis and where is that testimony?

And an even better question, if the Israelis intended to sink the Liberty, then why didn't the Israeli Armed Forces, which had destroyed the entire Egyptian Air Force in minutes, had destroyed thousands of Egyptian tanks and artillery in a few days, had captured the Sinai, the Suez Canal, the Old City of Jerusalem, the West Bank and a day later destroyed the Syrian army and its armor and captured the Golan Heights, all in six days, why didn’t they sink the ship, if that is what they intended?

The myth Boston repeats about Israel committing a war crime by machine gunning three life rafts was initiated by Lloyd Painter about ten years after the event. The sworn testimony of Lloyd Painter taken June 13, 1967 does not mention machine gunning the three life rafts, nor does the testimony of the Captain or any of the crew, who were there on the bridge and on the deck with Lloyd Painter at the time on June 8, 1967.

Boston states"I am outraged at the efforts of Israel’s apologists to claim this attack was a case of ‘mistaken identity.’" This outrage, coming in 2003 - 36 to 40 years after Boston signed the Court of Inquiry findings under oath raises a number of questions.


Why was Boston not outraged on June 18, 1967 by the report of the Court of Inquiry signed by, according to his definition apparent apologists for Israel, Admiral Kidd, Captain Atkinson, Captain Lauff and Captain Boston?

Why was Boston not outraged on June 18, 1967 when apologist for Israel, Admiral John C. McCain, in Boston’s presence, endorsed the Court of Inquiry with the comment:"15. The foregoing comments by the convening authority lead to an overall conclusion that the attack was in fact a mistake"?

Why was Boston not outraged in July 1967 when apologist for Israel, Defense Secretary Robert McNamara before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee stated,"In the case of the attack on the Liberty, it was the conclusion of the investigatory body headed by an Admiral of the Navy [Isaac C. Kidd, Jr.] in whom we have great confidence that the attack was not intentional. I read the record of investigation and I support that conclusion, and I think . . . it was not a conscious decision on the part of either the government of Israel . . . [t]o attack a U.S. vessel." (Released by U.S. Government printing office: 1967.)

Why was Boston not outraged on September 15, 1967, when distinguished journalist and, by Boston’s definition"apologist for Israel," James L. Kilpatrick wrote in an article published in the National Review, on page 958,". . . that the Israeli government was heavily dependent upon the goodwill of the united States; it would have been utterly irrational for the Israeli Navy knowingly to have launched an attack on the U.S. ship; and that the only reasonable explanation is that the incident was mistake arising from the natural tensions and fallible judgments of a hot war."

Why was Boston not outraged on February 27, 1978 when"apologist for Israel," the CIA Director Admiral Stansfield Turner, stated in a letter to Senator Abourezk,"It remains our best judgment that the Israeli attack on the USS Liberty was not made in malice toward the United States and was a mistake."

Why was Boston not outraged on September 19, 1978 when the Director of Central Intelligence, Admiral Stansfield Turner, stated publicly on ABC television in a discussion about the Liberty incident:". . .we released an evaluated over-all document which said very clearly that it was our considered opinion that the Israeli Government had no such knowledge at that time."

Why was Boston not outraged on July 11, 1983 when"apologist for Israel," the National Security Agency released in its partially declassified 1981 report"Liberty was mistaken for an Egyptian ship as a result of miscalculations and egregious errors"?

Why was Boston not outraged on September 5, 1991 when"apologist for Israel," President George H.W. Bush’s (41) White House, wrote". . . A thorough investigation into the USS Liberty incident was conducted and the conclusion was that it was a tragic case of mistaken identity."

Why was Boston not outraged on May 10, 1995 when"apologist for Israel," President William Clinton’s White House, wrote,"There is no information available that demonstrates that the attack was deliberate."

Why was Boston not outraged on August 30, 1995 when Clark Clifford’s July 18, 1967 report was declassified revealing the conclusion,"The weight of the evidence is that the Israeli attacking forces originally believed their target was Egyptian . . .2. The information thus far available does not reflect that the Israeli high command made a premeditated attack on a ship known to be American."

Why was Boston not outraged on October 2, 2002, when President George W. Bush’s White House, wrote"The results of the investigations . . . were considered satisfactory . . .there is no precedent to reinvestigate this case."

Why was Boston not outraged on July 2, 2003 when the"apologist for Israel" National Security Agency further declassified a portion of page 64 of its 1981 Report, which stated,"While these reports revealed some confusion concerning the nationality of the ship, they tended to rule out any thesis that the Israeli Navy and Air Force deliberately attacked a ship they knew to be American."

Boston says"Let former intelligence officers testify that they received real-time Hebrew translations of Israeli commanders instructing their pilots to sink the American ship. This myth is perhaps the easiest of all to debunk. Although the conspiracy theorists have claimed for years that there exist NSA audio intercepts between Israeli pilots and their controllers which prove the attack was deliberate, no such tapes have ever been produced. What has been produced on July 2, 2004, as a result of this author’s Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, are audio tapes and translations of communications between Israeli pilots and their controllers which clearly establish that the Israelis believed the target ship was hostile, most likely Egyptian, until 3:12 PM, approximately 44 minutes after the attack was concluded. The National Security Agency confirms that there are no other tapes.

Dr. Marvin Nowicki, the U.S. Navy/NSA person who recorded and initially translated the intercepts has stated clearly that they show the attack to be a mistake. See letter of the Dr. Nowicki to Editor of the Wall Street Journal published May 16, 2001 at page A23.

Richard Hickman, the NSA Hebrew linguist at headquarters, who made the final translations of the intercepts and briefed NSA Director Marshal Carter on the tapes, also confirmed that the tapes make it clear the attack was a mistake.

The reader may hear the tape recordings in Hebrew and read the official transcripts of English translation on the National Security Agency’s NSA website, www.nsa.gov.

So who told Ward Boston about the former intelligence officers receiving"real-time Hebrew translations"? Could it have been Ron Gotcher who helped Boston with his initial affidavit and declaration and very likely wrote or assisted in the preparation of the June 8, 2007 article, bylined Ward Boston, Jr., published in the San Diego Union Tribune. Ron Gotcher has long made claims of the existence of the alleged incriminating tapes on his website. Gotcher also claimed to have worked for the National Security Agency; however, reference the"Documents" page of www.libertyincident.com and go to"Gotcher Debunked." There the viewer will see the actual letter from the National Security Agency, in response to a FOIA request, confirming that Gotcher never worked for NSA.

What or who is behind these continuing false charges that have induced Boston, a naval officer with a distinguished career, to dishonor himself by admitting to have violated his oath, either in 1967 or more recently. Ron Gotcher is only a bit player in a much broader propaganda effort.

The propaganda emanates from a small but well-funded and very vocal group of people and organizations principally supported by Saudi Arabian money. The groups include the American Educational Trust (AET) operated in Washington, DC by former U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Andrew I. Kilgore, and a circle of others whose agenda is to attack the present excellent symbiotic relationship between the United States and Israel. It includes: the Americans for Mideast Understanding (AMEU) which was reportedly founded with money from Arabian American Oil Company, ARAMCO, and has former U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, James Akins, who was dismissed by the U.S. State Department in 1975"for being too compliant to Saudi demands" and former congressman Paul Findley serving on its National Council; and the Liberty Alliance operated by Tito De Nagy Howard, who is described as"a man at war with the Israelis" by Anthony Pearson. Howard met Pearson in Dubai and upon learning that Pearson was considered by the PLO to be pro-Palestinian, gave him"an idea to resurrect the Liberty incident as a whole new story."

It all started with former Illinois congressman Paul Findley (who was defeated for re-election after he announced his support for the terrorist organization, the PLO) and former California congressman Paul"Pete" McCloskey, who speaks regularly at meetings of Holocaust denial organizations in California and Washington and was defeated for re-election. Findley and McCloskey were the moving force in founding the Liberty Veterans Association. Findley served as its advisor and McCloskey incorporated the association and served as its attorney. They continue to manipulate and distress Liberty survivors and their families by prodding this old wound and preventing its healing – all for their own political agenda. And what is that agenda? Findley and McCloskey are also the founders of the Council for the National Interest (CNI), whose publicly announced purpose is to be the anti-Israel lobby.

Distorted explanations of events obfuscate the picture and destroy the ability to learn real lessons for the future. Multiple official investigation reports and endorsements have all concluded the incident was the result of a tragic mistake or that there is no evidence that the attack was deliberate. Nevertheless, dozens of conspiracy stories, in addition to Ward Boston’s sad confession that he dishonored his oath taken in 1967 and remained silent about it for 36 years, have become part of the literature through the actions of persons and organizations with their own political agenda. The conspiracy stories continue to multiply and become more extreme. They detract from the possibility to learn from the tragedy. They also inflict pain and suffering upon the victims and their families creating an additional tragedy by provoking, goading and torturing the victims with inaccurate, false and even absurd theories about that sad day, not with the goal of bringing closure and peace but for political objectives.

As for the victims, they should be left to believe whatever brings them peace. As for historians seeking the truth, it is respectfully suggested that a review of all evidence, now declassified and available, will confirm the official conclusion that the Liberty incident was a tragic case of mistaken identity as a result of numerous mistakes by both the United States and Israel, and will explain the conflicting recollection of Ward Boston, who boasts he is now in his eighties. Perhaps the quotation from a recent speech by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer explains. Breyer said"I am now at the age where I remember quite clearly and with great detail, many things that never actually happened."

After forty years, it is time to close the book. Let those who lost their lives rest in peace and be honored in treasured memory. Let the survivors be honored and respected and let them and their families have peace and closure.

Related Links

  • HNN Hot Topics: The Attack on the USS Liberty

  • Ward's affidavit from 2004 in which he first charged there was a cover-up