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USS Liberty Incident Part 2

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"Exploring The Powerful Issues & Emotions of The Middle East" 
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Editor's Note:

This is the second installment of a 2-part article 
regarding the USS Liberty incident. 

Israeli Pilot: This is an American ship [USS Liberty]. 
               Do you still want us to attack? 

Israeli Ground Control: Yes, follow orders 

This is a blockbuster article that has largely been ignored 
by the MSM. But we are proud to offer it to you in the 
hopes that the truth shall set us all free. 

Here is the link to the first part of article: 
USS Liberty incident Part 1 

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               Video Clip Of The Week

        Dancing Israelis on 9-11 Interviewed

On 9/11/01, 5 Israelis were caught filming the tragic 
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document the events of that day'. How did they know 
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View: Dancing Israelis on 9-11 Interviewed 
   
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Did US and Israel Lie about the 1967 USS Liberty Incident? 
Part 2 
-By John Crewdson, Chicago Tribune senior correspondent

The transcripts Block remembered seeing "were teletypes, 
way beyond Top Secret. Some of the pilots did not want to 
attack," Block said. "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.'" 

Gotcher and Forslund agreed with Block that the Jerusalem 
Post transcript was not at all like what they remember 
reading. 

"There is simply no way that [the Post transcript is] the 
same as what I saw," Gotcher said. "More to the point, 
for anyone familiar with air-to-ground [communications] 
procedures, that simply isn't the way pilots and 
controllers communicate." 

Block, now a child protection caseworker in Florida, 
observed that "the fact that the Israeli pilots clearly 
identified the ship as American and asked for further 
instructions from ground control appears to be a missing 
part of that Jerusalem Post article." 

Arieh O'Sullivan, the Post reporter who made the 
newspaper's transcript, said the Israeli Air Force tapes 
he listened to contained blank spaces. He said he assumed 
those blank spaces occurred while Israeli pilots were 
conducting their strafing runs and had nothing to 
communicate. 

'But sir, it's an American ship!' 

Forslund, Gotcher and Block are not alone in claiming to 
have read transcripts of the attack that they said left no 
doubt the Israelis knew they were attempting to sink a U.S. 
Navy ship. 

Many ears were tuned to the battles being fought in and 
around the Sinai during the Six-Day War, including those 
belonging to other Arab nations with a keen interest in 
the outcome. 

"I had a Libyan naval captain who was listening in that 
day," said a retired CIA officer, who spoke on condition 
that he not be named discussing a clandestine informant. 

"He thought history would change its course," the CIA 
officer recalled. "Israel attacking the U.S. He was 
certain, listening in to the Israeli and American comms 
[communications], that it was deliberate." 

The late Dwight Porter, the American ambassador to Lebanon 
during the Six-Day War, told friends and family members 
that he had been shown English-language transcripts of 
Israeli pilots talking to their controllers. 

A close friend, William Chandler, the former head of the 
Trans-Arabian Pipe Line Co., said Porter recalled one of 
the pilots protesting, "But sir, it's an American ship -- 
I can see the flag!' To which the ground control responded, 
'Never mind; hit it!'" 

Porter, who asked that his recollections not be made public 
while he was alive because they involved classified 
information, also discussed the transcripts during a lunch 
in 2000 at the Cosmos Club in Washington with another 
retired American diplomat, Andrew Kilgore, the former 
U.S. ambassador to Qatar. 

Kilgore recalled Porter saying that he "saw the telex, read 
it, and passed it right back" to the embassy official who 
had shown it to him. He quoted Porter as recalling that the 
transcript showed "Israel was attacking, and they know it's 
an American ship." 

Haviland Smith, a young CIA officer stationed in Beirut 
during the Six-Day War, said that although he never saw 
the transcript, he had "heard on a number of occasions 
exactly the story that you just told me about what that 
transcript contained." 

He had later been told, Smith recalled, "that ultimately 
all of the transcripts were deep-sixed. I was told that 
they were deep-sixed because the administration did not 
wish to embarrass the Israelis." 

Perhaps the most persuasive suggestion that such 
transcripts existed comes from the Israelis themselves, 
in a pair of diplomatic cables sent by the Israeli 
ambassador in Washington, Avraham Harman, to Foreign 
Minister Abba Eban in Tel Aviv. 

Five days after the Liberty attack, Harman cabled Eban that 
a source the Israelis code-named "Hamlet" was reporting 
that the Americans had "clear proof that from a certain 
stage the pilot discovered the identity of the ship and 
continued the attack anyway." 

Harman repeated the warning three days later, advising 
Eban, who is now dead, that the White House was "very 
angry," and that "the reason for this is that the Americans 
probably have findings showing that our pilots indeed knew 
that the ship was American." 

According to a memoir by then-CIA director Richard Helms, 
President Johnson's personal anger was manifest when he 
discovered the story of the Liberty attack on an inside 
page of the next day's New York Times. Johnson barked that 
"it should have been on the front page!" 

Israeli historian Tom Segev, who mentioned the cables in 
his recent book "1967," said other cables showed that 
Harman's source for the second cable was Arthur Goldberg, 
then U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. 

The cables, which have been declassified by the Israelis, 
were obtained from the Israeli State Archive and translated 
from Hebrew by the Tribune. 

Oliver Kirby, the NSA's deputy director for operations at 
the time of the Liberty attack, confirmed the existence of 
NSA transcripts. 

Asked whether he had personally read such transcripts, 
Kirby replied, "I sure did. I certainly did." 

"They said, 'We've got him in the zero,'" Kirby recalled, 
"whatever that meant -- I guess the sights or something. 
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." 

Kirby, now 86 and retired in Texas, said the transcripts 
were "something that's bothered me all my life. I'm willing 
to swear on a stack of Bibles that we knew they knew." 

One set of transcripts apparently survived in the archives 
of the U.S. Army's intelligence school, then located at Ft. 
Holabird in Maryland. 

W. Patrick Lang, a retired Army colonel who spent eight 
years as chief of Middle East intelligence for the Defense 
Intelligence Agency, said the transcripts were used as 
"course material" in an advanced class for intelligence 
officers on the clandestine interception of voice trans-
missions. 

"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 
U.S. flag," Lang recalled in an e-mail. 

"The flight commander was reluctant," Lang said in a 
subsequent interview. "That was very clear. He didn't want 
to do this. He asked them a couple of times, 'Do you really 
want me to do this?' I've remembered it ever since. It was 
very striking. I've been harboring this memory for all 
these years." 

Key NSA tapes said missing 

Asked whether the NSA had in fact intercepted the 
communications of the Israeli pilots who were attacking 
the Liberty, Kirby, the retired senior NSA official, 
replied, "We sure did." 

On its Web site, the NSA has posted three recordings of 
Israeli communications made on June 8, 1967. But none of 
the recordings is of the attack itself. 

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Indeed, the declassified documents state that no recordings 
of the "actual attack" exist, raising questions about the 
source of the transcripts recalled by Forslund, Gotcher, 
Block, Porter, Lang and Kirby. 

The three recordings reflect what the NSA describes as "the 
aftermath" of the attack -- Israeli communications with two 
Israeli helicopters dispatched to rescue any survivors who 
may have jumped into the water. 

Two of the recordings were made by Michael Prostinak, a 
Hebrew linguist aboard a U.S. Navy EC-121, a lumbering 
propeller-driven aircraft specially equipped to gather 
electronic intelligence. 

But Prostinak said he was certain that more than three 
recordings were made that day. 

"I can tell you there were more tapes than just the three 
on the Internet," he said. "No doubt in my mind, more than 
three tapes." 

At least one of the missing tapes, Prostinak said, captured 
Israeli communications "in which people were not just 
tranquil or taking care of business as normal. We knew that 
something was being attacked," Prostinak said. "Everyone we 
were listening to was excited. You know, it was an actual 
attack. And during the attack was when mention of the 
American flag was made." 

Prostinak acknowledged that his Hebrew was not good enough 
to understand every word being said, but that after the 
mention of the American flag "the attack did continue. We 
copied [recorded] it until we got completely out of range. 
We got a great deal of it." 

Charles Tiffany, the plane's navigator, remembers hearing 
Prostinak on the plane's intercom system, shouting, "I got 
something crazy on UHF," the radio frequency band used by 
the Israeli Air Force. 

"I'll never forget it to this day," said Tiffany, now a 
retired Florida lawyer. He also remembers hearing the 
plane's pilot ordering the NSA linguists to "start taping 
everything." 

Prostinak said he and the others aboard the plane had been 
unaware of the Liberty's presence 15,000 feet below, but 
had concluded that the Israelis' target must be an American 
ship. "We knew that something was being attacked," 
Prostinak said. 

After listening to the three recordings released by the 
NSA, Prostinak said it was clear from the sequence in 
which they were numbered that at least two tapes that had 
once existed were not there. 

One tape, designated A1104/A-02, begins at 2:29 p.m. local 
time, just after the Liberty was hit by the torpedo. 
Prostinak said there was a preceding tape, A1104/A-01. 

That tape likely would have recorded much of the attack, 
which began with the air assault at 1:56 p.m. Prostinak 
said a second tape, which preceded one beginning at 
3:07 p.m., made by another linguist aboard the same plane, 
also appeared to be missing. 

As soon as the EC-121 landed at its base in Athens, 
Prostinak said, all the tapes were rushed to an NSA 
facility at the Athens airport where Hebrew translators 
were standing by. 

"We told them what we had, and they immediately took the 
tapes and went to work," recalled Prostinak, who after 
leaving the Navy became chief of police and then town 
administrator for the village of Lake Waccamaw, N.C. 

Another linguist aboard the EC-121, who spoke on condition 
that he not be named, said he believed there had been as 
many as "five or six" tapes recording the attack on the 
Liberty or its aftermath. 

Andrea Martino, the NSA's senior media adviser, did not 
respond to a question about the apparent conflict between 
the agency's assertion that there were no recordings of 
the Israeli attack and the recollections of those inter-
viewed for this article. 

U.S. inquiry widely criticized 

Rather than investigating how and why a U.S. Navy vessel 
had been attacked by an ally, the Navy seemed interested 
in asking as few questions as possible and answering them 
in record time. 

Even while the Liberty was still limping toward a dry dock 
in Malta, the Navy convened a formal Court of Inquiry. Adm. 
John McCain Jr., the commander of U.S. naval forces in 
Europe and father of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), chose 
Adm. Isaac Kidd Jr. to preside. 

The court's charge was narrow: to determine whether any 
shortcomings on the part of the Liberty's crew had 
contributed to the injuries and deaths that resulted from 
the attack. McCain gave Kidd's investigators a week to 
complete the job. 

"That was a shock," recalled retired Navy Capt. Ward 
Boston, the inquiry's counsel, who said he and Kidd had 
estimated that a thorough inquiry would take six months. 

"Everyone was kind of stunned that it was handled so 
quickly and without much hullabaloo," said G. Patrick 
March, then a member of McCain's staff in London. 

Largely because of time constraints, Boston said, the 
investigators were unable to question many of the 
survivors, or to visit Israel and interview any Israelis 
involved in the attack. 

Rear Adm. Merlin Staring, the Navy's former judge advocate 
general, was asked to assess the American inquiry's report 
before it was sent to Washington. But Staring said it was 
taken from him when he began to question some aspects of 
the report. He describes it now as "a hasty, superficial, 
incomplete and totally inadequate inquiry." 

Staring, who is among those calling for a full 
congressional investigation on behalf of the Liberty's 
survivors, observed in an interview that the inquiry 
report contained several "findings of fact" unsupported 
by testimony or evidence. 

One such finding ignored the testimony of several inquiry 
witnesses that the American flag was flying during the 
attack, and held that the "available evidence combines to 
indicate the attack on LIBERTY on 8 June was in fact a 
case of mistaken identity." 

There are also apparent omissions in the inquiry's report. 
It does not include, for example, the testimony of a young 
lieutenant, Lloyd Painter, who was serving as officer of 
the deck when the attack began. Painter said he testified 
that an Israeli torpedo boat "methodically machine-gunned 
one of our life rafts" that had been put over the side by 
crewmen preparing to abandon ship. 

Painter, who spent 32 years as a Secret Service agent after 
leaving the Navy, charged that his testimony about the 
life rafts was purposely omitted. 

Ward Boston recalled that, after McCain's one-week deadline 
expired, Kidd took the record compiled by the inquiry "and 
flew back to Washington, and I went back to Naples," the 
headquarters of the 6th Fleet. 

"Two weeks later, he comes back to Naples and calls me from 
his office," Boston recalled in an interview. "In that deep 
voice, he said, 'Ward, they aren't interested in the facts. 
It's a political issue and we have to put a lid on it. 
We've been ordered to shut up.' 

"It's time for the truth to come out," declared Boston, who 
is now 84. "There have been so many cover-ups." 

"Someday the truth of this will come out," said Dennis 
Eikleberry, a NSA technician aboard the Liberty. "Someday 
it will, but we'll all be gone." 

James Ennes, now 74, who was officer of the deck just 
before the attack began, and later spent two months in a 
body cast, is one of the more vocal survivors. Like the 
others, Ennes is tired of waiting. 

"We want both sides to stop lying," he said. 

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