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The Loss of Liberty – Why Did the U.S. Allow Israel To Attack Its Largest Spyship Killing 34 Americans and Wounding Over 170 Others?

StoryOctober 27, 2003
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The USS Liberty was an electronic intelligence-gathering ship that was cruising international waters off the Egyptian coast on June 8, 1967. Israeli planes and torpedo boats opened fire on the Liberty in the midst of what became known as the Israeli-Arab Six-Day War. 34 Americans were killed and more than 170 were wounded in the attack.

Israel and its supporters have long maintained that the attack was a "tragic case of misidentification," an explanation that Lyndon Johnson’s administration did not formally challenge. Israel claimed its forces thought the ship was an Egyptian vessel and apologized to the United States.

After the attack, a Navy court of inquiry concluded there was insufficient information to make a judgment about why Israel attacked the ship, stopping short of assigning blame or determining whether it was an accident.

On Wednesday, a former top Navy attorney publicly said for the first time that President Lyndon Johnson and Defense Secretary Robert McNamara ordered the U.S. military investigation to conclude that the Israeli attack was an accident.

The attorney, retired Captain Ward Boston, said the White House ordered investigators to "conclude that the attack was a case of 'mistaken identity' despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary."

Boston was the senior legal counsel to the Navy’s 1967 review of the attack. He said he was prompted to come forward following the publication of the recent book "The Liberty Incident" which concluded the attack was an accident.

  • "The Loss of Liberty", excerpts from the independent documentary about the Liberty attack produced by Howard Films, written and directed by Tito Howard.
  • James Bamford, investigative journalist and author of the books The Puzzle Palace: A Report on America’s Most Secret Agency and Body of Secrets: Anatomy of the Ultra-Secret National Security Agency.
  • Admiral Thomas Moorer, retired four-star admiral who served as chief of Naval Operations and as a chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He is the only American admiral to command both the Atlantic and Pacific fleets and chief of naval operations for two terms and chairman of the joint chiefs for two terms. He led a year-long independent commission investigating the bombing of the USS Liberty and is now calling for a full Congressional investigation.

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