- WASHINGTON (AP) - Reviewing
documents covering 36 years, amid a lack of consensus, a State Department
official concluded Monday that Israel's attack on the U.S. spy ship Liberty
during the 1967 Six Day War was an act of Israeli negligence.
- The United States also was negligent, the official maintained,
for failing to notify Israel that the electronic intelligence-gathering
ship was cruising international waters off the Egyptian coast and for failing
to withdraw the Liberty from the war zone.
- A daylong conference that studied fresh documents as
well as the established record failed to produce a consensus for any of
three views voiced most often: Israel intentionally attacked what it knew
to be a ship of the U.S. Navy, the attack was accidental, or the attack
resulted from faulty judgment.
- Thirty-four Americans were killed in the June 8, 1967,
attack, and more than 170 were wounded.
- Israel long has maintained that the attack was a case
of mistaken identity, an explanation the Johnson administration did not
challenge formally. Israel said its forces thought the Liberty was an Egyptian
horse carrier, apologized to the United States and paid almost $13 million
in compensation, some to victims or their families.
- Since the United States did not intercept the order to
attack the ship with cannon fire and napalm, precise facts of the attack
remain elusive, the State Department official said Monday, speaking on
condition of anonymity.
- He called the Israeli attack and the U.S. actions a classic
example of Murphy's law: ``If anything can go wrong, it will.''
- David Hatch, a technical director at the National Security
Agency, said, ``The good news is that information long sought by researchers
is now out, and the bad news is that it does not settle it.''
- The occasion for the State Department conference was
the release of historical documents about the 1967 war in which Israel
defeated the combined forces of Egypt, Syria, Jordan and other Arab countries
in six days.
- Charles Smith, a professor at the University of Arizona,
said in his presentation that Israel should have known the Liberty was
an American ship.
- ``If they didn't know, they didn't try hard enough to
find out,'' he said.
- James Bamford, an investigative journalist who has written
about the incident, demanded further investigation ``instead of people
getting up here and giving their opinions.''
- ``There were cover-ups,'' Bamford said, citing a signed
affidavit by retired Navy Capt. Ward Boston, who was a leader of a military
investigation into the incident.
- Boston said in the affidavit in October that then-President
Johnson and Defense Secretary Robert McNamara had told those heading the
Navy's inquiry to ``conclude that the attack was a case of `mistaken identity'
despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.''
- Boston, 80, who did not attend Monday's conference, said
the Navy investigators were given only one week but still were able to
amass ``a vast amount of evidence, including heartbreaking testimony from
- Accusing Israel of a deliberate effort to sink an American
ship and kill its crew, Boston said in a legal declaration in Coronado,
Calif., that he was certain the Israel pilots knew the Liberty, which clearly
displayed American flags and had markings in English instead of Arabic,
was a U.S. Navy ship.
- Additionally, Boston said, ``Israeli torpedo boats machine-gunned
three lifeboats that that had been launched in an attempt by the crew to
save the most seriously wounded - a war crime.''
- Jay Cristol, a U.S. bankruptcy court judge who has written
about the incident, cited the finding of the Navy's inquiry as proof the
attack was a mistake. ``There was no indication they had any knowledge
they were attacking a U.S. ship,'' Cristol told the conference.
- If the attack were deliberate, its motivation remains
- Adm. Thomas Moorer, a former chief of naval operations
and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, wrote in a memorandum on June
8, 1997, the 30th anniversary of the attack, that Israel deliberately attacked
to hide its intentions in the war.
- ``I am confident that Israel knew the Liberty could intercept
radio messages from all parties and potential parties to the ongoing war,
then in its fourth day, and that Israel was preparing to seize the Golan
Heights from Syria despite President Johnson's known opposition to such
a move,'' Moorer wrote.
- ``I believe (then-Israeli Defense Minister) Moshe Dayan
concluded that he could prevent Washington from becoming aware of what
Israel was up to by destroying the primary source of acquiring that information,
the USS Liberty.'' Israel took the strategic Syrian territory and still
holds it 37 years later.