- Place: NSA's National Cryptologic Museum, Fort Meade,
- When: Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2004.
- Purpose: A Q&A Period with Author, Ahron Jay Cristol.
- Commentary/Transcript Attached
- Commentary on the Q&A Period
- After a rambling introduction, Ahron Jay Cristol, the
author of "The Liberty Incident," opened the program for "seven
minutes" worth of questions. He had boasted of having "spent
16 years" researching his book. His conclusion, based on the worst
kind of Israeli-serving and highly speculative evidence, was that the Israeli
attack of June 8, 1967, on the USS Liberty, which took the lives of 34
brave Americans and wounded 172 others, was only "an accident."
- To support his objective, Cristol wants us to believe
that the Israelis, whose Jewish race gave the world Marx, Freud and Einstein,
knew the Liberty was 14 miles off the Sinai Peninsula, near El Arish, on
the morning of June 8th. That they had positively identified her "by
name," and that a "wedge was put on the board," at the Naval
Intelligence's control room at Haifa, indicating that critical fact. But,
then, as a result of what Cristol labels a "series of blunders,"
an Israeli commander, "ordered it (the wedge) off the board,"
at 11 AM, just three hours before the Israelis launched their lethal attack
on the vessel. And, furthermore, Cristol bellowed that all of this was
just a "terrible mistake." Now, if you believe this MOTHER OF
ALL ALIBIS, then there a guy in Brooklyn, New York, who has a bridge he
wants to sell you!
- At this book-hyping gig, I wasn't impressed by Cristol's
alleged command of the relevant facts concerning the attack on the Liberty.
I also found many of his Alice-in-Wonderland-like excuses for the Israelis,
such as the repeated failures of its Army, Navy and Air Force personnel
to communicate accurate information between themselves about the Liberty,
to be beyond the pale of credulity.
- This huge gap in Cristol's case became even wider, when
he bragged about the successes of the Israelis' armed forces in the bloodstained
1967 War. For example, he became extremely animated, when he extolled how
the brutal Israelis, by the 4th day of the war, (as related to him by a
torpedo boat officer), had cruelly savaged its Arab neighbors. Cristol
said, the Israeli "Air Force had destroyed all the Arab air forces
in 80 minutes. The paratroopers had captured Jerusalem, the Western Wall,
and the West Bank. The armor had zoomed across the Sinai and their infantry
was about to dip their feet in the Suez Canal."
- Really! Amazing, isn't it? Cristol wants us to recall
how the Israelis unleashed the fury of their deadly War Machine, subsidized
by American taxpayers to the tune of $3 trillion, (See WRMEA, June, 2003,
Thomas R. Stauffer, "Cost to American Taxpayers of the Israeli-Palestinian
Conflict"), and completely vanquished their Arab enemies, in pre-emptive
strikes, that gave no quarters. Yet, he then requires us to minimize, or
totally ignore, how these same supposed military geniuses couldn't keep
track of the Liberty. Military geniuses or incompetent clowns or war criminals!
What are we, the spiritual heirs of Washington, Jefferson and Adams, to
believe about these Israelis?
- Cristol appeared reluctant to give direct answers to
some of the questions that were put to him. This was especially so about
his response to my query: "Who, in Israel, ordered the attack on the
Liberty?" He was also very indirect in his response to Liberty crew
member Mark Kram's comments about how the ship had been under close and
constant Israeli surveillance, prior to the Israelis' murderous assault
on the vessel.
- I believe Liberty supporter, Doris Rausch, who participated
in the questioning from the audience, was right when she accused the honchos
of the State Department, at the Conference of Jan. 12, 2004, and Cristol,
too, of "chopping off" what the Liberty survivors had to say
about this premeditated attack. You can see from the transcript that follows,
how Cristol attempted, at times, to cut Rausch's and Kram's questioning
- Cristol also disparaged the scholarship of authors
Lt. James Marquis Ennes, Jr., USNR, (a Liberty crew member and an eyewitness
to that Israeli war crime), and James Bamford, the two leading authorities
on the Liberty affair. Ennes wrote the dramatically compelling "Assault
on the Liberty: The True Story of the Israeli Attack on an American Intelligence
Ship," and Bamford is the best selling author of "The Puzzle
Palace." He has recently penned another blockbuster of a tome, "Body
of Secrets: Anatomy of the Ultra-Secret National Security Agency."
- It was clear, too, that Cristol was looking by his
comments, to marginalize any possible testimony from the surviving members
of the Liberty. Cristol, a self-described "amateur historian,"
even dared, like some traffic court attorney, to compare the Israelis'
malicious attack on the Liberty-which raised profound questions touching
on Admiralty, Maritime and International Law, and the Laws of the Sea-to
a common, run-of-the-mill, fender, bender automobile accident.
- Incredibly, Cristol, also, went out of his way to mock
the American people. He said that, "We love conspiracy." After
that crack, he made a serious Freudian slip, he added, "UNFORTUNATELY,
IT'S A FREE COUNTRY." Now, try to remember that this is a federal
bankruptcy judge speaking, who has taken an oath to uphold our Constitution
and Bill of Rights.
- Cristol insisted that he isn't an "apologist for
Israel," but he sure writes, acts, talks, dissembles and whines, like
he is one. The Israelis put 821 shell holes in the Liberty. I suggest that
Cristol's defense of their monstrous, criminal deeds of June 8, 1967, has
821 holes in it, too.
- In conclusion, I was underwhelmed by Cristol's dubious
arguments on Israel's behalf. If I were a judge on this case, based on
what I have seen, heard and read to date, I would have no hesitation in
granting a Motion for Summary Judgment on behalf of the Liberty.
- However, you should all make up your own minds on this
important issue. To that laudable end, I recommend, that you regularly
consult the excellent web site, "USS Liberty Memorial," (ussliberty.org),
and the links, thereto. Finally, my fellow patriots, truth seekers, and
lovers of the Republic, I urge you to swear, in honor of the sacred memory
of 34 brave men and sons of America, to always, "Remember the Liberty!"
- (Please, check out my "Notes" on the Q&A
Period, at the end of this transcription. Some of the text that follows
has been capitalized by this writer for emphasis purposes only.)
- Question & Answer Period (TRANSCRIPT)
- Q-William Hughes: Judge, I have a question. You were
talking about the helicopter pilots, the Israeli helicopter pilots. And,
you were talking about evidentiary value. What evidentiary value is there
to their conversations, if they arrived AFTER THE ASSAULT, AND THEY DIDN'T
PARTICIPATE IN IT?
- A-Cristol: Well, the point is that the message is: You
are ordered to go out to this point, to pick up survivors. This is a search
and rescue mission. To pick up survivors from an Egyptian ship that has
just been attacked. That is what they are told to do. Then, as the situation
develops, as a matter of fact, it was really, there was really quite a
bit of excitement in the world that day, because, I mean it wasn't just
one monolithic situation. It was changing constantly.
- Ah, there was, ah, the Air Force (Israeli) had already
determined and STOPPED THE AIR ATTACK, because they saw the Roman markings
on the ship (the Liberty) and knew that this wasn't an Arab ship. And the
Air Force controller at 2:14 said-LEAVE HER.
- And they go back to headquarters, and they are wondering,
what, WHO IS THIS SHIP? And, at that time, the, THIS IS A BLUNDER. I attribute
one of the FIRST BLUNDERS OF THE ISRAELIS. In 1956, when they moved the
Air Force headquarters from (Can't Transcribe), to the main headquarters
in the Kirya in Tel Aviv, they left the Navy 65 miles away, in Haifa, and
communicating by telephone. Ah, so, the Air Force is trying to call the
Navy and say, ah-We've got some DOUBT ABOUT THE IDENTIFICATION and the
Navy is coming out there. And, they stop, and they are signaling the ship,
WHO ARE YOU? And, TRAGICALLY, and you can read on the placard out there
(on the wall, in the Museum hall), and that is when the Liberty started
shooting at them. And that kind of, ah, settles things in time of wars
is whether you are opposing A FRIEND OR A FOE.
- Q-William Hughes: How do you explain, Judge, you said
there was NO MALICE involved. How do you explain the MACHINE-GUNNING OF
THE LIFE BOATS, THE LIFE RAFTS? isn't that A WAR CRIME under any circumstances?
- A-Cristol: Well, sir, that is an interesting point. It's
one of the myths that has grown up. Ah, that the testimony of Lloyd Painter
(Lt. Lloyd Clyde Painter, USNR, wounded in action on the Liberty). I commend
you to read the Court of Inquiry Report. It contains a 155 pages of sworn
testimony of the survivors and in there is the testimony of Lloyd Painter.
And four or five days after the attack, he is telling under oath to the
Court of Inquiry, that life rafts were damaged by machine gun fired by
the air planes. And, then, ten years later, he remembered that the life
rafts were being shot at by the (Israeli torpedo) boats. And, then later
still there is a story that ah evolved from the life rafts to life boats.
And, then there were life boats full of people. The story that has developed
over the years. But no one else, who was on the bridge or who was involved
in an eyeball view of what happened that day, made any mention of that.
And, ah, ah, memories change with time. And, ah, ah, I don't want to pick
a fight with Lloyd Painter, but that is the source of that story. And,
I think it is not accurate.
- Q-Doris Rausch: I heard part of the hearing on Monday,
(State Department Conference, in DC, of Jan. 12, 2004), and I was very
upset that the testimony of the (Liberty) SURVIVORS WAS TOTALLY CHOPPED
OFF. And I would think that the survivors would have THE ULTIMATE INFORMATION
- A-Cristol: The survivors certainly know as much or more
than anyone else about some of the things that happened that day. If you
are in an automobile as you drive into an intersection and a car smashes
into you, you know that you drove through the intersection, that you had
the right of way and that you were smashed into, and maybe your arm was
broken. But as far as the car that smashed into you, you don't know if
that driver was in a rush to get to a meeting, ah, or whether he or she
didn't see the stop sign. Whether they were drunk. Ah, the facts about
whether or not it was intentional or negligent or other act, that brought
that car into you, that is a matter that is not known to the victim. And,
no one disputes what the victim said. All I am saying is if any of the
victims have any additional information, send it to me, ah...
- Q-Unidentified Man No. 1: Judge Cristol, may I answer
the question. The State Department put out a call to the papers. It was
on the internet, it was sent out to their mailing list. Anyone who wanted
to present a paper or position, was welcome to do so. The State Department
as I recall, please correct me, Judge, if I am wrong on this, accepted
every proposal that was sent in, with one exception that was not really
a crew member. So, it was just an open forum for anyone who wanted to participate.
It was on the internet, and as I say, they sent out mailings. I got two
different ones from the State Dept. to anyone who wanted to write a paper,
or make a presentation, that had to write a paper to do it, was invited
to do so. In fact, it was in a professional magazine.
- Q-Doris Rausch: Okay, but the people who got up to talk,
THE SURVIVORS... (Rausch's question is cut off by Cristol.)
- A-Cristol: To ask questions...
- Q-Unidentified Man No. 1: Rise to ask questions, that
is the issue.
- Q-Doris Rausch: Well, why would they need to ask the
questions, WHEN THEY HAD INFORMATION TO GIVE?
- A-Cristol: THIS WASN'T THE TIME TO GIVE INFORMATION,
MAAM. This was presentation of papers by the members of the panel, who
had submitted papers and who were then asked to come and present them.
And, then the program called for at the end of the presentation of the
five papers, then there was a commentary from a moderator, a Professor
Smith from Arizona, who commented on the five different papers that were
presented: One by the CIA, one by the NSA historian, and others. And then,
there was a discussion of the scholars, that they had about 27 professors,
historians, government officials from all over the world that were sitting
in the center. And, then, the procedure that was outlined in the program
was those people would comment and then they would ask, they had two microphones,
I said if anyone has questions, you may present a question.
- Several people got up and began making speeches. Ah,
ah, I'm sorry that they, I would like to talk for the rest of the afternoon,
maybe I can answer some of your questions if you have any, but you see,
we're out of time. The program was suppose to end at noon. Ah, the speeches
continued to be made up until 5 or 6 minutes after noon, at which time
the moderator said I'm sorry we're out of time, close the program because
they had to move on so that the next panel would be on time. Any other
- Q-Unidentified Man No. 2: Why was Al Blue listed on the
placard out here (in the lobby, on a wall) as a civilian employee?
- A-Cristol: He was a civilian employee of the NSA, (Allen
M. Blue), and not a Navy person. The NSA department was staffed by a navy
security group, ah, but they were tenants aboard the host ship, the Liberty.
The ship's crew ran the ship. They ran the NSA compartment only. I could
be wrong on this, but as far as I know, only the captain, Captain McGonagle,
(Commander William Loren McGonagle, USN), and the executive officer, Commander
Armstrong, (Lt. Commander Philip McCutcheon Armstrong, Jr., USN), had authority
to even go in that compartment on the ship. And, ah, they had a certain
direct communication back here (NSA) that didn't go through the regular
Navy system. And, there were I believe three civilian NSA employees, a
gentleman named Blalock, (Donald L. Blalock), who was wounded but survived,
and I believe, sadly, has passed on some time ago. And then there was a
third NSA employee, (Robert L. Wilson), whose name is on the plaque, but
I don't' remember. I don't think he was wounded. I think he survived, whether
he is still alive or not, I don't know. And, yes sir!
- Q-Unidentified Man No. 3: I'm wondering about the credibility
at all of anything that you would see from James Bamford. In his 'Body
of Secrets,' he brings up a subject called, 'Codenamed Operation Northwoods.'
Perhaps, you can look at the book to see, its page 82. Ah, the concept
is bizarre, that the Joint Chiefs had a plot to go to war with Cuba. And
the way Bamford expresses it, I said let me find out something about 'Operation
Northwoods.' I went onto the Web...
- A-Cristol: I don't mean to cut you off sir, but I happen
to agree with you that I don't think that Bamford is a particularly reliable
source. And if you read my paper, which the State Dept. is about to print,
I cite specifically a series of inaccurate reports which he made. For example,
the report that he made and that Nowicki contradicted-he said he got it
wrong and the NSA was quoted in the Baltimore Times, (It's the Baltimore
Sun), on I believe the 21st of April, 2002. But that information is available,
saying that the NSA seldom makes press releases, but what Mr. Bamford said
yesterday about the NSA is simply not true. So, I mean, ah, ah, I agree
- Q-Unidentified Man No. 3: There is one final point I
would like to make. When you go on the web to find 'Operation Northwoods,'
you will find all of the conspiracy crazies listed. And some of these
sites would turn your stomach.
- A-Cristol: Well, ah, there is no question that, ah, PEOPLE
IN THE U.S. LOVE CONSPIRACY. People that would like to tell you that the
earth is flat, that we never sent a man to the moon, ah, ah, that people
from outer space come in-in flying saucers, and ah who killed Diana, the
JFK assassination theories. America loves that, but ah UNFORTUNATELY, IT'S
A FREE COUNTRY. if you want to have a conspiracy theory, you are welcome
- Q-William Hughes: Judge, in your book, ('The Liberty
Incident'), you mentioned that you didn't think that General Dayan (Moshe
Dayan, Israeli Defense Minister, June, 1967), ordered this attack on the
Liberty. Who do you think did from the Israeli point of view. WHO ORDERED
THE ATTACK ON THE LIBERTY?
- A-Cristol: Ah, ah if you read the book, I mean, it's
not just who ordered the attack, IT WAS A SEQUENCE OF EVENTS. On the 7th
of June, there is a report to the U.S. Defense Attaché, Col. Anthony
(Can't Transcribe) sent back to Washington says ah there is a report that
the Israelis in the Sinai, near El Arish, are being shelled by the sea
from an Egyptian ship on the 7th of June.
- On the 8th of June, at about 10:30 in the morning, the
Israelis owned the ground, they owned the air and explosions are occurring.
You will read about them in the Liberty log, the log itself. They are sailing
off the shore reporting seeing these explosions at El Arish. And the (Israeli)
army reports to headquarters, we are being shelled from the sea like yesterday.
Now, that happened TO BE WRONG. They weren't being shelled from the sea,
ah, it was some Egyptian people behind their lines blowing up some stuff.
But ah they passed the message to the Navy-INVESTIGATE. The Navy comes,
sends down a note for a torpedo boat to where the Liberty, ah, TRAGICALLY,
there are some events THAT JUST FIT IN PLACE TERRIBLY.
- The Liberty is sailing along the coast of Sinai. It
is a gray ship, 14 miles out so that all you can see is a gray war ship
color and you can't tell much more about it other than that from the land.
And it is heading 283 degrees and its got its bow on Port Said. The (Israeli)
Navy starts approaching. They make ANOTHER MISTAKE. They figure it is going
TOO FAST and they can't catch it and, of course, their MINDSET IS THAT
IT IS AN EGYPTIAN destroyer because ah that is who they are fighting-the
Egyptians. The Egyptians had (Can't Transcribe) fast destroyers and (Can't
Transcribe) fast destroyers. And, who else could be bombarding from the
sea and who else could be making it high speeds? So they ah called back,
ah, to headquarters and say we can't ACHIEVE THE TARGET. We need air. Now,
if you knew the situation between the Israeli Air Force ah and the Israeli
Navy and I go into that in the book. I wish I could tell you the whole
story, but there was a terrible rivalry there.
- A young fellow, who was on one of the torpedo boats,
so I will just take an extra minute and tell you, the story he tells. I
put it in the book. Because he points out that on the first day of the
war, the Israelis sent out their Naval commandos to, I think, five Egyptian
ports. In Alexandria, there was a disaster. Some were captured, some were
killed. Up in the north in the port of (Can't Transcribe), they put their
people in and the mission totally failed. And this motor boat torpedo division
914, was sent up to extract them. And they picked them up and got them
- But, in the milling around, (Cristol makes a sound),
one boat hit another and made a hole about that big, (Cristol describes
the hole), in one of the boats. So get back to Ashdod, down in the south,
repair it within 10 or 12 hours, and now this motor torpedo boat division
is zooming down towards where ah a ship has been reported shelling on their
troops. And as he says, here we are on the 4th day of the war, the Air
Force had destroyed all the Arab air forces in 80 minutes. The paratroopers
had captured Jerusalem, the Western Wall, and the West Bank. The armor
had zoomed across the Sinai and their infantry was about to dip their feet
in the Suez Canal. And, the Navy, we've made a hole in one of our own boats!
We were ANXIOUS TO GET INTO THE ACTION.
- So, that some of the documents that you will read is
questioning whether they were TRIGGER HAPPY is correct or not, but there
is no question, one: the Navy if they could have gotten there first, they
would have never had called the Air Force in my opinion. But the Air Force
gets the message. The Navy is chasing A TARGET. There are a lot of details.
It is a very complicated matter to do with a lot of other interesting stories
about it and what CREATED MINDSETS.
- But, nevertheless, ah the Air Force ah they have been
ah they felt ah used by the Navy the night before on a mission that was
ah a false mission. Ah, there were no TARGET there they were sent out for
and then they said we're not sending planes to you tell us you have A TARGET.
So the Navy said okay, WE'VE GOT A TARGET.
- So then, they ordered a flight that was coming back
from combat at air patrol over the Suez Canal-And said on your way home,
which is in fact-that was the way home. You know, it's an elbow there,
and the planes that fly across that elbow. And the Liberty saw many planes
flying back and forth. And just as from their perception, you know, the
world revolves around us, many of the Liberty people thought, oh well,
all those planes are there looking at us. I mean, there were many planes
on many other missions.
- But ah, in any event these people were told go to El
Arish. There is an ENEMY SHIP THERE, If you find that enemy war ship, HIT
IT. But be careful we've got three ships in the area. So, the plane went
over with that much authority and even so he found the ships, HE SORTED
THEM OUT. And he called back to headquarters and he talked to and make
sure the three ships who are the Israeli ships and then when he was sure
he wasn't attacking his own ships, which incidentally, in that 67 War,
the Israeli forces attacked their own forces 18 times, in addition to this
tragic incident. But ah then he began HIS ATTACK, AH, 12 TO 14 MINUTES
INTO THE ATTACK, ah, as I mentioned, they called it off and developed the
DOUBTS ABOUT THE IDENTIFICATION.
- So that, who gave the order? It was sort of at A TACTICAL
LEVEL, very operational level. Of course, the initial approval for the
target was approved by the chief of the Air Force-send some planes over.
And then it fell to the chief Air Controller. The chief of the Air Force
was Mordechai Hod, and I mentioned him in the conclusion of my paper which
I hope you'll read from the State Dept. He passed it over to Shmuel Kislev,
who was the Chief Air Controller. The second Air Controller, I mean IT
IS HARD TO SAY, THIS WAS A LUCKY DAY. But, if the Liberty had any luck
that day, it was that Kislev took over from his deputy. The deputy said
I got a flight of four Mirage 3 IIIs, armed with iron bombs heading south
to bomb SAM sites along the canal. And, shall I send them TO THIS TARGET?
- Now, you all probably recall the battle of Midway,
when iron bombs of the U.S. Navy sank three Japanese air craft carriers
in ten minutes, the fourth went down the following day. That is what iron
bombs do to a ship. But Kislev said no, it is more important that you attack
the SAM sites. Ah, if you have someone coming home to look at this. And,
they found the flight that was running low on fuel and was ready to go
home and sent them over. And, they were armed only with 30 caliber machine
guns and ah a few 8 or 9 missiles as I understand it. The second flight
that they called in from attacking armor in the Sinai. Did I say 30 caliber?
I mean 30 millimeter cannon. The Super Mysteres, that came in were also
armed with 30 millimeter cannon and each had two napalm canisters. Not
the stuff you send out to sink a ship. And so I say if they had any luck
that day it was that they didn't get attacked by iron bombs. It would have
been a much worse tragedy than The terrible thing that happened, as it
was. I don't know how much more time I have, ah, one more question.
- Q-Unidentified Woman: May I ask a question? (Her voice
was too low to pick up her exact question. It had to do with a Russian
- A-Cristol: I've never heard that allegation. I'll be
happy to if someone could send it to me. I'll be happy to research that.
I do know that in the Liberty log at about 12:45 in the morning, after
the Liberty had sailed away and was heading initially to (Can't Transcribe)
Bay and ultimately diverted to Malta, where, ah, the Court of Inquiry was
held. That, ah, the Liberty log, ah, that they passed a Russian merchant
ship in the night and they couldn't positively identify it. They believe
its name was 'Proletariat.' I can't pronounce the Russian.
- And from that has grown stories that a Soviet destroyer
came up to the Liberty offered help and said we will stand by with you,
until more help arrives. Ah, that story identifies, I believe it is a Russian
frigate no. 626. The problem with that story is that Russian frigate 626
is reported being along side the Sixth Fleet off of Crete on the day that
the event occurred. And if that ship had got there at the time that it
is reported to have come and offered help, it would have probably have
been sailing about 120 knots which destroyers don't do. So that ship was
there, but the (Can't Transcribe) got there at six in the morning. Even
if they left all at the same time, they wouldn't have got there much before
six in the morning. So, I have nothing to indicate that there is any substance
to that story I would like to... Pardon, Mr. Kram, Mr. Kram is a survivor
of the Liberty crew.
- Q-Mark Kram (William M. Kram, a Petty Officer, USN, who
survived the Liberty attack): One of the complaints of many of the crew
members is that when we came off that ship WE COULD NOT TALK. AND THAT
WENT ON FOR YEARS, UNTIL JIM ENNES WROTE HIS BOOK. And, at that time, we
started to get together. NOBODY SEEMS TO WANT TO TALK TO US. NOBODY WANTED
TO TAKE, AH, YOU KNOW, OUR... (Kram's question is cut off by Cristol.)
- A-Cristol: I have been wanting to talk to anyone from
the crew. Ah, ah, I, in spite of some popular announcements, I actually
have some friends in the Liberty crew. Ah, not everyone there disagrees
with me. Some people totally agree with me. Others violently disagree with
me and think I'm their enemy. I'm not the crew's enemy. I tried to be AN
AMATEUR HISTORIAN and call it as I saw it. But, I'm willing to talk any
crew member, who wants to talk to me. I am willing to receive any piece
of evidence. But normally Jim Ennes's pitch is- I'll march 50 people out
there who will, 50 crew members who will swear that the attack was intentional.
Well, that is a conclusion. I asked Ennes initially and he has never answered
that letter. What evidence supports that conclusion? Tell Jim to send me
- Q-Mark Kram: You've just talked about planes flying back
and forth. Yea, there were a lot of planes flying back and forth. But I
can tell you there were planes that flew-MASTHEAD HEIGHT-over that ship,
two or three times. I saw those planes. YOU COULD ALMOST SEE THE GUYS IN
THE COCKPIT. I THINK WE WAVED TO THEM AND I BELIEVE THEY WAVED TO US. WELL,
THERE WAS RECONNAISSANCE OF THAT SHIP... (Kram is again cut off by Cristol.)
- A-Cristol: Well, that is a whole detailed SERIES OF BLUNDERS.
There is no question that Israel identified it at 5:55 in the morning AS
AN AMERICAN SHIP. THEY EVEN IDENTIFIED IT BY NAME later in the morning.
That information got to Haifa, where it was down the hall from the ah command
and control room in Naval Intelligence. A WEDGE WAS PUT ON THE BOARD IDENTIFYING
- AH, AT 11 AM, ah, Commander (Can't Transcribe), ORDERED
IT OFF THE BOARD. He was brought before a court of inquiry on that question.
Why did you do that? His answer was, ah, by the time I ordered it off,
the information was five hours old. The ship was reported on a heading
of 123 degrees, 70 miles west of ah Sinai, ah, I mean Gaza, doing 15 knots.
Ah, if, ah, ships don't stay still and I thought it was proper to take
it off the board.
- And my research in Israel now, I find that in their
computer system, once they put something on board, it can't come off. The
computer won't allow anything that is on the board to come off. But, I
mean that is good hindsight. BUT MISTAKES WERE MADE. THEY MADE SOME TERRIBLE
MISTAKES. The examining judge issued a report detailing all of the facts
and that report was sent to C&O and a personal copy was delivered by
(Israeli) Ambassador (Can't Transcribe) to the number two man in the State
Dept., Nicholas KATZENBACH. He read the report in (Can't Transcribe) presence.
And, he said, it is really an excellent report, except for the last sentence.
- And, the last sentence said that in consideration of
the foregoing in time of war and the circumstances-We-while we were careless-
perhaps not to have done a better job in identification-that it doesn't
rise to the level of, ah, a criminal act for which there should be a court
- Ah, when in 1995, you may recall, we shot down with
our F 15s, two Black Hawk helicopters in the Iraq No-Fly Zone. It was a
clear day. They each had U.S. flags painted on them as big or bigger than
the flags on the Liberty. And they were using the most modern identification
friend and foe and they were being controlled by an AWAC aircraft-state
of the art. And, still we killed 27. Ah, a Lt. Wang, who is up in the AWAC
plane was court martialed for that event. And, after a very short court
martial, he was acquitted. Ah, I mean in time of war, terrible, terrible
things happen. As you may recall, in this campaign, we shot down two of
our own planes and one British Tornado. Ah, just a short time ago, in Afghanistan,
we killed a number of our Canadian friends for which they are still not
happy with us.
- Q-Doris Rausch: Why not let him say WHAT HIS EXPERIENCES
- A-Cristol: Well, I though he just did!
- Q-Mark Kram: Well, I was on the radio with the ah, Judge
the other night. It would take a long time to tell you my experiences...
- A-Cristol: We spent two hours on that program. Didn't
- Q-Mark Kram: Clyde is here (Petty Officer Clyde W. Way,
USN). He has different experiences. We worked in different places on the
ship. I can tell you steadfastly that since the very beginning, THE ONLY
GROUP WHO HAS STUCK TO THEIR STORY, IS THE LIBERTY CREW. THE LIBERTY CREW
FOR THE MOST PART BELIEVES IT (THE ATTACK) WAS DELIBERATE and has steadfastly
said that and has facts about the attack, things that were happening that
tend, that make us believe so. For instance, you talk about shelling. Well,
we had four 50 caliber machine guns-THOSE MACHINE GUNS WERE TAKEN OUT IN
ON THE VERY FIRST FLIGHT OVER. THEY KNEW WHERE THE GUNS WERE WHEN THEY
ATTACKED US, BUT THEY SAY THEY COULDN'T SEE OUR FLAG. I KNEW THE FLAG WAS
THERE. I SAW THE FLAG THERE... (Cristol cuts Kram off.)
- A-Cristol: Mark, well if you read on the board out there,
(in the hallway outside of the auditorium), Captain McGonagle, ordered
the guns to fire on the Liberty and he had a video tape explaining that
he did make that order. But, I would say this, ah that I had an interesting
two hours with you and I'm willing to answer any more of your questions
that you want to submit. And, I believe, I think, I
- believe I'm way over time...
- Q-Mark Kram. Can I say one more thing? Mr. Oren on Monday,
(Jan. 12th at the State Dept.) who certainly believes as stated, who the
Israelis state, that it was an accident. And at the very end, he said let's
have an investigation. Stafford said let's have an investigation. Would
you be willing to say, LET'S HAVE AN INVESTIGATION?
- A-Cristol: I FIND NO FAULT WITH HAVING AN INVESTIGATION.
- Q-Mark Kram: THERE HAS BEEN NONE!
- A-Cristol: Well, if you look on my web site, you can
see seven investigations scanned in- in their original form. If you look
at them and you think they are not adequate, then, if there is someone
who wants to do another one, ah, ah, the point is its 36 years later. Ah,
President Bush, our present President Bush, in a letter, dated Oct. 2,
of last year said that he thought the investigations were, it was signed
by Christopher (Can't Transcribe) on his staff, for the president, said
that he thought that the investigations were adequate. And, that no further
investigations were necessary.
- And then, thereafter, Rumsfeld (Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary
of Defense), was questioned at a press conference, and he said, ah, to
that question- Well, it really is too late for an additional investigation,
since many of the people are deceased. All the evidence is really here
and it is really now a matter for the...
- In any event, I have to concur with Gen. Hod as a closing
remark. General Hod, when I first approached him to talk about this, he
said I don't want to talk about it. I said, why not? He said the families
and the survivors have suffered enough. I don't want to disturb an old
- Q-Mark Kram: We're still suffering...
- A-Cristol: You do and you have my sympathy, respect and
honor. But, I said, General, let me tell you some of the stories that are
being told. And he listened. He said, why they are gross distortions of
the truth. All right, I will talk with you. I can make it available to
you. And so, I agree with General Hod, If it gives any comfort to you to
believe that it was an intentional attack, then accept that comfort and
make your life easier. But if you're a historian, who wants to look at
the facts, than look at all the facts they are available: They are in my
book, in my dissertation in the library of Congress. They are on my web
site. They are in the State Dept. volume.
- And, ah, read all the facts and come to your own conclusion.
And, ah, I hope that some day THERE WILL BE KOSHER AND PEACE, but some
people say, ah, ah, that it may never happen.
- 1. The above was transcribed by William Hughes from an
- 2. In some instances, Cristol's words couldn't be heard
and/or clearly understood, and an explanation to that effect, "Can't
Transcribe," was inserted into the record.
- 4. One question from a woman in the audience, dealing
with a Russian ship, couldn't be transcribed at all, since her voice was
- 5. Additional information was provided by this writer,
in parenthesis, when Cristol only used the last name of an individual
in his remarks, if he was referring to a USS Liberty crew member or an
NSA civilian. This technique was also used when Cristol, or a party asking
a question, referred to things outside the auditorium room or to the proceedings
at the State Department Conference, in DC, which were held, on Monday,
Jan. 12, 2004, or, when Cristol made an obvious mistake, like when he called
the "Baltimore Sun" newspaper, the "Baltimore Times."
- 6. In some situations, upper case type was used by this
writer for emphasis purposes only.
- © William Hughes 2004
- William Hughes is the author of "Saying 'No' to
the War Party" (Iuniverse, Inc.), which is available at Amazon.com.
For descriptive purposes only, he is a former Associate City Solicitor
for Baltimore and Chief of its Litigation Division. Hughes can be reached