Behind the USS Liberty Cover-up

Maidhc Ó Cathail
Consortium News
November 12, 2014

“The Day Israel Attacked America,” an investigation into Israel’s deadly June 8, 1967 attack on the USS Liberty at the height of the Arab-Israeli Six-Day War, was aired recently on Al Jazeera America.

Directed by British filmmaker Richard Belfield, the documentary confirms not only that the attack on the U.S. Navy spy ship was deliberate — an undisputed fact long accepted by all but the most shameless Israeli apologists — but reveals, perhaps for the first time, how Tel Aviv was able to induce the U.S. government to cover up an attack that killed 34 and injured 171 of its own seamen by a supposed “ally.”

“It was especially tough for Lyndon Johnson, to date the most pro-Israeli American president in history,” the film’s narrator observed. According to Tom Hughes, the State Department’s director of intelligence and research at the time of the Liberty attack, “Johnson was in a very tough mood.”

As an indication of Johnson’s initial firm stance, Hughes recalled that Johnson briefed Newsweek magazine off the record that the Israelis had attacked the Liberty, suggesting that they may have done so because they believed that the naval intelligence-gathering ship had been intercepting Israeli as well as Egyptian communications.

A post-interview leak revealing that it was the President himself who had briefed the media about the attack on the Liberty alarmed the Israeli embassy in Washington and its friends in the major Jewish organizations, who intimated that Johnson’s Newsweek briefing “practically amounted to blood libel.”

The documentary’s narrator said declassified Israeli documents now show that “they were going to threaten President Johnson with ‘blood libel’ — gross anti-Semitism — and that would end his political career.”

“Blackmail!” retired U.S. Navy admiral Bobby Ray Inman frankly summed up Israel’s strategy to deal with Johnson. “[T]hey know if he is thinking about running again he’s going to need money for his campaign,” said Inman, who from 1977 to 1981 directed the National Security Agency, the U.S. intelligence agency under whose aegis the USS Liberty had been dispatched to the eastern Mediterranean. “So alleging that he’s blood-libeling is going to arouse the Jewish donors.”

The Israeli government hired teams of lawyers, including close friends of Johnson, the narrator added, and began an “all-out offensive” to influence media coverage of the attack, leaning on them “to kill critical stories” and slant others in Israel’s favor.

“There was a campaign mounted to see what could be done about returning Johnson to his normal, predictable pro-Israeli position,” Hughes said. “Efforts were to be made to remind the President of the delicacy of his own position, that he personally might lose support for his run for reelection in 1968.”

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