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The USS Liberty Incident:
Investigations of the Liberty Tragedy


USS Liberty: Table of Contents | Photographs | History & Overview


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The tragic attack on the USS Liberty during the Six-Day War provoked a great deal of controversy and anger. The incident was the subject of ten U.S. investigations and three more by Israel. Though some accusations have suggested the American reports sought to hide facts or protect Israel, no credible evidence for these charges has ever been produced.
Here is a summary of the investigations and their conclusions:

American Investigations
Investigation
Date
Conclusion
U.S. Navy Court of Inquiry
June 10-18, 1967
The attack was a case of mistaken identity. Calm conditions and slow ship speed may have made American flag difficult to identify. No indication the attack was intended against U.S. ship.
CIA Report
June 13, 1967
The attack was not made in malice and was a mistake.
June 9-20, 1967
Outlined "findings of fact," bud did not make any findings about the actual attack.
Clifford Report
July 18, 1967
No premeditation, but "inexcusable failures" by Israeli forces constituing "gross negligence."
Senate Committee on Foreign Relations
1967
Secretary of Defense McNamara testified he supported conclusion that the attack was not intentional.
Senate Armed Services Committee
Feb. 1, 1968
No conclusion. Secretary McNamara makes comparison of attack on Liberty to that on Pueblo with regard to uncertainty about what was happening at the time of the incident.
House Appropriations Committee
April-May 1968
Navy communications "foulup" and no conclusion regarding Israeli actions. Much of report remains classified.
House Armed Services Committee
May 10, 1971
Critical of Navy communications, no conclusion regarding Israeli actions.
Senate Select Committee on Intelligence
1979
Responding to critical book by Liberty crewman James Ennes, Senate investigation found no merit to his claim attack was intentional.
National Security Agency
1981
Liberty was mistaken for an Egyptian ship as a result of miscalculations and egregious errors.
House Armed Services Committee
June 1991
Responding to request from Liberty Veterans Association, Subcommitte on Investigations launched probe that concluded there was no evidence to support allegations made by the Association and no reason for further investigation.

Israeli Investigations
Investigation
Date
Conclusion
Ram Ron Commission
June 12, 1967
The attack was made "neither maliciously nor in gross negligence, but as the result of a bona fide mistake. Also notes that the Liberty made a mistake as well by carelessly approaching a war area.
Preliminary Inquiry
July 1967
There was no malicious intent and no deviation from the standard of reasonable conduct that would justify a court-martial.
IDF History
1982
The attack was a result of an "innocent error."

Sources: A.J. Cristol, "The Liberty Incident," Ph.D. dissertation, University of Miami, 1997, pp. 86-113.

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