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:: Sunday, July 27, 2003 ::

It Should Be Settled

According to A. Jay Cristol, the Miami judge and Navy veteran whose FOIA lawsuit for USS Liberty documents finally forced the NSA to release its recordings of Israeli Air Force radio transmissions during the attack, the Liberty incident should now be settled "for all but that 2 percent of die-hard conspiracy theorists."

But despite the fact that the released recordings and transcripts affirm Cristol's conclusions about the attack, much of the reporting has portrayed it as a still-open case. Scott Shane's story in today's Baltimore Sun is typical in its generosity, providing an uncritical platform for the comm points peddled by James Bamford, spokesman for the 2 percent. I can understand the desire to write a "balanced" story, but that does not excuse the Sun (or CNN, or UPI) for publishing Bamford's statements, which could easily have been verified as dishonest.

It should be noted that Bamford was exposed and proven a liar long before the NSA released these SIGINT intercepts. He continued to repeat the claim that Marvin Nowicki, the only person with firsthand knowledge of the intercepts who had discussed them in any detail before they were released, believed that they "proved" the attack was deliberate, but quite the opposite is true. Bamford also claimed that the NSA leadership was "virtually unanimous in their belief that the attack was deliberate" -- another bald-faced lie.

Despite his record (Scott Shane, for one, certainly knows of his dishonesty, as he had reported on it in the past), Bamford continues to get top billing in mainstream media reporting on the incident. In any event, Bamford now claims:
The Israeli ground controller who called the ship "Arab" and "Egyptian" may be just repeating a bogus cover story, Bamford says. At one point, he notes, the controller directs the helicopter crews to check whether the survivors speak Arabic or English.

"If they knew it was an Egyptian ship, why did they think the crew might speak English?" Bamford asks.

In addition, the recordings show that one of the helicopter pilots spotted an American flag and read the ship's identification number. If the helicopter pilot saw those identifiers, Bamford asks, why didn't the fighter pilots and torpedo boat crews?

I dunno, Jim. Think it might have something to do with hovering capabilities?

Actually, the torpedo boat crews were able to see Liberty's ensign, after they had already damaged the ship and broken off their attack. According to the Isrealis, the MTB crews caught their first glimpse of Liberty's limp ensign at around 1451L that day, roughly 30 minutes before the Super Frelon helicopter identified the ship as American (seeing only the red portion of the flag, the MTB's first reported that it was a Soviet ship, which scared the shit out of IDF headquarters). A few minutes later, they finally identified the ship as American and offered assistance (they were declined).

The MTB's were not able to identify the ship sooner because Liberty, having just been strafed by Israeli Mirage jets, fired on the MTB's first. Also, the Israeli boats approached Liberty from the Southeast -- moving into the sun, which would have made identifying the colors of a flag on the ship virtually impossible.

Also, Shane's story fails to mention that the flag Bamford refers to was actually the second flag flown by Liberty that day. The first one had been shot to ribbons by the Mirages, and the crew hoisted its holiday ensign -- a 7-by-13-foot flag, in place of its 5-by-8-foot standard.

Bamford, true to his M.O., takes specific passages of the transcripts out of context, then holds them up against the strawman he's constructed for the Israeli side. The Israelis have maintained that Liberty's flag was not visible before or during the attack. These transcripts support that contention. Bamford takes evidence that the Israelis saw the flag after the attack -- which is consistent with their version of events -- and offers it as proof that they lied.

Bamford points to evidence of the possible Israeli massacre of 800 Egyptian prisoners at the time and suggests that Israeli officers wanted to cover up the war crime.

What evidence? No one -- least of all Bamford -- has ever put forth any evidence to support this claim. But like all conspiracy theory motives, there doesn't need to be any evidence. All that is needed is the possibility that it could have happened. That the Sun would portray this as anything more than an unsupported allegation is shameful.
:: COINTELPRO Tool 9:51 PM [+] ::