516. Editorial Note

Central Intelligence Agency Information Report B–321/33403–67, November 9, 1967, summarized a report received from an unnamed U.S. citizen who said that on a recent trip to Tel Aviv, some Israeli friends had commented on the attack on the Liberty. According to the report, “They said that Dayan personally ordered the attack on the ship and that one of his generals adamantly opposed the action and said, ‘This is pure murder.’ One of the admirals who was present also disapproved the action, and it was he who ordered it stopped and not Dayan. My friends believe that the attack against the US vessel is also detrimental to any political ambition Dayan may have.”

A note dated January 12, 1968, attached to a copy of the report, forwarded it to [text not declassified], who commented in a handwritten note: “Thank you. There is only one problem with the story and that is it’s not true. Curiously, Dayan and Eshkol are finding themselves natural allies in the more important issues—whatever their personal differences.” (Central Intelligence Agency, DO/NE Files: Job 85–01007R, Box 5, Folder 50, Israeli Attack on USS Liberty During 1967 Six Day War, Vol. I)

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Chief of the Near East Division in the CIA Directorate of Operations Alan D. Wolfe commented on the report in a note of September 20, 1977, to the Deputy Director for Operations forwarding a transcript of a September 19 television interview with Director of Central Intelligence Admiral Stansfield Turner. In the interview, Turner had been asked about a published accusation, based on documents released by the Central Intelligence Agency under the Freedom of Information Act, that Dayan had ordered the attack on the Liberty. Wolfe commented that of four documents on this subject released under the Freedom of Information Act in 1977, three were “raw reports which in historical hindsight were garbage, but which appeared worthy of dissemination at the time.” (Ibid., Folder 51, Israeli Attack on USS Liberty During 1967 Six Day War, Vol. II) The report cited above was one of the three reports to which he referred. The second was an Intelligence Information Cable, TDCS DB–315/02297–67, June 23, 1967, reporting that the general opinion in the Turkish General Staff was that the Israeli attack on the Liberty was deliberate. (Ibid.) The third was an Information Report dated July 27, 1967, summarizing a report by an unnamed U.S. citizen that an Israeli acquaintance had told him that Israeli forces knew the ship’s identity and what it was doing. The Israeli had said, with reference to the Liberty incident, “you’ve got to remember that in this campaign there is neither time nor room for mistakes.” (Ibid.)

In the 1977 note cited above, Wolfe stated that the fourth document was a sanitized version of an intelligence memorandum of June 13, 1967 (Document 284), which concluded that the Israeli aircraft and patrol boats attacking the Liberty were unaware of its identity. He noted that a June 21 memorandum (Document 317) re-examined the June 13 conclusions in the light of the Israeli court of inquiry findings and drew a distinction between Israeli Government knowledge of the Liberty’s presence in the battle zone and the ignorance of the attacking force. Wolfe concluded, “All rational judgment thus supports the idea of gross stupidity and negligence but not malicious intent.” (Central Intelligence Agency, DO/NE Files: Job 85–01007R, Box 5, Folder 51, Israeli Attack on USS Liberty During 1967 Six Day War, Vol. II)