Statement by former Air Force intelligence analyst Stephen Forslund:
For many years I have periodically been reminded of those days in June 1967 that had such an impact on me as a young man. It has been frustrating that, for all that time, I have had to stifle the shout I wanted to make over the injustice that was committed.
I finally feel the overwhelming compulsion to say something about what I witnessed. I do so with fear and discomfort because of the oath of secrecy we all took and the uncertainty over the legality of speaking out. What motivates me to speak is the fact that nothing I can add will harm our nation or compromise our intelligence sources at this late date. I can be written off as a liar or "conspiracy weirdo" or prosecuted if they want to admit that what I say is true.
Much discussion has gone on about what the NSA archives hold about the Liberty attack. The latest I read, stated that the only and final "tapes" that the NSA has released show that helicopters sent by Israel to the site of the attack on the Liberty, after the attack, were unaware of her nationality. Much importance is put on this issue by different factions in this debate. Parties state that these are the only tapes of intercepts that exist. That may very well be true, now. Nothing I can say will change anyone's mind but I have to state, for my own peace of mind, what I witnessed as an all source intelligence analyst for the U.S. Air Force during the 6 day war.
There were other intercepts, and I and many others like me, read transcripts of the air-to-air and air-to-ground communications of the fighters who attacked the USS Liberty. We read these in real time during the day the attack occurred. These intercepts were preceded by many others we read that week that started with the opening attack by Israel in the war and included intercepts of messages between the USA and Israel in which our government stated their knowledge of the Israeli's pre-emptive attack that began the war and warned Israel to cease their activities.
On the day of the attack on the Liberty, I read yellow teletype sheets that spewed from the machines in front of me all day. We obtained our input from a variety of sources including the NSA. The teletypes were raw translations of intercepts of Israeli air-to-air and air-to-ground communications between jet aircraft and their ground controller. I read page after page of these transcripts that day as it went on and on. The transcripts made specific reference to the efforts to direct the jets to the target which was identified as American numerous times by the ground controller. Upon arrival, the aircraft specifically identified the target and mentioned the American flag she was flying. There were frequent operational transmissions from the pilots to the ground base describing the strafing runs. The ground control began asking about the status of the target and whether it was sinking. They stressed that the target must be sunk and leave no trace. The pilots stated they had made several runs and the target was still floating. The ground control station re-iterated that it was urgent that the target be sunk, leaving no trace. There was a detectable level of frustration evident in the transmissions over the fact that the aircraft were unable to accomplish the mission quickly and totally.
The aircraft eventually broke off and we received no further transcripts of the event. I have since learned in later descriptions of the attack that torpedo boats attacked the Liberty also. I saw neither intercepts nor analyses that addressed that attack. An hour or two later I was discussing the event with a team member and he stated they had received, during the time frame of the attack, an intercept of a US State Department message to Israel stating that the United States had full evidence of what had occurred in the attack on the Liberty and strongly warning Israel to cease activities immediately.
Imagine my surprise when, upon going home that night, I was watching the evening news and a short piece that gave vague reference to a mistaken attack by Israel upon an American ship off Sinai came on. The next day there was a small article buried in the A section of the paper stating that there had been an accidental attack on the USS Liberty and that the governments involved were in discussions. I saw little mention after that in the popular press and, of course, said nothing for the next 36 years.
I read these discussions debating whether Israel intentionally attacked the USS Liberty and what their motivation would have been for a deliberate attack. I can't debate their motivation. But, I will carry the memory of those transcripts with me until I die. We all lost our virginity that day.
Later, after the Israeli government released what they called transcripts of the conversations between pilots and their controllers, Forslund added these Israeli versions bore scant resemblance to the transcripts he saw while the attack was underway in June, 1967. He wrote::
"The ground control station stated that the target was American and for the aircraft to confirm it," Forslund recalled. "The aircraft did confirm the identity of the target as American, by the American flag.
"The ground control station ordered the aircraft to attack and sink the target and ensure they left no survivors."
Forslund said he clearly recalled "the obvious frustration of the controller over the inability of the pilots to sink the target quickly and completely."
"He kept insisting the mission had to sink the target, and was frustrated with the pilots' responses that it didn't sink."
Nor, Forslund said, was he the only member of his unit to have read the transcripts. "Everybody saw these," said Forslund, now retired after 26 years in the military.