Published Commentary: The Liberty Incident

Critique of the Author, A. Jay Cristol

See also: The Liberty Incident's Analysis and Criticism and Summary of Position.

The Liberty Incident is faithful to the "Big Lie Theory" of propaganda: "If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it."
Attributed to Joseph Goebbels (1897-1945), Minister of Propaganda under Adolf Hitler
charlatan. n.

...A person who makes elaborate, fraudulent, and often voluble claims to skill or knowledge; a quack or fraud...


A. Jay Cristol is a master of the art of lying through misdirection. His book is a perfect example of this talent. Without directly lying, he arranges facts (and omits others) in such a way as to lead a reader to a completely false conclusion. If challenged, he can reply that he didn't really lie, the error of fact only exists in the reader's mind. In addition to the articles in this critique which deal with the application of Cristol's special talent to the telling of the story of the Israeli attack on USS Liberty, it is instructive to see how he has done the same thing to give a false impression as to his own background. Since there is no evidence that he has ever sought to correct these factual mistakes, one can only assume that they were the intended result of his design.

Cristol presently works as a United States Bankruptcy Judge in Miami, Florida. Though he styles himself as "a federal judge," this description is a bit misleading. He works for the federal government and is given the title of judge, but he is not a United States District Judge or Circuit Judge. These positions require Presidential appointment and Senate confirmation. Mr. Cristol, an appointee of circuit judges, has never had his name placed before nor confirmed by the Senate.

Mr. Cristol writes of himself on his web site:

"In November 1951, during the Korean conflict, A. Jay Cristol joined the US Navy as an aviation cadet, earning his Navy Wings of Gold in April 1953. He deployed with VS-37, a Navy anti-submarine squadron aboard the aircraft carrier Princeton (CV-37) to the Western Pacific and the Sea of Japan. He was also part of TG70.4 during February 1955, in support of evacuating Nationalist Chinese from the Tachen Islands near the Communist China mainland in the South China Sea. He flew day and night missions as both a hunter pilot flying the Grumann AF-2W and a killer pilot flying the Grumann AF-2S. He was subsequently attached to the Fleet All Weather Training Unit, Pacific at San Diego, California as an instrument flight instructor and taught maneuvers for the delivery of nuclear weapons. Upon returning to civilian life, Cristol joined the Naval Air Reserve where he qualified as a four-engine Navy transport plane commander. In the 1960s, he flew operational flights during the Cuban Missile Crises and volunteer airlift missions to Vietnam.

After 18 years as a Naval aviator, Cristol joined the Judge Advocate General's Corps. He graduated with distinction from Naval Justice School. He served as a lawyer for another twenty years. His duties included teaching law of war and serving as the administrative officer for the summer Naval Reserve law courses. In 1983, he was made an honorary professor by the Naval Justice School. He has performed special active duty in the office of the Secretary of the Navy and the Chief of Naval Operations. In the 1980s, the Department of Defense sent him to the International Institute of Humanitarian Law at San Remo, Italy to lecture on Law of Naval warfare to senior foreign military officers. Captain Cristol retired in 1988. He wears more than a dozen military decorations including the Meritorious Service Medal, the Navy Commendation Medal, and the Navy Achievement Medal.

In civilian life, Cristol became a lawyer and practiced civil law. He served as Special Assistant Attorney General of Florida during the 1959, 1961, 1963, and 1965 sessions of the Florida Legislature. In 1985, after 25 years of law practice, he left his position as senior partner in a firm he founded to accept an appointment to the federal bench. He continues to serve as Chief Judge Emeritus in the Southern District of Florida. He is also an adjunct professor, teaching at the University of Miami School of Law.

An interest in international terrorism led him to enroll in the Graduate School of International Studies of the University of Miami where he researched and wrote on terrorism. Because of his background as a navy pilot, a navy lawyer (JAG), a lecturer in law of naval warfare, a civil lawyer, and a federal judge, members of the faculty encouraged him to research and write about the Liberty incident. He spent ten years researching the subject and was awarded a Ph.D. by the University of Miami Graduate School of International Studies. His collection of research material on this subject is considered to be the largest and most complete of any collection on the subject in the entire world. After completing his dissertation, he obtained declassification of additional heretofore secret documents through many Freedom of Information Act requests and appeals. His book, The Liberty Incident, was written to update and complete the historical record. He has written numerous articles on law, aviation, history, and other subjects.

Judge Cristol remains an avid aviator. He made his first flight in a Piper J-3 Cub on Biscayne Bay in 1945. He has personally piloted a Ford Tri-Motor, the Goodyear Blimp, a Soviet MiG-15, and many other unique, antique, or historic aircraft. In 1998, he became one of the few persons to have an airplane named after him when Pan Am named one of their 727 aircraft the Clipper A. Jay Cristol. He is a founding member of the National Museum of Naval Aviation at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Florida and a founding member of the Wings Over Miami Military and Classic Aircraft Museum in Miami, Florida."

This autobiographic description gives the strong impression that Cristol was a combat pilot during the Korean War, though it does not say so explicitly. In fact, he graduated from flight school less than 90 days before the Armistice was signed. He never flew from an aircraft carrier anywhere within striking distance of Korea. His carrier pilot career was limited to training missions in the South China Sea during peacetime. Cristol has done nothing to correct the misimpression created by his self styled description of his war career.

This misdirection through a careful choice of words has achieved his desired goal. Here are some quotes off Internet sites that write admiringly of Cristol, incorrect statements that he has never seen fit to correct:

He says ''virulently anti-Semitic organizations'' like the Liberty Lobby continue to ''fan the fires'' about the Liberty to smear Israel, when similar friendly-fire disasters have been all but forgotten, including the 1968 Pueblo, 1975 Mayagüez and 1987 Stark incidents.

He speaks of his favorite aircraft, the Grumman Avenger -- which former President George Bush flew in World War II -- in rhapsodic terms.

``Some enchanted evening, you look across the room and fall in love.''

Cristol left Miami Beach High School to become a Naval aviation cadet during the Korean War and qualified to fly off aircraft carriers. He flew combat missions in the Far East and participated in an airlift evacuation of nearly 80,000 Chinese nationals from the Tachen Islands to what was then Formosa (Taiwan) in 1955.

He became a military flight instructor before returning to South Florida, where he flew briefly for Eastern Airlines, then earned undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Miami.


A Naval reservist, Cristol was activated during the Bay of Pigs crisis and the Vietnam War, during which he flew airlifts. He taught summers at the Naval Justice School in Newport, R.I., and practiced law until he was appointed to the bench in 1984. [Emphasis added]

Notice that those who do not accept his version of events are not just "anti-Semitic," but rather ''virulently anti-Semitic.'' As with many of the claims he makes for himself, there is absolutely no evidence to support this characterization of those who do not agree with him. The Miami Herald did take the bait he had put out and wrote "He flew combat missions in the Far East," something that never happened. If Cristol ever wrote to the newspaper to correct their error, there is no evidence of it.

In another glowing review, this time by the American Israel Political Action Committee, he is described as a "combat pilot." Again, this is a patently false description. If Cristol ever saw combat, that fact has become a closely guarded secret.

Thirty-five years after that awful event, the anti-Israel slander has at last been debunked. A. Jay Cristol - a former U.S. Navy combat pilot and lawyer now serving as a federal judge in Florida - has just published his groundbreaking book The Liberty Incident: The 1967 Israeli Attack on the U.S. Navy Spy Ship (Brassey's, 2002), which proves conclusively that the Israeli attack was indeed a tragic mistake. [Emphasis added]

AIPAC's comment shows that they know as little about Cristol as they know about the Israeli attack on USS Liberty - and their characterizations of both are equally false.

Another pro-Israeli organization describes him as a former "fighter pilot":

"Judge A. Jay Cristol, Ph.D., was a Navy fighter pilot who served for 18 years as a Naval aviator,"

Note that this description also speaks of Cristol's "18 years as a Naval aviator," which for a reservist (as Cristol was) equals about nine months of active duty time.

This next description is a classic. This comment relates to meetings of the Association of Former Intelligence Professionals.

"For AFIO, he brings in speakers like federal judge and ex-naval intelligence officer A. Jay Cristol, and Rear Adm. James "Jay" Carmichael, commander of the local Coast Guard district. Besides being a great place to pick up the latest spy spin and conspiracy tales, the AFIO lunches aim to bring together the somewhat amorphous local intelligence community. "We're generally speaking to the choir and they know it," Spencer admits. "It's primarily a networking thing." Spencer says he's got aspirations to start scholarships for local students who want to enter an intelligence field, and fund intelligence programs at a local university."

Cristol's background has now morphed from that of a simple reservist into that of a Korean war combat fighter pilot who also happened to be a former Naval Intelligence office. This is not the first time that someone has bestowed this title on him. At a Coral Gables book signing event, the Mayor introduced him as a "former Naval Intelligence officer" and he simply stood there beaming. He made no effort whatsoever to correct the Mayor's mistake.


As with everything else written by Cristol, you must read and parse his claims about himself very carefully. He never says that he was a Korean War combat fighter pilot; he only implies that he was. Though his use of terms like "Korean conflict" (which he defines as running a year longer than the actual war), he implies that he flew during the actual war. He speaks of flying "hunter" and "killer" missions off the USS Princeton. Again, this implies combat. In fact, he flew ASW training flights. He speaks of flying missions off an aircraft carrier "during the Korean conflict", yet he never came any closer to Korea than flying training missions thousands of miles away in the South China Sea - well after the Armistice had been signed.

This is important because it illustrates how he deliberately omits key facts in order to create a false impression in the mind of the reader. If criticized later, he can claim that he did not explicitly misstate anything and if there is confusion, it is entirely in the mind of the reader. This is a tactic that he uses on almost every page of The Liberty Incident.

For example, on page 43 of The Liberty Incident he tells another whopper in an attempt to explain and excuse the failure of the IDF pilots to identify Liberty while attacking:

"...Because very little time remains after firing ceases until the aircraft will fly into or strike a surface target, fighter and attack pilots are told repeatedly to fire and pull up. Most pilots including this author will confess that they have in fact delayed pull-up to observe their hits. .."

Again, through the skillful use of tense and phrasing, he implies, without actually saying so, that he is an experienced combat pilot who had extensive experience strafing targets. If challenged, again he can respond that he did not say that explicitly and it is the reader's mistake if he or she concluded otherwise.

He also fabricates things. Cristol claims to have conducted interviews with people who deny that they were ever interviewed by him, including several Liberty survivors. Cristol’s interaction with Captain Ward Boston provides an excellent example of this sort of claim.

Captain Boston said that Cristol telephoned him several years ago to discuss the Liberty court of inquiry. Boston told Cristol that he wouldn’t talk about anything having to do with Liberty that wasn’t already public record. This included his personal thoughts and opinions as well as his private conversations with Admiral Kidd and the other members of the court. Cristol persisted. He asked Boston about his background and a variety of other matters, which Boston did answer, but Boston consistently refused to discuss anything about Liberty that wasn’t in the public record.

A few years later, Cristol wrote to Boston to tell him that he was going to visit Coronado (where Boston lives) and wanted to arrange to visit Boston. In the letter, Cristol recited a number of things that Boston purportedly told him in their earlier conversation. Boston said that he had told Cristol nothing of the sort. Cristol called Boston to confirm their meeting. Boston told Cristol that Cristol’s understanding of the earlier conversation was completely wrong and that he did not say any of the things that Cristol had attributed to him. He also told Cristol that he would be out of town and couldn’t meet with him.

Notwithstanding any of this, Cristol still claims that he interviewed Boston twice and implies that they discussed the court of inquiry and other issues Boston had previously refused to discuss with anyone else. That is patently untrue.

When Boston spoke with Cristol the first time, he suggested that if Cristol had questions about the court of inquiry, he should talk with Admiral Kidd. Cristol then called Kidd and spoke with him. About an hour after Boston spoke with Cristol, Kidd called Boston. They discussed Cristol and their mutual dislike for him. Kidd concluded by opining that he thought Cristol was an Israeli agent. This is memorialized in a sworn statement written and signed by Captain Boston.

Cristol claims to have made 15 trips to Israel while doing his research. He does not say whether he paid for these trips or someone else paid for them. While Cristol made an effort to talk to every Israeli who even remotely had anything to do with the attack on Liberty, he spoke with very few crewmembers.

Cristol’s book contains what purports to be a transcript of the air to ground communications between the Israeli pilots, MTBs, and controllers. Another Israeli, Ahron Bregman, has criticized the honestly of Cristol’s translation. The following is from a fax sent by Bregman to the Liberty Veterans Association:

"I understand from your letter (31 Jan 2003) that according to Dr, Jay Cristol the only difference between my and his interpretation of the conversations of the pilots before and during the attack on USS Liberty is the "tone" of those conversations. Yes, the tone seems to be one issue on which we disagree, but then the tone is very important for in these tapes the tone sometimes makes the music. It is sufficient to listen to the tone of Robert (here I am using the names used by Cristol in his book) at 1353 where he says: "What do you say?" to realize that, in fact, he refers to the previous suggestion of L.K. that it might well be that the ship is American. It seems that when it suits him Cristol himself refers to the tone of conversations. At 1412, according to Cristol, Kislev says: "Leave her!" and Cristol then adds in brackets: "There is a dramatic change in the tone of Kislev's voice". So here we are. The tone is indeed a matter that should be taken into consideration when analyzing the tapes.

But it seems that Cristol and me differ on substance as well. You see, Cristol is not a plumber, or a mechanic but rather a Judge - a Federal Judge - and as such his is the world of words and he fully understands - I am pretty sure - the meaning of words and the need to be accurate when using them. But when it comes to the audiotapes it seems as if Cristol no longer understands the importance of words and in his text there are omissions and the text itself is sometimes heavily edited. Here is an example (and for the sake of accuracy I am not even quoting from "A History of Israel" but rather straight from the tapes):

Cristol's version:


LK: What is that? Americans?

Shimon: What Americans?

Kislev: Robert, what did you say? [No one answers.] [This a bracketed comment in Cristol's transcripts.]

Bregman's version:


LK: What is it? American?

Shimon: How do you mean, American?

Kislev: Robert, what do you say? [namely: what's your opinion and clearly a reference to the query just raised regarding the ship's identity - AB] [The bracketed text is a comment of Bregman.]

Robert: I didn't say [the tone: I don't want to know - AB] [The bracketed text is a comment of Bregman.]

Why did Cristol edit the text by saying that "no one answers" where in fact Robert does answer by saying "I didn't say" in a tone which suggests "1 don't want to know" or "no comment"?"

Another critical moment in the audiotapes comes a bit later:

Cristol's version:


Menachem: Kislev, what country? [Menachem has become concerned.]

Kislev: Possibly American.

Bregman's version:


Menachem: Kislev, what state?

Kislev: Probably American

Menachem: What?

Kislev: Probably American.

Why did Cristol shorten this passage?? In order that the word "American" will not ring in our ears for too long? True, this latter passage is far from being a "Smoking gun", but why to edit such a critical moment in the event??"

Time Machine

Among the endorsements shown on the back cover of The Liberty Incident is one from Vice Admiral Donald Engen:

"The name I want you to remember is Jay Cristol. . . . He knows more about the Liberty than anybody else in the world. . . . He's got the most balanced view of anybody I've ever known."

What is the purpose of a book jacket quotation? Presumably, it is to advise prospective readers of the opinions of knowledgeable experts who have read the book and recommend it.

The Liberty Incident was copyrighted by its publisher, Brassey's, in 2002 - the year of the book's publication. Notice the date of death in the photo below.

Arlington National Cemetery

Cristol cannot be trusted with respect to any fact he reports. He has a timeline on his web site that he uses as a supplement to his book. On that timeline, among the other errors, he showed sunrise for June 8, 1967 as occurring at Liberty’s reported position at 0515. [He has since corrected his error, but only after the accuracy of his entire timeline became an issue in dispute.] The Naval Observatory on line computer service shows sunrise as occurring at 0442. Cristol can’t even be trusted to be accurate with something as simple as the time of sunrise.

Readers should assume that ALL of his facts are incorrect. Check each and every one of them. Do not take on faith anything Cristol writes - ever.

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