SECRECY NEWS
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2003, Issue No. 58
July 9, 2003

NSA RELEASES USS LIBERTY RECORDS

In an extraordinary release of raw intelligence records, the National Security Agency has declassified and disclosed audio intercepts and related documents concerning the 1967 Israeli attack on the U.S.S. Liberty, an American intelligence vessel, that led to the deaths of 34 American sailors during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.

The release came in the course of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by A. Jay Cristol, an historian who authored a book on the subject, The Liberty Incident (Brassey's, 2002).

Cristol said the contents of the new release were consistent with the position advanced in his book that the Israeli attack on the Liberty was accidental and unwitting, attributable to the fog of war. Some Liberty survivors and others have contended that the attack was deliberate.

The newly released intercepts record conversations between two Israeli helicopter pilots and their control tower. (No communications from the attacking aircraft or torpedo boats were acquired, the NSA said.)

According to the transcript, the U.S.S. Liberty was initially thought to be Egyptian. Only later, over an hour into the attack, was an American flag spotted on the ship. Even before that, however, the control tower advised oddly that if any rescued survivors spoke English rather than Arabic, they were to be taken to Lod, in Israel, rather than to nearby El Arish.

Whether or not the new release answers all possible questions about the attack on the Liberty, which is unlikely, it appears to be the last known piece of hard evidence. The NSA told a federal court that it has now declassified and released to Cristol "all of the actual recordings and English translations (including summaries of those translations) held by the NSA that relate to the USS Liberty incident." The NSA releases are posted here in rather large PDF and audio files:

The NSA's July 2 letter to Cristol, together with a mirrored copy of the compiled transcripts, may be found here:


COURT UPHOLDS CIA DENIAL OF CUBA RECORDS

The Central Intelligence Agency is entitled to withhold a multi-volume compendium of information on "Cuban Personalities" that it prepared in 1962, even though the Agency has previously released similar or identical information, a District of Columbia appeals court panel ruled on July 8.

The decision came in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the CIA brought by the Assassination Archives and Research Center. See:


COURT REBUFFS CHENEY ON ENERGY TASK FORCE

The DC Court of Appeals rejected a petition from Vice President Dick Cheney that would have shut down a lawsuit brought by Judicial Watch and the Sierra Club concerning the Vice President's secretive Energy Task Force.

A copy of the July 8 ruling is posted here:

A Washington Post story, "Cheney Loses Ruling on Energy Panel Records" by Henri E. Cauvin, July 9, puts the matter in perspective:


9-11 COMMISSION REPORTS ON ACCESS PROBLEMS

The National Commission on September 11 has received mixed cooperation from the executive branch in response to its requests for records, it said on July 8.

"While thousands of documents are flowing in -- some in boxes and some digitized -- most of the documents we need are still to come," the Commission stated in its first interim report outlining the status of its requests. See:


THE DECISION TO GO TO WAR IN IRAQ

The Foreign Affairs Committee of the UK House of Commons produced a new report on "The Decision to Go to War in Iraq" that is cautiously critical of the UK Government's public presentation of intelligence used to justify the war in Iraq. A copy of the report is posted here:

Among other things, the UK report prompted a belated acknowledgment from the Bush Administration this week that it should not have endorsed the claim, based on forged documents, that Iraq was attempting to import uranium from Africa. President Bush presented that discredited claim in the State of the Union address earlier this year.

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) pressed the point in a new release of his correspondence with the International Atomic Energy Agency and with the White House. See:

Rep. David Obey (D-WI), ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee, questioned the role and structure of defense intelligence, singling out the controversial Office of Special Plans, in a July 8 statement on the House floor. See:


HOUSE ENACTS NEW LIMITS ON TIA

No government agency may deploy or implement any component of the Terrorism Information Awareness (formerly Total Information Awareness) program without Congressional notification and authorization, according to a provision adopted yesterday by the House of Representatives.

The "Limitation on Deployment of Terrorism Information Awareness Program" was included in the 2004 Defense Appropriations Act that was approved by the House on July 8. See the text of the provision here:

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Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.

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