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02 November 2014


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Ken Halliwell

TW, The tactical radio communication frequencies involved were within the VHF/UHF range and, thus, limited to a signal intercept distance within slightly greater than line-of-sight (i.e., mutual signal horizons) between the transmitting and receiving antennae.

Mount Olympus (MO), on Cyprus, was about 213 Nautical Miles (NM) north from the attack site, and about 230 miles north from the northern coast of Sinai.

If VHF/UHF antennae were on MO, at 6,610 feet above sea-level, their signal horizon was about 100 NM.

At most, a VHF/UHF signal intercept operation on MO may have been able to receive signals from IDF aircraft, at the attack site, flying at about 7,000 feet or higher. But VHF/UHF signals transmitted from northern Sinai, at about 100 feet above sea-level, would have been far beyond MO's VHF/UHF signal horizon.

The following essay provides more info:

Note: The above essay does not include exotic methods of VHF/UHF intercept; e.g., atmospheric signal scattering, ducting, high-altitude passive reflection, satellite, etc.

Of course, for HF (shortwave) signal intercept, line-of-sight is not a limiting factor, but other factors (e.g., skip distance and ionosphere conditions) are limiting.


This is probably not earth-shattering, but I thought I'd leave it here for anyone interested:


Keith Harbaugh

The above post is the most recent one in SST's "USS Liberty" category,
so I'll make this comment here.

The June 2017 issue of Naval History Magazine
has a fine article on the 1967 attack by James M. Scott,
author of The Attack on the Liberty (2009) and
the son of John Scott, who was damage control officer on the Liberty when it was attacked.
The article is titled
“The Spy Ship Left Out in the Cold”

An excerpt from the article:

President Johnson and his advisers gathered in the Situation Room the morning of the attack.
While relieved neither Egypt nor the Soviets were responsible,
Johnson and his team realized that an attack by Israel—
an ally with a loyal domestic following—
raised a host of other complicated political issues for the administration.
At the time, the United States was bogged down by the Vietnam War,
where 26 men died each day in 1967.
In May, that number spiked to 38 men a day.
Johnson’s approval numbers simultaneously were plummeting
from 61 percent in March 1966 to just 39 percent in August 1967.
It all came down to Vietnam.

Complicating matters, American Jews—
a powerful and important constituency for Johnson, who was facing reelection in 1968—
were at the forefront of the antiwar movement.
Adding to his frustration was the fact that
he had done more than any prior President to improve U.S.-Israeli relations.
“If Viet Nam persists,” one memo warned him,
“a special effort to hold the Jewish vote will be necessary.”

The Liberty—riddled with cannon blasts, her decks soaked in blood,
her starboard side ripped open by a torpedo—
evolved in a matter of hours
from a top-secret intelligence asset
to a domestic political liability.
That was evident by one proposal.
“Consideration was being given by some unnamed Washington authorities to sink the Liberty
in order that newspaper men would be unable to photograph her
and thus inflame public opinion against the Israelis,”
NSA Deputy Director Louis Tordella
wrote in a memo for the record.
“I made an impolite comment about that idea.”

The day after the attack, Johnson met with his Special Committee of the National Security Council.
The Liberty discussion was heated, minutes show, as Johnson’s advisers
spurned Israel’s claim that the attack was simply a tragic accident.
Clark Clifford, head of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board
and one of Johnson’s most pro-Israel advisers, demanded the attackers be punished.
“Inconceivable that it was an accident,” Clifford said. “Punish Israelis responsible.”
Clifford’s strong comments—echoed by others in the meeting, including the President—
reflected just how upset many in Washington were over the attack,
a hostility that was never shared with the American public.

To senior officials, the idea that the attack on the Liberty was friendly fire defied logic.
Friendly fire accidents often happen at night or in bad weather.
Furthermore, such accidents tend to be over in a matter of seconds, maybe minutes.

In contrast, the attack on the Liberty occurred on a clear, sunny afternoon in international waters.
No other ships were in the area.
The attack involved two branches of Israel’s vaunted military and raged for approximately an hour.

In the heat of battle, Liberty officers were able to identity the flag and hull number off a swift-moving torpedo boat,
yet Israel claimed its own forces were unable to identify a lumbering cargo ship
with towering hull numbers, her name on the stern and an American flag on the mast.
To many, that seemed impossible.
“I just don’t believe that it was an accident or trigger happy local commanders,”
Secretary of State Dean Rusk later said.
“There was just too much of a sustained effort to disable and sink the Liberty.”

But it wasn’t just politicians who disputed Israel’s explanation.
Senior intelligence leaders also were convinced the attack was no accident.
“It couldn’t be anything else but deliberate,” concluded NSA Director Marshall Carter.
“I don’t think there can be any doubt that the Israelis knew exactly what they were doing,”
recalled CIA Director Richard Helms.
“We were all quite convinced the Israelis knew what they were doing,”
added Thomas Hughes, director of the State Department’s intelligence bureau.

Many senior Navy officers agreed.
Vice Admiral Jerome King, senior aide to Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Admiral David McDonald,
challenged the claim of friendly fire.
“It certainly was not mistaken identity,” he later said.
“I don’t buy it. I never did. Nobody that I knew ever did either.
It wasn’t as though it was at night or a rainy day or anything like that.
There wasn’t any excuse for not knowing what that ship was.
You could divine from just the apparatus on deck—all the antennae and so on—
what its mission was.”


Israeli diplomats feared the United States planned to use the attack as a political tool
to dampen the U.S. public’s enthusiasm for Israel,
dangerous ground for the Jewish state as it prepared to negotiate a peace deal
that would involve controversial issues such as territorial gains and refugees.
Israel decided to fight back, launching a political and media spin campaign.
Israeli diplomats tapped influential American Jews,
many of whom were close friends with President Johnson, to help.
Documents show that Eugene Rostow, who was third in command of the State Department,
repeatedly shared privileged information about U.S. strategy with Israeli diplomats.
Others who assisted Israel included Supreme Court justice Abe Fortas and Arthur Goldberg,
who was the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.
Many of these and others who helped the embassy
are referred to by code names in Israeli documents.
For example, Democratic fund-raiser Abe Feinberg is identified in Israeli records
by the codename “Hamlet.”

Israeli diplomats likewise hammered the media to kill critical stories and slant others in favor of Israel.


In evaluating the Liberty court of inquiry,
it is worth comparing it to the court that examined North Korea’s capture of the Pueblo.
The Liberty court lasted just eight days,
interviewed only 14 crewmen,
and produced a final transcript that was 158 pages.
In contrast, the Pueblo court lasted almost four months,
interviewed more than 100 witnesses,
and produced a final transcript that was nearly 3,400 pages.

Captain Ward Boston, the lawyer for the Liberty court, broke his silence in 2002, stating that
investigators were barred from traveling to Israel
to interview the attackers, collect Israeli war logs, or review communications.
Furthermore, he said
Johnson and Defense Secretary Robert McNamara had ordered the court
to endorse Israel’s claim that the attack was an accident,

which Boston personally did not believe was the case. [22]


[Deputy Defense Secretary Cyrus] Vance clashed with NSA Director [Marshall] Carter over the Liberty,
ordering him to keep his “mouth shut,”
a demand that infuriated senior intelligence officials, such as NSA Chief of Staff Gerard Burke.
“There was absolutely no question in anybody’s mind that the Israelis had done it deliberately,”
Burke later said.
“I was angrier because of the cover-up—if that’s possible—than of the incident itself,
because there was no doubt in my mind that they did it right from the outset.
That was no mystery.
The only mystery to me was why was the thing being covered up.” [24]

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