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USS Liberty

Statement of Rear Admiral Merlin H. Staring, JAGC, USN (Ret.)

Former Judge Advocate General of the Navy

US Navy Memorial
June 8, 2007

I AM HONORED TO BE ALLOWED TO PARTICIPATE IN THIS TRIBUTETO THE CREW AND SURVIVORS OF THE USS LIBERTY – RUTHLESSLYATTACKED BY ISRAELI FORCES ON 8 JUNE 1967. AS A NAVY JAG-CORPSCAPTAIN, I HAD ONLY A BRIEF OFFICIAL CONTACT WITH THAT EVENT ATTHE TIME – AND NOT UNTIL MANY YEARS LATER DID I LEARN THE FULLFACTS. WHEN I DID, I BECAME AWARE – AND I AM NOW OF THE FIRMESTCONVICTION – THAT THE LIBERTY HONOREES HAVE SUFFERED – FOR 40YEARSS – AN UNPRECEDENTED INJUSTICE – AND AT THE HANDS OF OURVERY OWN NAVY AND GOVERNMENT.

I WAS THE SENIOR OF TWO NAVY LAWYERS WHO WERE AT THETIME THE STAFF LEGAL ADVISORS TO ADMIRAL JOHN SIDNEY McCAIN, JR.,OUR NAVY’S AREA COMMANDER IN EUROPE WITHIN WHOSE COMMANDLIBERTY WAS THEN OPERATING. I WAS NOT BROUGHT INTO THEMATTER AT ITS EARLY STAGES, BUT I WAS AWARE OF ITS PROGRESSFROM MESSAGE TRAFFIC. ON THE AFTERNOON OF 17 JUNE 1967,HOWEVER, A 650-PAGE NAVY COURT OF INQUIRY REPORT WAS SENT TOME BY ADMIRAL McCAIN “FOR MY REVIEW” – AN EXPECTED AND IN FACTA REQUIRED STEP IN THE NAVY’S INVESTIGATIVE PROCESS.

I DEVOTED MY ATTENTION EXCLUSIVELY TO THAT RECORD FORABOUT 18 HOURS, INCLUDING ONLY A 4-HOUR REST BREAK, UNTIL EARLYFORENOON ON 18 JUNE. AT THAT TIME THE RECORD WAS WITHDRAWNFROM ME BY ADMIRAL McCAIN WHEN HE LEARNED THAT I WAS ONLYABOUT A THIRD OF THE WAY THROUGH IT AND WAS HAVING PROBLEMSFINDING EVIDENCE TO SUPPORT SOME OF THE COURT’S FINDINGS. I WASNEVER ASKED FOR ANY OF THE RESULTS OF MY PARTIAL REVIEW. ILATER LEARNED THAT ADMIRAL McCAIN HAD ON 18 JUNE PLACED ANAPPROVING ENDORSEMENT ON THE RECORD AND THAT THE COURT’SPRESIDENT HAD DEPARTED LONDON WITH THE RECORD, ALSO ON 18JUNE, EN ROUTE TO NAVY HEADQUARTERS IN WASHINGTON.

IN NO WAY COULD THAT 650-PAGE INVESTIGATIVE RECORD HAVEBEEN COMPETENTLY REVIEWED, AND CONSCIENTIOUSLY CONSIDERED,BY ANY OTHER LEGAL OR STAFF COUNSEL, OR BY THE CONVENINGAUTHORITY HIMSELF, BEFORE HE PLACED HIS REQUIRED ENDORSEMENTON IT, AS HE DID.

THAT HASTY COURT OF INQUIRY MET AND CONDUCTED ITSBUSINESS WITHIN A MERE 7 DAYS, HAVING BEEN SPECIFICALLY ORDEREDBY THE CONVENING AUTHORITY TO DO SO. IT WAS “THE ONLY U. S.GOVERNMENT INVESTIGATION INTO [THAT] ATTACK,” AS THEDEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY HAS ASSURED CONGRESS IS THE CASE.ORDERED AT THE OUTSET TO CONDUCT AND COMPLETE ITSPROCEEDINGS WITHIN ONE WEEK, THE COURT DID SO. AS A PREFACE TOITS FINDINGS OF FACT, HOWEVER, THE COURT ITSELF CITED IN ITSWRITTEN RECORD, AS AN “UNUSUAL DIFFICULTY” THAT IT HADEXPERIENCED IN CONDUCTING ITS PROCEEDINGS, “THE NECESSITY OFINVESTIGATING SUCH A MAJOR NAVAL DISASTER OF INTERNATIONALSIGNIFICANCE IN AN EXTREMELY ABBREVIATED TIME FRAME.” THEATTACK THE COURT WAS ORDERED TO INVESTIGATE HAD KILLED 34AMERICANS (33 U. S. NAVY PERSONNEL AND ONE AMERICAN CIVILIAN); ITHAD WOUNDED AN ADDITIONAL 172 AMERICAN SAILORS; AND IT HAD SODEVASTATED THE FORTY-MILLION-DOLLAR USS LIBERTY THAT SHE WASULTIMATELY SOLD FOR A PITTANCE AS SCRAP.

THE NAVY COURT WAS DIRECTED TO INQUIRE INTO “ALL THEPERTINENT FACTS AND CIRCUMSTANCES LEADING TO AND CONNECTEDWITH” THE 8 JUNE 1967 ATTACK ON THE LIBERTY. THAT IT DID NOT ANDCOULD NOT POSSIBLY HAVE DONE SO IS APPARENT FROM THE NAVY’SOFFICIAL RECORD. IT HAD BEEN ORDERED, FIRST OF ALL, TO COMPLETEITS INQUIRY INTO A MASSIVELY COMPLEX EVENT WITHIN A MERE 7DAYS. IN ITS ATTEMPT TO DO SO, DURING ITS 3 DAYS OF PROCEEDINGSAT MALTA, IT HAD ACCESS TO, AND TOOK TESTIMONY FROM, ONLY 14 OFTHE 260 SURVIVING MEMBERS OF LIBERTY’S COMPLEMENT – MANY OFHER 172 WOUNDED CREWMEN, OBVIOUSLY INCLUDING MANY WHO HADBEEN AT THE HEART OF THE ACTION, HAVING ALREADY BEENMEDEVACED TO OTHER U. S. NAVY VESSELS AND SHORESIDE FACILITIESFOR MEDICAL ATTENTION. NEVER THEREAFTER WERE THOSECRITICALLY IMPORTANT WITNESSES OFFICIALLY QUESTIONEDCONCERNING THEIR OBSERVATIONS OF OR EXPERIENCES DURING THEATTACK.

IT IS HEARTENING TO KNOW THAT A SUBSTANTIAL NUMBER OF THELIBERTY SURVIVORS OF THAT ATTACK ARE STILL WITH US, AND ABLECOMPETENTLY TO TESTIFY TO THEIR EXPERIENCES OF 40 YEARS AGOTODAY WERE THEY TO BE GIVEN THAT OPPORTUNITY, WHICH THEY SEEK.IT IS DISHEARTENING TO KNOW, HOWEVER, HOW MANY OF LIBERTY’SCOMPLEMENT ARE NO LONGER WITH US. I JOIN THIS CEREMONY INHONOR OF BOTH OF THOSE CATEGORIES – AND I DO SO IN BOTH THEHOPE AND THE EXPECTATION THAT OUR NAVY, AND OUR GOVERNMENT,WILL NOW FINALLY FACE UP TO THE OBLIGATION TO ATONE FOR THENEGLECT AND THE INJUSTICES THEY HAVE WREAKED ANDCOUNTENANCED IN THE USS LIBERTY MATTER FOR 40 LONG YEARS.

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Multimedia

Video: USS Liberty Memorial - June 8, 2009

Interview with Captain Boston, the 1967 Chief Attorney in the Liberty Investigation

Documentary: Dead in the Water

Documentary: The Day Israel Attacked America

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Statement of Rear Admiral Merlin H. Staring, JAGC, USN (Ret.)

2007 USS Liberty Memorial Speech

More Articles on the USS Liberty

Additional Resources

Booklets, Flyers, & More on the USS Liberty

An Evidentiary Study of the USS Liberty Attack

Arlington National Cemetery: William Loren McGonagle

Q & A – Commonly Asked Questions about the Attack on the USS Liberty

Findings of the Independent Commission of Inquiry

Affidavit – Counsel to the U.S. Navy Court of Inquiry’s investigation

Book – Assault on the Liberty

Book – Body of Secrets : Anatomy of the Ultra-Secret National Security Agency

Documentary – Dead in the Water

Organizations

USS Liberty Memorial Website

Honor Liberty Veterans

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