FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Six Day War and Israeli Lies: What I Saw at the CIA

On too many occasions in U.S. history, the use of force has been justified with either corrupt intelligence or just plain lies.  Such was the case in the Mexican-American War; the Spanish-American War; the Vietnam War; and the 2003 Iraq War.  The checks and balances that were needed to prevent the misuse of intelligence were not operative, and Presidents Polk, McKinley, Johnson, and Bush deceived the American people, the U.S. Congress, and the press.  In 1967, Israeli officials at the highest level lied to the White House about the start of the Six-Day War.

As a junior analyst at the CIA, I helped to draft the report that described Israel’s attack against Egypt on the morning of June 5, 1967.  There were sensitive communications intercepts that documented Israeli preparations for an attack, and no evidence of an Egyptian battle plan.  The Israelis had been clamoring about indications of Egyptian preparations for an invasion, but we had no sign of Egyptian readiness in terms of its air or armored power.  The assumption was that the Israelis were engaging in disinformation in order to gain U.S. support.

My own view was that Egypt would be unlikely to start a war with Israel while half of its army was tied down fighting in a civil war in Yemen.  CIA’s Arabists believed that Egyptian President Nasser was bluffing, and cited the low quality of Cairo’s military equipment.

We were therefore shocked when President Johnson’s national security adviser, Walt Rostow, refused to accept our intelligence assessment on the Israeli attack.  Rostow cited “assurances” from the Israeli ambassador in Washington that under no whitleblowerciacircumstances would the Israelis attack first.  Over the protests of Israeli defense minister Moshe Dayan, the Israeli government lied to the White House about how the war started.  President Johnson was told that the Egyptians had initiated firing on Israeli settlements and that an Egyptian squadron had been observed heading toward Israeli. Neither statement was true.

As a result, our report describing surprise Israeli attacks against Egyptian, Jordanian, and Syrian airfields encountered a hostile response from the National Security Council.  Fortunately, CIA director Richard Helms supported our assessment, and the National Military Command Center corroborated the report as well.  Rostow summoned Clark Clifford, chairman of the President’s Foreign Advisory Board and a leading NSC Arabist Hal Saunders to examine our analysis, and both men provided corroboration.

In addition to lying to the White House about the start of the war, Israeli military officers lied to the American ambassador to Israel, Walworth Barbour, about non-existent Egyptian military movements.  The CIA, meanwhile, had the benefit of satellite photography that showed Egyptian planes parked on airfields wingtip-to-wingtip, which pointed to no plan to attack.

Twenty years later, I learned that a confident of the president, Harry McPherson, was in Israel at the start of the war and accompanied Ambassador Barbour to the meeting with Prime Minister Eshkol.  When Israeli air raid sirens began to wail during the meeting, Israeli intelligence chief General Aharon Yariv assured everyone there was no need to move to an underground bunker.  If we had this information in 1967, it would have corroborated our analysis that the Israelis had destroyed more than 200 Egyptian planes on the ground.

In addition to lying about the start of the war, the Israelis were even more deceitful three days later when they attributed their malicious attack on the USS Liberty to a random accident.  If so, it was a well planned accident.  The ship was a U.S. intelligence vessel in international waters, both slow-moving and lightly armed.  It brandished a five-foot-by-eight-foot Stars and Stripes in the midday sun, and didn’t resemble a ship in any other navy, let alone a ship in the arsenal of one of Israel’s enemies. Yet the Israelis claimed that they believed they were attacking an Egyptian ship.

The Israeli attack took place after six hours of intense, low-level reconnaissance.  It was conducted over a two-hour period by unmarked Mirage jets using cannons and rockets.  Israeli boats fired machine guns at close range at those helping the wounded, then machine-gunned the life rafts that survivors dropped in hope of abandoning the ship.  The NSA investigation of the disaster remains classified to this day.

More articles by:

Melvin A. Goodman is a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy and a professor of government at Johns Hopkins University.  A former CIA analyst, Goodman is the author of Failure of Intelligence: The Decline and Fall of the CIA and National Insecurity: The Cost of American Militarism. and A Whistleblower at the CIA. His forthcoming book is American Carnage: Donald Trump’s War on Intelligence” (City Lights Publishers, 2019).  Goodman is the national security columnist for counterpunch.org.

Weekend Edition
December 07, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Steve Hendricks
What If We Just Buy Off Big Fossil Fuel? A Novel Plan to Mitigate the Climate Calamity
Jeffrey St. Clair
Cancer as Weapon: Poppy Bush’s Radioactive War on Iraq
Paul Street
The McCain and Bush Death Tours: Establishment Rituals in How to be a Proper Ruler
Jason Hirthler
Laws of the Jungle: The Free Market and the Continuity of Change
Ajamu Baraka
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 70: Time to De-Colonize Human Rights!
Andrew Levine
Thoughts on Strategy for a Left Opposition
Jennifer Matsui
Dead of Night Redux: A Zombie Rises, A Spook Falls
Rob Urie
Degrowth: Toward a Green Revolution
Binoy Kampmark
The Bomb that Did Not Detonate: Julian Assange, Manafort and The Guardian
Robert Hunziker
The Deathly Insect Dilemma
Robert Fisk
Spare Me the American Tears for the Murder of Jamal Khashoggi
Joseph Natoli
Tribal Justice
Ron Jacobs
Getting Pushed Off the Capitalist Cliff
Macdonald Stainsby
Unist’ot’en Camp is Under Threat in Northern Canada
Senator Tom Harkin
Questions for Vice-President Bush on Posada Carriles
W. T. Whitney
Two Years and Colombia’s Peace Agreement is in Shreds
Ron Jacobs
Getting Pushed Off the Capitalist Cliff
Ramzy Baroud
The Conspiracy Against Refugees
David Rosen
The Swamp Stinks: Trump & Washington’s Rot
Raouf Halaby
Wall-to-Wall Whitewashing
Daniel Falcone
Noam Chomsky Turns 90
Dean Baker
An Inverted Bond Yield Curve: Is a Recession Coming?
Nick Pemberton
The Case For Chuck Mertz (Not Noam Chomsky) as America’s Leading Intellectual
Ralph Nader
New Book about Ethics and Whistleblowing for Engineers Affects Us All!
Dan Kovalik
The Return of the Nicaraguan Contras, and the Rise of the Pro-Contra Left
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Exposing the Crimes of the CIAs Fair-Haired Boy, Paul Kagame, and the Rwandan Patriotic Front
Jasmine Aguilera
Lessons From South of the Border
Manuel García, Jr.
A Formula for U.S. Election Outcomes
Sam Pizzigati
Drug Company Execs Make Millions Misleading Cancer Patients. Here’s One Way to Stop Them
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Agriculture as Wrong Turn
James McEnteer
And That’s The Way It Is: Essential Journalism Books of 2018
Chris Gilbert
Biplav’s Communist Party of Nepal on the Move: Dispatch by a Far-Flung Bolivarian
Judith Deutsch
Siloed Thinking, Climate, and Disposable People: COP 24 and Our Discontent
Jill Richardson
Republicans Don’t Want Your Vote to Count
John Feffer
‘Get Me Outta Here’: Trump Turns the G20 into the G19
Domenica Ghanem
Is Bush’s Legacy Really Much Different Than Trump’s?
Peter Certo
Let Us Argue Over Dead Presidents
Christopher Brauchli
Concentration Camps From Here to China
ANIS SHIVANI
The Progress of Fascism Over the Last Twenty Years
Steve Klinger
A Requiem for Donald Trump
Al Ronzoni
New Deals, From FDR’s to the Greens’
Gerald Scorse
America’s Rigged Tax Collection System
Louis Proyect
Praying the Gay Away
Rev. Theodore H. Lockhart
A Homily: the Lord Has a Controversy With His People?
David Yearsley
Bush Obsequies
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail