The ship was clearly identified, not only by its unique configuration but by a very large U.S. flag that was flown at the time. The weather was calm and the visibility was excellent. During this unprovoked attack 34 U.S. Navy men were killed and 171 wounded. Nevertheless, to this day the American public does not know why the attack took place and who was involved overall.
In my opinion, the United States government and the Israeli government must share responsibility for this cover-up. I cannot accept the claim by the Israelis that this was a case of mistaken identity. I have flown for years in both peace and war on surveillance flights over the ocean, and my opinion is supported by a full career of locating and identifying ships at sea. Based on the way this tragedy was handled both in the United States and in Israel, one must conclude that there is much information that has not been made available to the public.
The U.S. Fleet, positioned nearby, received a distress call from the USS Liberty, and one carrier dispatched a squadron to go to the defense of the disabled ship. Before the aircraft reached the Liberty, they received orders from Washington directing their return to their ship. Who issued those orders? So far, no one knows. In the United States all information available to the U.S. government indicating those who participated in controlling this operation from Washington, together with the exact text of orders transmitted to the Mediterranean Fleet, has never been made public.
Thomas H. Moorer, Admiral, US Navy (Ret.), Forword to Assault on the Liberty