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I am posting here to understand better why an old question of mine was closed. Also to determine if I can resolve the concerns of the down voters and mod by rewording my question to their satisfaction.

I wish to present:

  1. Short background
  2. Excerpts from an NSA report which was used to call into question the legitimacy of my question
  3. An overview of quotes I used to substantiate the legitimacy of my question
  4. A review of the American investigations into the incident,
  5. The wordings of my two failed question attempts
  6. Solicitation for ideas

Background:
The official Israeli position is that the 1967 Attack on the USS Liberty was a case of mistaken identity. That the American ship was previously identified, but then was later confused with an armed Egyptian ship half it's size. That the American Ship contributed to this Israeli mistake because: (see below excerpts discussing Israeli Court Enquiry).

NSA Report used to support the Israeli Position in my original Question:
From NSA Report on Israeli Court of Enquiry Jun 19, 1967: Declassified Dec 11 2006

page 4 of 6
- The USS Liberty was covered with thick smoke.
- When asked to identify itself the USS Liberty did not do so and acted suspiciously.
- It appeared to the DivCom that there was a gun on the foredeck of the USS Liberty which was firing towards MTB's.
- Finally if we add these factors under the circumstances when the ship was completely covered with smoke there was, in fact, apparently a great similarity between it (The 10.7 ton, 455 foot USS Liberty) and the (2.8 ton, 275 foot)El QUSEIR. (Egyptian Gun Boat)

......

Bottom of page 5 of 6
1. ALL ABOVE IS AS DICTATED BY LTC EKRAT WHO WAS TRANSLATING FROM A DOCUMENT WRITTEN IN HEBREW.
2. LTC EFRAT PAUSED AT ONE POINT IN HIS READING TO POINT OUT THE GOI HAD RECEIVED A STATEMENT FROM USG SAYING THAT LIBERTY HAD BEEN IDENTIFIED SIX HOURS PRIOR TO THE ATTACK RATHER THAN ONE HOUR AS STATED IN AN EARLIER USG COMMUNICATION.
3. LTC EFRAT PROBABLY NOTED ALUSNA'S APPEARANCE of SURPRISE AND INCREDULITY AS HE READ OFF SOME OF THE ABOVE POINTS. WHEN HE FINISHED HIS READING HE ASKED THAT ALUSNA THOUGHT OF THE FINDINGS QUOTE OFF THE RECORD UNQUOTE. ALUSNA PRETENDED HE HAD NOT HEARD THE QUESTION AND THANKED THE COLONEL FOR HIS TIME. THE BURDEN OF DIPLOMACY BORE HEAVILY ON ALUSNA WHOSE EVALUATIONS ARE:
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4. WHILE WALKING TO THEIR CARS, LTC EFRAT MENTIONED THAT GEN RABIN HAS NEVER BEEN SO ANGRY AS WHEN HE READ THE CURRENT NEWSWEEK MAGAZINE COMMENT ON THE LIBERTY INCIDENT. ALUSNA REMARKED THAT HE TOOK NO NOTICE OF NEWS MEDIA REPORTING ON THE INCIDENT.

Clearly the US reaction to the Israeli Court Findings as represented in this once classified NSA report, do not show the United States representatives as supporting the Israeli Court Findings as was originally presented.

Overview of Quotes I Used to Substantiate the Legitimacy of my Question:
At one point my question was called "conspiracy theory" and optioned out to the StackExchange:skeptics site. How can a question with supporting quotes from 20 highly placed senior American sources all in positions of responsibility at the time of the attack be considered "conspiracy"? These supporting quotes all expressing doubt as to the Israeli findings:

  • Secretary of State
  • Under Secretary of State
  • Chairman of the President's Foreign Advisory Board
  • General Legal Council for the Department of Defense
  • Former US Ambassador to Lebanon
  • Deputy head of the US mission to Cairo
  • Assistant Secretary of Defense
  • US Navy JAGC
  • Director of the CIA
  • Deputy Director of the CIA
  • Director of the National Security Agency
  • 3 Deputy directors of NSA
  • Chief of Operations of the National Security Agency
  • 4 United States Navy Admirals

I used a survivors site of the USS Liberty which lists these quotes. If the objection is I should have gone to the original sources I can provide original sources for each quote. But none of the quotes themselves were questioned in the exchange on the veracity of the question.

Review of the American Investigations into the Incident It was also stated that there were 6 United States inquiries into this attack all of which supported the Israeli findings. This is just not true, but I could not respond at the time given the question was closed.

The facts are there were 7 times the United States Gov publicly addressed this attack. 3 of them were investigatory bodies. But none of those investigatory bodies dealt with the scope of Israeli findings for the attack.

Investigative Reports highlighted below

Paraphrased From Wikipedia: USS Liberty incident see US Gov Investigations of Attack.
* U.S. Naval Court of Inquiry of June 1967. Scope limited to US Navy personnel actions before, during and after the attack. "It was not the responsibility of the court to rule on the culpability of the attackers, and no evidence was heard from the attacking nation"
* Joint Chief of Staff's Report of June 1967. Scope limited to Communications failures within the US Navy surrounding the attack.
* CIA Intelligence Memorandums of June 1967. Two memo's one laying out sources of information, the other detailing the Israeli courts findings.
* Clark Clifford Report of July 1967 - says after reviewing all available information, "The unprovoked attack on the Liberty constitutes a flagrant act of gross negligence for which the Israeli Government should be held completely responsible, and the Israeli military personnel involved should be punished."
* Senate Foreign Relations Committee Testimony during hearings of the 1967 Foreign Aid Authorization bill, July 1967. Comments about the attack while the Senate was dealing with other business.
* House Armed Services Committee Investigation of 1971 - "Review of Department of Defense Worldwide Communications". Was not an investigation on the attack. Contained a section describing communications during the attack.
* The NSA History Report of 1981 - reviews the court of inquiry and several other documents but provides no conclusion regarding culpability.

First Wording of My Question: Why was the USS Liberty Attacked?

Now my original question, may appear to be too broad; however I think there were specific difficulties in the US Israeli relations preceding the event which could be presented as a reasonable response; Which I would like to attempt.

Second Wording: Using The USS Liberty attack, June 8th, 1967 as a fulcrum or pivot what historical events had the most influence on relatively cool relations (as demonstrated using US Foreign Aid to Israel as a metric) prior to 1967, and exponentially improving relations after 1967?

I also tried to change my question to better focus on the events leading up and following the attack rather than the attack itself which is well documented elsewhere. Using the USS Liberty as a pivotal moment in time between cool relations and exponentially improving relations using US foreign aid as a metric. There were several comments asking for me to make a new question out of that. Two questions on my part. (1) First off is this a more acceptable question? (2) Why can't we open the existing question given as written the original question asked for reasons for the attack, and was not about the attack itself. Both question dealt with events leading up to the attack.

Solicitations for Ideas:

  • Could this topic be a legitimate one for a question? Or Not?
    • My contention is given how many senior people on the US side express doubt on the Israeli position and the age almost 55 years ago. This is a legitimate history question. Granted a controversial one.
  • Can I re-word my question to make it more legitimate?
  • Perhaps someone can make the case this is not a legitimate topic as it's not settled history, given the NSA is still releasing classified information on this event?
  • Perhaps it is felt this topic is too controversial for this board?

Thank You for your time in reading my meta question and your consideration.

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    IMHO, this question is far too specific for meta, which I've always thought was for discussion of principles and general "problems" on History: SE. – TheHonRose Jan 29 '18 at 11:48
  • The moderator agreed ahead of time that this was an appropriate venue to discuss this issue. It is a question about a question and information about evidence which are both meta. But if you feel that way I could delete the question and try to make it broader. The issue here is a bunch of voters closed my question as conspiracy and I wished to present evidence to the contrary. There are other questions about specific questions here. – JMS Jan 29 '18 at 13:51
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    @JMS "The moderator agreed ahead of time that this was an appropriate venue to discuss this issue" . In fact, I actually said that I thought chat would be a better venue for this discussion. However, you are right that there is precedent for this type of question on meta, and I have tried to answer below. – sempaiscuba Jan 29 '18 at 17:30
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I wasn't one of those who voted to close the question, so I'm not really in a position to comment on their reasons for voting to close. What follows are my own opinions, please ignore any diamond you might see attached to my name!


I think the original version of the question was probably actually on-topic, but should have been worded better. The series of edits that followed is probably what made people think that you were arguing for a conspiracy theory, and suggested the topic would be a better fit for skeptics:SE.


You ask how can it be considered "conspiracy"?

Your thesis seems to be that the United States conspired with the Israeli government to cover up a deliberate attack on a US Navy vessel by the IDF. Further, your quotes are all sourced from a site that also argues the existence of a conspiracy and cover-up. If that is your thesis, then the question probably does belong on the Skeptics site.

In this instance, it's not a question of whether you locate the original quotes, it's a question of whether those quotes have been chosen selectively for that site, and whether they were taken within context.

It is also not a question of the positions that these people had formerly occupied. The question should be 'Do these people have any direct knowledge of the events in question". The statement:

"I feel the Israelis knew what they were doing. They knew they were shooting at a U.S. Navy ship"

means nothing. It isn't evidence one way or the other. What someone feels might have happened isn't evidence. Their former position is irrelevant unless it gave them access to specific information about the incident. Including comments like this in your question does make it look more like an argument for a conspiracy theory, and less like a history question.


The quotes

In fact, only three of your sources cited any information to support the claim that the attack was deliberate. Former US Ambassador to Lebanon Dwight Porter

"It's an American ship!" the pilot of an Israeli Mirage fighter-bomber radioed Tel Aviv as he sighted the USS Liberty on June 8, 1967. Israeli headquarters ordered the pilot to attack the American ship."

Lieutenant General William E. Odom, former director, National Security Agency:

"On the strength of intercept transcripts of pilots' conversations during the attack, the question of the attack's deliberateness "just wasn't a disputed issue" within the agency."

and Oliver Kirby, former deputy director for operations/production, National Security Agency:

"I can tell you for an absolute certainty (from intercepted communications) that they knew they were attacking an American ship."

You'll notice that all three cite the same source - intercepted radio communication from the IDF pilots.

However, when researching for my answer, it did not take me long to find a report in the Wall Street Journal of a 2001 letter from former Navy Chief Petty Officer Marvin Nowicki. He had been the chief Hebrew-language analyst aboard a U.S. Navy EC-121 spy plane that was intercepting Israeli aircraft communications during the attack on the USS Liberty.

He stated that he did indeed hear (and record) Israeli pilots’ and captains’ references to the U.S. flag flying on the deck of the Liberty, but that these remarks were made only after the attack was underway, and not before. Shockingly, that particular story does not appear to be quoted on the site you referenced.

You might very well think that is because it undermines their claim of a conspiracy. I, however, couldn't possibly comment.

Now, I can't speak for anyone else, but as an historical researcher I would always give far more weight to the testimony of an eyewitness than to that of someone who later saw a report about an incident - regardless of their respective ranks. The only reason an historian would ignore that evidence would be because it didn't support the conclusion they were trying to reach. And that is bad practice (not just in the study of history)!


The edit timeline

Like I said right at the start, I'm not one of the people who voted to close the question. However, looking at the timeline of edits I can see that the question was only closed after you'd gone through a series of edits to incorporate quotes taken from a site which, as I explained above, is attempting to prove a conspiracy.

Personally, I would not be surprised if that was a factor in at least some cases for deciding that the question was off-topic for this site. It may also be a factor in the impressive number of downvotes that the question has attracted.


So, could the original question have been written in a way that was on-topic for this site?

I think so. I'd suggest that the structure of a valid question could be:

  1. A (very brief) description of the incident, with a link to a site for people who want to find out more. Try to find an unbiased site, or perhaps just Wikipedia.
  2. Mention the declassified report from the Israeli Court of Enquiry. Now, if you are going to quote from the report, quote the text exactly as written. Do not attempt to improve their spelling or grammar, and do not paraphrase, as you have done in the question here. Also, be very careful to avoid the appearance of quoting selectively from the text. In the excerpt you've included here, for example, you chose to omit the evidence that 2 IDF officers on 2 different vessels apparently independently identified the ship as Egyptian. Whether or not that evidence was true, omitting it from your question, while including the later section from the bottom of page 5, creates the impression of bias. Generally, I would suggest that it is better in cases like this just to quote the conclusions, and let people read the whole document for themselves.
  3. State that many survivors have never accepted the findings of the Israeli Court of Enquiry. State that their opinion seems to be shared by a number of former high ranking US officials. Provide a link to your site (as you did in the original version of the question) to support these assertions. Feel free to mention a few names, but there is no need to quote every one of them (or, indeed any of them) in your question. People can click the link and read for themselves.
  4. Point out that the NSA has released hundreds of declassified documents since 1967, some of which directly relate to the incident.
  5. Finally, ask whether there is any evidence amongst all the material declassified since 1967 to contradict the official version of events - i.e. that the attack was a mistake, resulting from poor communication between units of the IDF and the mis-identification of the vessel.

But that is just my opinion. Others may take a different view.


Editing questions with existing answers

I would also suggest that it is also worth bearing in mind that in response to another question here on meta, people expressed strong views about questions being edited in a way that then invalidates existing answers (I can't say for certain, but that may explain some of the downvotes you've received in this case).

Given that, I would suggest that in those circumstances it is worth asking a new question.


Your Questions

You have asked 2 questions (apart from your "Solicitations for Ideas"). I shall try to answer the second question first.

You new question, or "second wording" as you refer to it, is actually a very different question.

The new question:

"... what historical events had the most influence on relatively cool relations prior to 1967, and exponentially improving relations after 1967?"

bears almost no relation to the original question:

"Why did the Israeli Defense Force attack the USS Liberty on June 8, 1967 killing 32 American Sailors, wounding 171, and doing so much damage to the ship that it ultimately had to be scrapped."

Now, given the views expressed in the answers to the question I mentioned above, about questions being edited in a way that then invalidates existing answers, I suspect that we have the answer to your second question:

"Why can't we open the existing question given as written the original question asked for reasons for the attack, and was not about the attack itself. Both question dealt with events leading up to the attack?"

Because it is not the same question.

You should have asked a new question, rather than editing the original. Never mind the merits, or otherwise, of the new question, if people think that you should not have edited the question in the first place they probably won't vote to re-open.

Of course, I may be wrong. The answer may just be 42. (It's a messed-up Universe!)


Now, as to your first question, you asked whether the new question is more acceptable.

Personally, I see several problems with the new question as it stands. The most obvious of which are implicit assumption that US foreign aid to Israel was only contingent on events in the region and that you are quoting average figures over long periods of time which do not appear to reflect the detail in the table on the site from which you are quoting.

In the new question, you also appear to be claiming that the attack on the USS Liberty had a particular significance for US/Israeli relations without providing any clear evidence to support that assertion. Put simply, why would the USS Liberty attack on 8 June 8 1967 act as a fulcrum or pivot?

In the absence of specific supporting evidence, this would risk being classified as just another instance of the (all too common) logical fallacy, post hoc ergo propter hoc. Just because something occurs after an event does not imply that it happened because of that event.

For me, you would need to add that supporting evidence to the question, or we are likely to be back to the conspiracy theory arguments.

For example, 1967 was also in the middle of a pivotal period in the Vietnam War and the build up of US forces there under President Johnson. Not to mention the small matter of the Tet Offensive in Vietnam in early 1968. Now, I don't lay claim to any particular inside knowledge, but it seems to me - in the absence of any new evidence - just as likely that the global situation, particularly in regard to the escalation in Vietnam, might have been the trigger for increased funding for America's main ally in the Middle East through the 1970s, and that the attack on the USS Liberty wasn't a factor at all.

So why do you think that the attack on the USS Liberty changed US foreign policy in 1967/68? What evidence are you offering in support of that position? Are there declassified papers that suggest that this was the case? Non-trivial assertions that are not supported by evidence are rarely well received on this site.


From what you have written, it seems that you have a particular answer that you believe to be correct. If that is indeed the case, you can post a new question and answer it yourself, but remember that the normal rules and guidance about asking and answering questions will still apply. It still needs to be on-topic for this site.


The Role of Moderators

Lastly, you have asked about moderator concerns.

At this point I'll put my moderator hat back on, but please bear in mind that I'm still just speaking for myself. Other moderators may interpret the guidance differently.


I think you misunderstand the role of moderators on Stack Exchange.

Personally, I am trying to exercise a "light-touch", in accordance with my reading of the Theory of Moderation, which explains that we are "human exception-handlers". Interpret that as you will!

As a moderator I can close or re-open questions with a single vote. However, just because I can doesn't mean that I should.

I've argued here on meta in the past that some questions have been closed when they shouldn't have been. I now have the power to re-open them. I haven't done so because I think that would be an abuse of that power. (In fact, now I can't even nominate them to be re-opened and let the community decide. As a moderator, if I vote to re-open, the question is just re-opened").

Except in particularly egregious cases (Nazi spammers, posts that are just 'vandalism', etc.), I prefer to let the community vote. If I do vote to close or re-open, the it will normally only be as the fifth (or, at a push, the fourth) vote.

If posts are flagged for moderator attention by members of the community then I, or one of my fellow moderators, will review the flag and decide accordingly.

What that means in the context of your question is that I will not normally override a decision to close a post by members of the community.

If you want to get a post that was closed by the community re-opened, you will need to convince the community that it should be re-opened. (If the post was closed by a moderator then there is a procedure available to you if you want us to reconsider the decision).

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    Wow, I'd +2 for your answer if I could! My concern was that a long, complex and - again, only IMO - somewhat "conspiracy theory" question was effectively being asked again, but on meta. If I have the erroneous end of the peice of wood, I apologise, particularly to the OP. – TheHonRose Jan 29 '18 at 19:36
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    @sempaiscuba thank you for the long and thoughtful response. I haven't had time to read and internalize the entire post yet, which I hope to do this evening. – JMS Jan 29 '18 at 20:39
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    @TheHonRose. No Worries. – JMS Jan 29 '18 at 20:39
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    If anyone ever doubts sempaiscuba as a moderator, they should read this. Not only is this an excellent answer, it also shows considerable time investment and dedication to the job. – Lars Bosteen Jan 29 '18 at 21:56
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Your thesis seems to be that the United States conspired with the Israeli government to cover up a deliberate attack on a US Navy vessel by the IDF.

Just so we are clear between us, nothing like that was in my question. My thesis if I were to construct one now would have to reference one of my two questions? Or at least something I actually did write.

A conspiracy by the United States government would imply malicious or harmful intent of a cover up. I never even alluded to such a thing. US actions can be explained without any malicious intent, just by reviewing historical events. .

sempaiscuba:
It is also not a question of the positions that these people had formerly occupied. The question should be 'Do these people have any direct knowledge of the events in question".

"I feel the Israelis knew what they were doing. They knew they were shooting at a U.S. Navy ship"

means nothing. It isn't evidence one way or the other

That quote is from Captain Ward Boston, Judge Advocate General Council for the US Navy. He was Senior legal counsel for the Navy’s Court of Inquiry into the attack. Clearly he was in a position to hear the complete proceedings as well be aware of all of the evidence still classified about the incident. His opinion should have meaning.

sempaiscuba: In fact, only three of your sources cited any information to support the claim that the attack was deliberate.

I never said the attack was deliberate. All I was out to prove with my quotes was that their is doubt on the American side of the Israeli explanation. Which is all I had to prove to have my question regarded as a history question rather than a conspiracy question. That was my intent on introducing the quotes which otherwise don't relate to my question. As I said in my above quote all the quotes express doubt about the Israeli position. I'll give you Johnson and the Israelis I added in later because someone asked me too.

@sempaiscuba
So, could the original question have been written in a way that was on-topic for this site?

I think so. I'd suggest that the structure of a valid question could be:

All good advice, including the part about editing questions with existing answers, which I was not aware of.

@sempaiscuba
Your new question, or "second wording" as you refer to it, is actually a very different question. bears almost no relation to the original question:

My first question, "why the attack". My second question "historical events had the most influence on relatively cool relations" to me is the same questions. I can see how you would not think of them that way. I was always trying to get at plausible reasons for the attack. But I see your point. To you they are entirely different questions because you would answer them differently than I.

To my mind both questions are answered with reference to the same events.

  • Fire Bombing the US Consulate.
  • Attempted fire bombing the US Embassy
  • Leading an UN Arms embargo against Israel.
  • Threatening Israel's private donations from the US.
  • Forcing Israel out of the Sinai in 57, the buffer between their largest existential threat, and the objective of the six day war.

@sempaiscuba
Now, as to your first question, In the new question, you also appear to be claiming that the attack on the USS Liberty had a particular significance for US/Israeli relations without providing any clear evidence to support that assertion. Put simply, why would the USS Liberty attack on 8 June 8 1967 act as a fulcrum or pivot?

In truth, given annual US aid to Israel jumped two orders of magnitude in the decade following the attack, or 5 times in the following year(68), I am not claiming it. I am observing it. The attack was a pivotal moment in the two countries relation. Perhaps I should have used pivotal instead of fulcrum. If I went into the details of explaining why, wouldn't I be answering my own question? Maybe I should have done that.

@sempaiscuba The most obvious of which are implicit assumption that US foreign aid to Israel was only contingent on events in the region and that you are quoting average figures over long periods of time which do not appear to reflect the detail in the table on the site from which you are quoting.

Actually I think I was asserting the opposite. That US aid to Israel increased by a factor of 5 from 67 when the attack took place to 1968, demonstrates the United States aid was not contingent on Israel's attack. Your thought on the cold war is what I would go with also.

@SEMPAISCUBA, Thank you again for a very informative discussion on board workings. My take away is perhaps this could be a forum to discuss such topics, but not by me. A relatively new member still trying to prove his chops. Perhaps you or one of the other elite vanguard would be more successful. Anyway I will keep swinging and try to show my worth. Thank You for hearing me out.

  • I've edited my answer to include an observation about the 'post hoc ergo propter hoc' logical fallacy. It underpins many conspiracy theories, which is why I suggested that you would need to offer specific evidence that the attack was a 'pivotal event', rather than just something that happened within that time frame. Total aid in 1968 was actually less than the total aid in 1966. The aid in 1967 was of the same order of magnitude as in 1964. The big jump in the total didn't start until the 1970s. – sempaiscuba Jan 31 '18 at 1:45

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