On June 8, 1967, the fourth day of the Six Day War, Israeli defense forces attacked the USS Liberty about 14 miles off the coast of the Sinai peninsula, killing 34 American crewmen and wounding 171 others (Deutsch). I believe that the attack, which became known as "the Liberty Incident," occurred because the Israelis mistakenly thought that the USS Liberty was an Egyptian warship. Despite Congressional inquiries and official explanations, conspiracy theorists have insisted that more sinister motives were involved. Ultimately, the Liberty Incident is an example of the importance of clear communications between allies.
The United States has always had an interest in Israel and in the affairs in the Middle East. Israel, however, is sometimes understandably reluctant to share intelligence with the United States. To compensate for this lack of information from the Israelis, the United States installed radar systems on the roof of the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv.
On June 5, 1967, just as Israel was about to launch its attacks on Egypt, Israeli intelligence officers countered this move and installed radar jamming equipment in the vicinity of the U.S. embassy. This equipment was to prevent the Americans from gathering intelligence about Operation Moked, the initial wave of Israeli air attacks that took out a large portion of the Egyptian air force (Bregman).
Realizing that the radar on the embassy was not going to provide any information, the United States launched the USS Liberty, a "technical research ship" to gather intelligence about the progress of the war. According to the CIA, at 9:50 AM local time, the Liberty reported that it had been circled by what appeared to be two Israeli Mirage aircraft. At 3:05 PM, the Liberty took strafing fire from machine guns fired from unidentified aircraft. The attack apparently affected the Liberty's communication...