Ennes Interview with Ambassador Dwight Porter


During the summer of 1991 I was advised by an acquaintance that he had been a dinner guest of former American Ambassador to Lebanon Dwight Porter at his home in Silver Spring, Maryland, when the subject of the Israeli attack on USS Liberty had come up. During the conversation, Ambassador Porter mentioned that he knew the attack was deliberate because he had seen translations of intercepted communications between the attacking pilots and their headquarters before and during the attack on the ship. My caller said that Ambassador Porter had never spoken about this before, but would be willing to discuss it with me if I would call. He provided a telephone number.

I called Ambassador Porter at home and found him friendly, cooperative and outgoing. He confirmed that a member of his staff at the embassy in Beirut had shown him intercepted communications between the attacking Israeli pilots and their headquarters starting some time before the pilot sighted the ship that was their target. Once sighting the target, the lead pilot informed his controlling headquarters that the target was in sight and it was an American ship flying an American flag. He asked for confirmation of orders to attack and was told to attack. The pilot expressed some reluctance but was ordered to attack and did so.

Ambassador Porter said it was very clear from the communications that the pilots and their headquarters were both aware that they were attacking an American ship.

Ambassador Porter was not aware of where or by whom those communications had been intercepted, only that they were received by his embassy staff and shown to him along with other intelligence information.

I first passed this information to my long-time friend Trevor Armbrister who lived in Maryland and was a senior editor for Reader's Digest. Trevor called Ambassador Porter and confirmed the story, but was unable to do anything with it. He suggested I pass it to Rowland Evans with whom I was acquainted through previous conversations.

Rowland Evans confirmed the details with Ambassador Porter by telephone and then wrote a syndicated column that was widely distributed on November 6, 1991. Evans and his writing partner Robert Novak came under immediate and severe attack by Abe Rosenthal of the New York Times on November 8 ("a lie") and by Hirsh Goodman on November 21 ("a piece of fiction"). Evans defended the original position in print on November 20 and again on December 19, 1991.

Jay Cristol similarly attacks Porter's revelations on p111 of The Travesty (The Liberty Incident) and also in his web site. Cristol's tactic, as is his custom, is to erect a straw man which he then sets afire. In both book and web site Cristol tells us that Porter's story cannot be true because the intercepted communications have not shown up in any of the FOIA releases of embassy traffic, is unknown to people queried by Cristol, and could not possibly have been intercepted in Beirut because the distance is too great for line-of-sight UHF communications. In fact, Ambassador Porter clearly said in his recorded interview with Cristol that the communications were not intercepted in the embassy. He did not know where they were intercepted or how the embassy came to possess the transcripts. Porter makes very clear in his recorded interview with Cristol that he is describing intelligence reports which he read, not intercepts that he heard, yet Cristol ignores that information and debunks Porter based upon his own false assumptions.

As usual, Cristol is unaware of the essential details and ignores those that he finds inconvenient. Intercepted communications would have been received at the embassy, not by intercept operators in the embassy but from other intelligence centers via dedicated signals intelligence communications networks (Criticomm). In this case, the intercepts seen by Ambassador Porter were almost certainly those intercepted by the Air Force C-130 operating near Liberty's position, then sent in real time to the 6931st Security Group of the USAF Security Services stationed on Crete, where they were placed on dedicated Sigint communications by watch officer Captain Richard Block and subsequently received and read in Beirut by Ambassador Porter, in Vietnam by James Gotcher, by AF analyst Stephen Forslund, and others who have called us over the years to report having seen those same transcripts.

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Jim Ennes and Joe Meadors

USS Liberty