Were Hebrew Linguists Aboard USS Liberty?
K. J. Halliwell (October 25, 2007 -- Revised August 24, 2008)
In three declassified documents, recently released by the NSA (National Security Agency), information about one trained Hebrew linguist being aboard USS Liberty has come to light.
 
The first document (questions_general_carroll.pdf) was originally TOP SECRET and entitled: "Questions by General Carroll, Director, DIA / Answers provided by G Group/P04  27 June 1967".  Within the document, the following question and answer was given:
Question: "Did Liberty have any Israeli linguists on board?"
Answer: "NSG was not tasked to provide any Israeli linguists on the Liberty.  Lack of linguists throughout the community was a factor in omitting Israeli tasking."
 
A handwritten note expanded the answer with the addition of the following:  "However, in the search for Arabic linguists, one individual (Navy enlisted man) was sent TDY [Temporary Duty] to the Liberty on the basis of a biography card listing him as Special Arabic (Hebrew).  He is a Spanish linguist and had received 24 weeks Hebrew training at NSA 10 years ago.  Someone confused Arabic with Special Arabic. Consequently the presence on board was by accident, not design."
The second document (interview_r_hickman.pdf) is a transcript from an oral interview with NSA Hebrew linguist Richard Hickman, by NSA historians William Gerhard and R.D. Farley.  On page three, Hickman states:
"The only Hebrew linguist that I know of, that was on there [USS Liberty] was Navy Chief Baker, and his knowledge of Hebrew was suspect because he had taken the language some years back and hadn't been working with it..."
The third document (special_arabic_material.pdf) is a SECRET message, from USS Liberty Research Operations (USN-855), dated 05 June 67, to DIRNAVSECGRUEUR (Director of Naval Security Group Europe) and a redacted addressee.  It contains the following:
"1. NO 'SPECIAL' ARABIC DICTIONARIES RECEIVED ON BOARD WHILE IN ROTA.
2. LIBERTY SLATED TO RDVU WITH SIXTHFLT FLAGSHIP 6 OR 7 JUNE.  IF DICTIONARY AND ADDITIONAL TECH MATERIAL COULD BE FORWARDED TO [REDACTED] AT TIME OF RDVU WOULD BE APPRECIATED."
From these three documents, it is clear that a trained Hebrew linguist named Baker* was aboard USS Liberty; although, his training was ten years old and he had been serving as a Spanish linguist.  Additionally, there was concern, by somebody in USS Liberty's Research Operations department, about the lack of Hebrew language dictionaries aboard USS Liberty.
 
None of this evidence supports that USS Liberty was tasked with performing a SIGINT (signals intelligence) mission involving Israel's military assets or operations; but it does refute claims that no Hebrew linguists were aboard USS Liberty and that there was no interest in SIGINT involving Hebrew language sources.  Clearly, a request for Hebrew language dictionaries shows interest or concern about possible usage -- likely by somebody with training in the Hebrew language.