Captain Richard Block was duty watch officer of the 6931st Security Group of the USAF Security Services stationed on the island of Crete where his unit received intelligence input from Air Force RC-130 reconnaissance aircraft and other intelligence sensors for relay on secure intelligence circuits to other Air Force intelligence centers around the world.
On June 8, 1967, while the Israeli attack on USS Liberty was underway, Block received instant translations of the communications between Israeli attack pilots and their headquarters from an RC-130 near the fighting along the Gaza Strip.
“We were getting the translations in real-time,” he said, speaking of the air-to-air and air-to-ground communications taking place between the pilots and their controllers on the ground in Israel.
“They knew it was an American ship. We heard it with our own ears, several times. The story they have told for the last 40 years about the Liberty being mistaken for another ship is complete bullshit.”
In an interview for German Television in 2003 to accompany a broadcast of the Dead in the Water film, Captain Block recalled:
‘The communications I had in my hand, forwarded from the C130, and circulated as a Critic to the White House and others, originated from the Israeli flight commander, who was in charge of the attacking force, where the man can specifically identify the ship as an intelligence-collecting ship, he specifically said that it was flying the American colours. Evidently, from his questioning to the ground control, one can deduce that he had been given specific orders to attack that ship before he left the ground. And when he saw it was an American ship he questioned those orders, and he questioned those orders to his ground control. That same conversation that I had in my hands specifically noted that ground control said, proceed with the attack. And there was still doubt in the Israeli pilot’s mind. And he said, no, this is an American, repeat those orders again, and he was told flat out, do attack this ship.’
It was Captain Block’s act that made the Israeli air-to-ground communications available to key intelligence analysts around the world via security intelligence communications systems (CRITICOMM), where they were soon seen by Gotcher, Forslund and others who have since recounted seeing the intercepted communications.