October -13, 2009 -- Lyndon Johnson aided and abetted Israel's uranium enrichment program
Archived CIA files, woefully incomplete because of the political selectivity involved with the Freedom of Information and National Archives and Records Administration Acts, do contain enough information that highlights the participation of the administration of President Lyndon Johnson in the illegal acquisition by Israel of enriched uranium from the United States for Israel's nuclear weapons program.
Apparently, the CIA got around the political problems associated with maintaining detailed records on Israel's nuclear proliferation by keeping open source articles on the Israeli espionage activities. One of the archived documents is a Washington Post article written by Charles Babcock, dated June 5, 1986, titled "U.S. an Intelligence Target of the Israelis, Officials Say."
The article details the operations of Mossad operative Raphael ("Rafi") Eitan in illegally procuring 200 pounds of enriched uranium -- enough uranium for six nuclear fission bombs -- from a company called NUMEC -- Nuclear Materials and Equipment Corporation -- in Apollo, Pennsylvania in September 1968. Eitan and three other Mossad operatives traveled to NUMEC's plant and arranged with its owner, an American Zionist nuclear scientist named Zalman M. Shapiro, to have the enriched uranium shipped to Israel clandestinely. Shapiro denied the charges that he gave the uranium to the Israelis and the FBI closed the case, code named "Operation Divert," without charges ever being filed.
The Post article, however, points to a declassified FBI document that points to "Raphael Eitan, chemist, Ministry of Defense, Israel, born 11/23/26 in Israel," was part of the four-man Mossad team that went to the NUMEC facility in September 1968. The actual visit was on September 10, 1968 and it was approved by the Atomic Energy Commission. The team also included Avraham Hermoni, the scientific counselor at the Israeli embassy in Washington, and two officials of Israel's Department of Electronics, which was part of the Israeli Ministry of Science and Development. The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review identified the other two Israelis as Ephraim Beigon and Abraham Bendor, aka Avraham Shalom. Bendor later became the head of Shin Bet, Israel's domestic intelligence service. In addition, Ephraim Lahav, the science minister-counselor of the Israeli embassy in Washington, made several trips to NUMEC in the 1960s. One of NUMEC's metallurgists was Bernard Cinai, aka Baruch Cinai, an Israeli citizen. NUMEC's illegal nuclear proliferation network extended from Israel and the United States to Britain, France, Japan, Spain, Belgium, and Germany. NUMEC and Israel ran a front operation called Isotopes and Radiation Enterprises (ISORAD). Some NUMEC engineers ended up working for Westinghouse Electric and were interviewed by FBI agents about the missing uranium.
Federal law enforcement sources told the Post that Hermoni attended a meeting at Shapiro's house in November 1968 at which 11 American scientists were present. In June 1969, FBI counter-intelligence agents witnessed Shapiro meeting with another Israeli embassy science attaché at Pittsburgh airport. Shapiro's home and work phones were tapped by FBI agents and he was trailed by FBI agents at every move. Attorney General Ramsey Clark authorized electronic surveillance of Shapiro based on the evidence compiled of his dealings with Mossad. Shapiro used an encrypted telephone provided by Mossad to communicate with Mossad agents in New York.
The only sanctions taken against NUMEC was a $930,000 fine it received from the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) for losing the enriched uranium. However, it was clear that FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, who usually held ultimate sway over domestic espionage matters, wanted to indict Shapiro, who later became the head of the Pittsburgh chapter of the Zionist Organization of America, but was overruled by the Atomic Energy Commission and the Johnson and Nixon White Houses. However, there is also evidence of a strange turn-around in Hoover's feelings about NUMEC and Shapiro. The AEC sent a letter to Hoover in the late 1960s asking whether Shapiro should register as a foreign agent. The FBI director replied that Shapiro was not required to do so. However, after the Justice Department ordered the FBI to back down from its investigation of Israeli nuclear smuggling and the role NUMEC played in it in 1972, Hoover reportedly became very offended at the FBI being called off the case. Hoover died suddenly after his the rift with the Justice Department.
The FBI tried to interview Navy Admiral Hyman Rickover, the father of the U.S. nuclear submarine, over his dealings with NUMEC and his awarding the firm lucrative Navy contracts. Rickover refused any interviews with FBI agents over his association with the firm. The Navy's contracts with NUMEC saw the transfer of weapons-grade uranium from Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee to the Apollo plant ostensibly for the production of fuel rods for U.S. nuclear submarines.
In 1974, after the Israeli penetration of America's nuclear weapons program had reached critical mass, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Air Force General George "Scratchy" Brown, stated to a Duke University audience that Jews had too much control over America's banks, newspapers and elected officials and that Israel was a "burden" to the Department of Defense. One nettlesome individual Brown had to deal with was Israeli Colonel Yosef Langotsky, the assistant army attaché at the Israeli embassy in Washington. Langotsky was known to the FBI as a Mossad spy and he often was caught in secure areas of the Pentagon trying to recruit agents, most of them American Jewish employees of the Defense Department, into serving Israeli intelligence. Langotsky was eventually refused access to the Pentagon and he was recalled by the Tel Aviv authorities in 1979. Brown's comments about Jews were: "they own, you know, the banks in this country. The newspapers. Just look at where the Jewish money is." President Gerald Ford refused to fire Brown, although Ford was under immense pressure to do so, and Brown continued to serve into President Jimmy Carter's administration. Carter also resisted Jewish pressure to fire Brown. Brown retired on June 21, 1978 and died some six months later in December 1978 from a fast-acting form of cancer.
An investigation of Israeli nuclear proliferation by Representative Morris Udall's (D-AZ) House Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs yielded little success. In December 1978, Shapiro told Udall under oath, "Let me state emphatically that I have never participated in any theft or diversion of special nuclear material." Udall, who ran for President in 1976, was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease the year following his investigation of Israel's nuclear materials smuggling from the United States. The disease forced Udall to resign from Congress in 1991 and he died in 1998.
It was after Representative John Murtha (D-PA) asked for an investigation of the radioactive pollution caused by NUMEC, Atlantic Richfield, and Babcok & Wilson Co. at the Apollo plutonium and uranium plant in 2002, that the corporate media began investigating Murtha's connections with lobbyists. Representative Steny Hoyer (D-MD), whose sister served as executive director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), edged out Murtha for House Majority Leader after the Democrats took over control of the House in 2006. Murtha was also targeted in the FBI "Abscam" investigation, which used a convicted con-man named Melvin Weinberg to target a number of Democrats, including Senator Harrison Williams (D-NJ), who believed they were dealing with an Arab sheikh who was actually an impostor. Many, including federal judges, believed the Abscam investigation had a certain "odor" about it and was a case of prosecutorial misconduct.
Israel's illegal acquisition of U.S. nuclear technology was aided and abetted by President Lyndon B. Johnson and his CIA director Richard Helms. The chief of the CIA's Science and Technology directorate, Carl Duckett, planned to draft a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) in 1969 detailing Israel's development of an atomic bomb in 1968. Duckett told the Post that Johnson told Helms not to publish the NIE. According to the Post, Duckett said Johnson told Helms "Don't tell anyone else, even Dean Rusk and Robert McNamara." Rusk and McNamara were Johnson's Secretaries of State and Defense, respectively. The CIA reportedly had secretly placed "sniffing" devices at Dimona that provided intelligence that proved Israel was developing nuclear weapons. The CIA also kept a wary eye on the smaller Israeli nuclear research facility at Nahal Soreq on the Mediterranean coast, although the site was often used by Israeli propagandists to show to the world that Israel's nuclear ambitions were purely peaceful. Soreq NRC was a branch of Shapiro's and the Israeli government's ISORAD. Duckett and his team had asked the AEC in a 1969 to estimate how many nuclear bombs Israel could make if it possessed all the missing uranium from NUMEC.
Ever since the Johnson administration, every U.S. president has followed a policy of "don't ask, don't tell" when it comes to Israel's nuclear weapons. An acknowledgement by the United States of Israel's nuclear arsenal would not only spur demands for Israel to open its program to international inspection but also focus on the covert methods by which Israel obtained the materials for its nuclear program. However, on a few occasions, U.S. intelligence and military documents have pointed to Israel's nuclear weapons program. The Post article cites a CIA document that was "inadvertently" made public in 1974. The document states: "We believe Israel already had produced nuclear weapons. Our judgment is based on Israeli acquisition of large quantities of uranium, partly by clandestine means."
One of the reasons that Israel is preventing Israeli nuclear scientist Mordechai Vanunu from emigrating from Israel is the knowledge the scientist undoubtedly possesses of Israel's clandestine nuclear technology acquisition program, including its work with apartheid South Africa and Taiwan in developing nuclear weapons outside the framework of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Vanunu was kidnapped by Mossad agents in Rome and tried and sentenced him in a secret tribunal in Israel for providing photographs of Israeli's Dimona nuclear weapons site to the Sunday Times of London. Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion had claimed the facility was a "textile factory." Vanunu, who worked at Dimona, was sentenced to 18 years in solitary confinement. Vanunu now leads a Kafkaesque existence in Israel and although he converted to Christianity from Judaism in 1985, Vanunu, a native of Morocco, is prevented from leaving Israel for Australia or the United States.
A longtime CIA operative told WMR that, ideally, the United States should offer to swap convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard for Vanunu. Ironically, Pollard's Israeli control officer during his espionage for Israel while working for U.S. Naval Intelligence, was Eitan, who later became the head of an Israeli government owned chemical company. Eitan now leads the Gil pensioners' party in the Israeli Knesset. The failure to offer Pollard for Vanunu by successive U.S. administrations points to the power that Israel has over the U.S. decision-making process. In this case, what is good for America is not good for Israel and the loyalty of the Israel Lobby in Washington genuflects to what is good for Israel.
During Pollard's espionage for Israel in the 1980s, the FBI identified California businessman Richard K. Smyth in a scheme to ship 810 "krytrons," electronic triggers for nuclear weapons, to Israel. Smyth fled the United States after his federal indictment in May 1985. Babcock & Wilson Company, which took over the Apollo plant from NUMEC, continued to report the loss of enriched uranium.
Shapiro eventually went to work for Westinghouse's nuclear fuel division and he served as a consultant to the CIA.
With the revelations about the cooperation between the Turkish "Deep State" and Israeli in nuclear proliferation networks brought to light by former FBI translator Sibel Edmonds, as well as what is known about the CIA brass plate counter-proliferation operations of Brewster Jennings and Associates and Valerie Plame Wilson, there is no reason to believe that Israel has stopped its aggressive acquisition of nuclear materials and technology from the United States and other countries. Shapiro's and the Israeli government's ISORAD later inked a fuel contract with a Turkish entity called Global Fluids International SA. ISORAD has also developed links with the Chinese and Indian nuclear programs. The Post article maintained in the CIA archives quotes John Davitt, the head of the Justice Department's internal security section until 1980, as saying that Israeli intelligence was "more active than anyone but the KGB . . . They were targeted on the United States about half the time and on Arab countries about half the time."
Documented evidence that individuals with AIPAC, the Defense Technology Security Administration (DTSA), and the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), as well as successive "science advisers" at the Israeli embassy in Washington and the Israeli Consulate General in New York have been involved in espionage activities in the United States indicates that not much has changed since Davitt identified the Israeli intelligence threat during his time at the Justice Department.