by Maidhc Ó Cathail
Citing the possibility of a terrorist organization getting hold of a nuclear weapon as the greatest threat to U.S. security, Barack Obama persuaded 46 other countries at the recent Nuclear Security Summit to agree to secure the world’s loose nuclear material. Those leaders who came to Washington might have made done more to avert a nuclear attack, however, if they had asked the U.S. President to account for America’s own loose nukes.
Of course, President Obama may not even be aware of the egregious failure of the United States to secure its nuclear materials and know-how from the predation of its alleged “closest ally.” But since Obama is unwilling to even “speculate” about which country in the Middle East has nuclear weapons, he could hardly be expected to acknowledge how it got them.
In a recent Antiwar.com article aptly titled ‘America’s Loose Nukes in Israel’, Grant F. Smith, director of the Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy (Irmep) and author of Spy Trade: How Israel’s Lobby Undermines America’s Economy, shows how “the U.S is a sieve for Israeli nuclear espionage.”
The massive arms smuggling network set up by David Ben-Gurion in the United States in the 1940s had acquired a nuclear branch within a decade, according to Smith. The 1955 purchase of the Apollo Steel Company plant in Pennsylvania was financed by David Lowenthal, a close friend of Israel’s first prime minister and a former member of the Haganah, the precursor to the Israeli army. The following year, Dr. Zalman Shapiro, head of a local Zionist Organization of America chapter, incorporated the Nuclear Materials and Equipment Corporation (NUMEC) at Apollo. Before long, NUMEC was receiving large quantities of highly enriched uranium and plutonium from Westinghouse and the U.S. Navyfor nuclear reprocessing.
By the 1960s, the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) became suspicious of security lapses at NUMEC, and even considered suspending its “classified weapons work.” A 1965 AEC audit discovered that 220 pounds of highly enriched uranium were unaccounted for. The following year, the FBI launched its own investigation, codenamed Project Divert, to monitor NUMEC’s management and its frequent Israeli visitors. Nevertheless, the diversion of nuclear material to Israel continued unabated. After a September 10, 1968 visit by four Israelis, including Mossad agent Rafi Eitan, a further 587 pounds of highly enriched uranium went missing.
Israel’s nuclear espionage against the United States didn’t end with its accession to the nuclear club in the late 1960s, however. As former FBI translator Sibel Edmonds revealed, its smuggling network received crucial assistance from three high-ranking officials in the George W. Bush administration. All three have close ties to Israel’s military-industrial complex.
According to the FBI whistleblower, Richard Perle and Douglas Feith provided Marc Grossman, the third highest-ranking official in the State Department, with a list of Department of Defense employees with access to sensitive data, including nuclear technology. The list also included highly sensitive personal details, such as sexual preference, problems with gambling or alcoholism, and how much they owed on their mortgages. Grossman then passed on the information to Israeli and Turkish agents, who used it to “hook” those Pentagon officials. In addition, as Edmonds testified in an Ohio court case, the foreign operatives had recruited people “on almost every major nuclear facility in the United States.”
After Israel and Turkey took what they wanted from the pilfered secrets, their agents offered what was left to the highest bidder. As Edmonds has told the Sunday Times, American Conservative and Military.com, nuclear information was sold on the black market, where anyone—even al-Qaeda—could buy it.
So then, it would seem that those who shout loudest about the threat of terrorists—namely, neoconservatives like Perle, Feith and Grossman and their Israeli counterparts—are the very ones who are aiding them, at least indirectly, to acquire those much touted weapons of mass destruction.
If, as Benjamin Netanyahu admitted, 9/11 was “very good” for Israel, a nuclear 9/11 might be even better. As the spellbinding effects of that traumatic event nine years ago have begun to wear off, and with Americans increasingly questioning the costs of a one-sided alliance, it may even be considered necessary.
Maidhc Ó Cathail is a widely published writer based in Japan. This contribution was submitted by the author.