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Secrets about suspected Israeli theft of U.S. weapons-grade nuclear material declassified

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On March 18, 2014 ISCAP, the highest declassification authority in the U.S., released 84 pages (PDF) of formerly secret information about investigations into the illegal diversion of weapons-grade nuclear material from a Pennsylvania plant into the clandestine Israeli nuclear weapons program. 
Files now available to the public from IRmep's ISCAP process include:

4/2/1968 Letter from the Director of the CIA alerting the Attorney General (PDF) about a huge loss of material from Pennsylvania's Nuclear Materials and Equipment Corporation (NUMEC). "It is critical for us to establish whether or not the Israelis now have the capability for fabricating nuclear weapons which might be employed in the Near East."

03/09/1972 FBI memorandum (PDF) "On the basis of the foregoing it must be assumed for the purpose of U.S. national security that diversion of special nuclear materials to Israel by Dr. [Zalman] Shapiro and his [NUMEC] associates is a distinct possibility."

07/28/1977 Notes of a briefing from CIA's Associate Deputy Director for Operations Theodore Shackley to the Carter administration National Security Council  (PDF) "I also asked Shackley to get us a rundown on the political aspects—e.g. when were the President and Congressional officials briefed on the Israeli weapons program, on the NUMEC connection, and what were their reactions.  In December, Carter was briefed on the NUMEC problem as President-elect by Bush in Georgia...I do not think the President has plausible deniability.  The CIA case is persuasive..."

08/02/1977 Memo to Carter from Zbigniew Brzezinski "So far as we know however, (and we have made serious effort to discover it) there is nothing to indicate active CIA participation in the alleged theft...There is a tremendous amount of interest in this issue in Congress...We face tough sledding in the next few weeks in trying to keep attention focused on ERDA's technical [overall U.S. nuclear material loss] arguments..on the FBI investigations, and away from the CIA's information."

All released CIA evidence and former Tel Aviv Station Chief John Hadden suggest the severely undercapitalized NUMEC was "an Israeli [smuggling] operation from the beginning." Multiple health-related lawsuits have been filed targeting companies that later assumed NUMEC ownership. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers currently estimates its toxic cleanup of NUMEC will cost $500 million.  No damage claims have yet been filed against the Israeli government.

IRmep is a Washington-DC based nonprofit researching U.S. Middle East policy formulation.

SOURCE Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy


1 Comments in Response to

Comment by J E Andreasen
Entered on:


February 3, 2014 – 9:29 AM


Guest host McCardle is a reporter for E & E Publishing which is mainly concerned with energy and climate policy.

Guest: WILLIAM TOBEY, former deputy administrator of National Nuclear Security Administration (2006-9).

Topic: Securing nuclear weapons material facilities.

Caller: Grant from Washington, D.C. (Click here to view).

“Grant” phoned Washington Journal at least once before (Oct. 30, 2013 – 9:49 AM) when he also obsessed on alleged Israeli nuclear spying. Then also, his information came from anti-Israel propaganda sources. Here, the deceptive caller omits the fact that he himself is the author of the book he cites as his anti-Israel nuclear weaponry information source.

Caller Grant: “You are probably aware of the situation in Apollo, Pennsylvania where there is a slated cleanup of the NUMEC [Nuclear Materials and Equipment Corporation] processing plant the government contracted that could cost up to half a billion dollars to U.S. taxpayers. As you may not know, the history all indicates that NUMEC was nothing more than a front for uranium smuggling. It is the highest loss facility of [indistinct] in the entire United States – 369 kilograms – and all indications from the CIA is that it went to Israel into their nuclear weapons program. We have the case of Tektronix oscillators [common electronic components used in computers, radio/television receivers etc.] going to Israel. Why are you guys so lousy at keeping nuclear technologies from going to the Israelis?”

Host: “Hey Grant, can I ask you – you're talking about CIA … where are you getting your information from?”

Caller Grant: “There is a book called ‘Divert!: NUMEC, Zalman Shapiro and the Diversion of U.S. Weapons Grade Uranium Into the Israeli Nuclear Weapons Program' [authored by Grant F. Smith].”

[In a failure of journalistic due diligence typical to Washington Journal discussions relating to Israel, neither host nor guest ask caller for name of author. But the author is the same person as the caller!]

Host: “Mr. Tobey, do you know about this facility? Can you tell us anything about the viewer's comment?”

Guest: “I have read press reports of the incidents the caller is describing. It occurred decades ago before the formation of the National Nuclear Security Administration. You asked at the outset why the NNSA was formed – there was a feeling that there was insufficient focus to some of these issues and therefore we needed to create a semi-autonomous agency that would be focused specifically on nuclear security. I used to say that security is the middle name of the agency and it really does drive the focus. If the press reports are to be believed, there were significant failings in the past. I think those have largely been corrected.

Host: “The caller brings up the idea of nuclear cleanup. Is that in the job status of the NNSA?”

Guest: “There is an element of that but most of that is handled by another office within the Department of Energy.”

[Neither host nor guest provided any further comment on caller's conspiracy mongering allegations. Caller exemplifies the anti-Israel, often anti-Jewish fringe which finds C-SPAN's Washington Journal an attractive, congenial platform.]


NOTE: Grant's prior Journal phone-in occurred on Oct. 30, 2013 (click here to listen) when he claimed that “… behind the Chinese and behind the Soviets, you have Israeli spies … There is a story ... about Israel that goes on and on." Then, as now, the caller obsessed on alleged nefarious nuclear acts of Israel but no mention was made by the caller, C-SPAN's host or his guest of the potential threat posed to the world by a nuclear armed Iran.

According to an biography, author of caller's reference source book “Grant F. Smith is director of the Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy in Washington DC. He is author of the books Spy Trade, America's Defense Line, Foreign Agents, Deadly Dogma, and Neocon Middle East Policy. Jeff Stein of The Washington Post calls Smith 'a Washington, D.C. author who has made a career out of writing critical books on Israeli spying and lobbying.'"

YouTube search confirms that caller “Grant” and Grant F. Smith are the same person.

The evidence strongly suggests that the caller's alleged culprit, Zalman Shapiro, was a fall guy rather a villain:

• In his 1991 best-seller The Samson Option, Seymour Hersh concluded that Zalman Shapiro, did not divert any uranium; but rather "it ended up in the air and water of the city of Apollo as well as in the ducts, tubes, and floors of the NUMEC plant."

• A Newsweek Jan. 9, 1978 report, “Mystery of Israel's Bomb,” by David Martin, deals with the issue. Excerpt:

The case was reviewed again 1976 by the newly formed Nuclear Regulatory Commission and President Gerald Ford ordered another FBI probe. It was this investigation that has now concluded there was "no provable illegal act," according to a Justice Department source. The mystery remains, however. Several Congressional committees are still concerned about the possibility of a diversion. But recent reports from the Apollo plant, now operated by the Babcock & Wilcox Co. show continued high losses of enriched uranium - supporting the argument that the production process itself and not nuclear intrigue is to blame.

Disinformation? Some have suggested that Israel might have gotten its early supply of weapons-grade fuel from the French, who provided [Israel's reactor at] Dimona. And others wonder if the whole story of Israel's early nuclear capability was actually "disinformation" fabricated by a sympathetic CIA to worry Arab leaders. In any case, Israel, in the view of most experts [such as …] is now capable of producing plutonium bombs from its own low-grade uranium ore. "Even if Shapiro never existed, they would have the bomb," says one official [a bomb with which Israel has not threatened neighboring countries, unlike Iran's threats to destroy Israel].

As for Zalman Shapiro, he is back at Westinghouse minus his former government clearance. Though bitter at the long affair, he still cooperates with the CIA. Only six weeks ago, he told Newsweek he arranged for the agency to debrief Westinghouse employees just back from the Soviet Union. [But all the facts, when it comes to anti-Israel charges, appear too much for C-SPAN to broadcast.]