Newly declassified FBI files are shining an inconvenient light on Israel’s nuclear weaponization research program and how it has been secretly funded from the United States. Iranian negotiations with the UN Security Council resume on May 23 in Baghdad following initial sessions in Istanbul. The core issue is whether Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) signatory Iran will agree to abandon uranium enrichment and open its hardened facilities to more intrusive international inspections. Israel and its western lobbying organizations have long insisted — with little concrete proof — that Iran has a clandestine weaponization program. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee is diligently setting out legislative tripwires for mandatory US military attacks if Iran fails to abandon its program. Yet the brazen activities of the Weizmann Institute of Science now publicly documented by the FBI reveal violations of the core principle of the NPT. On April 24, 2012 the FBI released 159 pages detailing a secret 1992 counterespionage investigation into the Weizmann Institute of Science of Rehovot, Israel. The previously unreleased files detail not only how Israel’s nuclear fundraising and influence network has pushed the US out of compliance with the NPT, but also how the US government has continually missed opportunities to take timely and warranted law enforcement action.
In October of 1992 military personnel at the Yuma Proving Ground, which tests nearly every significant US ground combat weapons system, detected a University of Buffalo computer system user penetrating their secure computer network via New Mexico State University. A senior majoring in Chemical Engineering hacked the UB system to obtain high-level graduate student access codes. Soon after the BU hacking incident "computers from the Weizmann Institute for Science accessed computers from NM SU to penetrate computers at YPG" using the stolen access codes. FBI investigators suspected the BU student, arrested by Amherst Town police on October 8, 1992, passed the secret access codes to Weizmann.
In January of 1993 the FBI interviewed UB graduate students whose accounts had been misappropriated by the hacker. The FBI began to research the student’s connection to other hackers in Texas and Hawaii and his "possible contact/association with the Weizmann Institute of Rehovot, Israel." Investigators also dialed up Lexis-Nexis for more background on Weizmann. Among their first hits was a 1972 New York Times article recording Soviet charges that Weizmann was nothing more than a front for Israeli nuclear weapons research. Interest piqued, the FBI amassed a lengthy public source file (PDF) on Weizmann.
They discovered that the Weizmann Institute launched operations at the close of WWII under the direction of Israeli nuclear research pioneer Ernst David Bergmann. It was named after famed chemist Chaim Weizmann, a Russian who immigrated to the UK and revolutionized the production of acetone needed for WWI gunpowder production. The Zionist activist lobbied and charmed Lord Balfour to win the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine and became Israel’s first president in 1949.
The FBI noted the Weizmann Institute had "’an American Committee for the Weizmann Institute’ which operates in the United States from New York City, Chicago, and possibly other metropolitan cities. The Committee engages in fund-raising, hosts lectures on topics of interest and engages in public relations on behalf of the Weizmann Institute." The FBI Counter-Intelligence division, after reviewing the public and private records of its key officials and activities, submitted a frank written assessment. "CI-3B believes that the Weizmann Institute is an academic organization which conducts research in high-technology issue areas, including theoretical aspects of nuclear and conventional weapons development."
On March 8, 1993 the Assistant District Attorney of Erie County reduced the unnamed BU hacker "misuse of a computer" charge to "disorderly conduct," fined him $145 and sentenced him to 40 hours of community service. BU college officials were not "overly anxious" to have their student charged of an actual crime, including possible espionage with Weizmann, rather than a mere campus computer access violation. The FBI continued its Weizmann Institute spy network investigation, obtaining a Grand Jury subpoena on March 19, 1993 served on an unnamed suspect at his place of business. The Counter Intelligence Division obtained logs of Yuma Proving Ground data that may have been passed to Weizmann. Late in 1994 the investigation was closed due to the "rudimentary" level of the "computer cracker" intrusion, which had already been successfully prosecuted. The "Weizmann Espionage" case officially closed.
In hindsight, what the FBI uncovered in the 1990’s about the Weizmann Institute clearly documents that it was both involved in nuclear weapons development and fundraising through a US non-profit charity. That pile of evidence has only deepened in intervening years. If the FBI had kept digging, and the Justice Department upheld its mandate, the threat posed to US NPT compliance could have been mitigated by shutting down the Weizmann Institute’s US fundraising arm over documented IRS charitable purpose violations.
But Weizmann was no easy target. Since its very beginning, the Weizmann Institute invested significant resources courting elite collaborators and allies spread across US government and scientific communities. Isidor Rabi worked on the Manhattan Project providing key leadership developing America’s first atomic bombs alongside Robert Oppenheimer at Los Alamos. When dispatched by a nervous JFK to visit Dimona in 1961, Rabi stated unequivocally he had found "no evidence of weapons related activity." The 2009 book Nuclear Express authors Thomas C. Reed and Danny B. Stillman skeptically noted "Rabi was already a member of the board of governors (and presumably on the payroll) of Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science, the incubator of most nuclear weapons work in Israel." Rabi’s misleading testimony took some heat off Israel as it raced to finalize the Dimona reactor and build an arsenal.
Abraham Feinberg, a big-time Democratic Party operative and David Ben-Gurion’s designated North American nuclear fund-raising coordinator, began courting Nobel laureate Glenn T. Seaborg on behalf of the Weizmann Institute in the early 1950’s. After becoming head of the Atomic Energy Commission during the Kennedy administration, Seaborg played a key role in derailing effective AEC and FBI criminal investigations into the Israeli theft of AEC bomb-grade U-235 from the NUMEC facility in Apollo, Pennsylvania. Upon leaving the AEC in 1971, Seaborg accepted Weizmann Institute chairman Abraham Feinberg’s invitation (and an honorarium equivalent to nearly 10% of his annual salary) to keynote the annual Waldorf Astoria event. Seaborg affirmed a newly hatched US policy of covering-up Israel’s arsenal. "During my tenure as Chairman of the AEC I was asked on numerous occasions whether I thought Israel was a nuclear power — or less euphemistically — did she have the bomb?…Now in retrospect, I often wished I had said, ‘Yes, she is a nuclear power, the kind that knows of, and makes use of, the atom’s power for peace.’" When the NUMEC uranium theft diversion investigation was rejuvenated by Attorney General Edward Levi in 1976, Seaborg refused to talk to FBI agents after DOE officials confirmed (PDF) to him that traces of NUMEC U-235 had been recovered in Israel. But who actually hatched the US presidential policy of covering up for Israel’s nukes?
During the Nixon administration, Henry Kissinger played a key role in crafting the US policy of "nuclear ambiguity" designed to keep Israel’s nuclear arsenal from ever becoming an "established international fact." In 1969 Kissinger penned a classified strategy document (PDF), even noting the NUMEC uranium diversion. "There is circumstantial evidence that some fissionable material available for Israel’s weapons development was illegally obtained from the United States by about 1965." But while Kissinger and Nixon had many good policy options that could have reversed the Israeli nuclear program — especially by withholding US military equipment — they chose none of them. Instead they mandated that the US government would never officially acknowledge Israel’s nuclear weapons, if Israel never tested them or made their existence public. Shortly after stepping down as US Secretary of State in 1977, Henry Kissinger graciously received a Weizmann Institute of Science honorary degree as a "messenger of peace" and "principal architect of international conciliation."
In 1987 the Department of Defense contracted a study titled "Critical Technology Issues in Israel" led by Dr. Edwin S. Townsley, Deputy Director of the Science and Technology Division of the Institute for Defense Analyses. According to leaks to the press, the IDA study documented Weizmann scientists developed a cutting-edge high-energy physics and hydrodynamics program "needed for nuclear bomb design." Weizmann also worked on advanced methods for enriching uranium to weapons-grade through the use of lasers. As US foreign aid for Israeli conventional weapons purchases and development surged, so too did Weizmann’s US charitable funding for secret weapons development.
The American Committee for the Weizmann Institute added $50 million in US tax-deductible charitable contributions to its half billion in net assets according to its latest public tax filing. In 2009 it dispatched $43 million for "program services" in the "Middle East and North Africa" at the Weizmann Institute. AIPAC, which features Weizmann programs at its annual policy events and is intertwined through chairman emeritus Robert Asher’s ties to both organizations, would no doubt muster the full might of its 50-plus executive committee organizations to derail any attempt at overdue regulation of Weizmann during the current showdown with Iran.
Nobody was ever arrested for Atomic Energy Act violations over NUMEC due to statute of limitations and investigatory obstructions. But Weizmann and NUMEC are not dead historical issues under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. By knowingly turning a blind eye on Weizmann’s assistance to Israel’s clandestine nuclear program and refusing to hold Israel and its US collaborators responsible for NUMEC diversions, the US has violated Article 1 of the NPT. It states, "Each nuclear-weapons state undertakes not to transfer, to any recipient, nuclear weapons, or other nuclear explosive devices, and not to assist any non-nuclear-weapon state to manufacture or acquire such weapons or devices." It is clear that the Justice Department did not follow the Weizmann investigation through to its logical conclusion, even after discovering the US weapons-funding front. The key conclusion of a recently declassified General Accounting Office report is that the US government similarly failed to properly investigate the NUMEC uranium diversions. Taxpayers, who must pay extra revenue to the US Treasury because of the Weizmann Institute’s unjustifiable tax deductible status, have long been made involuntary accomplices in Middle East nuclear proliferation. Given these tragic US failures to uphold rule of law, it is now time for the International Atomic Energy Agency to take notice of the true violators of the NPT.
Read more by Grant Smith
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