Death of the Masked Men

CIA's John Hadden ignored as Israeli spy Avraham Bendor celebrated

by , June 24, 2014

The death of CIA veteran John Lloyd Hadden a year ago went utterly unreported by establishment media in the United States. Given Hadden’s known history, the blackout is perhaps not as much a reflection of the difficulty reporting on a clandestine career as a slap at his harsh but ardent defense of American interests against the State of Israel’s constant incursions. Contrasted with big media’s fawning recent obituaries of Israeli Shin Bet Chief Avraham Shalom, Americans should ask why journalists have passed over the opportunity presented by Hadden to report on epic historic showdowns between two state intelligence services.

A Harvard engineer intent on going to West Point, Hadden obtained a postwar”emergency commission” to work in Berlin engineering roads, bridges and an airstrip. After the Berlin Blockade, Hadden rushed to join the fledgling CIA so he could continue serving in Berlin. He was later stationed in Hamburg, Salzburg and intermittently in Washington. During the 1967 Six-Day War, Hadden served in Tel Aviv as CIA station chief. The closure of the Straits of Tiran and movement of Egyptian forces into the Sinai slowly reached a boiling point. In the run-up to Israel’s sneak attack on Egypt, Hadden was urgently summoned to meet with Mossad Director Meir Amit on May 25, 1967. After Amit lamented that Israel had not immediately attacked Egypt, Hadden bluntly told the Israeli, “that would have brought Russia and the United States against you.” When Amit disagreed, stating the crisis was a U.S. problem as well, Hadden retorted, “Help us by giving us a good reason to come in on your side. Get them to fire at something, a ship for example.” After again warning Amit that an attack would provoke a US defense of the “attacked state,” hinting that US aid was on the line, and then telling Amit not to surprise the US, Hadden took his leave.

Despite Hadden’s admonitions, the crisis did not play out at all like the 1956 Suez crisis in which President Eisenhower’s resolve beat back an ill-advised British, French and Israeli pincer on Egypt. Amit simply went around Hadden and obtained what he later characterized as a “flickering green light” from the LBJ administration to attack Egypt. The Israeli war of choice that created so many lingering tensions and illegal land occupations began. In the end, the only significant vessel fired upon was the American surveillance ship the USS Liberty, attacked by Israel during the conflict on June 8, 1967 with the loss of 34 crew members.

Hadden’s actor/writer son recorded interviews of his father after 9/11 as source material for his one-man play “Travels with a Masked Man.” The son recounts how during the Six-Day War Station Chief Hadden was not above disobeying ill-advised orders.

“One day, it was during the Six-Day War, I was at the office. I got a hot cable from Washington telling me to go to …my friend in the Mossad…and tell him we think it’s okay to…XYZ (a catastrophe of destruction). I took one look at the thing and just dropped it in the shredder. It was on a weekend – some deputy’s watch, some gung-ho idiot. It was the days of the proconsuls – and when [CIA Director Richard] Helms came in on Monday he said, ‘Christ, someone get hold of him [Hadden] and tell him to ignore…XYZ!’ I was lucky…I could say I’d never seen the damn thing…There were interesting moments.”

Hadden eventually came to be hated by the Mossad and Israeli intelligence services targeting the United States – a feeling that was mutual. He even went public with the CIA’s findings that Israel had stolen large amounts of weapons-grade uranium from a US Navy contracting company called NUMEC run by Israel sympathizers in Apollo, Pennsylvania. His public statements helped fan public and congressional interest in finding out what happened at NUMEC and punishing the perpetrators. Insultingly, Hadden even compared spymaster Rafi Eitan’s 1960 exploit kidnapping Nazi war criminal Adolph Eichmann from the streets of Buenos Aires with the later and much easier work of looting an under-capitalized smuggling front under the obliging eye of its owner.

"Just imagine to yourself how much easier it would be to remove a pound or two of this or that at any one time, as opposed to – which is inert material – as opposed to removing all at one blow. One hundred fifty pounds of shouting and kicking Eichmann. You see, they [the Israelis] are pretty good at removing things."

Hadden unequivocally claimed that NUMEC was "an Israeli operation from the beginning." The Israelis in Hadden’s view were an unreliable source of US intelligence, and too often spurred to violence.

“The Israelis, of course, are a special case, because they’re so small – and they’re at war all the time – they can go out and murder people and do all kinds of things that we can’t do. They get a lot done. Of course, Israeli intelligence is our main source of intelligence. Unexamined, and that’s another problem…”

Hadden’s obscure passing can be contrasted with the more recent and glowing New York Times and other fawning mainstream obituaries of Israeli spy Avraham Shalom. The “paper of record” duly mentions Shalom’s aiding Rafi Eitan to capture Eichmann and ascension to commander of Shin Bet after the 1972 terror attacks on the Israeli Olympic team. Shalom’s late in life criticism of Israel’s harsh treatment of the Palestinians is also well known following the Oscar-nominated 2012 documentary “The Gatekeepers.”

Although many American obituaries mention that Shalom’s real name was Avraham Bendor, none mention that he also accompanied Rafi Eitan on a well-documented 1968 incursion into the NUMEC plant along with the nuclear weapons program chief Avraham Hermoni at the invitation of NUMEC president (and Zionist Organization of America executive) Zalman Shapiro. According to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 1968 was the year of NUMEC’s highest losses. According to the Department of Energy, 339 kilograms currently remain “unaccounted for” even as the US Army Corps of Engineers expends $500 million in taxpayer funds cleaning up after the smuggling front.

Israeli journalists are not as skittish as their US counterparts in reporting – at least to other Israelis and paying subscribers – the long string of Israeli espionage assaults on American sovereignty. Veteran intelligence reporter Yossi Melman confessed in his Jerusalem Post May 27, 2014 report titled “Spy Story” (behind a paywall) that,

“The naked truth is that even before its inception and even more so since independence in 1948, Israel time and time again violated US laws, spied on US soil, stole its secrets, and violated its sovereignty… In rare cases, some of the Israeli operations were exposed by the FBI and US Customs. Israelis were expelled, equipment confiscated, complaints filed but they usually managed to get away unpunished. This happened even with the two most daring and outstanding operations targeting the US nuclear sector. In the first case in the ’60s, according to US documents, a joint Lekem-Mossad team led by master spy Rafi Eitan stole enriched uranium from a depot of the NUMEC company in Apollo, Pennsylvania, which was handling nuclear waste for the US Atomic Energy Commission. NUMEC’s owner was Zalman Shapiro, an Orthodox Jew who later would be on the board of governors of the Israeli Intelligence Heritage Center.”

The Israeli Intelligence Heritage Center honors spies for Israel who secretly took action to advance the state. The center also protects those “who are still operating and could be endangered by information from the past.” Seven of the center’s eight “Hero of Silence” award recipient’s identities remain secret, though former NUMEC president Zalman Shapiro – still denying culpability from Pittsburgh – is presumably one of them.

Despite intense, ongoing litigation over lingering radiation-related illnesses surrounding the former NUMEC site and massive cleanup costs, the Israeli government has never stepped forward to claim responsibility for creating the front company that created so much material loss, property damage and health problems. The CIA has never released any of its thousands of files about the NUMEC affair, signaling in one Freedom of Information Act response that only when a US president gives the go-ahead, and US intelligence agency worries about offending Israeli intelligence liaisons are diminished, will there ever be any direct information release. That time – likelier than not – will be never.

It is unseemly that the quiet passing of John Hadden – an American who tried to avert Israel’s 1967 attack on Egypt, and then keep it from escalating – is so utterly overshadowed by laudatory obituaries for the Israeli he exposed looting weapons-grade nuclear material from Pennsylvania.

Read more by Grant Smith