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Implications of the Aquisition by Israel of Nuclear Weapons - Printable Version

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Implications of the Aquisition by Israel of Nuclear Weapons - Magda Hassan - 06-06-2009

All rather moot now but an interesting look on the view in 1960

Special National Intelligence Estimate Number 100-8-60, “Implications of the Acquisition by Israel of a Nuclear Weapons Capability,” 8 December 1960, Secret/Noforn, Excised Copy On the basis of evidence collected during the summer and fall of 1960, the U.S. intelligence establishment drew relatively firm conclusions that Israel had an ongoing program to produce “weapons grade plutonium.” In recent years, the U.S. government has been more forthcoming in declassifying information about what it knew and when in the early years of the Israeli nuclear program. In declassifying this previously exempted document, ISCA is following that pattern.
This Special National Intelligence Estimate (SNIE) was controversial as soon as it was published because information surfaced showing that the intelligence agencies and other U.S. government organizations had overlooked telling evidence that Israel had a nuclear weapons program underway. As Avner Cohen has shown, an intelligence post-mortem requested by President Kennedy showed that information available as early as April 1958 could have led to an accurate understanding of Israel’s purposes. Why this happened can not be easily explained, but Cohen identified a number of relevant factors, including “Israeli secrecy and deception,” underestimation of Israeli capabilities, “friends [of Israel] in high places … who might have helped to suppress the early information,” organizational bottlenecks at the CIA, and the possibility that Eisenhower wanted Israel to have the bomb. According to Cohen, “the late 1950s might have been the only time the United States could have successfully pressured Israel to give up its nuclear weapons project in exchange for American security guarantees, but the opportunity was not explored.” (Note 6)
6. Avner Cohen, Israel and the Bomb, (New York: Columbia University Press, 1999), 84.