Years before John F. Kennedy had his final showdown with David Ben-Gurion over Israel’s development of nuclear weapons, the Mossad — with the help of American Jews loyal to the fledgling Zionist state — orchestrated one of the greatest criminal heists in history — the theft of over 600 pounds of weapons-grade uranium with the complicity of both the FBI and C.I.A.
The story of this espionage and betrayal is documented in the book, Stealing The Atom Bomb: How Denial And Deception Armed Israel by Dr. Roger Mattson, former advisor and manager with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Atomic Energy Commission.
The following article is a transcription of a talk Mattson presented at a conference that took place at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. on March 18, 2016 titled “Israel’s Influence: Good Or Bad For America?” While Maattson’s presentation here is a good introduction to Israeli nuclear espionage, we would strongly recommend reading his book Stealing The Bomb, which reveals in stunning detail the claustrophobic Jewish control of the American government, military, and intelligence agencies. This book is destined for the memory hole, so get a copy while you still can.
If you’d prefer to listen to Dr. Mattson’s presentation, we’ve provided the audio here. We’ve skipped the introductory material, and our transcript begins at the 5:30 mark of the audio.
Did Israel Steal U.S. Weapons-Grade Uranium, and Did it Have Help From U.S. Citizens?
The first reactor built in Israel was supplied by the United States under President Eisenhower’s Atoms for Peace program — some of you are probably old enough to remember that. It was an attempt by the Eisenhower administration to stay in the lead over the Soviets in the distribution of nuclear technology in the world — and a small research reactor was built at Nahal Sorek in Israel.
About the same time — because the United States refused to provide a plutonium production reactor — the Israelis made a deal with the French that had its genesis in the Suez Canal Crisis and the support that the Israelis provided for the French in that affair. And they obtained on the QT the design and fabrication of a reactor at a place called Dimona in Israel. The French provided not only the reactor and the fuel, but also the reprocessing plant from which plutonium could be extracted for making nuclear weapons.
An important part of the Israeli program was an organization called LEKEM, which is a Hebrew acronym for a security organization. I think it was the scientific bureau or something that it stood for. These people [LEKEM] were charged with espionage around the world — mainly centered in the United States — to steal materials, components and information about nuclear weapons production capabilities. They were also the people who befuddled the inspector sent by President Kennedy — and for a time by President Johnson — to look into Dimona to try to confirm the Israeli claims that it was a research reactor, not a weapons production reactor.
There’s a Ministry of Defense organization called RAFAEL — another Hebrew acronym that you’ll see show up in the chronology as I go through it. Just to give you a time reference, historians believe today — scholars believe today — that the first Israeli nuclear weapons were available for use at the time of the Six-Day War in 1967.
The next slide is a quick picture of Dimona. It’s hard to see much on that slide. I’ll just point out that on the right-hand side is the usual reactor containment dome that you’re used to seeing at other nuclear plants. I think in the middle there are cooling towers, forced draft cooling towers. And then the tower on the far left would be for gaseous effluence from the plant. An important thing to remember — these plants all have radioactive effluence.
So the company that was involved in the diversion of materials to Israel was a company called NUMEC — Nuclear Materials and Equipment Corporation. And the next couple of slides provide a timeline for NUMEC’s operation.
…In 1955 there was the Geneva Conference on Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy, where people from developing nations that hadn’t been involved in the Manhattan Project and the bomb production capability of the United States in World War II first came together to talk about — under the Atoms for Peace kind of dialogue — what they wanted to do with nuclear energy. And Israel was a prime attendee at that meeting in the person of Ernst David Bergmann, who went on to become the father of the Israeli atomic bomb. He was the chairman at that time of the Israeli Atomic Energy Commission.
[CFT note: Pittsburgh was “one of the earliest and most enthusiastic bastions of Zionist support in America,” according to Jewish historian Barbara Burstin in her book Jewish Pittsburgh]
He knew a lot about uranium. He knew a lot about plutonium. He knew a lot about how to clad fuel elements — how to make fuel elements for reactors. And he learned those things in the United States Nuclear Navy program. He designed the first nuclear submarine for the United States, the Nautilus.
His neighbor in the Pittsburgh area was a man named David Lowenthal. Lowenthal was a hero, really, of the ’48 war of Independence in Israel. He was on the Exodus — the ship Exodus taking refugees to Israel after World War II. He was a confidant of Ben-Gurion.
He organized the funding for the company called NUMEC. Zalman Shapiro became the president of NUMEC. He left the U.S. government employment at Bettis Atomic Power Laboratory and started the company NUMEC.
It started processing highly enriched uranium for the U.S. Navy in 1960. By 1964, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory people were learning that there was missing uranium — what they call “inventory differences” or “material unaccounted for” — at the NUMEC facility in Apollo, Pennsylvania. The Oak Ridge people — remember, Oak Ridge is the first uranium enrichment capability in the world built during World War II. Oak Ridge alerted the Atomic Energy Commission — then under the leadership of Dr. Glenn Seaborg — a Nobel Laureate for the discovery of plutonium. The AEC did an independent audit. They used the best people they could find — the best people from Oak Ridge, the best people from the commission, the best people from NUMEC — and they came up with 178 kilograms of missing highly enriched uranium. Of that 178, they found that 94 kilograms could no way be accounted for.
Over the next year or so, NUMEC borrowed $2.2 million to pay for the 178 — they had to pay for it all, whether it went up in the air or whether it went “someplace” that nobody knew about. In 1967, being in dire financial straits, NUMEC sold to Atlantic Richfield Company — an interesting sale that [Grant L. Smith] wrote about in an earlier book [Divert! NUMEC, Zalman Shapiro and the Diversion of US Weapons Grade Uranium Into the Israeli Nuclear Weapons Program]. That [purchase] “coincided” with Atlantic Richfield Company’s first entry into the nuclear business. It got a $30 million a year contract at the Hanford Works in the State of Washington — sort of “coincidentally” with its purchase of NUMEC.
Some people can’t visualize this NUMEC facility in Apollo — was it a great big thing or a little bitty thing? Here’s the scale — it’s about two stories tall — about a block-and-a-half long.
So the “inventory difference” grew to 287 kilograms. For those of you who think in terms of pounds, that’s about 600 pounds of missing highly enriched uranium. It takes 10 to 20 pounds to make an atom bomb.
Then in 1968 — that’s something that’s on the cover of my book and we’ll see here in a minute — is the records of the four senior espionage officials — espionage agents of the government of Israel — who visited NUMEC under false credentials. In 1970 Shapiro left NUMEC — went to work for a company called Kawecki Berylco, which made beryllium components for nuclear weapons — supplied the beryllium which is used in a variety of ways in nuclear weapons.
He applied for a higher security clearance than the one he had. He got involved with the Nixon administration and Attorney General Mitchell. Some of you will remember John Mitchell — and Mitchell said, “No, don’t give him a security clearance.” It was after the Oppenheimer Trial — where Oppenheimer lost his security clearance. Seaborg didn’t want to go through that again. With Shapiro, they fought back and forth between the AEC and the Justice Department. In the end, AEC found him a job where he didn’t need a security clearance that paid $10,000 a year more than what he was making — and he took that job at Westinghouse, where he spent most of the rest of his career.
In 1971 Babcock & Wilcox Company — that’s the people who designed Three Mile Island, by the way — bought NUMEC from Atlantic Richfield Company. They stopped operations in ’78. The plant was decommissioned and returned to a green field by 1992, but it had a waste disposal site a few miles away that is now the subject of a Superfund cleanup by the United States government to the tune of $400 million, organized by the Corps of Engineers — and the costs are being negotiated by the Justice Department. That’s the story of NUMEC.
I will go back to the audit in 1965. Of the 178 kilograms that was missing, 94 kilograms unexplained. The NRC historian has recorded that as six atomic bombs, or maybe a little more. There was no FBI investigation of the theft, the alleged diversion in 1965 or ’66. The AEC under Dr. Seaborg said they didn’t think it had been stolen. They didn’t know where it went for sure, but they didn’t think it had been stolen. If you look at the records of their discussions — the commission discussions with their staff — there’s no discussion whatsoever of Dr. Shapiro’s association with Israel. There was suspicion, but they didn’t talk in any detail about those associations. I’ll give you some of that detail in a minute.
They had various explanations for where the material went. None of it panned out. They dug up things in waste disposal. They counted filters at Oak Ridge Laboratory. They couldn’t find 94 kilograms. That’s 200 pounds of highly enriched uranium.
Later Seaborg wrote a number of books — and he wrote three of them that were memoirs where he discussed NUMEC. In one of them he said, “What good would it do to admit that HEU had been stolen and given to Israel?” He denied that it happened, but he said what good would it do?
Dr. Shapiro was a Zionist. He was a national officer in the Zionist Organization of America. He was an awardee of the ZOA. He told both the FBI and the AEC when they had hearings with him that he wanted to immigrate to Israel. Finally, in a wiretap, the FBI picked up his admission that the Israelis told him he was more valuable to them here than he was there….He was associated with Bergman, the father of the Israeli bomb, a number of LEKEM agents, and people from Mossad. We’ll talk about Rafael Eitan in a minute. And those are some of his associations.
One of the keys to understanding how this happened was that the CIA, beginning in 1966, ’67, and ’68, thought Israel had the bomb. But they hadn’t confirmed that Dimona was producing plutonium. They charged the CIA Station Chief John Hadden and his people in Tel Aviv to make trips to Dimona and collect samples in the environment.
Remember the gaseous effluence — at any nuclear plant you can pick up very small traces of radioactivity. That’s why they’re so closely regulated — to keep those traces very small. So they were looking for plutonium in the environment. John Hadden’s son remembers going out there [Dimona] with his dad on peanut butter sandwich trips where the kids would eat the peanut butter sandwich and the father would collect flora in the vicinity, throw them in the trunk, and head back to Tel Aviv.
We don’t know today who counted those or did the radioactive analysis of those samples, but they found highly enriched uranium before they found plutonium. And there was no highly enriched uranium at Dimona. Israel had no capability to enrich uranium. What we know today is that they were able to put a signature on that highly enriched uranium that proved that it came from the United States — that it came from the naval nuclear program because the fuel for Navy reactors was 97.7 percent enriched.
A little science: natural uranium, 0.7 percent; uranium in a light-water reactor, a power reactor like we use, 3 percent; uranium in a nuclear weapon, typically 93 percent, depending on the country. But the naval fuel was 97.7, and that’s what Hadden found in the environment near Dimona—the type of fuel processed by NUMEC.
This is what’s on the cover of [my] book. In 1968 these four Israeli spies showed up at NUMEC—and, just briefly: Avraham Hermoni was the LEKEM chief in the United States. He recruited a number of spies for Israel in the nuclear program. He went back to RAFAEL, where he was the deputy director of that weapons effort in Israel. Ephraim Bagon was sort of the technician of Shin Bet, the Israeli FBI. Avraham Bendor went on to be the head of Shin Bet. Rafi Eitan went on to be the head of LEKEM and recruited and ran Jonathan Pollard in the United States.
They visited NUMEC in 1968 — and there were various stories they created. In the book you’ll read my assessment that what they were really there for was to enlist [Zalman] Shapiro’s help with the fabrication of fuel for Dimona using uranium they stole from the Western Europeans….There’s an eyewitness account of the theft that’s discussed in the book that the FBI did not follow up on — and we today don’t know why…
J. Edgar Hoover said remove his [Shapiro’s] clearance and take away all of his contracts. Four attorneys general touched it—Ramsey Clark, John Mitchell, Edward Levi and Griffin Bell. They said don’t give him any more clearances. They did wiretaps. They said more was needed. And then by 1980 the whole thing ended.
Seaborg said what good did it do to admit it. Morris Udall said that if he had to write in an envelope whether it happened or not, having finished his investigation and the penalty for being wrong was death, he would write in his envelope that it happened. Other politicians have been slow to say. [CIA Director] Richard Helms said we did the job and avoided political risk — God knows what Richard Helms meant [by this] in his biography. Zbigniew Brzezinski, just last year — when presented with documents that [Grant F. Smith] found — said, “Well, something did transpire. It’s explosive. It’s controversial. What do you want me to do? Ask them to give it back?”
…My conclusion is the material went [to Israel]. Whether [Zalman] Shapiro was actually present when it happened, it’s hard to prove. They tell me about arson — if you don’t see the match held to the flame, it’s hard to make an arson conviction. I think the Justice Department had the same trouble here.
Finally, I would say that NUMEC’s not alone, that LEKEM and Rafael Eitan — who’s still alive, by the way — recruited Arnon Milchan, the famous Hollywood producer….He’s one of the wealthiest men in the world. He was an Israeli spy causing the smuggling of materials and information to their nuclear program for many years.
Arnon Milchan was not merely a spy for the Mossad — he was “Israel’s largest arms dealer” according to Alexander Cockburn in the May 18th edition of The Nation magazine in 1992. And Milchan just so happened to be an executive producer for the 1991 Oliver Stone movie JFK — which was based on the books Crossfire by Jim Marrs and On The Trail Of Assassins by Jim Garrison — neither of which mentioned the overwhelming evidence of Israeli orchestration of the assassination. While Jim Marrs was known to avoid and deny the Israeli role in the event, Jim Garrison had written another unpublished manuscript in which he expressed his belief that the Mossad was, in fact, responsible for the assassination.
We should also mention that a key figure — the hidden hand — who orchestrated this espionage on American soil was the wealthy financier and political insider Abraham Feinberg, whom Mattson does not mention in this talk but does mention in his book, Stealing The Bomb. Feinberg was connected to key figures behind the JFK assassination, including Louis Bloomfield, Samuel Bronfman, and the Rothschilds. We will be publishing a separate article on Feinberg — who, strangely enough, does not have a Wikipedia entry — most likely just an “oversight,” no?