CIA activities in Israel
CIA released a 1974 Special National Intelligence Estimate, Prospects for Further Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, which had been prepared in response to the May 17, 1974 Indian nuclear test.
Twenty years ago, the CIA released an excised version of the "Summary and Conclusions" of this document in response to a FOIA request by the Natural Resources Defense Council. It became the subject of a front-page story in The New York Times on 26 January 1978, under the headline, "C.I.A. Said in 1974 Israel had A-Bombs." In response to press queries, the CIA stated that the release was a mistake because it included some classified details.
When it reviewed the 1974 SNIE for the most recent release, the CIA heavily excised the discussion of the Indian nuclear program, but the release includes discussion of the nuclear prospects and potential of a number of countries, which, as Washington Post reporter Walter Pincus has noted, included correct and incorrect judgments, such as:
- Israel:"We believe that Israel already has produced and stockpiled a small number of fission weapons."
- Republic of China (Taiwan):"We believe facilities are being developed with conscious intent to keep a nuclear weapon option open."
- South Africa: "In the short run, South Africa is of more concern in the proliferation context as a potential supplier of nuclear materials and technology than as a potential nuclear weapons power."
- Japan: "Technologically speaking, [Japan] is in a position to produce and test a nuclear device within two or three years," but "the Japanese are unlikely to make a decision to produce nuclear weapons unless there is a major adverse shift in relationships among the major powers."
- Argentina: "if Buenos Aires dedicated itself to the earliest possible development of a nuclear weapon and received … foreign assistance in building the necessary facilities, Argentina could have an initial device in the early 1980s."
The SNIE went on to say that several nations, such as Canada, Sweden, West Germany and Italy, had the capability but not the motivation to build nuclear weapons. It was quite specific, though, in saying "We believe Israel has already produced nuclear weapons. Our judgment is based on Israel's acquisition large quantities of uranium, partially by clandestine means; the ambiguous nature of Israel's efforts in the field of uranium enrichment, and Israel's large investment in a costly missile system designed to accommodate nuclear weapons. We do not expect the Israelis to provide confirmation of widespread suspicions of their capabilities, either by nuclear testing or threat of their use, unless there is a grave threat to the nation's existence. Future emphasis is likely to be on improving weapons designs, developing missiles more capable in distance and accuracy than the existing 260-mile Jericho, and acquiring or perfecting weapons for aircraft delivery."
See CIA activities in Iran for 1985.
- Prospects for Further Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (PDF), Special National Intelligence Estimate, CIA, 23 August 1974, SNIE 4-1-74, retrieved 2008-01-20
- Burr, William, ed. (14 January 2008), In 1974 Estimate, CIA Found that Israel Already Had a Nuclear Stockpile and that "Many Countries" Would Soon Have Nuclear Capabilities, George Washington University National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 240
- Profile: Charlie Wilson