The truth is emerging four decades after the fact: the Carter administration knew of a clandestine Israeli nuclear test in the 1970s, but turned a blind eye, Foreign Policy reported this weekend, based on new analysis of declassified government documents.
The report strongly suggests the administration was worried about Carter's reelection should the Israeli test be revealed, and also about negative impact on the Israel-Egypt peace treaty, only a year old at the time. The FP report begins dramatically:
Shortly before sunrise on Sept. 22, 1979, a U.S. surveillance satellite known as Vela 6911 recorded an unusual double flash as it orbited the earth above the South Atlantic. At Patrick Air Force Base in Florida, where it was still nighttime on Sept. 21, the staff in charge of monitoring the satellite’s transmissions saw the unmistakable pattern produced by a nuclear explosion — something U.S. satellites had detected on dozens of previous occasions in the wake of nuclear tests. The Air Force base issued an alert overnight, and President Jimmy Carter quickly called a meeting in the White House Situation Room the next day.
Carter wrote in his diary of the September 22, 1979 event: “There was an indication of a nuclear explosion in the region of South Africa – either South Africa, Israel using a ship at sea, or nothing,” according to the report.
Problem was that under the 1977 Glenn Amendment to the Arms Export Control Act, the United States would have to cease all arms assistance to any nation not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty should they conduct a nuclear test.
So to deflect the potential for a scandal and forced cessation of US aid to Israel's military, the administration convened a panel of 'experts' and scientists whose job it was to publicly dismiss the possibility that Israel detonated a nuke. This would be the official line of the administration within the DoD: to essentially cover-up the satellite findings and to proclaim is wasn't a nuclear flash at all detected on that day.
“It is our collective judgment that the September 22 signal was probably not from a nuclear explosion,” the panel concluded in May 1980.
And yet, the internal documentary record said otherwise, as indicated by President Carter's own hand:
“We have a growing belief among our scientists that the Israelis did indeed conduct a nuclear test explosion in the ocean near the southern end of Africa,” the former president personally recorded in his diary on February 27, 1980.
The Foreign Policy report revealed, shockingly: “The Carter administration was so afraid to enforce the Partial Test Ban Treaty against Israel’s 1979 violation that it did what it could to erase or keep hidden evidence of its detection of a test.” Thus the hard science and evidence survived in the classified records, while the lie and cover-up attempt did also.
From there it became an entrenched lie. All future administrations would use it as a smokescreen to shield public attention from what top officials well understood — that close US ally Israel has long been a nuclear power, despite its public stance to the world that it is not.
Great FP feature on how the Carter administration covered up for a rogue nuclear power in the Middle East. https://t.co/3qLBxP3mat— James Palmer (@BeijingPalmer) September 22, 2019
“Subsequent administrations, Republican and Democratic alike, went along with this, and the US government still pretends it knows nothing about any Israeli nuclear weapons,” FP concluded further.
The official US government line to this day is that what was recorded by the Vela 6911 satellite was not an Israeli nuclear test. However FP's team of scientists, academics, and former government officials and nuclear experts that analyzed the declassified record and data have offered their glaring contradiction in a foremost establishment policy magazine.
“We believe, based on a great deal of documented and anecdotal evidence, that the Vela event was indeed the detection of a low-yield Israeli nuclear test,” the report concluded.