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GAO Investigates Israeli theft of weapons grade uranium from the US

"We believe a timely, concerted effort on the part of these three agencies [DOE, FBI, CIA] would have greatly aided and possibly solved the NUMEC diversion questions, if they desired to do so."


In 1977 chair of the House of Representatives subcommittee on Energy and Power John D. Dingell requested an investigation to determine whether weapons grade uranium had been illegally diverted from the US into a clandestine Israeli nuclear weapons program.

In the early 1960s, the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) began documenting suspicious lapses in security at the Nuclear Materials and Equipment Corporation (NUMEC) in Pennsylvania. In 1965 an Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) audit found that NUMEC could no longer account for 220 pounds of highly enriched uranium. The amount of missing uranium could "make at least four or five nuclear weapons" according to the report. In 1966 the FBI opened an investigation code-named DIVERT and began monitoring NUMEC's management and large numbers of Israeli visitors. On Sept. 10, 1968, four Israelis visited NUMEC's president to "discuss thermoelectric devices with [Zalman] Shapiro," according to correspondence from NUMEC's security manager seeking official AEC consent for an Israeli visit. Among the approved visitors was Rafael Eitan. After Eitan's visit, 587 pounds of highly enriched uranium was classified as missing.

The GAO investigation was chartered to discover whether:

1. "The material was illegally diverted to Israel by NUMEC management for use in nuclear weapons."

2. "The material was diverted to Israel by NUMEC management with the assistance of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)."

3. "The material was diverted to Israel with the acquiescence of the United States Government."

4. GAO inquired whether "there has been a cover-up of the NUMEC incident by the United States Government."

The GAO officially concluded that the federal efforts to resolve the matter were "less than adequate." GAO charged the FBI "which had the responsibility and authority to investigate the alleged incident, did not focus on the question of a possible nuclear diversion until May 1976, nearly 11 years later." The GAO found other serious lapses in the FBI investigation. "GAO found that certain key individuals had not been contacted by the FBI almost 2 years into the FBI's current investigation."

Document/File Date Contents
10/06/1978 Internal CIA memo on publicly releasing equity in GAO report.  CIA Deputy Director for Operations:

"Advise GAO that we cannot declassify our report because of the need to have a coordinated Executive Branch position and our desire to protect a sensitive and valuable liaison equity."


Nuclear Diversion in the U.S.?  13 Years of Contradiction and Confusion.  - Redacted version released by the GAO on On May 6, 2010

12/18/1978 New Nuclear Diversion in the U.S.?  13 Years of Contradiction and Confusion.  - Redacted version released by the ISCAP on On March 18, 2014 with more CIA equity content. (Release Letter)

* An earlier GAO report titled "Review of Accountability Controls Over Special Nuclear Materials, Nuclear Materials and Equipment Corporation," Report to Joint Committee on Atomic Energy by the Comptroller General of the United States, June 1967 may be viewed in the NUMEC archive.

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