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Thursday, October 24, 2013

Ten Explosive U.S. Government Secrets about Israel

Absent greater transparency, Americans should assume the worst

by Grant F. Smith, Source IRmep

In 1968 Director of Central Intelligence Richard Helms wrote urgently to Attorney General Ramsey Clark and President Lyndon B. Johnson that some highly enriched uranium fueling Israel's Dimona nuclear reactor was stolen from America.  LBJ reportedly uttered, "Don't tell anyone else, even [Secretary of State] Dean Rusk and [Defense Secretary] Robert McNamara."  The FBI immediately launched a deep investigation into the inexplicably heavy losses at the Nuclear Materials and Equipment Corporation NUMEC in Pennsylvania and the highly suspicious activities and Israeli connections of the Americans running it.

The CIA was tasked to find out what was going on in Israel, and compiled thousands of documents about the incident. (PDF) Although CIA officials in a position to know unofficially went on record claiming a diversion had occurred, for decades the CIA has thwarted declassification and release of the LBJ memos.  On October 18, 2013 the only appeals panel with the power to overrule the CIA—the Interagency Security Classification Appeals Panel ISCAP—sent notification that Americans are not yet ready to know the contents of the memos (ISCAP decision PDF). This denial of public release of decades-old secrets concerning U.S.-Israel relations is far from unique.  Although the Obama administration promised unprecedented transparency, it has emasculated the public's ability to give informed consent on a wide range of key foreign policy issues. A review of ten particularly toxic U.S. secrets about Israel suggests stakeholders should start assuming the worst but most logical explanation.

In 2006 former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld famously told reporters at an Iraq war briefing "There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don't know we don't know."  Bush administration secrecy and Rumsfeld's pithy quotes failed to quell gradual public awareness that the ill-fated invasion was launched on purposely fabricated pretexts.  And yet the Iraq debacle could have been avoided if Americans had been better informed over time how government truly functions through greater access to the fourth category left unmentioned by Rumsfeld:  "unknown knowns."  

"Unknown knowns" are the paradigm-shifting bits of information known only by a select few in government but kept from their fellow American citizens because they would reveal indefensible, secret policies and institution-level corruption that favor a special interest.  By locking "unknown knowns" under heavy guard in document archives, covering them in secrecy classification stamps and making an example out of whistleblowers who release them without authorization, busy bureaucrats with the highest security clearances maintain a vast  and growing trove of "unknown knowns."  Historians and watchdog organizations are continually thwarted in their mandate to contextualize and educate the public about relevant past events that could deeply inform the governed—and ultimately improve governance.  Senator Carl Schurz said, "My country right or wrong, if right, to be kept right, and if wrong, to be set right." "Unknown knowns" obliterate the public's ability to execute the latter two-thirds of that sage advice.
Even the passage of time does not guarantee "unknown knowns" ever become "known knowns."   Under current government records preservation guidelines—particularly for information that researchers are not actively seeking to declassify—some "unknown knowns" quietly become "unknown unknowns" as they decay, are physically destroyed, erased or "lost." Many knowledgeable former officials take their secrets to the grave. As a product of the ill-gotten power and influence of the Israel lobby, the pile of "unknown knowns" about U.S.-Israel policy is particularly large. Curious Americans who rightfully question official narratives about the U.S.-Israel "special relationship" have often requested "unknown knowns" under the Freedom of Information Act.  Former government insiders who know firsthand about explosive secrets often seek their public release to alert others using the Mandatory Declassification Review, even requesting documents by name, subject, location, author and date.  After such "unknown knowns" (like the LBJ memos) are unsuccessfully sought for decades by multiple researchers, well-warranted suspicions arise about the reasons behind the impermeable government wall of refusal.  The following ten US-Israel policy "unknown knowns" suggest the Israel lobby's ongoing corrupt power is the only possible explanation for why they are still secret.

1. Henry Morgenthau Jr's Israel policy is the stuff of legend in accounts about the birth of Israel. Some researchers claim that FDR's former Treasury Secretary was present at the original 1945 meeting of American Zionists with Jewish Agency executive director David Ben-Gurion to set up the massive Haganah smuggling network to steal, illegally buy and smuggle surplus WWII arms from the U.S. to Jewish fighters in Palestine.  (report PDF)  This was the first major broadly organized Israel lobby challenge to U.S. sovereignty.  It successfully overrode American policy enshrined in neutrality and arms export laws.  Others claim Morgenthau was also instrumental in the illicit financing Israel's clandestine nuclear weapons program in direct opposition to policy set by American presidents.  

The FBI's dusty 10,000 page file on Morgenthau, numbered 105-HQ-188123 (the 105 code signifies "foreign counterintelligence") including intercepts to Morgenthau from Israel, could finally clear up many of these allegations, especially when compared to current research.  Although the FBI—after a process that began in 2010—in September 2013 claims it has fully declassified the Morgenthau file, censors have blanked out nearly every page with a paint-roller of black ink (sample PDF).  How do high officials with strong ties to Israel and its lobby who are politically appointed to the U.S. Treasury Department flout U.S. laws with their own foreign-coordinated foreign policy movements?  The FBI and Justice Department do not believe Americans are quite yet ready to know. READ MORE