Confirmed: “Critical Technological Assessment In Israel” Nuclear Report Release Not Blocked By Israel

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Last Thursday (March 26th) Mirabelle did some excellent digging to uncover the truth behind the February release of a seemingly secret report on Israel’s entire defence industry and especially its nuclear capabilities. While some of the media used shouting headlines about Obama’s administration deliberately releasing this report to spite Netanyahu, Mirabelle went and read the actual court documents leading to the release of a 1987 Department of Defense report called “Critical Technology Assessment in Israel and NATO Nations”.

She concluded given the “declassified” status of the report, its release was largely inevitable and Israel was given an opportunity, by the DoD and the court to review the material prior to its release.

Yesterday (28th March) the Jerusalem Post reported what we found and added some statements confirming Mirabelle’s conclusions, amplifying this with the headline “Israel allowed for the release of a document detailing past nuclear weapons work”:

“We did inform the Israeli government of our planned release of the documents and they did not object,” US Army Col. Steven Warren, director of Pentagon press operations, confirmed to The Jerusalem Post.

Upon receiving a Freedom of Information Act request concerning information sensitive to foreign governments, the US informs the relevant partner, giving it the opportunity to formally object.

“The US government was by law required to release the report upon such a FOIA request unless we had a written request from the relevant foreign government – Israel – that the information continue to be withheld,” one senior administration official told the Post on Friday. “Israel did not object to the release of this information.”

Israeli officials declined to comment for this report, neither confirming nor denying concerns over the document, the contents of its assessment or the politics surrounding its release.

There were a number of inconsistencies in some of the reporting on this matter elsewhere.

Many news sites said the report was “declassified”. This is wrong. The report (as released) is marked “UNCLASSIFIED”. I reached out to an expert who has handled every level of classification of US military documents:

There’s no evidence it was ever classified.  Assuming the scan is a simple scan of the 1987 document, it contains none of the markings that would indicate it was ever classified.

If it had been classified, there would be header markings on the pages, and each heading, paragraph, AND subparagraph would be numbered/lettered, and would have a classification marking.  Classified documents are not (and were not) written with unnumbered/lettered paragraphs, indented in the civilian style-manual way.  Defense contractors write classified reports in the DOD format for classified writing.

[The full statement on this is in Appendix 1 at the end of the post]
Document cover of released report showing UNCLASSIFIED status throughout.
Document cover of released report showing UNCLASSIFIED status throughout.

The report was released on February 12th. It’s clear that many in the media chose not to highlight the report. The report was released only following a protracted battle by someone known to be hostile to Israel, Grant Smith and his Washington think tank: “Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy” (IRmep). His website is proudly linking to the breathless media coverage of the documents he forced to be released.

Jerusalem Post article: Supercomputers slow in coming - Scan from Court Documents
Jerusalem Post article: Supercomputers slow in coming – Scan from Court Documents

As Mirabelle correctly pointed out, his quest for this document, in line with his eventual aim of finding a legal method to cut off all financial aid to Israel, began with a couple of reports in public media and especially a 1990 article in the Jerusalem Post “Supercomputers slow in coming” from May 25, 1990 filed by Larry Cohler. This article is Exhibit 2 in Smith’s application to court to get the document.

At the time of its release, the only two big news sites to report this were RT and Iran’s Press TV.

It’s also clear that the report was written after interviews with defence contractors in Israel (and all over NATO). There’s absolutely no evidence that anything in the report constitutes spying on a friendly nation.

Many commenters tried to make an issue of the fact that the report’s contents are heavily redacted and only parts relating to Israel are released. This is simply because the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request and the subsequent court proceedings only ever asked for the Israel parts of the document. If someone were to ask for the rest, it’s pretty clear that (unless blocked by the other nations) that information would have to be released too.

In the atmosphere of leak and counter leak surrounding the run up to the controversial talk by Prime Minister Netanyahu before both houses on March 3rd, many commenters and reports tried to paint this as a deliberate release of sensitive information by a petulant Obama. It’s hard to see how this is the case when the FOIA request took 3 years and the final litigation, including consulting Israel, began in September 2014. The report was released in mid February following a fairly inevitable court timetable.

Neither Mirabelle nor I have much love for the Obama administration: if there is any wiggle room someone could look into who drew attention to this report but even there, it’s pretty clear that Grant Smith would have been trying to make some noise about this with RT and Press TV on his own. He doesn’t need “anonymous administration officials” to get the attention of those two sites.

As Mirabelle originally asked, why, when it was written during the Reagan Administration, was this document not classified at all? And why did first The Nation and then the Jewish Daily Forward bring attention to this on the 20th and 25th of March respectively? Until then it had languished on RT and Press TV and various other decidedly anti-Israel sites.

We thank the Jerusalem Post for getting some quotes to confirm what we thought, it’s a pity some of the other reports on this were so wild.

 

 

 

Appendix 1 : Full statement analysing classification of the document

There’s no evidence it was ever classified. Assuming the scan is a simple scan of the 1987 document, it contains none of the markings that would indicate it was ever classified.

If it had been classified, there would be header markings on the pages, and each heading, paragraph, AND subparagraph would be numbered/lettered, and would have a classification marking. Classified documents are not (and were not) written with unnumbered/lettered paragraphs, indented in the civilian style-manual way. Defense contractors write classified reports in the DOD format for classified writing.

I note that a modern electronic annotation has been placed on the document, apparently in the process of producing the PDF. It’s this one:

“Further dissemination only as directed by OUSDA/IP&T The Pentagon, Washington, DC 20301-3070; 15 July 1987, or higher
authority”

The annotation is on all the pages up through I-6, which is the last of the introductory pages that contain information about something other than Israel. The Israel section – the balance of the document – doesn’t have this annotation. This means nothing on those remaining pages now requires any coordination with the dissemination authority to distribute further.

The front page indicates the document was scanned in 2007, which is probably when the electronic annotation was added. I’m pretty sure the OUSDA/IP&T office had been reorganized under another name at that point, so the electronic annotation probably just reiterated the original distribution caveat placed on the document, which dates to 1987 and cites OUSDA/IP&T as the dissemination authority.

The fact that it wasn’t classified to begin with means that no “declassification” process had to be done. Declassification is an order of magnitude more complex than selectively releasing an unclassified document. That’s basically what I meant by saying that none of the rest – i.e., the FOIA/lawsuit process – matters. A FOIA request for an unclassified document doesn’t have to prompt a major review of what we consider classified. A request for a classified document CAN prompt such a review, if DOD decides to respond to it with something other than a simple no.

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