WASHINGTON (Mar. 22)
The Senate Select Committee studying U.S. intelligence activities has called on the Central Intelligence Agency and its director, George Bush, to provide a “full report” on the CIA “leak” alleging Israel has 10 to 20 nuclear weapons, but the extent of the Senatorial investigation beyond that is uncertain.
The committee met today to complete a report of its investigations of other activities and did not discuss the “leak” about Israel which Sen. Frank Church (D.Idaho), committee chairman, has called the “biggest goof in the way of leaks that I can imagine, biggest that I have ever seen in Washington.”
Church made the assertion yesterday on ABC’s television program “Issues and Answers.” in which he said his committee has “already commenced an investigation” of the “leak” but since his group is just completing its activities, it would be “difficult for us to do the kind of job that is needed.” He said Congress “should investigate this leak.”
Church, a candidate for the Democratic nomination for President, challenged President Ford to look into the “leak” saying, “I have not even heard of a reprimand from the President.” Bush last week deplored but did not deny a statement attributed to “senior” CIA officials that Israel is estimated to have 10 to 20 nuclear weapons “ready and available for use.”
REASONS FOR LEAK ASSESSED
The CIA statement is seen by some observers here as part of an orchestrated effort by Administration elements to hold down Israel’s request for U.S. weapons and at the same time support the Administration’s vast arms program in process for Saudi Arabia and outlined for Egypt.
The “leak” followed disclosure by the Administration of its plan to transfer six C-130 planes to the Cairo government as the opening of an American military supply relationship with Egypt With the word spread about that Israel has nuclear weapons, these elements believe the question will arise, why should Israel worry about Egypt getting a few cargo planes?
The CIA “leak” is also seen as part of a general orchestration aimed both at putting the Administration’s foreign policy in a favorable light during the election campaigning and also to improve its relationship with the Arab states.
Thus, President Anwar Sadat’s abrogation of his treaty of friendship with the Soviet Union is seen as deliberately inspired at this time to help both himself and Ford and Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger. Ford has acclaimed as a “tremendous change for the better” Sadat’s act of abrogation and said the United States would respond to it economically and otherwise.”
In the ABC telecast, Church said that the CIA “divulged” Israel had the weapons, but when ABC reporter Roger Peterson remarked that the statement was “just a confirmation of something,” Church replied “that never has been acknowledged by the U.S. government and just the confirmation of information of that kind is an ominously significant thing.”
Earlier in the program, ABC correspondent Bob Clark asked Church what action he would take, if he were President, to “assure that nuclear weapons are never used by Israel or anyone else in the Middle East.” Church replied, according to a transcript of the telecast obtained by the JTA, that “I would take every action possible to assure that nuclear weapons were never used anywhere because that is the beginning of the end for civilization.”
Later Church said. “I think it is a very alarming thing when any government begins to possess this nuclear capability, and the proliferation of the nuclear capability ought to be a matter of major concern to the United States. Yet we are doing very little about it.”
(In Jerusalem, Premier Yitzhak Rabin reiterated at the March 14 Cabinet meeting that Israel “is not a nuclear power and will not be the first state to introduce nuclear weapons into the Mideast.”)
Meanwhile, Arthur Kranish, the science writer who reported the CIA leak after hearing it at a briefing at the CIA to which he had been invited, said that he is being asked to resign from the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics whose members were invited to the CIA function attended by about 150 guests. Kranish said that he is considering “further legal action” against the CIA but would not discuss his statement.