Washington (Aug. 3)
The State Department denied today that Israel will be sharing in any of the intelligence information received from the AWACS reconnaissance planes the United States wants to sell to Saudi Arabia. Department spokesman Dean Fischer said it was “highly unlikely” that Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger meant to imply, in a television interview yesterday, that Israel will be receiving such information.
On ABC-TV’s “Issues and Answers” Weinberger said the AWACS sale would be in the overall interest of the Middle East, “specifically including the United States, specifically including Israel.”
Fischer said the United States is still discussing with Saudi Arabia how the intelligence received from the AWACS would be used. But Sen. Majority Leader Howard Baker (R. Tenn.), appearing on CBS-TV’s “Face the Nation” yesterday, implied the information would be entirely in the hands of the United States. He said that this was being done to satisfy critics of the proposed sale in Congress where a majority now opposes the sale.
Baker said that the composition of the crew of the AWACS planes is not important since the crew members do not know what information is being gathered by the plane. He said what is important is “the staffing on the ground” where the data is processed and analyzed. Baker said that Congress would have to consider “what access does the United States have, or do the Israelis have” to the information.
The Administration is expected to send Congress the required formal notification of the proposed sale of the AWACS and sophisticated weaponry after the lawmakers return from their summer vacation in September.