Lawsuit Aims To Block U.S. Aid To Israel
Above Photo: From wrmea.org
ON AUG. 8 THIS writer filed a lawsuit in DC federal court challenging U.S. foreign aid to Israel. The U.S. is finalizing a new 10-year memorandum of understanding (MOU) which will reportedly boost that aid to between $4 billion and $5 billion per year, up from its current $3.1 billion annually. However, U.S. aid to Israel violates longstanding bans on funds to non-signatories to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) with nuclear weapons programs. Many have wondered why these bans are never enforced, but none have had standing to mount a challenge—until now.
In the mid-1970s, during investigations into the illegal diversion of weapons-grade uranium from U.S. contractor NUMEC to Israel (see May 2015 Washington Report, p. 11), Sens. Stuart Symington (D-MO) and John Glenn (D-OH) amended the 1961 Foreign Assistance Act to ban any aid to clandestine nuclear powers that were not NPT signatories. Although Symington was a strong advocate for national defense, he opposed Department of Defense waste, U.S. involvement in Vietnam, and CIA covert operations in Laos. Symington was close to President John F. Kennedy and CIA Deputy Director of Covert Operations Theodore Shackley. Like Glenn, who questioned Shackley about Israel’s diversion of weapons grade uranium from the United States, Symington likely knew of JFK’s secret opposition to Israel’s Dimona nuclear weapons plant.
In committee reports Symington clarified the legislative intent of his 1976 amendment: “…if you wish to take the dangerous and costly steps necessary to achieve a nuclear weapons option, you cannot expect the United States to help underwrite that effort indirectly or directly.”
Although key elements of Symington and Glenn have periodically been watered down, their core provisions—that the U.S. cannot deliver aid to non-signatories to the NPT that engage in transfer of nuclear weapons technologies—remain the law of the land. Since the bans went into effect, U.S. foreign aid to Israel is estimated to be an inflation-adjusted $234 billion, including secret intelligence aid.
The lawsuit alleges that the president and key federal agencies are violating both the Administrative Procedures Act and the “Take Care” clause of the U.S. Constitution by failing to uphold Symington and Glenn. It lists many historic cases where the president was required to act, and more recent cases such as post-2010 illegal diversions from the United States of oscilloscopes and pressure transducers for centrifuge cascades by Israeli front companies.
The original doctrine of the U.S. ignoring and Israel never mentioning its nuclear weapons program was hatched in 1969, during a meeting between visiting Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir and President Richard Nixon. Recently declassified files reveal that Nixon feared a “Zionist campaign to undermine” his administration if he withheld U.S. foreign aid over the program. Since then, presidents and national security officials have run away from media requests for comment on the program.
The Obama administration has gone further than any previous one in enforcing this “nuclear ambiguity” policy. In 2012 the U.S. Department of Energy, under guidance from Secretary Hillary Clinton’s Department of State, promulgated what amounts to an illegal gag law. Titled “Guidance on Release of Information Relating to the Potential for an Israeli Nuclear Capability,” the gag law severely punishes any federal official or contractor who frankly discusses Israel’s nuclear program. This has overturned government sunshine laws as federal agencies block Freedom of Information Act requests, string out the release of official records, attempt to charge exorbitant fees to dissuade public interest watchdogs, fail to pay damage awards in lost court battles, and simply claim that records known to exist “cannot be located.”
As perhaps the lead research organization expending tens of thousands of dollars to obtain the release of such records through sunshine laws and related legal challenges, IRmep can quantify and demonstrate how it has been injured by “nuclear ambiguity,” thereby providing the standing necessary to proceed. However, the lawsuit does not seek any repayment of these documented expenditures and injuries, arguing that these injuries pale in comparison to the harm done to unsuspecting American taxpayers.
The relief sought from the court is that it enjoin the federal government from any further actions to uphold “nuclear ambiguity,” including gag order enforcement, violations of sunshine laws and other systemic abuses. More importantly, such a ruling would also put a halt to future aid deliveries to Israel, unless the president publicly issues a special waiver.
Symington and Glenn allows a president to issue such a waiver justifying why it is in the U.S. national interest to deliver aid to a non-NPT country developing a nuclear weapons program. During the Clinton administration, such waivers were issued for Pakistan and India. However, the U.S. president would be hard pressed to prove that Israel has any major strategic significance to the United States justifying a waiver.
In fact, the opposite is true. Instances cited in the lawsuit include CIA predictions in the 1960s that a nuclear-armed Israel would be resistant to any negotiated peace with Palestinians or Arab neighbors. Israel’s ongoing oppression of Palestinians was a motivation behind the 9/11 attacks, according to the official report. Foreign aid to Israel in reality generates blowback rather than defending any national interest.
More ambitiously, the suit demands the “disgorgement” of the value of aid already delivered since Symington and Glenn went into force, “for use in legal and legitimate purposes that serve the common good rather than unlawfully subsidizing through offset a foreign nuclear weapons program.”
As discussed in an Aug. 11 audio briefing, the real reason the United States delivers more foreign aid to Israel than to any other country can be found in the activities of Israel lobbying organizations: channeling campaign contributions, launching propaganda campaigns, saturating the news media and placing political appointees in key policymaking positions.
Subversion of Symington and Glenn for four decades is only one indicator of their harmful, undue influence. Advocates for American taxpayers have appeared nowhere in this vicious circle, but a judge may soon finally act in their interest.