How To Smuggle US Nuclear Triggers to Israel

New DHS files raise questions about Arnon Milchan’s US visa.

On May 3, 2017 the Department of Homeland Security released the most detailed files to date on the 1979-1983 Richard Kelly Smyth/Arnon Milchan/Benjamin Netanyahu krytron smuggling ring. The 100-page dossier (PDF) answers important questions about how highly sensitive US nuclear weapons technologies were smuggled out of the country in the early 1980s.

The pages leave two key questions unanswered. The first is why Arnon Milchan was not indicted alongside his co-conspirator Richard Kelly Smyth. The second is why in 2016 Secretary of State John Kerry granted Milchan a long-term visa to reside in the United States even after career Department of State officials initially refused.

The files, originally scheduled to be declassified in the year 2037, reveal that on December 6, 1979 the Israeli Ministry of Defense suddenly developed a need “of the utmost importance” for sophisticated devices invented and manufactured by EG&G called “krytrons.” Krytrons required a munitions license for exportation since they can be used to initiate the precisely timed conventional detonations necessary to create the “symmetric implosion shockwave needed for nuclear weapons.”

Israel, which had just successfully conducted a joint nuclear test with apartheid South Africa, may have needed the devices for hydrodynamic testing and building up to 200 nuclear weapons for its own use, as well as agreed-to sales to South Africa. Detonating circuits for a single nuclear device can use two, four, or more, krytrons. By 1987, it became known to the US Department of Defense that Israel also had a hydrogen bomb project underway which may have necessitated reliable triggering mechanisms.

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