A lawsuit filed in a US district court claims that American aid to Israel is illegal under a law passed in the 1970s that prohibits aid to nuclear powers who don’t sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Grant Smith, director of the Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy, who filed the lawsuit Monday with a Washington DC court, said the United States has given Israel an estimated $234 billion in foreign aid since Congress in 1976 passed the International Security Assistance and Arms Export Control Act, with its stipulation regarding countries that did not sign the NPT, according to Courthouse News.
Discussing his August 8 lawsuit in an interview to Court House News, Smith said the litigation has been 10 years in the making.
Though Israel is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Smith noted that it is a known nuclear power and recipient of US aid. Israel has neither confirmed nor denied possession of nuclear weapons but is widely believed to possess dozens if not hundreds of nuclear warheads.
The US has had a long-standing policy of keeping mum on the existence of Israel’s nuclear weapons program, an open secret that successive US administrations since Gerald Ford have refused to publicly acknowledge.
Smith’s lawsuit comes on the eve of an aid deal that would boost US assistance to the country by between $1 billion and $2 billion per year over a decade. Israel already gets $3 billion a year in US aid.
In addition to the United States and President Barack Obama, the complaint names as defendants Secretary of State John Kerry, CIA Director John Brennan, Defense Secretary Ash Carter, and the secretaries of the Treasury, Energy and Commerce Departments.
“Defendants have collectively engaged in a violation of administrative procedure and the Take Care Clause by unlawful failure to act upon facts long in their possession while prohibiting the release of official government information about Israel’s nuclear weapons program, particularly ongoing illicit transfers of nuclear weapons material and technology from the US to Israel,” the 33-page lawsuit states.
To sustain a policy of “nuclear ambiguity” on Israel’s weapons program, Smith says the government uses improper classification and threatens federal employees and researchers with prosecution, fines and imprisonment.
The gag is driven, according to the complaint, by a Department of Energy directive known as WNP-136, Foreign Nuclear Capabilities.
Smith says his digging under the Freedom of Information Act brought a version of the document to light that was “nearly 90 percent redacted.”
“This is an Energy Department directive that demands imprisonment for any federal official or contractor who even mentions that Israel might have a nuclear weapons program,” Smith said in an interview.
In the lawsuit, Smith says foreign aid to Israel violates two amendments of the 1961 Foreign Aid Act, known as the Symington and Glenn amendments, which ban aid to clandestine nuclear powers.
The CIA, White House, State Department and Treasury Department each declined Courthouse News’ request for comment on the lawsuit, the news service reported.
The website for the Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy appears to show a heavy anti-Israel platform and includes a section called “Israel Lobby Archive.” The site lists multiple previous lawsuits connected to US-Israel ties, under the headings “Illegal CIA intelligence support to Israel”; “CIA files on the illegal diversion of US weapons-grade uranium to Israel”; and “DoD commissioned report on the Israeli nuclear weapons program.”
The site’s “About” section says the institute “is a Washington-based nonprofit organization that studies US-Middle East policy formulation,” whose Israel Lobby Archive “documents and exposes little known initiatives, providing citizen access to behind-the-scenes activities of one of the most harmful forces driving policy formulation in the US political process.”
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report