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The Hollywood Spy

If a man living in America were to go on television and admit that he spent years stealing U.S. defense secrets on behalf of another country, and was proud of what he had done, Attorney General Eric Holder would immediately fly into a rage and call for arrest and prosecution under the Espionage Act, wouldn’t he? Well, maybe not, if the recent revelations [1] made by Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan regarding his spying for Israel are anything to go by. There has long been a certain acceptance both in the media and within the government that something done on behalf of or together with Israel is somehow not subject to the same laws of physics that govern the rest of the political universe. I recall how in the 1980s while I was working in the Central Intelligence Agency base in Istanbul, a delegation from the American Jewish Committee passed through and briefed the Consul General and his staff regarding Jonathan Pollard, who had recently been arrested. They claimed that Pollard was some kind of nut case who could not possibly have been a real spy for Israel. The Consul General, who should have known better than to buy into the obvious damage control, expressed the same view during the weekly staff meeting. When I and several others challenged the credibility of his viewpoint, he shrugged and smiled.

We Americans have since learned [2] that Pollard was not only a fully controlled and paid spy for Israel, he was one of a network of spies recruited by handler Rafi Eitan. The Israelis were so well informed regarding U.S. defense secrets that they frequently were able to ask Pollard to obtain specific files, by name and number, that they particularly wanted to see. Pollard eventually handed over to the Israelis a roomful of documents. Many in the intelligence community believe that the information he provided, some of which was passed on to the Russians and others, continue to do damage to U.S. technical collection capabilities to this day. Pollard, who has been given Israeli citizenship and is widely regarded as a hero by the country’s leadership, is serving a life sentence in federal prison. Demands from the Israeli government to free him are a regular occurrence whenever the American President and Israeli Prime Minister meet. Another spy [3] in the Eitan network was Ben-Ami Kadish, an engineer at the Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey, who provided nuclear and weapons development secrets to his Israeli case officer Yosef Yagur, who also met with Pollard.

Israel, to be sure, obtains much of its information from the United States openly, by walking into an office at the Pentagon or on Capitol Hill and being handed a file. Or over lunch, as when Pentagon analyst Larry Franklin provided intelligence [4] on Iran to American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) staffers Keith Weissman and Steve Rosen, as well as to officials in the Israeli Embassy. Franklin went to jail and is now waiting on tables in West Virginia, but Rosen and Weissman, charged under the Espionage Act, walked due to some maneuvers pulled by an obliging federal judge who was clearly acting on behalf of a George W. Bush administration that did not want the case to go forward.

Less well known than either the Pollard or AIPAC spying cases is the story of how Israel obtained the technology and raw materials for its secret nuclear arsenal. In the early 1960s, President John F. Kennedy learned that Israel was developing a nuclear weapon from a CIA report. He told the Israelis to terminate [5] their program or risk losing U.S. political and economic support but died before he could confirm that the project had ended. His successor Lyndon Johnson was famously tight with Israel’s friends in the United States. Johnson did not insist that Israel end its nuclear program and, as he was privy to the CIA report about the weapons program, may have deliberately chosen to look the other way when Israel was stealing both American technology and uranium to construct its weapons.

Israel always features prominently in the annual FBI report [6] called “Foreign Economic Collection and Industrial Espionage.” The 2005 report states, “Israel has an active program to gather proprietary information within the United States. These collection activities are primarily directed at obtaining information on military systems and advanced computing applications that can be used in Israel’s sizable armaments industry.” Israel has sold advanced weapons systems to China that are believed to incorporate technology developed by American companies, including the Python-3 air-to-air missile and the Delilah cruise missile. There is evidence that Israel has also stolen Patriot missile avionics to incorporate into its own Arrow system and that it used U.S. technology [7] obtained in its Lavi fighter development program, which was funded by the U.S. taxpayer to the tune of $1.5 billion, to help the Chinese develop their own J-10 fighter.

The Mossad frequently uses so-called sayanim in its espionage, which means diaspora Jews that it recruits on the basis of a shared religion or concern for the security of Israel. The threat coming from Israeli Embassy operatives inside the United States is such that the Department of Defense once warned [8] that Jewish Americans would likely be the targets of intelligence approaches.

Israel accelerated its nuclear program after the death of President Kennedy. By 1965, it had obtained [9] the raw material for a bomb consisting of U.S. government-owned highly enriched weapons grade uranium obtained from a company in Pennsylvania called NUMEC. NUMEC was a supplier of enriched uranium for government projects but it was also from the start a front for the Israeli nuclear program, with its chief funder David Lowenthal, a leading Zionist, traveling to Israel at least once a month where he would meet with an old friend Meir Amit, who headed Israeli intelligence. NUMEC covered the shipment of enriched uranium to Israel by claiming the metal was “lost,” losses that totaled nearly six hundred pounds, enough to produce dozens of weapons. In 1968, NUMEC received a visit from spymaster Rafi Eitan, the same Rafi Eitan who later was involved with Jonathan Pollard.

There was also physical evidence relating to the diversion of the uranium. Refined uranium has a technical signature that permits identification of its source. Traces of uranium from NUMEC were identified by Department of Energy inspectors in Israel in 1978. The Central Intelligence Agency has also looked into the diversion of enriched uranium from the NUMEC plant and has concluded that it was part of a broader program to obtain the technology and raw materials for a nuclear device for Israel.


With the uranium in hand, the advanced technology needed to make a nuclear weapon was still needed, which is where Milchan comes into the story [1]. Arnon Milchan was born in Israel but emigrated to the United States and eventually wound up as the owner of a major movie studio, New Regency Films. In his November 25th interview on Israeli television Milchan admitted that he had spent his many years in Hollywood as an agent for Israeli intelligence, helping obtain embargoed technologies and materials that enabled Israel to develop a nuclear weapon. He worked for Israel’s Bureau of Science and Liaison acquisition division of Mossad, referred to as the LAKAM agency. It was the same organization that ran Jonathan Pollard and Ben-Ami Kadish.

Milchan, who is a long-time resident of the United States and still has significant business interests in this country, explained “I did it for my country and I’m proud of it.” He also said that “other big Hollywood names were connected to [his] covert affairs.” Among other successes, he obtained through his company Heli Trading 800 krytons, the sophisticated triggers for nuclear weapons. The devices were acquired from the California top-secret defense contractor MILCO International. Milchan personally recruited MILCO’s president Richard Kelly Smyth as an agent before turning him over to another Heli Trading employee Benjamin Netanyahu for handling. Smyth was eventually arrested in 1985 and cooperated in his interrogation by the FBI before being sentenced to prison, meaning that the Federal government likely knew about both Milchan and Netanyahu at the time but declined to act. For what it’s worth, Milchan now improbably claims that he did not know about the kryton triggers.

I would like to think that the next time Arnon Milchan arrives at LA International Airport on business he will be met by Federal Marshalls and FBI agents before being whisked off to some nice quiet place for a chat. But don’t bet on it. Milchan’s confession suggests that he believes himself to be bullet proof. As in the case of Rosen and Weissman his likely defense would be that he was only doing it for Israel, an ally and friend, which itself is a matter of perception to say the least. That Israel has an unacknowledged nuclear arsenal that violates the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which the U.S. and even Iran have signed but Israel has not, undeniably contributes to the destabilization of the Middle East. A secret nuclear power with a government that many would consider to be somewhat paranoid is certainly not in the United States interest. And some Americans might also be a bit unsettled to learn how Israel’s nuclear capability was acquired by way of Hollywood.

Philip Giraldi, a former CIA officer, is executive director of the Council for the National Interest.

30 Comments (Open | Close)

30 Comments To "The Hollywood Spy"

#1 Comment By Fran Macadam On December 4, 2013 @ 4:09 am

Finally, a legitimate Hollywood witness for a revived version of the discredited House UnAmerican Activities Committee! But on the other hand, if America is the junior partner in this unofficial alliance, maybe not. No blacklist of any sort, not even for the genuinely guilty. The wealthy Milchan is so unlike Zero Mostel’s hapless innocent, unjustly persecuted into poverty and death in Woody Allen’s The Front.

Here’s a powerful media figure, in no way claiming to be a public interest whistleblower or journalist, but a genuine confessed subversive spy for a foreign power, stealing and selling not only American atomic secrets but actual materials for actual, not theoretical, weapons of mass destruction – a person genuinely worthy of Snowden-level national security prosecution, wouldn’t you think?

As has always been the case, there is no cause so just that it does not have disreputable supporters. Their extremism is no virtue, even in the cause of Americans’ patriotism – that is, for a foreign country.

#2 Comment By mark On December 4, 2013 @ 5:32 am

Ho hum. Anyone in recent years who uses US technology does so at THEIR own risk. Israeli companies at this point license to the US market, not so much the other way around. As for US avionics, who needs to spend a fortune for the kind of planes the US builds? What good are they? Twenty yrs of bombing and the Taliban still driving their Toyota pickups around, about to take over Afghanistan for the what? Second or Third time? The 2006 war showed Israel that there’s little security to XBOX type gadgets, US origin or not.

#3 Comment By Michael N Moore On December 4, 2013 @ 8:08 am

I thought that France was the source for Israel’s acquisition of nuclear weapons. Does this report dispute that or supplement it?

#4 Comment By Puller58 On December 4, 2013 @ 8:28 am

This will of course garner howls from the ADL and likeminded Jewish thought police. (Mel Gibson’s rant is what they’ll compare this to.) Yes, it does feed into the hoary old stereotype of the calcualting Hollywood Jew, but that doesn’t mean that it should render a story like this as taboo. As there are sane Jewish voices like Norman G. Finkelstein and Phillip Weiss that are disillusioned with Likudnik/settler “Greater Israel” groupthink, it would be nice if American politicians could wean themselves off AIPAC/neocon money and influence to “reset” US/Israel relations to reflect real world facts.

#5 Comment By KXB On December 4, 2013 @ 11:43 am

Recently, The Economist had an article about how through the use of mandatory sentences, many Americans were being locked up for life for minor issues such shoplifting. So, if you’re an average American who gets caught trying to sneak out with a couple of watches, you can expect the full force of the law to be thrown at you.

But, if you are a Hollywood bigshot engaging in the transfer of nuclear components to benefit Israel, you can brag about it.

The Pakistani government should keep this in mind the next time we ask for access to AQ Khan. They’ll laugh in our faces.

#6 Comment By rebecca On December 4, 2013 @ 1:03 pm

“He (JFK) told the Israelis to terminate their program or risk losing U.S. political and economic support but died before he could confirm that the project had ended.”

Funny coincidence, that.

#7 Comment By IW On December 4, 2013 @ 1:07 pm

for mark who wrote: “Israeli companies at this point license to the US market, not so much the other way around.”

Like PROMIS for example, which Israeli agents stole from the US then sold back to us?

#8 Comment By Lorraine Barlett On December 4, 2013 @ 2:06 pm

I am SO glad that you wrote about this!! Was starting to think I was missing something about this guy… like maybe he was living back in Israel and hence had no fear of U.S. repercussions… I say we start an online petition to have him prosecuted. I realize it will be largely symbolic but the public need to be made aware of these facts. I am sick and tired of the moral double standard for Israelis. Thanks for the very edifying piece.

#9 Comment By Myron Hudson On December 4, 2013 @ 3:23 pm

Fascinating. Thank you. It is almost unbelievable how deeply compromised were are; nearly in thrall to a foreign power.

#10 Comment By Screaming Lord S. On December 4, 2013 @ 4:47 pm

So you’re saying that Netanyahu (as in the current head-of-regime in Israel) handled the guy who ripped off US nuclear tech and materials? And now he’s leader of Israel’s answer to the Monster Raving Loonie Party and whining about Iran maybe getting the Bomb? Incredible …

#11 Comment By AmericaFirstforaChange On December 4, 2013 @ 4:55 pm

Another excellent article by Philip Giraldi! Netanyahu’s nuclear smuggling mentioned via following links as well:

Netanyahu: Many countries waiting to get rid of sanctions against Iran:



#12 Comment By Philip Giraldi On December 4, 2013 @ 5:17 pm

Michael Moore – The US technology thefts supplemented the French assistance by providing materiel that the French were unable/unwilling to supply themselves.

#13 Comment By spite On December 4, 2013 @ 5:41 pm

With stories like this, I wonder if the conspiracy theorists are nuts for saying that Israel controls America, or whether I am nuts for not believing them.

#14 Comment By Rachmiel ben Ariel On December 4, 2013 @ 6:08 pm

One of my earliest memories is that of a funeral procession in Brooklyn, NY, during the early 1950s. People were lined up on both sides of the street, watching the hearse pass by before it made a turn into the back of the I.J. Morris Funeral Home. It carried the body of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, the Atomic Bomb spies.

For the Jewish community, the Rosenbergs represented the biggest shandeh un kharpeh ‘ shame and disgrace’ (in Yiddish) since anyone could remember. American Jews who had served their country heroically since the days of the Continental Army (along with those who died for it—for example, my cousin, a Marine 2nd Lieutenant, a pilot, shot down in the line of duty in 1943 [he’s buried in Arlington])–were quickly forgotten. The only thing anyone thought about was those damn Rosenbergs.

In a 2008 interview, co-conspirator Martin Sobell confirmed that “Julius Rosenberg participated in a conspiracy that delivered to the Soviets classified military and industrial information … [on] the atomic bomb.” Writing in 2001, Rosenberg’s KGB handler, Alexander Feklisov, described him “as an idealist, deeply committed to the cause of Communism, seeking above all acceptance by the Soviet Union, and hoping to be eventually acknowledged as a fellow partisan fighting for the Communist future. . . . He reports that Rosenberg was disinterested in financial gain when he delivered atomic secrets to the USSR.” As Judge Kaufman said as he sentenced the Rosenbergs to death: “Love for their cause dominated their lives–it was even greater than their love for their children.”

Apparently Grillparzer got it right when he penned: “Schlaf du nicht wenn der Neigung Stimme spricht!”

#15 Comment By Clint On December 4, 2013 @ 8:00 pm

Time to stop U.S.foreign aid to Israel.

#16 Comment By T. Sledge On December 4, 2013 @ 10:19 pm

If the Israelis merely stole technical know how from American sources and used it only for upgrading their defense systems, then the wink and nod that they get from US authorities would be sufferable.

What is most galling is that the Israelis will pass US technology to third parties with absolutely no concern for how damaging that action may be to America.

They treat the US like a besotted old fool who lavishes gifts on a little tart, who then freely steals from the old goat and shares the loot with her young lover.

#17 Comment By Thomas O. Meehan On December 4, 2013 @ 11:05 pm

The similarity I see here is to The Knockout Game. That is, when minorities are deeply enmeshed in their own victimhood, and encouraged to create a mystique about it, they feel justified in dishonorable behavior.

The young black men who assault random whites have been immersed in the lore of slavery and encouraged to brook no disrespect. They have been socialized to resent and despise white.

Jews have taken one thing from the WWII era, that it is always survival-time and nothing is owed to outsiders in the interests of one’s own tribe.

It’s striking how both the black sucker punchers and the Jewish spies are quite proud of their actions.

#18 Comment By Blue Sorghum On December 5, 2013 @ 9:24 am

“Milchan personally recruited MILCO’s president Richard Kelly Smyth as an agent before turning him over to another Heli Trading employee Benjamin Netanyahu for handling”

This is the first I’ve heard that Mr. Netanyahu was personally involved in the theft of American nuclear technology. If there’s any truth to it then he ought to be sitting in a federal prison cell with Jonathan Pollard. Or in Gitmo.

#19 Comment By James Canning On December 5, 2013 @ 1:56 pm

Important piece. Bravo, Philip Giraldi.

#20 Comment By Clint On December 5, 2013 @ 4:06 pm

(Sydney)Pollack was allegedly involved in buying arms and military equipment for Israel during the 1970s and, according to Milchan, knew just what he was getting into.

“Pollack knew, but I didn’t want to scare him because he’s American… He could have said ‘no,” Milchan said. “He said ‘no’ many times, but he also said ‘yes’ many times.”


#21 Comment By Mr. Joe Gelman On December 7, 2013 @ 9:37 am

This is a poorly written article which has many facts wrong. That is to be expected from a former CIA agent, and it tells US something about the competence level of the CIA. A few examples of many:
1) Arnon Milchan is not a resident of the United States. (nor is he a citizen of the US, which thankfully was not claimed in the article)
2) Milchan did not “wind up as an owner of a Hollywood studio”. New Regency is a hugely successful production company that Milchan himself established, it is not a studio and never was.
3) Smyth was not “eventually arrested in 1985 and cooperated in his interrogation by the FBI before being sentenced to prison.” Smyth was arrest in Malaga Spain in 2001, after having escaped and living in exile for 16 years.
4)of course, by intentional omission, the author forgot to mention the massive spying that the United States does on Israel, spying that FAR exceeds anything that Israel ever did in the United States. We know this because of US Army Soldier Bradley Manning, who released memos detailing US spying in Israel to Wikileaks, including hugely embarrassing memos generated by the US Secretary of State detailing spying on Israel. We also know this because of Edward Snowden’s release of the US’s “black Budget” to the Washington Post and UK Guardian, which clearly describes Israel as a “primary target” of US espionage.
So what we have here is a self-righteous former CIA agent who uses both selective information, and wrong facts to deceive a readership that is both ignorant and inclined to instinctively believe anything for a cheep dose of patriotic, narrow-minded grievance against Jews. Wow.

#22 Comment By Thomas O. Meehan On December 7, 2013 @ 1:29 pm

There is a curious post script to this story. Two motion pictures actually identify the Krytron device in connection nuclear terrorism. Both films have Israel connected plots.

The first is The Sum of all Fears in which a nuke is lost by the Israeli’s and recovered by terrorists. It’s based on a Tom Clancy novel of the same name.

The other is called Frenzy and depicts thuggish Israeli attempts to keep Arab terrorists from getting a Krytron. Interestingly, the director was Roman Polanski.

This leaves me with the question, how wide spread was knowledge of this sort of think among the film community, Jewish or otherwise?

#23 Comment By Fran Macadam On December 8, 2013 @ 5:03 am

“So what we have here is a self-righteous former CIA agent who uses both selective information, and wrong facts to deceive a readership that is both ignorant and inclined to instinctively believe anything for a cheep dose of patriotic, narrow-minded grievance against Jews.”

Wow. It’s wrong for nuclear spies and thieves of weapons of mass destruction to take world Jewry as their moral hostage.

Milchan conspired against, spied on and stole atomic bomb secrets and material from the United States on behalf of a foreign country’s government, not on behalf of the entire Jewish people, no matter how much Mr. Gelman wants to misuse the memory of the Holocaust to make excuses for crimes that have nothing to do with it. That is a cheap, narrow-minded misuse of phoney foreign patriotism and racist appeals to try to remake Jewish people into a fifth column of Likud-firsters whatever country they were born in and live in.

Whatever one thinks of the CIA, its members are pledged to serve putative American interests, not betray them to foreign adversaries. If as Mr. Gelman points out, he considers Israel to be an adversary of a U.S. government agency, how much guiltier is Melchan and his fellow spies’ conspiracy.

The self-confessed spy – Giraldi says nothing that contradicts Melchan’s own bragging about his theft of nuclear weapons technology – became a billionaire through investments bankrolled effectively through billions in U.S. foreign aid to a foreign country. The double-dipping Melchan then profited further from us ignorant Americans through his U.S. business interests. At the very least, he should never be allowed entry to the United States, and his U.S. assets, the laundered product of espionage, confiscated.

#24 Comment By Philip Giraldi On December 8, 2013 @ 11:12 am

Thanks Mr. Gelman for correcting me in such a generous fashion. Milchan was indeed a resident of the United States or do you think he ran his business by telephone? I did not claim he was a citizen. There would have been good tax reasons to remain an Israeli. Yes, referring to his production company as a studio was an error on my part and you are indeed correct that Smyth was finally arrested in 2001, but he was indicted in 1985 before fleeing to Spain from whence he was extradited and then cooperated with the FBI.

I happen to know a great deal more than you do about who spies on whom and your opinion that the US spies on Israel much more than vice versa is flat out wrong. Ask anyone in the FBI who works counterintelligence if you doubt me.

You claim that I am self-righteous and have a grievance against Jews even though you do not know me or anything about me. And you regard the TAC readership as ignorant. Perhaps a little introspection on your part regarding at least two of those traits would be in order.

#25 Comment By Mannstein On December 8, 2013 @ 7:27 pm

@ Mark

The last time I checked spying is against the law and a Federal Offense last time I checked. It has nothing to do with whether you think what was stolen is of value or not.

#26 Comment By Mr. Spongebrain On December 9, 2013 @ 4:33 am

Studio or production company? Most Americans don’t know the difference, and it’s not an important element of the article. The year of Smyth’s arrest isn’t either.

Now, who is more beholden to whom? That, on the other hand, IS important. The article sets forth the answer to that question very clearly, and its assertions of an unspoken double standard are consistent with other well-known data, including what (of substance) happened to: the ADL after its “file-gate” (nothing); the 9/11 “dancing Israelis” (nothing); the AIPAC staffer spies (nothing); and Mr. Milchan himself (nothing).

Also consistent are the documents from one of the Snowden disclosures, which the New York Times conveniently considered “not newsworthy” enough to print, revealing a secret agreement in place whereby the NSA shares “raw intelligence including Americans’ data with Israel.” Presumably to report on anyone over here with a “narrow-minded grievance against Jews.” Wow.


#27 Comment By baz On December 9, 2013 @ 1:24 pm

another great article phil. keep spreading the word. btw, do you have any info on a backdoor deal with iran which includes american access to caspian gas and oil? i have been told by various sources that something was negotiated months ago in secret re this and some minor individual issues which is what this latest “nuclear” deal is meant to enable

#28 Comment By june cassidy On December 9, 2013 @ 3:07 pm

If an American citizen proudly revealed on Israeli television that for years he had surreptitiously collected proprietary information from Israelis which was advantageous to the CIA and U.S. Department of Defense, would the Israeli Government and media treat the U.S. citizen’s admission acceptable as merely spying by a fried of Israel? Would there be minimal media attention and perhaps an inquiry of harm done to Israel? Would this U.S. citizen be welcomed in Israel as Milchan has been in the U.S., or conversely would the U.S. citizen be detained or never allowed in Israel? As for the NUMEC uranium, Johnson was definitely cooperative in allowing the enriched uranium to be used for Israel’s nuclear arsenal. It has been reported often that the Mossad operates throughout the U.S. Does Israel welcome U.S. intelligence operatives throughout Israel as practiced by the U.S.? The taxpayers of the U.S. deserve answers to these questions. If the U.S. news media were competent, it would inquire, compare, and provide the public with answers to these questions. Would it be facetious to believe that Israel would be pleased to provide answers to these specific questions for the U.S. public?

#29 Comment By Mr. Joe Gelman On December 9, 2013 @ 4:50 pm

Dear Mr. Giraldi. Saying that you know, and actually knowing are two different things: Yes, Milchan did, and does run much of his business by telephone (and skpye, e-mail, text, etc… in later years). He has never held a US Green Card, unless you have evidence to the contrary, and he is a resident of Israel. For years he had houses in numerous countries, never establishing permanent residence anywhere for tax purposes, which he is entitled to do. Being a former CIA employee and having a few connections in the FBI might impress the easily impressionable, but means very little to those of us who study this material. Like in the Soviet Union of old, you hint heavily at insider information that you supposedly have in order to make your case, while providing no evidence. On the other-hand, The Bradley Manning leaks to Wikileaks, and the Edward Snowden disclosures, present smoking-gun evidence of huge and very aggressive US spying on Israel at the highest levels. I am not naïve and I don’t necessarily think that is a bad thing for the US to be doing. But pretending like all of this is a one-way street is beyond silly, it’s lowly incitement. How do you think the US even discovered the existence of Israel’s nuclear program in 1958? By violating Israel’s airspace with a U2 spy plane, that’s how. What is it about the word “spy” in spy plane don’t you understand? It would be far more credible if you discussed these matters like an adult, instead of presenting selective, self-righteous outrage at activities that amount to a drop in the ocean compared to what we do (in most cases rightfully) ever single day abroad. By whining about movie producers, you make us look small and petty.

#30 Comment By Charles Frith On March 6, 2016 @ 7:25 pm

Hollywood. Creator of false realities.