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Encyclopedia > Nuclear espionage

Nuclear espionage is the purposeful giving of state secrets regarding nuclear weapons to other states without authorization (espionage). During the history of nuclear weapons there have been many cases of known nuclear espionage, and also many cases of suspected or alleged espionage. Because nuclear weapons are generally considered the most important of state secrets, all nations with nuclear weapons have strict restrictions against the giving of information relating to nuclear weapon design, stockpiles, delivery systems, and deployment. States are also limited in their making public of weapons information by non-proliferation agreements. Secrecy is the practice of hiding information from others. ... The mushroom cloud of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, Japan, 1945, rose some 18 km (11 mi) above the hypocenter. ... To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article or section may require cleanup. ... A nuclear fireball lights up the night in a United States nuclear test. ... The first nuclear weapons, though large, cumbersome and inefficient, provided the basic design building blocks of all future weapons. ... Nuclear weapons delivery is the technology and systems used to place a nuclear weapon at the position of detonation, on or near its intended target. ... World map with nuclear weapons development status represented by color. ...

Contents


Manhattan Project

Main article: Atomic Spies
Klaus Fuchs is considered to have been the most valuable of the Atomic Spies during the Manhattan Project.
Klaus Fuchs is considered to have been the most valuable of the Atomic Spies during the Manhattan Project.

During the Manhattan Project, the joint effort during World War II by the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada to create the first nuclear weapons, there were many instances of nuclear espionage in which project scientists or technicians channeled information about bomb development and design to the Soviet Union. These people are often referred to as the Atomic Spies, and their work continued into the early Cold War. Because most of these cases became well-known in the context of the anti-Communist 1950s, there has been long-standing dispute over the exact details of these cases, though some of this was settled with the making public of the VENONA Project transcripts, which were intercepted and decrypted messages between Soviet agents and the Soviet government. Some issues remain unsettled, however. The Rosenbergs Ethel Greenglass Rosenberg (1915-1953) and Julius Rosenberg (1918-1953) were American Communists who were thrust into the world spotlight when they were tried, convicted, and executed for spying for the Soviet Union. ... Image File history File links Klaus_Fuchs_ID_badge. ... Klaus Fuchs ID badge photo from Los Alamos. ... The Rosenbergs Ethel Greenglass Rosenberg (1915-1953) and Julius Rosenberg (1918-1953) were American Communists who were thrust into the world spotlight when they were tried, convicted, and executed for spying for the Soviet Union. ... The Manhattan Project resulted in the development of the first nuclear weapons, and the first-ever nuclear detonation at the Trinity test of July 16, 1945. ... The Manhattan Project resulted in the development of the first nuclear weapons, and the first-ever nuclear detonation at the Trinity test of July 16, 1945. ... Combatants Allies: Poland, British Commonwealth, France/Free France, Soviet Union, United States, China, and others Axis Powers: Germany, Italy, Japan, and others Casualties Military dead:17 million Civilian dead:33 million Total dead:50 million Military dead:8 million Civilian dead:4 million Total dead:12 million World War II... The first nuclear weapons, though large, cumbersome and inefficient, provided the basic design building blocks of all future weapons. ... The Rosenbergs Ethel Greenglass Rosenberg (1915-1953) and Julius Rosenberg (1918-1953) were American Communists who were thrust into the world spotlight when they were tried, convicted, and executed for spying for the Soviet Union. ... Clockwise from top: United States President John F. Kennedy and Soviet General Secretary Nikita Khrushchev meet in a 1961 summit held in Vienna; East German border guards at the Berlin Wall; the first Soviet nuclear weapon Joe 1 is tested; American soldiers land in Vietnam during the Vietnam War; Sputnik... Anti-communism is the opposition to communist ideology, organization, or government, on either an ideological or pragmatic basis. ... The VENONA project was a long-running and highly secret collaboration between the United States intelligence agencies and the United Kingdoms MI5 that involved the cryptanalysis of Soviet messages. ...


The most prominent of these included:

  • Klaus Fuchs – German refugee theoretical physicist who worked with the British delegation at Los Alamos during the Manhattan Project. He was eventually discovered, confessed, and sentenced to jail in Britain. He was later released, and he emigrated to East Germany. Because of his close connection to many aspects of project activities, and his extensive technical knowledge, he is considered to have been the most valuable of the "Atomic Spies" in terms of the information he gave to the Soviet Union about the American fission bomb program. He also gave early information about the American hydrogen bomb program but since he was not present at the time that the successful Teller-Ulam design was discovered, his information on this is not thought to have been of much value.
  • Theodore Hall – a young American physicist at Los Alamos, whose identity as a spy was not revealed until very later in the twentieth century. He was never arrested in connection to his espionage work, though seems to have admitted to it in later years to reporters and to his family.
A drawing of an implosion nuclear weapon design by David Greenglass, illustrating what he supposedly gave the Rosenbergs to pass on to the Soviet Union.
Enlarge
A drawing of an implosion nuclear weapon design by David Greenglass, illustrating what he supposedly gave the Rosenbergs to pass on to the Soviet Union.
  • David Greenglass – an American machinist at Los Alamos during the Manhattan Project. Greenglass confessed that he gave crude schematics of lab experiments to the Russians during World War II. Some aspects of his testimony against his sister and brother-in-law (the Rosenbergs, see below) are now thought to have been fabricated in an effort to keep his own wife from prosecution. Greenglass confessed to his espionage and was given a long prison term.
  • Ethel and Julius Rosenberg – Americans who were supposedly involved in coordinating and recruiting an episonage network which included David Greenglass. While most scholars believe that Julius was likely involved in some sort of network, whether or not Ethel was involved or cogniscent of the activities remains a matter of dispute. Julius and Ethel refused to confess to any charges, and were convicted and executed.
  • Harry Gold – American, confessed to acting as a courier for Greenglass and Fuchs.

Whether the espionage information significantly aided the speed of the Soviet atomic bomb project is also disputed. While some of the information given, such as the highly technical theoretical information given by Klaus Fuchs, would be thought to have certainly aided in developing a nuclear weapon, the manner in which the heads of the Soviet bomb project, Igor Kurchatov and Lavrenty Beria, actually used the information has led later scholars to doubt it having had a role in increasing the speed of development. According to this account, Kurchatov and Beria used the information primarily as a "check" against their own scientists' work, and did not liberally share the information with them, distrusting both their own scientists as well as the espionage information. Later scholarship has also shown that the decisive force in early Soviet development was not problems in weapons design, but, as in the Manhattan Project, the difficulty in procuring fissile materials, especially as the Soviet Union had no uranium deposits known when it began its program (unlike the United States). Klaus Fuchs ID badge photo from Los Alamos. ... Los Alamos National Laboratory, aerial view from 1995. ... The Manhattan Project resulted in the development of the first nuclear weapons, and the first-ever nuclear detonation at the Trinity test of July 16, 1945. ... National motto: none Official languages German Capital East Berlin Largest city East Berlin Area  - Total  - % water Ranked 106th 108,333 km² Negligible Creation -Abolition 7 October 1949 3 October 1990 Currency East German Mark Time zone  â€“ in summer CET (UTC+1) CEST (UTC+2) National anthem Auferstanden aus Ruinen Internet... The basics of the Teller-Ulam configuration: a fission bomb uses radiation to compress and heat a separate section of fusion fuel. ... Theodore Halls ID badge photo from Los Alamos. ... The first nuclear weapons, though large, cumbersome and inefficient, provided the basic design building blocks of all future weapons. ... David Greenglass (b. ... The Rosenbergs Ethel Greenglass Rosenberg (September 28, 1915 – June 19, 1953) and Julius Rosenberg (May 12, 1918 – June 19, 1953) were American citizens and CPUSA members who were thrust into the world spotlight when they were tried, convicted, and executed for spying for the Soviet Union. ... David Greenglass (b. ... Los Alamos National Laboratory, aerial view from 1995. ... The Rosenbergs Ethel Greenglass Rosenberg (September 28, 1915 – June 19, 1953) and Julius Rosenberg (May 12, 1918 – June 19, 1953) were American citizens and CPUSA members who were thrust into the world spotlight when they were tried, convicted, and executed for spying for the Soviet Union. ... Harry Gold Harry Gold (b. ... Andrei Sakharov (left) with Igor Kurchatov (right) The Soviet project to develop an atomic bomb began during World War II in the Soviet Union. ... Klaus Fuchs ID badge photo from Los Alamos. ... Igor The Beard Kurchatov Igor Vasilyevich Kurchatov (И́горь Васи́льевич Курча́тов) (January 8, 1903 – February 7, 1960), Soviet/Russian physicist. ... Lavrenty Beria Lavrenty Pavlovich Beria (Georgian: ლავრენტი ბერია; Russian: Лаврентий Павлович Берия; (29 March 1899 - 23 December 1953), Soviet politician and police chief. ... The Manhattan Project resulted in the development of the first nuclear weapons, and the first-ever nuclear detonation at the Trinity test of July 16, 1945. ... General Name, Symbol, Number uranium, U, 92 Chemical series actinides Group, Period, Block n/a, 7, f Appearance silvery gray metallic; corrodes to a spalling black oxide coat in air Atomic mass 238. ...


Israel

On October 5, 1986, the British newspaper The Sunday Times ran the story on its front page under the headline: "Revealed: the secrets of Israel's nuclear arsenal."
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On October 5, 1986, the British newspaper The Sunday Times ran the story on its front page under the headline: "Revealed: the secrets of Israel's nuclear arsenal."
Main article: Mordechai Vanunu

In 1986, a former technician, Mordechai Vanunu, at the Israeli nuclear facility in Dimona revealed information about the Israeli nuclear weapon program to the British press, confirming widely-held notions that Israel had an advanced and secretive nuclear weapons program and stockpile. Israel has never acknowledged or denied having a weapons program, and Vanunu was abducted and smuggled to Israel, where he was tried in camera and convicted of treason and espionage. Whether Vanunu was truly involved in espionage, per se, is debated: Vanunu and his supporter claim that he should be regarded as a whistle-blower (someone who was exposing a secretive and illegal practice), while his opponents see him as a traitor and his divulgance of information as aiding enemies of the Israeli state. The politics of the case are hotly disputed. from Hebrew Wikipedia This work is copyrighted. ... from Hebrew Wikipedia This work is copyrighted. ... October 5 is the 278th day of the year (279th in Leap years). ... 1986 (MCMLXXXVI) was a common year starting on Wednesday of the Gregorian calendar. ... The Sunday Times is the name of several Sunday newspapers. ... Mordechai Vanunu in the garden of St. ... Mordechai Vanunu in the garden of St. ... Dimona is an Israeli city in the Negev desert, 36 kilometers to the south of Beer-Sheva and 35 kilometers west of the Dead Sea in the Southern District of Israel. ... Israel is very widely believed to possess a substantial arsenal of nuclear weapons and intermediate-range ballistic missiles to deliver them. ... In camera (Latin: in chamber) is a legal term meaning in secret. It applies to court cases (or portions thereof) to which the public are not admitted. ... In law, treason is the crime of disloyalty to ones nation or state. ... A whistleblower is someone in an organization who witnesses behavior by members that is either contrary to the mission of the organization, or threatening to the public interest, and who decides to speak out publicly about it. ...


People's Republic of China

Design information about the W88 warhead, a miniaturized variant of the Teller-Ulam design, was allegedly stolen by PRC agents.
Enlarge
Design information about the W88 warhead, a miniaturized variant of the Teller-Ulam design, was allegedly stolen by PRC agents.
Main article: Cox Report

In a 1999 report of the United States House of Representatives Select Committee on U.S. National Security and Military/Commercial Concerns with the People's Republic of China, chaired by Rep. Christopher Cox (known as the Cox Report), it was revealed that U.S. security agencies believed that on-going nuclear espionage by the People's Republic of China (PRC) at U.S. nuclear weapons design laboratories, especially Los Alamos National Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and Sandia National Laboratories. According to the report, the PRC had "stolen classified information on all of the United States' most advanced thermonuclear warheads" since the 1970s, and included the design of advanced miniaturized thermonuclear warheads (which can be used on MIRV weapons), the neutron bomb, and "weapons codes" which allow for computer simulations of nuclear testing (and allow the PRC to advance their weapon development without testing themselves). The United States was apparently unaware of this until 1995. Image File history File links Download high resolution version (502x1176, 162 KB) Diagram of a W88 nuclear warhead, showing its variation of the Teller-Ulam design. ... Image File history File links Download high resolution version (502x1176, 162 KB) Diagram of a W88 nuclear warhead, showing its variation of the Teller-Ulam design. ... The first nuclear weapons, though large, cumbersome and inefficient, provided the basic design building blocks of all future weapons. ... The W88 is a United States nuclear warhead, with an estimated yield of 475kt. ... The basics of the Teller-Ulam configuration: a fission bomb uses radiation to compress and heat a separate section of fusion fuel. ... The Cox Report is a classified U.S. government document reporting on Peoples Republic of Chinas covert operations in the United States, focusing on PRC spies theft of design information on the U.S.s most advanced thermonuclear weapons. ... The chamber of the United States House of Representatives is located in the south wing of the Capitol building, in Washington, D.C.. This photograph shows a rare glimpse of the four vote tallying boards (the blackish squares across the top), which display each members name and vote as... The Cox Report is a classified U.S. government document reporting on Peoples Republic of Chinas covert operations in the United States, focusing on PRC spies theft of design information on the U.S.s most advanced thermonuclear weapons. ... Los Alamos National Laboratory, aerial view from 1995. ... Aerial view of the lab and surrounding area. ... Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) is a multiprogram science and technology national laboratory managed for the United States Department of Energy by UT-Battelle, LLC. ORNL is located in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, near Knoxville. ... It has been suggested that Sandia Base be merged into this article or section. ... Wikipedia does not yet have an article with this exact name. ... // A neutron bomb is a type of nuclear weapon invented by Samuel Cohen specifically designed to release a relatively large portion of its energy as energetic neutron radiation. ... Preparation for an underground nuclear test at the Nevada Test Site in the 1980s. ...


The investigations described in the report eventually led to the arrest of Wen Ho Lee, a scientist at Los Alamos, which accused him of giving weapons information to the PRC. The case against Lee eventually fell apart, however, and he was eventually charged only with mishandling of data. The issue was a considerable scandal at the time. No other people were charged in respect to the alleged epsionage, and the PRC officially rejected the allegations. Wen Ho Lee (Chinese: 李文和; pinyin: Lǐ Wénhé; born December 21, 1939) is a Taiwanese American scientist who worked at Los Alamos National Laboratory and was accused of stealing secrets about the U.S.s nuclear arsenal for China. ...


See also

World map with nuclear weapons development status represented by color. ...

References

Manhattan Project
  • Rhodes, Richard. Dark Sun: The Making of the Atomic Bomb. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1995.
Israel
  • Cohen, Avner. Israel and the Bomb. New York: Columbia University Press, 1998.
People's Republic of China
  • Christopher Cox, chairman (1999). Report of the United States House of Representatives Select Committee on U.S. National Security and Military/Commercial Concerns with the People's Republic of China., esp. Ch. 2, "PRC Theft of U.S. Thermonuclear Warhead Design Information". Available online at http://www.house.gov/coxreport/.

 
 

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