This article appeared in Foreign Policy and was co-authored by IWP Professor Henry Sokolski, William Burr, Avner Cohen, Lars-Erik De Geer, Victor Gilinsky, Sasha Polakow-Suransky, Leonard Weiss, and Christopher Wright.
Forty years ago, a U.S. satellite detected the telltale signs of a nuclear explosion. An analysis of the evidence today points to a clandestine nuclear test, a Carter administration cover-up, and only one country that was willing and able to carry it out: Israel.
Shortly before sunrise on Sept. 22, 1979, a U.S. surveillance satellite known as Vela 6911 recorded an unusual double flash as it orbited the earth above the South Atlantic. At Patrick Air Force Base in Florida, where it was still nighttime on Sept. 21, the staff in charge of monitoring the satellite’s transmissions saw the unmistakable pattern produced by a nuclear explosion—something U.S. satellites had detected on dozens of previous occasions in the wake of nuclear tests. The Air Force base issued an alert overnight, and President Jimmy Carter quickly called a meeting in the White House Situation Room the next day.