Declassified 1964 National Intelligence Estimate Predicts India’s Bomb But Not Israel’s

6 November, 2012 — National Security Archive

New Release Reports Country-by-Country Nuclear Capabilities, Fresh Data on Global Proliferation Trends in Mid-1960s

Finds “Better than Even” Chance India Will Soon Build a Bomb; But Mistakenly Concludes Israeli Leaders “Probably Have Not Yet Decided”

NIE‘s Findings Add to Debate about How One State’s Acquisition of Nuclear Capability Could Affect Decisions by Regional Rivals

National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 401

Edited by William Burr

For more information contact:
William Burr – 202/994-7000 or

Washington, D.C., November 6, 2012 — The U.S. intelligence community predicted India‘s nuclear bomb in 1964 but mistakenly concluded Israel had “not yet decided” to go nuclear, according to newly declassified documents posted today by the National Security Archive and the Nuclear Proliferation International History Project. Highlighting the posting is the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) from October 1964, now declassified in its entirety by the CIA and including fresh details about the nuclear state of play on a country-by-country level right at the time of the first Chinese atomic test on 16 October 1964.

The report held that the “chances are better than even that India will decide to build nuclear weapons within the next few years.” Although India had the capability to produce plutonium and the Chinese test was likely to produce increasing “internal pressures” for a decision, in fact it was years before India made a decision to produce nuclear weapons, even describing its 1974 test as a “peaceful nuclear explosion.”

The estimate also concluded that Israeli leaders “probably have not yet decided to develop nuclear weapons,” although “strong pressures” to do so could emerge depending on such factors as armament levels of the Arab states or whether Israel was unable to acquire “adequate quantities of conventional weapons.” By contrast, Avner Cohen‘s research (in his 1998 book Israel and the Bomb and his 2010 volume The Worst Kept Secret) demonstrates that Prime Minister Ben-Gurion had already taken the basic decisions to develop a nuclear weapons capability in 1962, and that the Israelis started to build their arsenal in 1967.

Interestingly, the 1964 NIE‘s conclusion differed from an estimate a year earlier, which speculated that “the Israelis, unless deterred by outside pressure, will attempt to produce a nuclear weapon sometime in the next several years.”

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THE NATIONAL SECURITY ARCHIVE is an independent non-governmental research institute and library located at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. The Archive collects and publishes declassified documents acquired through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). A tax-exempt public charity, the Archive receives no U.S. government funding; its budget is supported by publication royalties and donations from foundations and individuals.

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