- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 26, 2000

Defense Secretary William S. Cohen yesterday told a Senate committee he will look into a report that the Pentagon is excluding his intelligence branch from commenting on proposed weapons transfers to Israel.

Mr. Cohen also told the Senate Armed Services Committee that any Middle East peace deal in which the United States is a party must include guarantees from Israel that it will not divert controlled U.S. technology and weapons to third countries.

"I will look into it," Mr. Cohen said during testimony on a proposed national missile defense system. "I am someone who is very familiar with the importance of maintaining the integrity of our arms sales, making sure they don't go into third countries… . We are concerned whenever there is a transfer in a region that could shift the balance of power and possibly involve us in some negative, adverse way."

The defense secretary was responding to a question from Sen. Robert C. Byrd, West Virginia Democrat, who cited a story in yesterday's editions of The Washington Times.

The Times reported that a memo circulating inside the Pentagon's Defense Threat Reduction Agency told analysts they no longer had to gain input from the Defense Intelligence Agency before deciding whether controlled technology should be transferred to Israel.

The DIA has compiled evidence that Israel has violated U.S. export regulations by transferring missile, laser and aircraft technology to communist China.

"I have no knowledge of that memo, who generated it, what it's veracity or lack thereof is, but I will look into it," Mr. Cohen said. "It's news to me short answer."

Mr. Byrd responded, "Your response is very reassuring to this senator. Not only am I glad that you're going to look into it, will you let this committee know, and let me know, on what your result of your looking into it may be?"

Mr. Cohen said he would.

The memo was written by a staffer inside the threat reduction agency based on a meeting with David Tarbell, who heads the agency's Technology Security Directorate. It is that directorate that analyzes proposed sales of controlled technology to foreign countries, then recommends approval or disapproval.

The memo says, "As a result of a meeting with Dave Tarbell, the previous guidance of staffing all Israeli cases to [the directorate] and DIA is rescinded. Cases for Israeli companies and or the Israeli [Defense Ministry] should be staffed to [the directorate] only… . Israeli cases will not be routinely staffed to DIA."

A Threat Reduction Agency spokeswoman declined to respond to oral and written questions about the memo from The Times.

Mr. Cohen said yesterday, "Senator Byrd, there are 23,000 people who work in the Pentagon, and I suspect there are at least 23,000 memos that are generated during the course of a day, most of which never come to me unless I read about it in the press. I am not aware of any attempt to cut DIA out of analysis of sales of technology going to Israel and with the potentiality of it going on to third countries."

Mr. Cohen pointed out that the administration this month convinced Israel not to go ahead with the planned sale of its Phalcon surveillance radar system to China.

Beijing planned to install the radars in a fleet of early-warning spy planes similar to the U.S. Air Force AWACS.

Pentagon officials protested the sale on grounds the radars could be used against U.S. forces defending Taiwan or that the Chinese planes could be sold to rogue nations, such as Iran.

Mr. Cohen suggested that one topic in the just-ended Camp David peace talks was winning Israeli assurances not to divert U.S.-provided technology to third countries.

He said, "I can tell you that certainly there are serious negotiations under way in Camp David, that but any kind of agreement that we have with Israel now or in the future will need to take into account our requirements for prohibition of transfer of high technology and classified technology to third countries."

Pentagon officials who oppose the memo's change in policy say excluding the DIA from reviews will make it more difficult to stop a sale to an Israeli company suspected of technology diversions. It is often the DIA that supplies the evidence to stop a sale, the officials said.

Suspected transfers of U.S. technology to China, via Israel, has become a growing concern in the 1990s as Tel Aviv seeks cash contracts for its defense industry.

After the 1991 Persian Gulf war, the DIA compiled evidence that Israel gave China information on the U.S. Patriot anti-missile system.

Later in the decade, the United States obtained evidence that Israel helped China develop its new J-10 fighter-bomber based on the ill-fated Lavi fighter. The United States bankrolled and equipped the Lavi, then convinced Tel Aviv to cancel the program because of excessive costs.

"Israel has helped China with its development of the J-10 fighter aircraft [similar to the U.S. F-16] by providing technology developed for the aborted Israeli Lavi fighter project and of various missiles," Harold Johnson, an associate director of the General Accounting Office, told Congress in 1998.

Israel denies violating U.S. export agreements.

China watchers on Capitol Hill expressed puzzlement yesterday over why the DIA was being avoided.

"It just seems curious," said William Tripplet, a Senate staffer and author of books on the emerging Chinese threat. "Why do you cut out the people who have the most expertise? The question is, what is the motivation? I don't have an answer. Israel has gone up the tech-transfer curve so far that it's more than a bit of a problem."

The internal Pentagon memo says, "There has been a new focus on Israel cases upstairs. That is what's prompted the guidance."

Meanwhile, Mr. Cohen said during the hearing on national missile defense that the system is needed because of the growing threat of missile attacks from North Korea, Iran and Iraq.

"The national missile defense is not, as some have suggested, a solution in search of a problem," Mr. Cohen said. "Quite to the contrary: For America, our European and Asian allies, the threat of longer-range missiles from rogue nations is substantial and it's growing."

Mr. Cohen said the technology of hitting an incoming warhead with an interceptor missile "has in fact been demonstrated" in the successful test in October.

Two other tests have not been successful but are part of a development program that will include up to 19 more tests, he said.

Mr. Cohen said construction of the first part of the system, a radar on the remote Alaskan island of Shemya, could begin next year without violating any arms-control treaties with Russia.

He also said opposition to the system from Russia and China will not be allowed to derail a future deployment.

"The Chinese do not have a veto. The Russians don't have a veto," he said. "No one really has a veto."

• Bill Gertz contributed to this report.

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