South Atlantic Mystery Flash in September 1979 Raised Questions about Nuclear Test

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Related Link What the U.S. Government Really Thought of Israel’s Apparent 1979 Nuclear Test

A CIA-sponsored panel of well-respected scientists concluded that a mysterious flash detected by a U.S. Vela satellite over the South Atlantic on the night of 22 September 1979 was likely a nuclear test, according to a contemporaneous report published today for the first time by the National Security Archive and the Nuclear Proliferation International History Project.  

Within days, a larger White House scientific panel would assert that the nuclear test thesis was unlikely, but in 1980 additional evidence emerged that led a senior U.S. intelligence official to disparage the White House study as a “whitewash” influenced by “political considerations.”

The debate over the “September 22 Event” or the “South Atlantic flash” continues to this day, including whether Israel may have staged a test with South African assistance.  The newest information, included in today’s posting, comes from recently declassified documents in the files of Ambassador Gerard C. Smith at the National Archives. The Smith files shed light on both the Vela controversy and the U.S. government’s efforts to grapple with it.   





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