CIA installed nuclear surveillance device atop Himalayas mountains
January 2, 2012 9 Comments
By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The United States Central Intelligence Agency tried at least twice to install a nuclear-powered surveillance device atop the Indian Himalayas, in an effort to spy on China. The decision to plant the device was taken in 1964, soon after communist China detonated its first nuclear bomb. In 1965, a team of CIA operatives attempted to climb Nanda Devi in the Garhwal Himalayas, which, at 25,645 feet (7,816 meters), is the highest mountain peak located entirely within Indian territory. But the top-secret mission failed miserably after adverse weather forced the CIA team to give up its effort approximately 2,000 feet below the summit. Battling against a heavy snowstorm, the CIA officers abandoned the 125-pound device, which was eventually swept away (.pdf document) by an avalanche. Incredibly, the team members deserted the surveillance device even though they knew it contained plutonium 238, which can emit radioactivity for over 500 years. In 1966, the same CIA team returned to Nanda Devi, in an effort to recover the complex surveillance instrument, but failed to locate it. In response to the second failed mission, the Agency decided to close the book on Nanda Devi, and instead constructed an identical surveillance device, which was transported and installed on Nanda Kot, a mountain peak located about nine miles (15 km) southeast of Nanda Devi. At 6,861 meters, Nanda Kot is about 3,000 feet shorter and far less steep than Nanda Devi. In 1967, a successful CIA attempt was made to reach the peak of Nakda Kot, where the radioactive surveillance device was installed. It is believed that it served its purpose before being abandoned there in 1968. Ten years later, in 1978, both operations were revealed in an article published in US-based Outside magazine. The revelation caused a major political uproar in India, as many Indians consider the Himalayas ‘sacred’ ground. Now the National Archives of India has released a batch of previously classified internal documents from India’s Ministry of External Affairs. The documents reveal that the 1978 disclosure of the two CIA operations caused a serious political crisis in India’s governing establishment and caused some damage in the bilateral ties between Washington and New Delhi. What is perhaps more interesting is that, according to the newly declassified documents, the government of India appears to have been unaware that both CIA missions in the Himalayas were undertaken with the direct collaboration of Indian intelligence. One inevitably wonders whether that was because the Congress Party, which ruled India for decades, but had lost the 1977 national election, had failed to let the governing left-leaning Janata Party coalition about the CIA operations. Or could it be that the Congress Party was also in the dark about the CIA’s Himalaya spy expeditions?