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Context of 'Mid-October 1975: Dutch Begin to Investigate A. Q. Khan over Disclosure of Nuclear Secrets'

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A. Q. Khan starts work for an engineering company called Physical Dynamics Research Laboratory (FDO), which is based in the Netherlands. He obtains the job, evaluating high-strength metals to be used for centrifuge components, through a former university classmate and a recommendation from his old professor, Martin Brabers. FDO is a subcontractor for a company called Urenco. Urenco owns an enrichment facility and was established in 1970 by the governments of Britain, West Germany, and the Netherlands to manufacture top-quality centrifuges that can be used to produce highly-enriched uranium for use in power plants and nuclear weapons.
Khan Obtains Security Clearance - Khan obtains a security clearance with minimal background checks because he tells investigators he intends to become a Dutch citizen. However, he finds that security is lax and he has access to areas that should be denied him. For example, less than a week after he is hired, he visits the centrifuges, although he does not have clearance to see them. He obtains access to data about them and is also asked to help translate sensitive documents, as he has lived in various European countries and can speak several languages. Khan is allowed to take the documents home, even though this is a clear violation of security protocols. [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 46-7]
Studied in Europe, Developed Network of Contacts - Prior to being hired by FDO, Khan had studied in Europe for some time. First he attended a series of lectures about metallurgy at the Technical University in West Berlin in 1962, then obtained a master’s degree in engineering from Delft Technical University in the Netherlands in 1967, and received his doctorate from the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium in 1971. His studies in Europe will later turn out to be useful when he starts a nuclear smuggling ring. Authors David Armstrong and Joe Trento will comment, “Along the way the affable Pakistani had developed a wide range of contacts, including individuals who would later emerge as part of his smuggling network.” [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 22-25; Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 46-7]

Entity Tags: Abdul Qadeer Khan, Physical Dynamics Research Laboratory, URENCO

Timeline Tags: A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

After Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan agrees to help Pakistan obtain the technology to make a nuclear bomb (see Summer-Autumn 1974), he begins to steal secrets from a Dutch company he works for to help them. Khan is asked to help translate a top-secret report on the G2 centrifuge, a major advance in uranium enrichment technology. To this end, he is assigned to a high-security section of the company, but the strict security procedures are ignored and he has free access for 16 days to the company’s main centrifuge plant. He takes full advantage of the situation, noting down details of the various processes. Around this time, neighbors also notice that Khan is receiving late-night visits from French and Belgian cars with diplomatic license plates, presumably Pakistani contacts to whom Khan is passing the secrets. [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 50-1]

Entity Tags: URENCO, Abdul Qadeer Khan

Timeline Tags: A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

Following the commencement of Pakistan’s uranium enrichment program (see After February 15, 1975), A. Q. Khan meets program head Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood in Belgium and then begins to steal an unprecedented amount of information from the company he works for, a European nuclear company called Urenco, to support the program. According to authors David Armstrong and Joe Trento: “Khan sent everything from centrifuge designs and technical literature to parts and lists of suppliers. He even sent blueprints of an entire uranium enrichment facility. In at least one instance, Khan sent [an associate] a discarded component from a uranium centrifuge.” He evens asks a photographer he shares an office with to photograph some centrifuges and components. [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 53-4]

Entity Tags: Abdul Qadeer Khan, URENCO, Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood

Timeline Tags: A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

Frits Veerman, a photographer who works with Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan at the nuclear equipment manufacturer Urenco, becomes suspicious of Khan, and attempts to warn the company. Veerman becomes suspicious because Khan keeps asking him to photograph centrifuges and components, evidently so he can send the photographs back to Pakistan. When Veerman visits Khan’s house, he sees highly classified centrifuge designs lying around. He also meets other Pakistanis at the house, and will later learn they are agents working under diplomatic cover. His suspicions aroused, Veerman warns Urenco of this repeatedly. However, the company denies there is a problem and tells Veerman not to make allegations against a superior. [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 54]

Entity Tags: Abdul Qadeer Khan, URENCO, Frits Veerman

Timeline Tags: A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

The BVD, a Dutch intelligence service, begins investigating A. Q. Khan over suspicions he is passing on nuclear secrets from the uranium enrichment company Urenco, for which he works, to Pakistan. The investigation starts because of two incidents. In the first, the Pakistani embassy in Belgium uses a report that appears to have come from one of Urenco’s owners to order specialized wrapping foil for centrifuges from Metalimphy, a French company. Metalimphy checks with Urenco’s owner, which says that the report belongs to it, and should not be in the Pakistanis’ hands. The BVD then learns that Khan was asking suspicious questions at a trade fair in Switzerland about atomic weapons. [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 54]

Entity Tags: Abdul Qadeer Khan, Metalimphy, URENCO, Binnenlandse Veiligheidsdienst

Timeline Tags: A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

Ruud Lubbers.Ruud Lubbers. [Source: ru(.nl)]After the BVD, a Dutch intelligence agency, informs the CIA that it intends to arrest A. Q. Khan over the passage of nuclear secrets to Pakistan (see Mid-October 1975), the CIA tells the Dutch to let Khan continue with his activities. Former Dutch Minister of Economc Affairs Ruud Lubbers will say, “The Americans wished to follow and watch Khan to get more information.” Lubbers questions this and the CIA tells him to block Khan’s access to the secrets, which the Dutch do by promoting him to a job where he no longer has access to sensitive data from the uranium enrichment company Urenco. Lubbers will later suggest that the real reason the US does not want Khan arrested is because of its interest in helping Pakistan, an enemy of Soviet-leaning India. Because Khan no longer has access to the sensitive data after his promotion, the CIA cannot find out anything by monitoring him. In addition, the promotion alerts Khan to the fact he may be under surveillance, and he flees to Pakistan in mid-December. Authors David Armstrong and Joe Trento will later comment: “What no one yet realized was that Khan had already absconded with the plans for almost every centrifuge on Urenco’s drawing board, including the all-important G-2 [centrifuge]. It would prove to be one of the greatest nuclear heists of all time.” [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 54]

Entity Tags: Ruud Lubbers, Binnenlandse Veiligheidsdienst, Central Intelligence Agency, Abdul Qadeer Khan

Timeline Tags: A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

After returning from the Netherlands, where he had stolen secrets to help Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program but was under investigation by the authorities (see March-December 15, 1975 and November 1975), Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan is formally hired to assist with Pakistan’s program to build nuclear weapons. The hiring results from a report by Khan to Pakistan Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto about the state of Pakistan’s uranium enrichment program. After touring the country’s enrichment facility, Khan tells Bhutto that the program is in a bad state, and Bhutto offers Khan a managerial position. When Bhutto is told that Khan has accepted the position, he reportedly pounds his fist on the table and declares, “I will see the Hindu bastards now.” Because of the knowledge Khan has gained during his time in Europe, he soon becomes well respected within the project. [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 56-57]

Entity Tags: Abdul Qadeer Khan

Timeline Tags: A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

Pakistan nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan obtains more information from employees at the Dutch company Physical Dynamics Research Laboratory about centrifuges it is developing for the European nuclear power industry. Khan needs the information for Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program. Khan previously worked for the company (see May 1, 1972), stole secrets from it (see October 1974), and the Dutch authorities are aware of this (see Mid-October 1975). The Dutch government learns that company staff have been visiting Pakistan no later than the second half of 1976. While the Dutch discuss what information may have been stolen, Khan continues to receive help from two Pakistani quality inspectors at the company who will later be found to be “active helpers of Khan.” [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 67]

Entity Tags: Abdul Qadeer Khan, Physical Dynamics Research Laboratory

Timeline Tags: A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

After Frits Veerman, an employee at Physical Dynamics Research Laboratory (FDO), learns of an attempt by Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan to steal more nuclear secrets from the Netherlands (see July 1976), he informs his supervisor at the company of the attempted theft. He also gives his supervisor a letter Khan had sent him detailing what secrets Khan wanted from Veerman, but the supervisor tells Veerman that if he does not destroy the letter he will be arrested. FDO informs the Dutch authorities of the case, and they arrest Veerman, accusing him of spying. In response, Veerman, who had repeatedly warned his superiors of Khan’s activities (see Mid-1975), then accuses the Dutch authorities of allowing the export of dangerous technology from the Netherlands. Veerman is released after two days and told, “You may not talk about this to anyone,” because “[i]t is dangerous for the Netherlands.” [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 66]

Entity Tags: Frits Veerman, Physical Dynamics Research Laboratory

Timeline Tags: A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

The West German television station Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen (ZDF) broadcasts a documentary naming A. Q. Khan as the head of the Pakistani nuclear weapons program. It also reports that the program is using blueprints stolen from a Dutch plant where Khan had previously worked (see May 1, 1972, October 1974, and March-December 15, 1975). Prior to the documentary, Khan had been a relatively obscure figure, but the story of his activities now becomes big news in both Europe and North America. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 57]

Entity Tags: Abdul Qadeer Khan

Timeline Tags: A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

The Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs drafts a memo urging that the government of the Netherlands cover up its actions in regard of Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan. Khan’s role in Pakistan’s nuclear weapons efforts has recently been revealed by a German television program (see March 28, 1979), which highlighted how Khan stole nuclear secrets while working in the Netherlands (see May 1, 1972, October 1974, and March-December 15, 1975). The Ministry of Economic Affairs memo states, “It is of the highest priority [to claim] that from the Netherlands, there is not a single contribution to the Pakistani effort.” However, the Dutch government has known the allegations are true for years, but has kept this secret, initially ignored warnings, and even harassed a colleague who blew the whistle on Khan (see Mid-1975, Mid-October 1975, November 1975, July 1976, Second Half of 1976, and (August 1976)). The Dutch government decides in line with the memo, and issues an interim report whitewashing Khan’s actions in the Netherlands. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 57]

Entity Tags: Ministry of Economic Affairs (Netherlands)

Timeline Tags: A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

The CIA advises Dutch authorities to back off the case of Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan, who had stolen nuclear secrets in the Netherlands for Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program (see March-December 15, 1975). Khan had been convicted by a Dutch court (see 1983), but the conviction was overturned on appeal due to a technicality (see 1985), and the Dutch are considering reopening the case. Dutch Prime Minister Ruud Lubbers will later say that the US wants Khan to be left alone because Pakistan is a key US ally in the battle against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. The CIA had told the Dutch to back off Khan once before (see November 1975) [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 67]

Entity Tags: Ruud Lubbers, Central Intelligence Agency

Timeline Tags: A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

The White House convenes a small team of senior officials to look behind the nuclear program of North Korea, which appears to be attempting to start a uranium enrichment program, and focuses on Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan. Khan travels to Pyongyang several times a month and, according to authors Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark, he is the “most visible common denominator” in Pakistan’s proliferation network and “a flag to be followed.” Levy and Scott-Clark point out that, although the US has been aware of Khan’s activities for over two decades (see November 1975), this is the “first serious attempt at interdicting the Pakistani operation.”
Experienced Officials Head Team - The officials include Robert Gallucci, President Clinton’s special envoy on ballistic weapons and WMD, who has been monitoring Pakistan’s nuclear program for 20 years and had helped negotiate an agreement with North Korea in 1994. Robert Einhorn, assistant secretary of state for non-proliferation, Karl Inderfurth, assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian affairs, and Gary Samore, a senior director for non-proliferation at the National Security Council, are also on the team.
Problems - However, there are some initial problems. For example, the officials already have so much work that one will characterize it as a “five minute [info] dump on Khan.” Levy and Scott-Clark will comment: “There was a surfeit of material, much of it higgledy-piggledy, since over the years no organized overview had been taken of Pakistan’s illicit trade. Instead, a multiplicity of agencies in intelligence, defense, and foreign affairs had all assigned analysts to work on the Khan conundrum, stovepiping what they discovered, so no one agency knew everything.”
More than Missiles - The group soon receives evidence showing that the dealings between North Korea and Pakistan do not involve just missiles, but also uranium enrichment technology (see 1997, 1998, (1998 and Possibly After), February 1998, February 1998 or Shortly After, Early June 1998, and Mid-June 1998). Einhorn will later say: “In 1998 we began to get some information of North Korean-Pakistani deals that went way beyond missiles. There was a nuclear dimension to this arrangement. There were Pakistani and North Korean weapons specialists getting together, including people from KRL [Khan Research Laboratories]. There was a pattern to the interactions.” [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 278-280]

Entity Tags: Robert Gallucci, Karl Inderfurth, Catherine Scott-Clark, Adrian Levy, Gary Samore, Robert Einhorn

Timeline Tags: A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network


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