!! History Commons Alert, Exciting News
Profile: Abdul Qadeer Khan
Positions that Abdul Qadeer Khan has held:
- Pakistani nuclear scientist
Abdul Qadeer Khan was a participant or observer in the following events:
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]
After India’s first successful nuclear test on May 18, 1974, Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan, at this time working in a centrifuge production facility in the Netherlands, begins to approach Pakistani government representatives to offer help with Pakistan’s nuclear program. First he approaches a pair of Pakistani military scientists who are in the Netherlands on business. He tells them he wants to help Pakistan’s nuclear program, but they discourage him, saying it would be hard for him to find a job in Pakistan. Undaunted, Khan then writes to Pakistani President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. He sets out his experience and encourages Bhutto to make a nuclear bomb using uranium, rather than plutonium, the method Pakistan is currently trying to adopt. Pakistan will examine Khan’s idea and find it a good one (see Summer-Autumn 1974). [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 48]
Pakistani government leaders consider a secret proposal made by Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan that it build a uranium bomb (see After May 18, 1974) and find it to be a good idea. Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto writes of Khan, “He seems to be making sense.” Siddique Butt, an employee of Pakistan’s embassy in Belgium who will go on to help Khan’s future nuclear smuggling ring, investigates Khan and finds he is a top scientist who can be helpful to Pakistan. Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood, another future key associate of Khan’s, is asked to write another assessment, which finds that, if implemented, Khan’s ideas could give Pakistan enough uranium for a bomb by 1979. Based on these reports, the Pakistani government starts working with Khan, who begins to steal secrets for them (see October 1974). [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 49-50]
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]
A. Q. Khan, a Pakistani employee of the Dutch nuclear equipment company Urenco, travels to Pakistan and meets Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Munir Khan, head of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission. Khan again tells Bhutto that Pakistan should build a uranium, not plutonium bomb, and agrees to continue with his job in the Netherlands, where he is stealing secrets for Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program (see October 1974). [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 51-2]
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]
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]
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]
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]
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]
Abdus Salam, a procurement agent for the A. Q. Khan nuclear network, misdials a number for US-based machine tool giant Rockwell, instead calling the British agent of its power tool division, Scimitar, in Wales. Salam wants to buy $1 million in power tools and the person on the other end of the line, sales manager Peter Griffin, is surprised by the request, but happy to ship such a large order. This chance encounter will lead to an extremely long relationship between Griffin and Khan, with Griffin supplying a very large amount of equipment for Khan’s efforts. Griffin initially travels to London to meet Salam, who had been put in touch with Khan through a mutual acquaintance. Overcoming his initial wariness about the business, Griffin leaves Scimitar to set up a company called Weargate Ltd, which works with an electrical shop called Salam Radio Colindale to supply Khan’s needs. Authors Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark will later comment that Salam Radio Colindale is a “down on its luck electrical shop which proved terrific cover for such a discreet business,” and that it “would become one of dozens run by expat Pakistanis from similarly unassuming corner stores, supplying components to Khan.” [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 38-39] Griffin becomes a director of the company in 1977 or 1979, when it changes its name to SR International. However, he is not an owner of the company, which is held by Salam and his wife Naseem. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 38-39; Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 101]
Frits Veerman. [Source: atoomspionage(.com)]Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan asks a former European associate, Frits Veerman, to help him with Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program, but Veerman refuses and informs officials at his employer, Physical Dynamics Research Laboratory (FDO). The request is made in a letter hand-delivered by two Pakistani scientists on a business trip to the Netherlands and “very confidentially” asks Veerman to provide assistance “urgently” for a “research program.” Khan wants Veerman, who is already suspicious of Khan (see Mid-1975), to provide him with drawings of tiny steel ball bearings used in centrifuges, as well as some sample bearings, metal membranes, and steel springs used to dampen centrifuges. Realizing that this information is secret, Veerman refuses to provide it. He also alerts FDO, which in turn informs the Dutch authorities. The Dutch begin to harass Veerman as a result (see (August 1976)). [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 6]
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]
Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan is appointed director of Pakistan’s uranium enrichment program, replacing Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood. The program is also separated from the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC), and Khan is to report directly to the prime minister. The changes are a result of complaints Khan made about Mahmood and PAEC chief Munir Khan. In letters to both Munir Khan and Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Khan had threatened to resign and said that progress with uranium enrichment was very slow: “Each week passing is putting the project behind by at least two to three months.” In a meeting with Bhutto, Khan calls the PAEC chief and his associates “liars and cheats,” and points out there is no way they can carry out a promised test for a plutonium bomb by the deadline they have set. The separation of the plutonium bomb project under Munir Khan and the uranium bomb project under A. Q. Khan does have a benefit for Pakistan: the world is focused on frustrating Munir Khan’s plutonium project, and for a short while A. Q. Khan can “move forward relatively unhindered.” [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 57-59]
Pakistan’s Project 706, an effort to build nuclear weapons headed by Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan, begins work on a facility in Kahuta, about 20 miles southeast of Islamabad. The facility, later renamed Khan Research Laboratories, will be the chief site in Pakistan’s attempts to build a nuclear weapon. Khan believes the location is a big asset, as skilled employees will have access to good education and health care in Islamabad, and he will be close to the seat of the government. [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 59]
Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan writes to fellow Pakistani scientist Abdul Aziz Khan and asks him to return to Pakistan to help with its nuclear weapons program, a “project of national importance.” Abdul Aziz Khan declines, but agrees to collect technical information in North America to help the program, and to travel to Pakistan during his vacations to help train scientists there. Abdul Aziz Khan will later go on to play a key role in a scheme to send US-made equipment used in centrifuges to Pakistan via Canada. [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 67]
Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan and people related to him start to travel to Britain to purchase components for Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program. Khan’s link to the program is already known to Western intelligence agencies, but it is unclear how closely he and his associates are followed at this time. On one trip in August 1977, Khan meets British businessmen Peter Griffin and Abdus Salam, who supply equipment for Khan. The meeting is also attended by a number of Pakistanis: Brigadier Sajawal Khan Malik, a civil engineer building a nuclear facility for Khan, Dr. Farooq Hashmi, his deputy, Dr. G. D. Alam, Khan’s computer expert, and a brigadier general named Anis Nawab. Griffin will become a key supplier for Khan, and Pakistanis will frequently visit him in London. Khan sometimes comes himself if a large order is to be placed, but most times he sends a representative, Colonel Rashid Ali Qazi, and other scientists. After each visit, Griffin receives a telex specifying exactly which parts Khan wants. Griffin also becomes friends with Khan and is invited to visit him at his home in Pakistan. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 39-40]
Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan obtains 20 high-frequency inverters, a key piece of machinery for producing enriched uranium, from Europe. The inverters are ordered by a German contact called Ernst Piffl, based on Canadian literature apparently supplied by an associate of Khan’s named A. A. Khan. They are supplied by Emerson Industrial Controls, a British subsidiary of the US giant Emerson Electrical. Emerson had supplied the same equipment to a British nuclear plant, but does not raise the alarm over such equipment being shipped for Pakistan. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 53-54]
A team of Pakistani scientists working under A. Q. Khan enriches a small quantity of uranium for the first time. Pakistan is enriching uranium in order to build a nuclear weapon, but will apparently not produce weapons-grade uranium for another three years (see (March-April 1981)). [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 98] The enrichment was performed using a P-1 centrifuge. Khan reveals that he has accomplished this to his wife Henny on April 4, 1978, so presumably it first happens some time shortly before this or on this day. The next day, Khan sends a memo on the enrichment to Ghulam Ishaq Khan and Agha Shahi, Pakistan’s ministers of finance and foreign affairs. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 51]
A. Q. Khan launches a worldwide recruiting campaign with ads in newspapers around the world to lure expatriate Pakistani scientists back home to help him with his nuclear weapons work. The campaign is the result of Khan’s prior failure to lure scientists, such as the Canada-based A. A. Khan (see 1977), to Pakistan, and is approved by Pakistani military dictator General Muhammad Zia ul-Haq. The ads promise large salaries and new homes in Islamabad. Applicants should contact their local Pakistani embassy and say they are applying to work at the Institute of Industrial Automation (IIA). Khan writes to A. A. Khan about the campaign and asks him to recommend people, which he does. The IIA address is the same as that used by Khan for deliveries of components for his nuclear work. For example, Henk Slebos, a European procurement agent, will later say he uses the address for deliveries. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 54, 471] Presumably, after A. A. Khan is arrested and his correspondence with Khan seized (see August 29, 1980), investigators learn that the address is linked to Khan’s operations.
A team of Pakistani scientists working at Kahuta Research Laboratories and led by A. Q. Khan produces more enriched uranium. “June 4 was a historical day for us,” Khan will later write in a coded letter to his associate A. A. Khan. “On that day we put the ‘Air’ [uranium hexafluoride] into the machine and the first time we got the right product [enriched uranium] and its efficiency was the same as the theoretical.” He will add: “We had to see our big bosses so that we could get some more money for the budget. When this news was given to them they were quite happy and congratulated us.” [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 53]
The A. Q. Khan network that is attempting to build a nuclear weapon for Pakistan conducts procurement operations in Japan. The existence of the Japanese activities will be revealed in a letter from Khan to a correspondent, the Canada-based scientist A. A. Khan, dated June 13, 1978 and later obtained by Canadian authorities. Although a substantial amount of information is available about some of Khan’s operations in other countries, little is known about what he purchases in Japan. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 53]
The A. Q. Khan network that is attempting to build a nuclear weapon for Pakistan conducts procurement operations in Germany. The existence of the German activities at this time will be revealed in a letter from Khan to a correspondent, the Canada-based scientist A. A. Khan, dated June 13, 1978 and later obtained by Canadian authorities. The German operations involve the company Siemens and Gunes Cire, a Turkish associate of Khan’s. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 53]
Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan sends a member of his team named Javid Mirza to the US. According to a letter Khan writes to a correspondent on June 13, Mirza has “gone to get the training for the control room of the air conditioner plant [at Kahuta Research Laboratories (KRL)].” Khan adds, “Now he will finish the control room of [a building at KRL known as number] ‘54.’” [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 53]
A. Q. Khan writes his first letter to a correspondent, the Canada-based Pakistani scientist A. A. Khan. In the letter, which is written in a code, A. Q. Khan mentions successful uranium enrichment in Pakistan (see June 4, 1978), procurement operations in Germany and Japan (see Before June 13, 1978, Spring 1978, and Before June 13, 1978), the delivery of equipment to his headquarters (see Before June 13, 1978), and the dispatch of a team member for training to the US (see Before June 13, 1978). The correspondence between A. Q. Khan and A. A. Khan will go on for some time and authors Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark will describe it as “an intense and literary friendship, always expressed in handwritten Urdu script, the most sensitive thoughts of the man behind one of the world’s most clandestine program[s], wafting through the unsecured mail for anyone to intercept.” [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 53] The correspondence will be seized by Canadian authorities upon A. A. Khan’s arrest (see August 29, 1980).
A. Q. Khan and one of his suppliers, the British businessman Peter Griffin, agree that Griffin will provide more equipment for Khan’s work. The agreement follows a purchase of 20 inverters by Khan from another European supplier, Ernst Piffl (see Spring 1978). However, Khan comes to feel that Piffl cheated him over the price of the inverters and asks Griffin, through his company Weargate Ltd., to take care of future business instead of Piffl. Griffin has already been working with Khan’s purchasing network for some time (see Summer 1976). [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 54, 471] Piffl will be unhappy that he has lost the business and will alert a British member of parliament to what is going on (see July 1978).
Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan mentions inverters, a piece of equipment he needs for his nuclear weapons work, in a letter to an associate named A. A. Khan, who is based in Canada (see June 13, 1978). A. Q. Khan writes: “Perhaps you must have read in some newspapers that the English government is objecting about the inverters. Work is progressing but the frustration is increasing. It is just like a man who has waited 30 years but cannot wait for a few hours after the marriage ceremony.” The reference to the “English government” concerns the suspension of exports to Khan by Great Britain (see Before July 1978). [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 54] A. A. Khan’s papers will subsequently be seized when he is arrested by the Canadian authorities for assisting the export of nuclear-weapons-related items to Pakistan (see August 29, 1980), and this letter will presumably be among the papers the Canadians obtain.
A. Q. Khan writes a coded letter to his Canada-based associate A. A. Khan about his nuclear weapons research, saying that he is attempting to link together several centrifuges, creating a mini-cascade. This is an important step in building a nuclear weapon, as it is necessary in order to enrich uranium to weapons grade. A. Q. Khan also says that construction work is progressing on a larger facility at his main research site, Kahuta Research Laboratories, and adds that there is “mistrust and apprehension” in the air in Pakistan over the trial of former Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 56] A. A. Khan’s papers will subsequently be seized when he is arrested by the Canadian authorities for assisting the export of nuclear-weapons-related items to Pakistan (see August 29, 1980), and this letter will presumably be among the papers the Canadians obtain.
The Pakistani nuclear weapons facility Kahuta Research Laboratories, headed by A. Q. Khan, succeeds in starting a centrifuge cascade. This cascade is very important in the construction of a nuclear bomb, as it is necessary for enriching uranium to weapons grade. However, Khan cannot take full advantage of the cascade, as he does not have a regular supply of uranium hexafluoride. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 56-57]
A. Q. Khan writes a coded letter to his Canada-based associate A. A. Khan about progress with his nuclear weapons research. “By the end of the year the factory should start working, and should start providing ‘cake and bread.’ There is a shortage of ‘food’ and we need these things very badly,’” he writes. The “factory” is Kahuta Research Laboratories, “cake and bread” are enriched uranium, and “food” is uranium hexafluoride, so A. Q. Khan is saying that he will soon start producing enriched uranium, but currently lacks the raw material to produce it to his satisfaction. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 57] A. A. Khan’s papers will subsequently be seized when he is arrested by the Canadian authorities for assisting the export of nuclear-weapons-related items to Pakistan (see August 29, 1980), and this letter will presumably be among the papers the Canadians obtain.
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]
Export control measures put in place by British and US authorities begin to have an effect on the efforts of Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan to build a nuclear weapon. The measures were adopted to prevent Khan from purchasing in the West the equipment he needs to produce enough uranium to make his project succeed. Authors David Armstrong and Joe Trento will later comment, “Khan’s supply network had been interrupted, and he was now having difficulty obtaining critical centrifuge components and other equipment for [his research facility in Pakistan].” Khan himself will write to an associate in Canada, “They are even stopping screws and nails.” By October 1979, reports are starting to surface saying that Khan’s research facility has come to a standstill. [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 98]
British authorities intercept telexes between Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan and British businessman Peter Griffin, who has been supplying parts for Khan’s nuclear weapons program (see Summer 1976). Griffin will comment: “I would get my usual telex from Khan and the next day a telex from [British] Customs with lists of all the new things going on to the export control list, which coincidentally were all the things that Khan had just asked for.” [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 55]
A computer specialist working for Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan is hired by British intelligence to inform on Khan’s nuclear proliferation network. According to long-time Khan associate Peter Griffin, this occurs during negotiations with a British mainframe computer supplier to which Griffin introduced Khan. The computer specialist comes over to Britain and, while meeting with one of the computer company’s owners, admires his Bentley, a car he could not afford on his Pakistani salary. According to Griffin, the owner says, “You can have one just like it if you agree to work for the British.” Presumably, this indicates that the computer company owner has already had contact with British intelligence. The specialist agrees, but Khan finds out he has been turned and fires him in 1980. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 55-56]
Pakistani dictator Muhammad Zia ul-Haq initiates a second program to design a warhead to deliver Pakistani nuclear weapons. The program is to be headed by nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan and is to be based at his research facility in Kahuta. It will compete with another warhead design team that has been working since 1974 (see March 1974), but has not yet completed its task. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 91]
Pakistani finance minister Ghulam Ishaq Khan (left) and A. Q. Khan. [Source: Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clarke]In 1981, the criminal BCCI bank sets up a charity called the BCCI Foundation. Pakistani Finance Minister Ghulam Ishaq Khan grants it tax-free status, and it supposedly spends millions on charitable purposes. Khan serves as the chairman of the foundation while also running the books for A. Q. Khan’s Kahuta Research Laboratories. Ghulam Ishaq Khan will be president of Pakistan from 1988 to 1993. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 126-127] BCCI founder Agha Hasan Abedi announces that he will donate up to 90% of BCCI’s profits to charity through the foundation, and he develops a positive reputation from a few well-publicized charitable donations. But the charity is actually used to shelter BCCI profits. Most of the money it raises goes to A. Q. Khan’s nuclear program and not to charitable causes. For instance, in 1987 it gives a single $10 million donation to an institute headed by A. Q. Khan. Millions more go to investments in a front company owned by BCCI figure Ghaith Pharaon. [Beaty and Gwynne, 1993, pp. 290-291] An investigation by the Los Angeles Times will reveal that less than 10% of the money went to charity. [Los Angeles Times, 8/9/1991] BCCI uses other means to funnel even more money into A. Q. Khan’s nuclear program (see 1980s).
Saudi Arabia offers the Pakistani government $800 million to help develop a nuclear bomb, according to the London Sunday Times. Reportedly, the offer is contingent on Pakistan not sharing the technology with Iraq or Libya, and Pakistani scientist A. Q. Khan is involved in the negotiations. [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 118, 248]
Pakistan produces its first weapons-grade uranium. The sample is produced by a team led by scientist A. Q. Khan that is working on building a nuclear weapon. Authors Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark will later call this “a colossal breakthrough on the path to manufacturing a nuclear bomb.” Khan informs Pakistani dictator Muhammad Zia ul-Haq of the breakthrough. Zia then visits the facility where Khan works, renaming it after Khan in May. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 84] Khan had first enriched uranium three years previously, but that apparently had not been weapons grade (see Shortly Before or on April 4, 1978).
Pakistani dictator Muhammad Zia ul-Haq orders nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan to prepare for a cold test of a nuclear weapon. The instruction is given shortly after Khan tells Zia that he has managed to enrich uranium to weapons grade (see (March-April 1981)), and after Zia visits the facility where Khan works, re-naming it after him. The CIA will soon learn of this instruction. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 84-85, 90]
A. Q. Khan. [Source: CBC]A Dutch court sentences A. Q. Khan to four years in jail after convicting him in absentia for espionage. Khan denies that he stole plans from URENCO, a maker of uranium enrichment centrifuges, when he worked there translating documents in the 1970s. Khan was employed by Physical Dynamics Research Laboratory, or FDO, a company that was sub-contracted by the URENCO consortium. [MSNBC, 2004; CNN, 2/5/2004]
Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan sends one of his associates, Peter Griffin, a copy of the book The Islamic Bomb. The book has the dedication, “With kindest regards, my friend, Peter Griffin,” and is signed “Dr. AQ Khan.” It will be seized several years later by British customs agents during a search of Griffin’s home. The book details Khan’s role in Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program and the help provided to him by Griffin and one of Griffin’s partners, Abdus Salam. Griffin had earlier claimed he did not understand what Khan was doing with the technical equipment he shipped to him (see 1980), but the book must remove any doubts about the real nature of Khan’s work. Despite this, Griffin continues to work with Khan for a number of years, and will later say, “Anything that could be sent to Pakistan, I sent to Pakistan.” [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 102]
A. Q. Khan, head of Pakistan’s attempt to build a nuclear device, makes comments to a Pakistani journalist indicating the country is engaged in a nuclear weapons program: “Western countries had never imagined that a poor and backward country like Pakistan would end their [nuclear] monopoly in such a short time.… As soon as they realized that Pakistan had dashed their dreams to the ground, they pounced at Pakistan and me like hungry jackals and began attacking us with all kinds of accusations and falsehood.… How could they tolerate a Muslim country becoming their equal in this field.… All Western countries including Israel are not only the enemies of Pakistan but in fact of Islam.… All these activities are part of the crusade which Christians and Jews have been carrying on against Muslims for about one thousand years.” [New Yorker, 3/29/1993]
The conviction of Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan on charges of attempted espionage in the Netherlands is overturned on appeal. Khan had been sentenced to four years in prison in 1983 for stealing nuclear secrets from a European company (see March-December 15, 1975 and 1983), but the original verdict is overturned because the summons enabling Khan to respond to the charges was not properly served. On national television in Pakistan, Khan declares he is “vindicated” by the appeal court. [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 67]
A. Q. Khan, the scientist in charge of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program, tells a US analyst that Pakistan will never halt its development of nuclear weapons. The analyst, who meets Khan at an international energy conference, will later have some connection to the US government, but it is unclear if he does so at this time. Khan tells him: “Never again. Whatever else occurs, even if we tell you we’ve terminated [the nuclear weapons program], I can tell you that I will not be allowed to terminate, because we must continue to show the Indians that we have the ability to never again be defeated at their hands.” [New Yorker, 3/29/1993]
In Dubai, Sri Lankan businessman Mohamed Farouqand and German engineer Heinz Mebus meet with as many as three Iranian officials, presenting them with an offer to sell Iran the expertise and materials needed to develop a nuclear weapons program. Both Farouqand and Mebus are connected to A. Q. Khan, the head of Pakistan’s nuclear program who also operates a network of nuclear manufacturers and suppliers located in more than 30 countries. According to two Western diplomats interviewed by the Washington Post in 2005, the offer lays out a five-step plan which would begin with the provision of technical drawings for Pakistani centrifuges. In phase two of the plan, the network would supply Iran with a starter kit of one or two centrifuges. This would be followed by the sale of as many as 2,000 centrifuges, which could then be used to enrich uranium. In the final phases of the plan, Iran would be provided with auxiliary items for the centrifuges and enrichment process as well as reconversion and casting equipment for building the core of a bomb. It is not known whether or not the Iranians accept this particular deal; however, at some point the Iranians do eventually obtain centrifuge parts from Khan (see March 10, 2005). [Washington Post, 2/27/2005]
Pakistan successfully builds a nuclear weapon around this year. The bomb is built largely thanks to the illegal network run by A. Q. Khan. Pakistan will not actually publicly announce this or test the bomb until 1998 (see May 28, 1998), partly because of a 1985 US law imposing sanctions on Pakistan if it were to develop nuclear weapons (see August 1985-October 1990). [Hersh, 2004, pp. 291] However, Khan will tell a reporter the program has been successful around this time (see March 1987).
Around this time, the network set up by Pakistani scientist A. Q. Khan to purchase components for Pakistan’s nuclear weapons begins to sell the technology and know-how it has acquired to other nations, including Iran, North Korea, and Libya. A US analyst predicts this will happen (see Mid-1989), but neither the US nor its allies takes action against the network for some time. [Guardian, 10/13/2007]
Soon after people involved in the A. Q. Khan nuclear proliferation ring start to meet with Iranian representatives (see 1987 and 1987), Israeli intelligence becomes aware of these contacts. Authors Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark will comment that the Israeli intelligence community studies “the Pakistan-Iran nuclear pact since its inception in 1987.” One of the key elements in the Israeli effort is Unit 8200, an intelligence component of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), which will crack the encryption used in communications between Pakistan and Iran at some point in the next few years. The intercepts suggest that Pakistan may have given the Iranians what Levy and Scott-Clark will call “a nuclear weapons factory.” Future IDF chief Moshe Ya’alon will say of the period in the mid-90s: “Pakistan was broke. Khan was flying around the world alongside his military escort. Our people overheard him dealing and many of these deals came back to Iran, to whom he was offering KRL stock.” [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 256]
A. Q. Khan. [Source: CBC]A. Q. Khan, father of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program, tells an Indian reporter that the program has been successful (see 1987). “What the CIA has been saying about our possessing the bomb is correct,” he says, adding, “They told us Pakistan could never produce the bomb and they doubted my capabilities, but they now know we have it.” He says that Pakistan does not want to use the bomb, but “if driven to the wall there will be no option left.” The comments are made during a major Indian army exercise known as Brass Tacks that Pakistanis consider a serious threat, as it is close to the Pakistani border. In fact, at one point the Indian commanding general is reported to consider actually attacking Pakistan—an attack that would be a sure success given India’s conventional superiority. According to reporter Seymour Hersh, the purpose of the interview is “to convey a not very subtle message to the Indians: any attempt to dismember Pakistan would be countered with the bomb.” This interview is an embarrassment to the US government, which aided Pakistan during the Soviet-Afghan War, but has repeatedly claimed Pakistan does not have nuclear weapons (see August 1985-October 1990). Khan retracts his remarks a few days later, saying he was tricked by the reporter. [New Yorker, 3/29/1993]
Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan supplies North Korea with some basic technology for its nuclear program. The equipment is to be used for enriching uranium, but the Koreans are unable to make full use of the technology as they do not have the technical expertise to master the process alone. This causes co-operation between Pakistan and North Korea on nuclear matters to stall, until it is revived some years later (see Late 1990 or After). [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 220]
Pakistan sends a Stinger missile to North Korea. Pakistan obtained the Stinger from the US, which provided them to Pakistani-backed rebels during the Soviet-Afghan War in the 1980s (see September 1986). The missile is partly intended as a gift for the North Koreans—an incentive for the revival of co-operation between the two countries, which has been stalled for some time (see Late 1980s). In addition, the Stingers held by Pakistan are becoming useless, because their batteries are failing, and the Pakistanis hope that the North Koreans will be able to help them reverse engineer the batteries. The mission to North Korea is undertaken by ISI Director Javed Nasir at the behest of Pakistani army chief Mirza Aslam Beg and nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan, who will later become closely involved in co-operation with the North Koreans. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 220]
On July 11, 1991, retired Pakistani Brigadier General Inam ul-Haq is arrested by German authorities in Frankfurt. His arrest sheds light on the links between the criminal BCCI bank, the Pakistani government, and the A. Q. Khan nuclear network. In 1987, US intelligence attempted to arrest ul-Haq in the US for buying nuclear components there meant for Pakistan’s nuclear program, but some US officials tipped off the Pakistani government about the sting and only a low-level associate of ul-Haq’s was caught (see Before July 1987). [Wall Street Journal, 8/5/1991] The CIA had long known that ul-Haq was one of A. Q. Khan’s key procurement agents, in addition to being close to the Pakistani ISI. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 161] Ul-Haq’s arrest comes just one week after BCCI was shut down worldwide, and he seems linked to that bank as well. In the sting four years before, the Luxembourg and London branches of BCCI helped finance a shipment of nuclear materials out of the US. Shortly after his arrest, Senator John Glenn (D-OH) says that BCCI involvement in his could be a “smoking gun” for US investigators to learn how Pakistan’s nuclear program was financed. [Wall Street Journal, 8/5/1991] Ul-Haq is extradited to the US and convicted in 1992 of attempting to export nuclear related materials to Pakistan. He could have been sentenced to 10 years in prison and a $500,000 fine, but the judge merely sentences him to time served (several months in prison) and a $10,000 fine. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 228]
A biography of Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan called Dr. A. Q. Khan and the Islamic Bomb is published in Pakistan. The book is written by Pakistan Observer editor Zahid Malik, who authors Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark will call Khan’s “favorite scribe.” The book describes Khan’s work on a nuclear weapon for Pakistan. Levy and Scott-Clark will comment that “the scientist [Khan] was glorified while his nemesis Munir Ahmed Khan [former head of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission] (along with every else who had crossed Khan) was rubbished.” [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 306, 519]
Nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan discusses purchasing No-dong missiles with North Korea’s foreign minister, Kim Yong-nam, who is visiting Pakistan. Khan wants the missiles because he is competing with another Pakistani organization, the Pakistani Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC), in missile design, and is losing the competition. The PAEC started designing nuclear-capable missiles before Khan, and can produce missiles with a longer range. The No-dong missiles would enable Khan to leapfrog the PAEC, as they are long-range ballistic missiles that would be able to strike deep inside India. Khan says that Pakistan could purchase the missiles, or the two countries could negotiate an agreement under which Pakistan would give North Korea nuclear weapons technology in exchange for the missiles. An agreement will eventually be reached (see December 29, 1993 and Shortly After). [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 244-245]
North Korea test fires a long-range No-dong missile, and the test is attended by a Pakistani delegation, including nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan and one of his associates, Brigadier Sajawal Khan Malik. Khan and the North Koreans have been discussing the conditions under which Pakistan might acquire the missiles for some time (see August 1992). The missile is said to have a range of 800 miles and to be able to carry a payload weighing 1000 kg. Although the missile is not yet able to carry a nuclear warhead, Khan believes adapting it to do so will not be a problem. Khan will eventually conclude a deal for the missiles through Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto (see December 29, 1993 and Shortly After). [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 245]
Nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan calls Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto to get her approval for a takeover by Khan of a factory in Karachi. The factory, the People’s Steel Mill, had been closed down due to poor management and corruption. Bhutto will say she is surprised that Khan calls her at all: “Frankly, I was shocked. I had got used to not hearing from him.” According to Bhutto, “He said he could do something really hi-tech there that would aid all aspects of life but particularly his program at KRL [Khan Research Laboratories].” Bhutto agrees and the plant soon becomes a key component in Khan’s nuclear program. At the same time, Bhutto also agrees to go to North Korea to facilitate co-operation between the two countries’ nuclear programs (see December 29, 1993 and Shortly After). [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 244]
Newly re-elected Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto asks Pakistan army chief General Wahid Kakar about rumors she has heard of sales of nuclear equipment linked to Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan. Kakar denies that such sales are being made, but they do agree on one measure: giving the military control of access to Khan’s main research plant in Kahuta (see Late 1993). Bhutto will later say that at the start of her second term she made a decision not to become involved with Khan and his work, as she blamed it and her participation in it for her being thrown out of office at the end of her first term. She will also say that Khan was much changed by this time: “He was not the man I had met in my first term. The humility was gone. He was stubborn. Different. Rude. He was, having been awarded that strange title, ‘Father of the Bomb,’ now quite insufferable.” She also adds that Khan had become more religious and conservative, “quite the maulvi [religious scholar].” [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 198, 498]
Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto agrees to visit North Korea at the request of nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan. Khan asked Bhutto to go because he wanted more powerful missiles to carry nuclear weapons he has designed “into the depths of India.” Bhutto will later say she was shielded from Pakistan’s nuclear program and did not know about Pakistan’s missile capability until Khan told her. She will later describe her reply to Khan’s request: “I wanted it to be known that I would not stand in the military’s way, and when Khan told me that only a country like North Korea could provide the kind of intercontinental missiles we needed, I thought there was no harm in it. But I did tell him I would not give him the money to develop these missiles. I believed in parity. India had not escalated by creating such missiles, I thought, so Pakistan would not do so either.” [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 244]
Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto visits North Korea after being asked to do so by nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan to help co-operation between the two countries on nuclear weapons and delivery systems (see Shortly Before December 29, 1993 and Shortly Before December 29, 1993).
Speech - At a formal dinner with North Korean leader Kim Il-Sung, Bhutto says: “Nuclear non-proliferation should not be used as a pretext for preventing states from exercising fully their right to acquire and develop nuclear technology for peaceful purposes geared to their economic and social development.” She adds: “Pakistan is committed to nuclear non-proliferation both at the global and regional level. It is not fair to cast doubts on Pakistan’s interests and to subject Pakistan to discriminatory treatment.”
Deal - Bhutto then asks Kim for blueprints for missiles that can deliver Pakistan’s nuclear weapons in a potential strike on India. Kim is surprised, but Bhutto emphasizes that “We need those missiles.” Kim agrees and proposes setting up technical teams, giving her information on computer discs to take home with her the next day.
Something More? - However, Bhutto will later remark: “They gave me a bag of materials. Kim said the teams each side selected would do the deal, whatever the deal was to be. I really had little idea of what they were discussing. I did wonder, though. Was it only missiles? They said it was to be a cash deal.” Bhutto will also say that General Khawaja Ziauddin, a close associate of Khan, was in charge of the deal for the Pakistanis.
Framed? - When Bhutto returns to Pakistan, she meets with one of her aides, Husein Haqqani, and shows him the bag of materials. Haqqani will later comment: “They could have been anything. It horrified me and I said so. She sensed then that the military had framed her. Her fingerprints were all over whatever their plan was for North Korea.” Bhutto gives the bag to Ziauddin, but will later say: “As far as I knew, the deal involved buying No-dong missiles for cash. But when I requested more information, the military clammed up.” After this trip, Bhutto is apparently not closely involved in Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program and is even unable to obtain information about its budget. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 247-249]
Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan sells uranium enrichment equipment to Iran for $3 million in cash. Sri Lankan businessman Bukhary Syed Abu Tahir, Khan’s key associate, arranges for two containers containing used centrifuge units to be delivered from Pakistan to Iran via an Iranian-owned merchant ship. [BBC, 2/12/2004; Associated Press, 2/20/2004; Washington Times, 9/9/2004]
Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan begins a series of more than a dozen trips to North Korea. By 1998 Khan will be traveling to Pyongyang several times a month. The trips, supervised by Pakistani General Khawaja Ziauddin, follow an agreement concluded by Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and the North Koreans to supply Khan with missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads designed by Khan deep inside India (see December 29, 1993 and Shortly After). Khan presumably travels to North Korea to facilitate the acquisition of the missiles, although he may also be passing on nuclear secrets to the North Koreans. Khan is accompanied by one of his key associates, Brigadier Sajawal Khan Malik, whose son Dr. Muhammad Shafiq ur-Rehman will tell journalists Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark of the trips in 2006. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 249-250, 278, 510]
The CIA sets up a number of front companies with the intention of penetrating the nuclear proliferation ring founded by Pakistani scientist A. Q. Khan. One of the companies is Brewster Jennings & Associates (see Before May 22, 1994), which will be used as cover by Valerie Plame Wilson, a CIA officer outed in 2003. The precise way in which the CIA attempts to penetrate the network is not known. [Sunday Times (London), 1/27/2008] Former CIA Director George Tenet will hint at the methods used in a 2007 book: “The small unit working this effort recognized that it would be impossible to penetrate proliferation networks using conventional intelligence gathering tactics. Security considerations do not permit me to describe the techniques we used. Patiently, we put ourselves in a position to come in contact with individuals and organizations that we believed were part of the overall proliferation problem.” [Tenet, 2007, pp. 283]
Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan supplies Iran with blueprints for an advanced P2 centrifuge, used to produce weapons-grade uranium. Iran already has some technology for centrifuges and spare parts provided by Khan in the 1980s (see 1987), but discovers that what it has is out of date. The new, German-designed P2 centrifuges are better than the earlier P1 versions, as they have rotors made from specialty steel and are more reliable. Khan also makes other deliveries of nuclear weapons technology to Iran around this time (see 1994). [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 256]
Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan visits Syria. According to authors Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark, he meets with “a senior Syrian government official” and is accompanied by a Pakistani army officer, apparently Brigadier Sajawal Khan Malik. The visit is monitored by Israeli intelligence. Moshe Ya’alon, later head of Israeli military intelligence, will say: “Khan had a menu with him. He was offering nuclear assistance. But we do not know if the deal went through. What we determined was that although Khan was intent on selling to Damascus, he was also keen to use Syria as a conduit to deliver nuclear assistance to Iran. Nobody was looking at Syria in those days from a nuclear perspective.” [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 256]
Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan represents Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) at the Defense Services Asia conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Authors Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark will later obtain a copy of KRL’s brochure for the conference. It reads in part: “Keeping pace with the emerging demands of the competitive international defense products market, KRL ventures to offer its expertise in the shape of services and products not only to the domestic consumer but also to an international audience of friendly countries.… KRL has earned credibility not only in South East Asia but also in the Middle East and West Asia.” [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 261]
General Jehangir Karamat, chief of Pakistan’s general staff, issues a statement in support of nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan, saying that his “achievements to date are a source of strength and pride for the whole nation.” Authors Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark will cite this as an example of pressure being applied to have Khan’s status raised at this time, writing that Khan was “being maneuvered into ever more rarified positions,” and that a “growing lobby demanded that the prime minister award him another title.” [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 262] Khan receives Pakistan’s highest civilian honor the next month (see August 14, 1996).
Nuclear proliferator A. Q. Khan receives Pakistan’s highest civilian honor, the Nishan-i-Imtiaz, from Pakistani President Farooq Ahmad Khan Leghari. The decision to grant the award was taken by Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, following pressure from supporters of Khan (see July 4, 1996). Bhutto will later say that the supporters called her at her office, demanding more tangible recognition for Khan’s “invaluable work.” “They kept pressuring me,” she will recall. “There was no modesty about it.” [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 262]
The US begins to send Pakistan a series of demarches complaining about its nuclear proliferation activities. The sending of the demarches follows the receipt of intelligence about nuclear deals between Pakistan and North Korea. North Korea’s plutonium program is in abeyance at this time, but it has begun a uranium enrichment project and the US is aware of this. However, according to State Department official Robert Einhorn, Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan is never mentioned in the demarches, at the CIA’s request. The CIA wants Khan’s proliferation network to continue to run and is worried that mentioning him in them would tip him off to what the CIA knows. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 280]
At some point in early 1998, the Pakistani military tells nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan that he should keep a lower profile. The request is apparently made as a result of US pressure on Pakistani nuclear proliferation operations. In addition, Western and Israeli intelligence services are aware of Khan’s operations in Dubai, a hub for his business, making it unsecure. In response to these twin stimuli, Khan will decide to make use of his contacts in Southeast Asia and Africa, to which elements of his operations will be relocated. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 282]
Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan takes five pieces of luggage, including two large crates that nobody is allowed to check, to North Korea. The crates contain P-1 and P-2 centrifuges for enriching uranium, drawings, technical data, and uranium hexafluoride, which is needed to start the uranium enrichment process. Khan takes the goods on a plane belonging to Shaheen Air International, which makes regular flights between North Korea and Pakistan to facilitate nuclear technology transfers (see (1998 and Possibly After)). The stated purpose of the flight is to carry the body of Kim Sa-nae, a North Korean diplomat’s wife who was recently murdered in Pakistan (see Early June 1998). The diplomat, Kang Thae Yun, is said to be involved in North Korea’s nuclear proliferation attempts and disappears around the time of this flight. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 278]
A five-day wedding celebration in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, provides an opportunity for key players in A. Q. Khan’s nuclear smuggling ring to get together and discuss moving some of their operations from Dubai to Southeast Asia and Africa. The groom is Bukhary Sayed Abu Tahir, a key facilitator for Khan who is to marry a woman named Nazimah, the daughter of his aunt and a Malaysian diplomat. Other key players who attend the meeting include European figures in the network Henk Slebos and Peter Griffin, Griffin’s wife Anna, Brigadier Sajawal Khan Malik, a Pakistani military official close to Khan, Farooq Hashmi and Mohammad Farooq, other Pakistani associates of Khan, and Dr. Riaz Chowhan, a general and Khan’s physician. Abdul Siddiqui, father of a London-based Khan associate, is also in attendance, as are 300 employees from a Dubai-based Khan front company called SMB Computers and 100 scientists from Khan Research Laboratories in Pakistan. Griffin will say that Khan keeps a low profile at the wedding, commenting, “He made no mention of the recent nuclear tests in Pakistan and kept in the background throughout the celebration.” Khan and his associates spend some time planning to relocate some of their operations, as their hub in Dubai is now well known to intelligence services (see Early 1998). Some elements are to be moved to Southeast Asia and some to Africa, and a new client list is also discussed. Intelligence agents working for Britain and the US also attend the wedding and learn of what Khan is planning. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 282-283]
Entity Tags: SMB Computers, Riaz Chowhan, Peter Griffin, Kahuta Research Laboratories, Henk Slebos, Abdul Qadeer Khan, Abdul Siddiqui, Anna Griffin, Bukhary Sayed Abu Tahir, Farooq Hashmi, Mohammad Farooq
Timeline Tags: A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network
Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan and a Pakistani army general travel to North Korea to buy shoulder-launched missiles, according to a later interview of Khan. [Associated Press, 7/5/2008]
A. Q. Khan (left) and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. [Source: CBC]Due to US pressure over Pakistan’s links to North Korea’s nuclear program, some Pakistani officials begin to question whether nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan should continue to play such an active part in his country’s nuclear dealings. General Feroz Khan will later reflect: “It began to dawn on everyone that perhaps Khan had done enough. It was time for others to take over—who were a little less public and whose anonymity suited the secret program better.” Authors Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark will add, “A. Q. Khan, Islamabad’s greatest asset, was becoming a liability because of his ubiquity and ego.” The pressure results from a White House group formed in 1998 (see (Mid-1998)). One of the members of the group, Assistant Secretary of State for Non-proliferation Robert Einhorn, will later say: “I recall a meeting at the residence of [Pakistani President] Nawaz Sharif where we raised the North Korean centrifuge connection. It was raised at the [Deputy Secretary of State] Strobe Talbott level, at the Clinton level too. Eventually the Pakistanis said, ‘We’ll look into this.’ They knew that they had to do something as we were not going to go away.” [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 516]
Yellowcake. [Source: CBC]Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan takes a trip to West Africa. Ostensibly, he is going to oversee the construction of the Hendrina Khan Hotel in Timbuktu, Mali, which he bought the year before and is named after his wife, but it is believed that is just a cover for nuclear-related business. He spends several days in Khartoum, Sudan, where he is spotted touring the al-Shifa factory, bombed by the US the year before in response to al-Qaeda bombings in Africa (see August 20, 1998). In 2006, intelligence sources in India and Israel will claim that Khan actually partly owns the factory. Khan then travels to N’Djamena, the capital of Chad, Timbuktu in Mali, and Niamey, the capital of Niger. Niger has considerable uranium deposits and had been a major supplier of yellowcake uranium to Pakistan in the 1970s. Khan returns to Sudan, where he meets with the Sudanese president, and then returns to Pakistan. He is accompanied by his top nuclear aides and a number of Pakistani generals, and all expenses on the trip are paid for by the Pakistani government.
CIA Investigates Khan Trip - CIA undercover agent Valerie Plame Wilson learns about the trip, and the CIA is so concerned that it launches an investigation, especially to find out if Khan could be buying yellowcake from Niger. Plame Wilson’s husband Joseph Wilson, a former National Security Council official and US ambassador to the nearby country of Gabon who has close ties to important politicians in Niger, and who who has just set up a private consulting firm with a focus on advising clients who want to do business in Africa, is approached by officials from the CIA’s National Resources Division (NR) to visit Niger. The agency asks Wilson, who already has a business trip planned to West Africa, to find out what he can about Khan’s trip.
Illicit Uranium Sales Highly Unlikely - Wilson concludes that illicit uranium sales are very unlikely since the French government tightly controls Niger’s uranium mines and uranium sales. However, Khan’s trip does raise concern that he could be working with Osama bin Laden, because of his interest in the al-Shifa factory in Sudan, and because of intelligence that the hotel he owns in Timbuktu was paid for by bin Laden as part of a cooperative deal between them. The CIA writes and distributes a report on the trip. (In 2004, the Senate Intelligence Committee will erroneously conclude that the CIA did not distribute the Wilson-Niger report—see July 9, 2004.) Wilson will keep this trip secret, even refusing to mention it in his 2004 memoir The Politics of Truth, presumably because he signed a confidentiality agreement with the CIA. In 2002, he will return to Niger to investigate if Saddam Hussein could be buying uranium in Niger (see February 21, 2002-March 4, 2002). That will lead to the eventual outing of his wife Plame Wilson’s status as a CIA agent. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 283-285, 516; Wilson, 2007, pp. 358-360]
Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) minister for information, tours Pakistan. He meets with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan. He is also shown around Khan Research Laboratories, the main facility for producing nuclear weapons in Pakistan. According to the Pakistani newspaper Jasarat, the visit is directly linked to nuclear activities: “Prince Abdullah bin Zayed also asked Dr. Qadeer Khan what help he could give them. Dr. Qadeer replied that Pakistan would not present the atomic bomb or a missile on a platter but could train UAE manpower.” [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 286-287]
Randy Glass, holding a Stinger missile. [Source: David Friedman/ Getty Images]A group of illegal arms merchants, including an ISI agent with foreknowledge of 9/11, had met in a New York restaurant the month before (see July 14, 1999). This same group meets at this time in a West Palm Beach, Florida, warehouse, and it is shown Stinger missiles as part of a sting operation. [South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 3/20/2003] US intelligence soon discovers connections between two in the group, Rajaa Gulum Abbas and Mohammed Malik, Islamic militant groups in Kashmir (where the ISI assists them in fighting against India), and the Taliban. Mohamed Malik suggests in this meeting that the Stingers will be used in Kashmir or Afghanistan. His colleague Diaa Mohsen also says Abbas has direct connections to “dignitaries” and bin Laden. Abbas also wants heavy water for a “dirty bomb” or other material to make a nuclear weapon. He says he will bring a Pakistani nuclear scientist to the US to inspect the material. [MSNBC, 8/2/2002; NBC, 3/18/2003] According to Dick Stoltz, a federal undercover agent posing as a black market arms dealer, one of the Pakistanis at the warehouse claims he is working for A.Q. Khan. A Pakistani nuclear scientist, Khan is considered the father of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program and also the head of an illegal network exporting nuclear technology to rogue nations. [MSNBC, 1/14/2005] Government informant Randy Glass passes these warnings on before 9/11, but he claims, “The complaints were ordered sanitized by the highest levels of government.” [WPBF 25 (West Palm Beach), 8/5/2002] In June 2002, the US secretly indicts Abbas, but apparently they aren’t trying very hard to find him: In August 2002, MSNBC is easily able to contact Abbas in Pakistan and speak to him by telephone. [MSNBC, 8/2/2002]
A nuclear proliferation network operating in the US penetrates the Pentagon and related institutions, according to FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds. Edmonds will later leave the FBI and say she knows this based on telephone conversations she translated as a part of an FBI investigation. The network, which is run by Pakistani scientist A. Q. Khan, but also includes Turkish and Israeli elements, is allegedly helped by a number of senior officials in the Pentagon. Edmonds will later say: “The [senior officials] provided lists of potential moles from Pentagon-related institutions who had access to databases concerning this information. The handlers, who were part of the diplomatic community, would then try to recruit those people to become moles for the network. The lists contained all their ‘hooking points,’ which could be financial or sexual pressure points, their exact job in the Pentagon and what stuff they had access to.” One of the Pentagon figures that is a target of the FBI investigation is Larry Franklin, an analyst who will be jailed in 2006 for passing US defense information to lobbyists and sharing classified information with an Israeli diplomat. According to Edmonds, Franklin is “one of the top people providing information and packages during 2000 and 2001.” [Sunday Times (London), 1/6/2008]
During the course of an investigation into A. Q. Khan’s nuclear smuggling ring, British customs agent Atif Amin and Dubai policeman Alwari Essam visit a plastic bag manufacturer called Green Crest Industries (M.E.) Ltd. in Dubai. According to Amin, the visit is made because an entry in a suspect’s phone book listed a Dubai phone number for Khan that is registered to Green Crest. In addition, apartments and post office boxes rented for Khan by an associate named Bukhary Sayed Abu Tahir appear to be linked to Green Crest. However, the manager and several other employees all deny any knowledge of Khan. At that point, another employee wanders past and says in Punjabi: “Sure we do. He has a flat and he comes here all the time.” Amin, who speaks Punjabi, understands the remark, as well as the manager’s sharp reply. The atmosphere turns hostile and the two investigators leave. Authors David Armstrong and Joe Trento will later talk to the company’s owner, Shaik Muhammad Farooq, who has a long history of dealings with Khan (see Late 1970s-1980s). Farooq will say that Green Crest had “absolutely no relationship” with Tahir, except that they had once swapped apartments in a Dubai building. However, when Farooq is asked later whether Khan ever visited Green Crest, he will curiously contradict himself as he replies: “He never visited our factories. He never visited our office. He never visited. Except sometimes he is there and he is inviting a lot of people including other businessman for dinner or so otherwise no. Absolutely baseless… I’m 100 percent sure he never visited us.” [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 184-5]
British authorities continue to be concerned that the A. Q. Khan nuclear proliferation network may take action against a British customs agent named Atif Amin, who had headed an investigation into the network. Members of the network had previously discussed taking action against Amin when he was in Dubai (see Late March 2000), and this had led to his investigation being curtailed (see Late March 2000). Discussions between network members are overheard by the British intelligence agency MI6, which passes the information on to British Customs. Customs talks to Amin about improving security around his home and investigates network members based in Britain who may pose a threat to him. However, the risk appears to be minimal while he remains in Britain. On the other hand, Khan associates attempt to locate members of his extended family still living in Pakistan, and Khan apparently vows to take action against Amin if he ever comes to Pakistan. [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 192]
A. Q. Khan receiving a medal. [Source: Associated Press]The BBC later reports, “After the elections, [US intelligence] agencies [are] told to ‘back off’ investigating the bin Ladens and Saudi royals, and that anger[s] agents.” This follows previous orders to abandon an investigation of bin Laden relatives in 1996 (see February-September 11, 1996), and difficulties in investigating Saudi royalty. [BBC, 11/6/2001] An unnamed “top-level CIA operative” says there is a “major policy shift” at the National Security Agency at this time. Bin Laden could still be investigated, but agents could not look too closely at how he got his money. One specific CIA investigation hampered by this new policy is an investigation in Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan and his Khan Laboratories. Khan is considered the “father” of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons capability. But since the funding for this nuclear program gets traced back to Saudi Arabia, restrictions are placed on the inquiry. [Palast, 2002, pp. 99-100] Also in early 2001, FBI agent Robert Wright, attempting to pursue an investigation into Saudi multimillionaire Yassin al-Qadi, is told by FBI superiors, “it’s just better to let sleeping dogs lie”(see January-March 2001). Reporter Greg Palast notes that President Clinton was already hindering investigations by protecting Saudi interests. However, as he puts it, “Where Clinton said, ‘Go slow,’ Bush policymakers said, ‘No go.’ The difference is between closing one eye and closing them both.” [Palast, 2002, pp. 102]
Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan says researchers at Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) are developing a revolutionary new satellite launch vehicle. The claim appears in public in an interview with Khan published in the Urdu-language Muslim newspaper. It appears to be conceived as a counter to a series of negative stories about Khan and KRL recently planted in publications by Pakistani leader Pervez Musharraf, who wishes to weaken Khan’s public standing. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 307]
Musharraf and A. Q. Khan. (The date and location of the photo is unknown.) [Source: ABC News]Pakistani leader Pervez Musharraf hosts a dinner at the Serena Hotel in Islamabad, where he gives a speech eulogizing A. Q. Khan. According to authors Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark, the purpose of the speech is to “further placate” Khan following his ouster as head of Khan Research Laboratories. “The nation is grateful to you for what you have done for us, today and for all times to come,” says Musharraf. “You are our national hero and an inspiration to our future generations. Nobody can ever take that away from you and your place in history is assured. You will always be at the very top. We salute you and thank you from the depths of our hearts.” The speech is subsequently reprinted in all Pakistani newspapers. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 308, 519]
Hafiz Mohammed Saeed. [Source: BBC]In April 2001, the Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) holds its annual public meeting in Pakistan. Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan attends the meeting as an honored guest. Accompanying Khan at the podium is Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood, another Pakistani nuclear scientist who had met with Osama bin Laden the year before (see 2000). He will meet with bin Laden again shortly before 9/11 and advise him on how to build a “dirty bomb” (see Mid-August 2001). [Asia Times, 6/4/2004] French journalist Bernard Henri-Levy, the author of a book about Pakistani militant Saeed Sheikh, will later claim in the Wall Street Journal that Khan was a secret member of LeT. [Wall Street Journal, 2/17/2004] The US will ban LeT after 9/11 because of its involvement in a string of attacks against India (see December 20, 2001). LeT is considered linked to al-Qaeda, and bin Laden addressed the annual LeT meeting by phone in some past years. Hafiz Mohammed Saeed, the founder and leader of LeT, has publicly declared that Pakistan should share its nuclear technology with other Islamic nations, a position also advocated by Khan. In 2002, he will claim that people loyal to his organization “control two nuclear missiles.” [Asia Times, 6/4/2004]
US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage says that US concerns about nuclear proliferation are “centered on people who were employed by the Pakistani nuclear agency and who have retired.” This is a clear reference to A. Q. Khan, who retired as head of Khan Research Laboratories, Pakistan’s main nuclear weapons facility, two months ago. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 308-309]
The Library Lounge of the St. Regis Hotel, where Libby and Miller discussed the Wilsons. [Source: Starwood Hotels]Lewis Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, meets with New York Times reporter Judith Miller for breakfast at the St. Regis Hotel in Washington, DC. Libby has already learned that Joseph Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame Wilson, is an undercover CIA agent (see 12:00 p.m. June 11, 2003 and (June 12, 2003)).
Again Reveals Plame Wilson's CIA Identity - During their two-hour meeting, Libby again tells Miller, who will testify to this conversation over two years hence (see September 30, 2005), that Wilson’s wife is a CIA agent (see June 23, 2003), and this time tells Miller that she works with WINPAC, the CIA’s Weapons Intelligence, Non-Proliferation, and Arms Control bureau that deals with foreign countries’ WMD programs.
Claims that Iraq Tried to Obtain African Uranium - Libby calls Wilson’s Times op-ed (see July 14, 2003) inaccurate, and spends a considerable amount of time and energy both blasting Wilson and insisting that credible evidence of an Iraq-Niger uranium connection indeed exists. He also says that few in the CIA were ever aware of Wilson’s 2002 trip to Niger to verify the uranium claims (see February 21, 2002-March 4, 2002). Miller will write: “Although I was interested primarily in my area of expertise—chemical and biological weapons—my notes show that Mr. Libby consistently steered our conversation back to the administration’s nuclear claims. His main theme echoed that of other senior officials: that contrary to Mr. Wilson’s criticism, the administration had had ample reason to be concerned about Iraq’s nuclear capabilities based on the regime’s history of weapons development, its use of unconventional weapons, and fresh intelligence reports.” Libby gives Miller selected information from the classified National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq (NIE—see October 1, 2002) that he says backs up the administration’s claims about Iraqi WMD and the Iraq-Niger uranium claim. That information will later be proven to be false: Cheney has instructed Libby to tell Miller that the uranium claim was part of the NIE’s “key judgments,” indicating that there was consensus on the claim’s validity. That is untrue. The claim is not part of the NIE’s key judgments, but is contained deeper in the document, surrounded by caveats such as the claims “cannot [be] confirm[ed]” and the evidence supporting the claim is “inconclusive.” Libby does not inform Miller about these caveats. [New York Times, 10/16/2005; Dubose and Bernstein, 2006, pp. 216-217; Rich, 2006, pp. 183-184; Washington Post, 4/9/2006] In subsequent grand jury testimony (see March 24, 2004), Libby will admit to giving Miller a bulleted copy of the talking points from the NIE he wanted her to emphasize. He will tell prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald that he had it typed by his assistant Jenny Mayfield. “It was less than what I had been authorized to share with her,” he will say, and describes it as about a third of a page in length. This document will either not be submitted into evidence in Libby’s trial (see January 16-23, 2007) or not be made publicly available. [Marcy Wheeler, 2/22/2007]
Libby Identified as 'Former Hill Staffer' and Not White House Official - Miller agrees to refer to Libby as a “former Hill staffer” instead of a “senior administration official” in any story she will write from this interview. Though technically accurate, that characterization, if it had been used, would misdirect people into believing the information came from someone with current or former connections to Congress, and not from the White House. Miller will not write a story from this interview. In later testimony before a grand jury, Libby will falsely claim that he learned of Plame Wilson’s CIA identity “from reporters.” The reverse is actually true. [New York Times, 10/16/2005; Dubose and Bernstein, 2006, pp. 216-217; Rich, 2006, pp. 183-184] Libby is also apparently aware of Wilson’s 1999 trip to Niger to find out whether Pakistani scientist A. Q. Khan had tried to procure Nigerien uranium (see Late February 1999), as Libby’s notes include the notation “Khan + Wilson?” Cheney’s chief lawyer, David Addington, has also asked Libby about Wilson’s 1999 trip. [Wilson, 2007, pp. 361-362] Libby has authorization from Cheney to leak classified information to Miller, and understands that the authorization comes directly from President Bush (see 7:35 a.m. July 8, 2003). It is unclear whether Libby has authorization from Cheney or Bush to divulge Plame Wilson’s CIA identity.
Miller Learned Plame Wilson Identity from Libby - Miller will later testify that she did not learn Plame Wilson’s identity specifically from Libby, but that testimony will be undermined by the words “Valerie Flame” (an apparent misspelling) written in her notes of this meeting. She will also testify that she pushed, without success, for her editors to approve an article about Plame Wilson’s identity. [New York Times, 10/16/2005]
Entity Tags: Jennifer Mayfield, Weapons Intelligence, Nonproliferation, and Arms Control, Judith Miller, Central Intelligence Agency, Abdul Qadeer Khan, Bush administration (43), Valerie Plame Wilson, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, Joseph C. Wilson, Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby, David S. Addington
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda, Niger Uranium and Plame Outing
In an interview with a Pakistani satellite channel, Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan denies allegations that he was involved in selling nuclear secrets or equipment to Iran. “I am being accused for nothing, I never visited Iran, I don’t know any Iranian, nor do I know any Iranian scientist,” he says. “I will be targeted naturally because I made the nuclear bomb, I made the missile.” [Guardian, 1/31/2004]
A. Q. Khan confesses on television. [Source: CBC]After A. Q. Khan’s nuclear proliferation network was caught selling nuclear technology to Libya, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf is put in a difficult spot over how to deal with Khan. Khan is so popular in Pakistan that Musharraf would face considerable political fallout if Khan is declared a traitor or seriously punished. Khan is placed under house arrest in Pakistan. Then, on February 4, 2004, he apologizes in a carefully staged speech broadcast on Pakistani television. He says that he accepts full responsibility for all nuclear proliferation activities. He insists that neither the Pakistani government nor the Pakistani military was aware or involved in his nuclear network in any way. He asks for forgiveness. “It pains me to realize this, that my entire lifetime of providing foolproof national security to my nation could have been placed in serious jeopardy on account of my activities, which were based in good faith, but on errors of judgment related to unauthorized proliferation activities.” Pakistani journalist and regional expert Ahmed Rashid will later comment, “Most experts accepted that Khan could not have carried out his business without the military’s support.” But US government officials immediately accept Khan’s apology and say that they believe Pakistan’s military had not supported his business. [Rashid, 2008, pp. 289]
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors say they have found designs for an advanced P-2 centrifuge used to enrich uranium in Iranian hands. The designs, which Iran should have declared to the IAEA, match drawings of enrichment equipment that were found in Libya and supplied by Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan. [Associated Press, 2/12/2004]
In the wake of Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan’s public apology for his role in nuclear proliferation on February 4, 2004 (see February 4, 2004), and the US government’s quick acceptance of that apology, it is clear the US expects more cooperation from Pakistan on counterterrorism in return. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz says in an interview on February 19: “In a funny way, the A. Q. Khan [apology]… we feel it gives us more leverage, and it may give [Pakistani President Pervez] Musharraf a stronger hand, that Pakistan has an act to clean up. The international community is prepared to accept Musharraf’s pardoning of Khan for all that he has done, but clearly it is a kind of IOU, and in return for that there has to be a really thorough accounting. Beyond that understanding, we expect an even higher level of cooperation on the al-Qaeda front than we have had to date.” But there is no increased cooperation in the next months. Pakistani journalist and regional expert Ahmed Rashid will later comment: “Musharraf had become a master at playing off Americans’ fears while protecting the army and Pakistan’s national interest.… [He] refused to budge and continued to provide only minimal satisfaction to the United States and the world. He declined to give the CIA access to Khan, and there was no stepped-up hunt for bin Laden.” [Rashid, 2008, pp. 289-290]
On July 8, 2004, the New Republic predicts a “July surprise” from the Bush-Cheney reelection campaign involving the arrest of a high-value target in Pakistan by the end of the month. The magazine reports that in the spring of 2004, the administration increased pressure on Pakistan to kill or capture Osama bin Laden, his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, or Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar, all believed to be hiding in Pakistan. Bush officials such as CIA Director George Tenet, Secretary of State Colin Powell and his assistant, Christina Rocca, State Department counterterrorism chief Cofer Black, and others all visited Pakistan in recent months to urge Pakistan to increase its efforts in the war on terrorism. The New Republic comments, “This public pressure would be appropriate, even laudable, had it not been accompanied by an unseemly private insistence that the Pakistanis deliver these high-value targets (HVTs) before Americans go to the polls in November.” Bush spokespeople deny that the administration exerted any such pressure. But according to one source in the Pakistani ISI, “The Pakistani government is really desperate and wants to flush out bin Laden and his associates after the latest pressures from the US administration to deliver before the [upcoming] US elections.” Another source in the Pakistani Interior Ministry says, “The Musharraf government has a history of rescuing the Bush administration. They now want Musharraf to bail them out when they are facing hard times in the coming elections.” And another ISI source says that the Pakistanis “have been told at every level that apprehension or killing of HVTs before [the] election is [an] absolute must.” The Pakistanis have even been given a target date, according to the second ISI source: “The last ten days of July deadline has been given repeatedly by visitors to Islamabad and during [ISI director Lieutenant General Ehsan ul-Haq’s] meetings in Washington.” The source says that a White House aide told ul-Haq last spring that “it would be best if the arrest or killing of [any] HVT were announced on twenty-six, twenty-seven, or twenty-eight July”—the first three days of the Democratic National Convention in Boston. One Pakistani general said recently, “If we don’t find these guys by the election, they are going to stick this whole nuclear mess [relating to A. Q. Khan] up our _sshole.” The Bush administration apparently is using a carrot-and-stick approach to make sure such an arrest takes place on schedule. The New Republic observes: “Pushing Musharraf to go after al-Qaeda in the tribal areas may be a good idea despite the risks. But, if that is the case, it was a good idea in 2002 and 2003. Why the switch now? Top Pakistanis think they know: This year, the president’s reelection is at stake.” [New Republic, 7/29/2004] Pakistan will announce the capture of al-Qaeda leader Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani on July 29, just hours before Democratic presidential John Kerry’s acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention. The authors of the New Republic article will claim vindication for their prediction (see July 25-29, 2004).
Entity Tags: Osama bin Laden, Pervez Musharraf, Colin Powell, Christina Rocca, Cofer Black, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Abdul Qadeer Khan, Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, Mullah Omar, John Kerry, George J. Tenet, George W. Bush, Ehsan ul-Haq
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 2004 Elections
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) begins investigating a 1987 meeting (see 1987) where two associates of A. Q. Khan presented Iranian officials with an offer to sell Iran nuclear technology and materials. [Washington Post, 2/27/2005]
An Iranian exile group says it has evidence that Iran is still enriching uranium and will continue to do so despite an agreement it signed pledging it to halt such activities. The group, the National Council of Resistance in Iran (NCRI), the political arm of the Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK), also charges that in the mid-1990s, Iran bought the plans for a Chinese nuclear bomb from the global nuclear technology network led by Pakistan’s A. Q. Khan. Khan’s network sold the same type of bomb blueprint to Libya, which has renounced its nuclear ambitions (see December 2003). The NCRI’s Mohammed Mohaddessin says the Khan network also provided Iran with a small amount of highly enriched uranium, though the amount is too small to use for a weapon. While the NCRI provided information in 2002 that helped disclose Iran’s secret nuclear program, many of its subsequent allegations have been proven false.
Claims - Mohaddessin uses satellite photos to show what he says is a new nuclear facility inside Tehran’s Center for the Development of Advanced Defense Technology (CDADT). He says that the CDADT also houses chemical and biological weapons programs, and that Iran began enriching uranium at the site in early 2003. Mohaddessin refuses to provide any evidence for his claims, instead saying, “Our sources were 100 percent sure about their intelligence.” Those sources, he says, are scientists and other people working in the facilities, and local citizens living near the facilities who see what he calls suspicious activities.
Reaction - Many diplomats and arms control experts dismiss the NCRI’s claims, saying the claims are an attempt to undermine the recent agreement Tehran signed with Britain, France, and Germany to restrict its uranium enrichment program. In return, the agreement says, Iran can continue working on developing nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. [Washington Post, 11/18/2004]
The US sends teams of US-trained former Iranian exiles, sometimes accompanied by US Special Forces, from Iraq into southern and eastern Iran to search for underground nuclear installations. [New Yorker, 1/24/2005; United Press International, 1/26/2005; Guardian, 1/29/2005] In the north, Israeli-trained Kurds from northern Iraq, occasionally assisted by US forces, look for signs of nuclear activity as well. [United Press International, 1/26/2005] Both teams are tasked with planting remote detection devices, known as “sniffers,” which can sense radioactive emissions and other indicators of nuclear-enrichment programs while also helping US war planners establish targets. [New Yorker, 1/24/2005; United Press International, 1/26/2005] The former Iranian exiles operating in the south and east are members of Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK), a group that has been included in the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations since 1997 (see 1997) and included in a government white paper (see September 12, 2002) that criticized Iraq for its support of the group. After the US invaded Iraq, members of MEK were “consolidated, detained, disarmed, and screened for any past terrorist acts” by the US (see July 2004) and designated as “protected persons.” (see July 21, 2004) Initially, the MEK operate from Camp Habib in Basra, but they later launch their incursions from the Baluchi region in Pakistan. [United Press International, 1/26/2005; Newsweek, 2/15/2005] They are assisted by information from Pakistani scientists and technicians who have knowledge of Iran’s nuclear program. [New Yorker, 1/24/2005] Pakistan apparently agreed to cooperate with the US in exchange for assurances that Pakistan would not have to turn over A. Q. Khan, the so-called “father of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb,” to the IAEA or to any other international authorities for questioning. Khan, who is “linked to a vast consortium of nuclear black-market activities,” could potentially be of great assistance to these agencies in their efforts to undermine nuclear weapons proliferation. [New Yorker, 1/24/2005] In addition to allowing Pakistan to keep Khan, the US looks the other way as Pakistan continues to buy parts for its nuclear-weapons arsenal in the black market, according to a former high-level Pakistani diplomat interviewed by Seymour Hersh [New Yorker, 1/24/2005] The United States’ use of MEK is criticized by Western diplomats and analysts who agree with many Iranians who consider the group to be traitors because they fought alongside Iraqi troops against Iran in the 1980s. [Christian Science Monitor, 12/31/2003]
Iran hands over documents from a 1987 meeting in Dubai (see 1987) to a International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) investigation (see November 2004). During the 1987 meeting, associates of A. Q. Khan presented Iranian officials with an offer to sell Iran the technology and materials to build a nuclear bomb. However, the IAEA does not uncover any evidence suggesting that the equipment was used in anything other than Iran’s civilian nuclear energy program. The violations are technical and based only on the fact that Iran failed to report the program. Despite its recent findings, the IAEA investigation claims it still lacks a clear understanding of Iran’s nuclear program. [Washington Post, 2/27/2005]
A. Q: Khan (right) and Mahathir bin Mohamad, Prime Minister of Malaysia from 1981 to 2003 (left). [Source: CBC]A Sri Lankan named Bukhary Sayed Abu Tahir is accused by President Bush of being the chief financial officer for an international nuclear black market linked to A. Q. Khan, the so-called father of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb. Tahir sat on the board of Kaspudu Sendirian Berhad, which is owned by the Malaysian prime minister’s son, Kamaluddin Abdullah. The Associated Press claims that a search of publicly accessible files revealed the paper trail that outlines links between Abdullah and Abu Tahir. The paperwork revealed that they were both executives at Kaspudu Sendirian Berhad when Tahir made a deal for Scomi Precision Engineering to build components that Western intelligence sources claim were for use in Libya’s nuclear program. The Scomi Group fulfilled a $3.5 million manufacturing contract for machine parts negotiated by Tahir. Scomi officials say they did not know what the parts were for, while nonproliferation authorities claim they were for 14 centrifuges. US officials insist the components, tubes made up of thousands of small pieces, could only be used in a uranium enrichment program. A Scomi spokeswoman insisted that the company was told the parts were for the oil and gas industry. After the revelation, Abdullah severs ties to Tahir. Malaysian police say neither Tahir or Scomi have committed any crime and no arrests have been made, which the official government report backed up. President Bush has accused Tahir of using a Dubai based company called Gulf Technical Industries as a front for Khan’s network. [Malaysia, 2/21/2004; Time, 2/16/2005; CNN, 2/18/2005]
Pakistan Minister for Information and Broadcasting Sheikh Rashid Ahmed says that the now pardoned A. Q. Khan was involved in black market nuclear arms deals and that he gave the Iranians centrifuge parts. “[Khan] had given centrifuges to Iran in his individual capacity and the government of Pakistan had nothing to do with this,” Ahmed tells reporters. Despite these acknowledgments, Ahmed says Pakistan “will not hand over [Khan] to any other country.” The Pakistani government insists that it had no knowledge of Khan’s activities, but numerous experts have questioned these claims noting that it would have been impossible for him to keep his activities secret. [BBC, 3/10/2005; CNN, 3/10/2005]
The online news site Raw Story publishes an article claiming that the exposure of covert CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson (see June 13, 2003, June 23, 2003, July 7, 2003, 8:30 a.m. July 8, 2003, July 8, 2003, 11:00 a.m. July 11, 2003, 8:00 a.m. July 11, 2003, Late Afternoon, July 12, 2003, 1:26 p.m. July 12, 2003, July 12, 2003, and July 14, 2003) caused more damage to US national security than has previously been admitted, particularly in the area of containing foreign nuclear proliferation. Editor and reporter Larisa Alexandrovna sources the story from a number of anonymous current and former intelligence officials. Plame Wilson, the officials say, was an integral part of an operation tracking distribution and acquisition of weapons of mass destruction technology to and from Iran. Alexandrovna writes, “Their [the officials’] accounts suggest that Plame [Wilson]‘s outing was more serious than has previously been reported and carries grave implications for US national security and its ability to monitor Iran’s burgeoning nuclear program.” The officials say that while previous reports indicate Plame Wilson may have been involved in monitoring nuclear “black market” activities, particularly those involving Abdul Qadeer Khan (see Late February 1999), her real focus was Iran, though her team would have come into contact with Khan’s black market network during the course of its work on Iran’s nuclear program. Khan’s network is believed to have been the primary source of Iran’s nuclear weapons efforts. The officials refuse to identify the specifics of Plame Wilson’s work, but do say that her exposure resulted in “severe” damage to her team and significantly hampered the CIA’s ability to monitor nuclear proliferation. [Raw Story, 2/13/2006] The officials also say that the CIA conducted an “aggressive” in-house assessment of the damage caused by Plame Wilson’s exposure shortly after the White House leaked her identity to the press, and found the damage done by the leak “severe” (see Before September 16, 2003).
While the Bush administration claims that Iran is risking “World War III” by continuing to pursue nuclear weapons (see October 20, 2007), an array of experts inside and outside the government quoted in a McClatchy News article say that there is no conclusive evidence that Iran is actively pursuing such weapons. The story, and the alleged facts, change depending on which administration official is doing the speaking. President Bush and Vice President Cheney use harsh, bellicose rhetoric reminiscent of the rhetoric used in the run-up to the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, but others, such as Bush’s “point man” on Iran, Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns, is attempting to tone down the rhetoric. Burns recently told reporters, “Iran is seeking a nuclear capability… that some people fear might lead to a nuclear-weapons capability.” Another US official says more directly, “I don’t think that anyone right today thinks [Iran is] working on a bomb.” Iran has the capability to continue working on producing a nuclear weapon, experts note, and could transform its current uranium-enrichment program into a weapons program if it so desired. But as of now, US experts have an amalgamation of circumstantial evidence and supposition, and no real proof; reporter Jonathan Landay observes, “Bush’s rhetoric seems hyperbolic compared with the measured statements by his senior aides and outside experts.” The UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency agrees. With four years of inspections of Iran’s nuclear energy program behind it, the IAEA says it has no information that would show Iran has an active nuclear weapons program. The circumstantial evidence that leads some to assert the reality of Iran’s active nuclear weapons program is extensive, but not always solid. In 2006, the CIA gave the IAEA thousands of pages of computer simulations and documents that it claimed it took from a defector’s laptop; those documents showed that Iranian experts were working on mounting a nuclear warhead on a ballistic missile, and working on developing nuclear “triggers,” or detonators. The CIA calls all of this Project 111. The Iranians denounced the materials as “politically motivated and baseless,” and have promised to cooperate with an IAEA investigation into the matter. Many Western intelligence officials and outside experts believe the materials are genuine—“I wouldn’t go to war over this, but it’s reason for suspicion,” says one—but Dr. Muhammad Sahimi, an Iranian defector who has closely monitored Iran’s nuclear program for decades, dismisses the materials as “totally not believable,” observing, “If the laptop did exist, I find it hard to believe that its absence wasn’t noticed for so long that somebody could take it out of Iran.” The IAEA has other questions as well, including a document from the nuclear black-market program of Dr. A. Q. Khan that shows how to form uranium into explosive cores, Iran’s experiments with radioactive materials used primarily in nuclear warheads, Iranian involvement with a uranium mine, and Iran’s claim that it needs large amounts of nuclear energy to feed its energy needs when it sits on such large reserves of oil and gas. Sahimi answers this last point by noting Iran would, in his opinion, do better to sell its petroleum on the global market and rely on nuclear energy for its own needs. [McClatchy News, 11/4/2007] A month after this article is published, the administration will release an intelligence report that concludes Iran stopped work on nuclear weapons in 2003 (see December 3, 2007).
Receive weekly email updates summarizing what contributors have added to the History Commons database
Developing and maintaining this site is very labor intensive. If you find it useful, please give us a hand and donate what you can.
If you would like to help us with this effort, please contact us. We need help with programming (Java, JDO, mysql, and xml), design, networking, and publicity. If you want to contribute information to this site, click the register link at the top of the page, and start contributing.