"(Benazir Bhutto) said two things that sealed her fate. She said that if elected PM, she would allow US forces to hunt for bin Laden on Pakistani soil, and that she would allow the Vienna-based IAEA to interrogate the rogue nuclear scientist, AQ Khan about his nuclear smugglings to North Korea, Iran, Libya, etc. After those statements, she had no chance of surviving."
There's one small problem: the CIA, the FBI, and Britain's MI6 probably know more about the so-called 'AQ Khan network' than AQ Khan himself.
For some reason, the criminals involved in the nuclear black market are still (mostly) walking free - in Pakistan, the US and elsewhere - while those who threatened to expose them - Richard Barlow, Sibel Edmonds, Valerie Plame, and the latest addition, Atif Amin - have been harassed, threatened and gagged.
According to Joe Trento:
The CIA even started using some of the Khan network’s front companies for its own purposes.
Maybe that explains it.
When AQ Khan first acquired the centrifuge blueprints in Holland in 1976, the CIA asked the Dutch government not to arrest him. They've been watching him, and the rest of the network, ever since. They watched him build the 'Islamic Bomb' in Pakistan, and they watched the proliferation - to Iran, to North Korea, to Libya, and to maybe a dozen other countries and terrorist groups like al Qaida.
At various times in the last 30 years, (elements of) the US and British governments:
a) actively assisted in the proliferation
b) tipped off the perpetrators to various stings
c) stopped investigations into the network
d) destroyed people who threatened the network: Richard Barlow, Sibel Edmonds, Valerie Plame, and the latest addition, Atif Amin.
In fact, the CIA apparently knew more about the Pakistan program than even Benazir Bhutto when she was Prime Minister.
According to Seymour Hersh's fantastic 1993 article in the New Yorker
"The question of what Ms. Bhutto knew, or didn’t know, about the bomb would be resolved when she paid a scheduled state visit to Washington in June (1990); at that time she was provided with a detailed briefing by William H. Webster, the C.I.A. director. To dramatize the extent of American knowledge, Webster arranged for Ms. Bhutto to be shown a mockup of a Pakistani nuclear bomb.
Mark A. Siegel, a former Carter Administration official and close Bhutto associate, who served as Pakistan’s American lobbyist in 1989 and 1990, described her feelings of disbelief upon being briefed by Webster. “The briefing was more detailed” than any information that she, as Prime Minister, had been provided, Siegel said. “It also showed that the military was doing it behind her back.” "
"Rogue Nuclear Scientist"
In the quote at the beginning of this article, Richard Sale refers to AQ Khan as a "rogue nuclear scientist" - that's pure nonsense. When I interviewed Richard Barlow last year, he said that the idea that Khan was operating alone is "preposterous" and "impossible" and that Pakistan's ISI was probably even acting as security detail every time Khan went to meet a client or prospective client. "The notion that Khan was moving all these centrifuges and all that out of Kahuta and nobody noticed? Give me a break." Barlow says. "I believe that AQ Khan was doing this as a matter of Pakistan policy - there's no way that he could have gotten away with major elements of this without the knowledge of the highest levels of his government - certainly the military, at least, which is one and the same thing in Pakistan."
Barlow also said:
"It's impossible that we (CIA) didn't know about the selling (proliferation) network if we were continuing to monitor the buying (procurement) network because it's the same network. It's the same people!"
Of course, the network continues to operate, even today, and I'm sure the CIA and MI6 - and probably every other security & intelligence organization on the planet - watches their every move.
One of AQ Khan's American suppliers was a company called Giza Technologies in New Jersey. Giza's 'exposure' was 'officially' the result of an anonoymous email tip in 2003. Josh Meyer in the LA Times wrote:
"In a stroke of good fortune, federal agents were able to get an inside view of one of those business deals. Authorities launched their investigation in July, after an anonymous South African tipster said Karni (the buyer) had been using front companies, straw buyers and misleading shipping documents to sell restricted U.S. products to Pakistan and India. "
This, too, is nonsense. More than two years earlier, Sibel translated a wiretapped phonecall between Giza's CEO Zeki Bilmen and, presumably, the American Turkish Council (ATC) - which was already under counter-intelligence and counter-proliferation investigations for involvement in nuclear black market activities.
Zeki Bilmen got off scot-free - and his business continued to flourish. In 2005, Sibel said:
And (Giza's) business – well, business is good.
They have many shipments going out, coming in, all day long. To places like Dubai, Spain, South Africa, Turkey. They have branches in all these places. Yep, they're sailing along very smoothly.
When asked how this is possible, Sibel replied:
"It's beyond logical explanation. Maybe it was decided in high places that no one would touch him."
In the movie, Kill The Messenger about the nuclear black market element of Sibel's case, Joe Trento says:
"So the question is: who is responsible for allowing this to happen? Why wasn’t Giza exposed? Giza wasn’t exposed because it may have been used for other operations in the past. It may have been a front for the U.S intelligence service!
It’s outrageous! There’s every evidence that the United States were deeply involved, in not only helping AQ Khan set up the network but aiding Pakistan in getting a nuclear weapon."
As I mentioned earlier, Trento recently said:
The CIA even started using some of the Khan network’s front companies for its own purposes.
Trento doesn't make clear whether Giza is one of the front companies that is used by the CIA, but an anonymous "U.S intelligence officer" in Kill The Messenger who is "very familiar with Turkish espionage activities" - including the ATC - says:
"There is a huge base here in the States, involving the Turks, the Israelis and the U.S governement. The American Turkish Council was one place where a lot of intelligence activities would stem from. It can relate to anything that they feel would be good for their arsenal of weapons... Nuclear or non nuclear. For example, computer hardware, maybe software.
There are people within the State Department and also in the U.S Congress that were facilitating the Israelis and the Turks in obtaining proprietary information or restricted technology.
That’s why there is a gag order against Sibel Edmonds!"
By using corporations working for Turkey, as front companies, you’ll probably find hundreds in the United States. A lot of these companies have government contracts. Classified contracts! That opens the doors to them... And that’s what I was getting at. In order to find out more information, you have to look at Giza!
Valerie Plame - and Brewster Jennings - were essentially on the same beat as Sibel, tracking the nuclear proliferation operations at the American Turkish Council, inevitably incorporating the so-called 'AQ Khan network'. Here's Phil Giraldi in Kill The Messenger:
"(Plame) worked for a company called Brewster Jennings.
And Brewster Jennings was working against the target of Turkey, meaning that Turkey was being investigated by the CIA as a proliferator of weapons."
Atif Amin is the latest victim. He is a British customs agent who stumbled across the so-called AQ Khan network in 2000. According to the Guardian in mid December:
A senior customs investigator could face prosecution under the Official Secrets Act over suspicions that he exposed how US and British intelligence agencies interfered in his attempts to halt an international nuclear smuggling ring.
Police and officials from the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) have searched the home of Atif Amin for evidence that he passed classified information to the American authors of a book about the worldwide nuclear proliferation network.
Amin was in charge of Operation Akin, an investigation into links between British companies and the illegal network run by Abdul Qadeer Khan, a Pakistani scientist who helped build that country's nuclear arsenal.
The investigation is the subject of a book recently published in the US, America and the Islamic Bomb: The Deadly Compromise. Its authors, David Armstrong and Joseph Trento, contend that in 2000 Amin uncovered evidence in Dubai of the Khan network's involvement in establishing Libya's nuclear programme but was ordered to drop his inquiries and return home, at the request of the CIA and MI6.
The Libyan programme and the Khan network were not exposed and halted until 2003. The book argues that in the intervening three years the network continued to sell nuclear technology and possibly weapons designs to Iran, North Korea and possibly other countries, under the noses of US and British intelligence.
The investigation of Amin is a deliberate distraction. By targeting him, the CIA and MI6 hope to stop Parliament and Congress from delving into the issue of why the United States and Britain allowed the Khan network to proliferate for three extra years. Amin had uncovered evidence in Dubai in April 2000 of the Khan network supplying nuclear technology to Libya. When he did, British and American spies, according to top-level CIA officials, feared he was endangering what one described “as our own penetration of the Khan network.” The infiltration, according to those sources, was intended to allow the the CIA to feed faulty bomb designs to Khan’s customers and thereby slow down their nuclear programs. The CIA even started using some of the Khan network’s front companies for its own purposes. But Amin’s investigation threatened all this. As a result, it was shut down—and Khan’s nuclear smuggling was allowed to continue.
I don't fully buy into Trento's narrative about 'the intervening three years' between Amin's 'discovery' and the eventual outing of the so-called 'Khan network' in 2003. As I've argued, the CIA, FBI and MI6 tracked the 'Khan network' continually since 1976, so Amin's 'discovery' was really nothing of the sort - he simply stumbled across something that these agencies had been aware of, and condoned, the whole time. Of course, I also don't buy into the CIA's (anonymous) argument that Amin's work endangered its' “own penetration of the Khan network.” After 30 years, and at least 3 nuclear 'success' stories, I don't think they deserve the benefit of doubt - particularly given that most of the obstruction came from the State Department, not the CIA.
For more, see this remarkable video interview (and article) with Trento, his co-author and Katie Couric. It didn't air, of course. See here for details of all the networks that were going to run the story - including going to the expense of filming in Pakistan, France and elsewhere - but they didn't run the story, even though Pakistan, and Pakistan's nuclear program, 'exploded' as a media story recently. Do you think that decision was made in the news room or at the 'corporate' level? Do you now understand why Sibel would only risk 'telling all' if she received a guarantee that the networks would broadcast her story?
It is interesting that the British Government is considering invoking the Offical Secrets Act in Amin's case - it is the equivalent of the State Secrets Privilege that the US Government has used to silence Sibel.
Last week in Slate, Dahlia Lithwick wrote Legal Fictions - The Bush administration's dumbest legal arguments of the year. Number 2 was:
2. State secrets.
Again, it's virtually impossible to cite the single most egregious assertion by the Bush administration of the state-secrets privilege, because there are so many to choose from. This doctrine once barred the introduction into court of specific evidence that might compromise national security, but in the hands of the Bush administration, it has ballooned into a doctrine of blanket immunity for any conduct the administration wishes to hide. The privilege was invoked in 2007 to block testimony about its torture and extraordinary rendition program, its warrantless surveillance program, and to defend the notion of telecom immunity for colluding in government eavesdropping, among other things. No longer an evidentiary rule, the state-secrets privilege has become one of the administration's surest mechanisms for shielding its most egregious activities.
The Bush administration has used this 'privilege' twice in Sibel's case. Given their track record, do you think that they might be using the 'privilege' appropriately in this case? If not, given what I've written above (and elsewhere), imagine the scale of the crimes they are trying to hide. By virtue of the 'states secrets' company that Sibel's case keeps, it's on a par with the illegal spying, torture and illegal kidnapping that dominated the headlines
Here's the Other Scott Horton (TM) writing about the States Secrets Privilege in Harpers just last week:
If you’re in the White House and you committed a serious criminal offense as to which your legal staff and the Consigliere (errr, Attorney General) can’t craft a plausible cover or defense, then it’s certainly a “State Secret.” It’s called the “get out of jail free card.”
If nothing else, the fact that Sibel pre-emptively threatened to break the silence on her State Secrets gag should have been newsworthy in and of itself. Can you imagine if someone made the same 'threat'/dare/challenge regarding torture or kidnapping or spying? It'd (hopefully) be front-page news everywhere. I don't think that anyone in the history of the country has ever pre-announced their intention to do such a thing. Sibel is a brave, brave woman.
I usually end these posts by imploring you to call your congressional representative (Waxman), or your favourite journalist, or fave TV program (Olbermann). I've got nothin' today. They've all let us down. If any of you have any good ideas, organize amongst yourselves in the comments.
I'll end with another quote from Sibel:
It's absolutely incredible that even after 9/11, certain individuals, foreign businessmen and others, among others, are still escaping scrutiny.
Okay, perhaps talking about the pre-9/11 world they could get away with saying "we didn't know," but to continue doing so – I mean, what if we are attacked by nuclear or chemical weapons, what will be their next excuse? That "we didn't know" it could happen? Come on! I can prove they are lying, because they know.