Tuesday, August 26, 2008

NY Times does it again: More 'Judy Miller' tapdancing

A front page article "In Nuclear Net’s Undoing, a Web of Shadowy Deals" in Monday's New York Times by David Sanger and William Broad details the destruction of evidence by the US government in a case involving the nuclear black market.

The article highlights again that the New York Times continues to engage in 'Judy Miller reporting' by warmongering and acting as a mouthpiece for the government.

In the article, Sanger and Broad (who co-wrote a book, Germs, with Judy Miller):
1) Provide an incomplete and misleading story by conveniently withholding pertinent, established facts.
2) Spin the story towards Iran, and away from other governments, fulfilling the government's propaganda needs again.
3) Carry out no investigation, relying on government spokespeople without checking facts, relying on documents, or agenda-free sources.

In this article, I will focus on the way that the New York Times cherrypicked details, excluding key, relevant information resulting in a misleading story which coincidentally fits the government's agenda like a glove. In the coming days, I'll return to some of the other problems with the article.

The NY Times article focuses on selected, cherrypicked elements of the Tinner family who were key suppliers in one ring of AQ Khan's nuclear proliferation network, while mostly ignoring the other key players who worked with the Tinners in the ring. The New York Times again does the government's bidding, selectively sanitizing the article, in order to hide the fact that US allies are key proliferators.

Der Spiegel, which has done great work covering this story, described the hierarchy of the network, noting that the Tinners were just one of four division managers:
"At the top of the hierarchy was a confidant of Khan's, Sri Lankan businessman Buhary Seyed Abu Tahir, who acted as a business manager of sorts, responsible for payments and contracts. He also appointed several division managers, who may not even have known of each other's existence. They were comprised of the Swiss Tinner family of engineers, including Friedrich Tinner and his sons Urs and Marco, who were apparently responsible for centrifuge parts; Briton Peter Griffin, a specialist in the procurement of tool-making machines; and (Gotthard) Lerch, whose job, as the prosecution claims, was to obtain the pipes that connect the centrifuges. Lerch's source for the pipes was Gerhard Wisser, a German national living in South Africa, with whom he had been doing business for decades."

Here is a more complete list of known actors in the nuclear proliferation ring that the Tinners were involved with:

BSA Tahir
Tahir, based in Dubai, was AQ Khan's Chief Operating Officer and right hand man. Tahir began working with Khan in 1995. In 2002, Tahir recruited Urs Tinner to help produce centrifuge parts, supplied in part by his brother and father. Tahir's involvement in the network was documented in a Malaysian Police Report in 2004, soon after a ship called the BBC China was intercepted on the way to Libya, filled with products from AQ Khan.

Interestingly, Tahir was released from prison two months ago in Malaysia because he is no longer considered a 'national security threat.'

Selim Alguadis, Gunes Cire & Hank Slebos
Turkish businessmen Alguadis and Cire were also key suppliers to the Tahir-Tinner ring. Alguadis' company, EKA, and Cire's company ETI Elektroteknik were both caught supplying hardware for Libya's nuclear program when the BBC China was intercepted.

Hank Slebos, a supplier to Khan's network for decades, was also a part owner of Gunes Cire's ETI Elektroteknik.

Despite their role supplying BSA Tahir, neither Alguadis nor Cire were ever convicted, and their companies continue to operate freely in Turkey. Slebos was sentenced to 12 months prison (8 months suspended, 4 months served) in 2005 for his role.

Turkey has a key role in the nuclear black market. In fact, IAEA investigators noted that the nuclear hardware supplied by Turkey to the AQ Khan ring - including 7000 centrifuge motors - "could be used in manufacturing enough enriched uranium to produce 7 nuclear weapons a year."

Asher Karni and Zeki Bilmen
Karni is an Israeli businessman based in South Africa. Zeki Bilmen is a Turkish businessman and CEO of Giza Technologies, headquarted in New Jersey. Karni purchased 200 spark-gaps in the United States from Giza Technologies n 2003 and then re-exported it to Pakistan's intelligence service, the ISI.

Prior to 2002 Bilmen was also overheard on wiretaps translated by former FBI translator Sibel Edmonds.

Zeki Bilmen was never charged. Karni was released on $100,000 bail and is now now a free man.

Peter Griffin
Peter Griffin is a Dubai-based British man who was said to have a "central role" in Libya's nuclear bomb program.

Griffin also supervised Tahir's project to build a manufacturing facility in Libya. A four-year British investigation into Griffin which spanned a dozen countries and cost millions of dollars was "quietly dropped" earlier this year. Griffin is currently living "scot-free.".

Gerhard Wisser
Wisser was a German national, based in South Africa, who supplied the pipes required for centrifuges. According to prosecutors, he was the South African "conduit" to the Tahir-Tinner ring. He was "given 18 years -- not in prison, but of nighttime house arrest in his mansion in a luxury neighborhood in Johannesburg."

Could it be...?
Why did the New York Times cherrypick facts, while obscuring and ignoring important, pertinent facts? Could it be that they are simply lazy? Could it be that they see their role as supporting the government's objectives, whether to protect allies such as Turkey and Dubai, or still chasing the dream of an invasion of Iran? Could it be that they want to sanitize Turkey and Turkish actors from the Tinners case in order to bolster President Bush's recently signed Executive Order giving Turkey access to nuclear technology?

Any of these possibilities might be accurate, but all of them are far from innocent, and none of them exonerate the New York Times propaganda machine.

By only reporting selectively on the Tinner case, quoting only more-than-eager government agency press officers, and by spinning the story toward Iran, the NY Times once again cements its reputation as a mouthpiece for the US government, even when it relates to important matters of true national security, that involves not only the US, but the entire world.

Whatever the reason for the Times to provide the government's portrait of the Tinner case, David Sanger and William Broad will remain in the Judy Miller Hall of Fame.


Cross-posted at Let Sibel Edmonds Speak

(Email me if you want to be added to my Sibel email list. Subject: 'Sibel email list')

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