The clandestine nuclear weapons activities of Abdul Qadeer Khan, better known as Dr. A.Q. Khan, have been known for some three decades to U.S. officials. Yet officials wants the world to think his activities weren't confirmed until October 2003 when Italian authorities seized a German ship carrying 1,000 centrifuges destined for Libya.
As the father of Pakistan's nuclear weapons program, Mr. Khan also assisted North Korea and Iran with their nuclear weapons development programs. Today, these countries are in a position to provide nuclear technology to terrorists that threaten the United States.
In the 1990s, my office at the Defense Department often sought to get the State Department to make diplomatic complaints to Pakistan about Dr. Khan's activities. His activities seriously violated multilateral agreements to which the United States is a signatory and U.S. law against proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
My office frequently monitored efforts by Dr. Khan's worldwide network to divert technology to Pakistan's nuclear weapons development program. Our requests repeatedly fell on deaf ears.
We also sought Central Intelligence Agency assistance. The CIA has close ties to Pakistan's Directorate for Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) which helped create Afghanistan's Taliban and still maintains ties to al Qaeda. Indeed, my office often would work with U.S. Customs to track down some of Mr. Khan's U.S. technology acquisitions to halt them before they were exported to Pakistan.
A former high Dutch official recently has contended the CIA knew of Mr. Khan's nuclear acquisition efforts from the early 1970s. Former Dutch Prime Minister Dr. Ruud Lubbers in a recent interview asserted the CIA even intervened to halt any Dutch court action against Mr. Khan. According to Dr. Lubbers, the CIA urged that Mr. Khan be allowed to continue his activities so they could be monitored.
The Dutch sought to convict Mr. Khan after he illegally copied drafts of a URENCO gas centrifuge plant essential for uranium enrichment. URENCO was a joint Dutch, German and British effort in the 1970s. The CIA request to the Dutch strongly suggests it may have known of Mr. Khan's efforts to assist North Korea and Iran in their nuclear development programs. It also suggests the CIA helped facilitate such diversions and may have been aware of Mr. Khan's liaisons with al Qaeda and other terrorist elements.
As it was, the CIA was monitoring the role of the BCCI bank through which Mr. Khan moved money. The CIA also had its own accounts at the BCCI bank. For example, the CIA used BCCI to funnel millions of dollars to the fighters battling the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Bin Laden also had accounts at the bank. BCCI, created by the Pakistanis, also was used by al Qaeda and other terrorist entities in the 1980s to launder money.
In February 2004, Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf granted a pardon to Mr. Khan, in effect with U.S. support. Yet, the United States reportedly cannot debrief Mr. Khan to do a threat assessment on the nuclear technologies and capabilities he provided to North Korea and Iran.
By refusing access to Mr. Khan, Mr. Musharraf provides aid and comfort to state sponsors of terrorists targeting the United States. Now North Korea threatens the United States with nuclear war. Mr. Musharraf's shielding of Mr. Khan makes the Pakistani president an accomplice to the very terrorism he professes to oppose.
Why is the United States giving President Musharraf a pass on access to Mr. Khan, despite the apparent damage he has done? Two immediate reasons come to mind.
(1) The Bush administration recently informed Congress it wants to sell 18 new F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan.
(2) During this entire period of trying to halt Mr. Khan's activities, the CIA worked with the Pakistani ISI to recruit the mujahedeen to fight against the Serbs in the Balkans. This was done with the full cooperation of the Pakistani government even before Mr. Musharraf became president.
Recruiting for the Balkans in effect made the United States an ally with Osama bin Laden and Iran in the effort to defeat the Serbs in Bosnia, Kosovo and then Macedonia. That cooperation continued even after bin Laden announced a Jihad, or holy war, against the United States in 1998.
A.Q. Khan has had a lot to do with linking the technical cooperation we see between North Korea and Iran not only in nuclear but also missile development. In fact, this cooperation strongly suggests the two countries may be coordinating their activities in raising any future international hate and discontent.
At a minimum, U.S. authorities need to know more about what capabilities Mr. Khan contributed to both countries. Congress also needs to explore what the CIA knew of Mr. Khan's efforts to provide nuclear know-how to North Korea, Iran and now the terrorists.
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