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A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

Other US Politics

Project: A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network
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Jimmy Carter’s pre-election autobiography.Jimmy Carter’s pre-election autobiography. [Source: Kingsway Publications]In an autobiography entitled Why Not The Best? published during his successful run for the White House, Democrat Jimmy Carter says that “the unnecessary proliferation of atomic weapons” is the greatest danger facing the world. During the presidential campaign, Carter will condemn the failure of the incumbent, Republican Gerald Ford, to denounce a recent nuclear bomb test by India, and his slow response to a deal by the French to sell Pakistan a reprocessing plant that could be used as a part of a nuclear weapons program. However, following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in late 1979, the Carter administration will turn a blind eye to Pakistan’s nuclear program (see December 26, 1979). [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 62]

Entity Tags: James Earl “Jimmy” Carter, Jr.

Category Tags: Other US Politics

Senator Stuart Symington.Senator Stuart Symington. [Source: Bettman / Corbis]Legislation introduced by Stuart Symington, a Democratic senator from Missouri, is passed by the US Congress to set out the US position on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons technology. The legislation, which becomes known as the “Symington amendment,” bans US assistance to any country found to be trafficking in nuclear enrichment or reprocessing technology that is not governed by international safeguards. Authors David Armstrong and Joe Trento will later comment that this puts “both Pakistan [which is thought to be involved in such trafficking] and the Ford administration on notice that nonproliferation would now be taken seriously.” [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 62]

Entity Tags: Stuart Symington, David Armstrong, Joseph Trento

Category Tags: Other US Politics

In a message to the US Congress, President Jimmy Carter again outlines his position on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons (see 1975-1976). Carter threatens to cut off US supplies of nuclear fuel and technology to countries that do not accept international safeguards on their use. However, following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in late 1979, the Carter administration will turn a blind eye to Pakistan’s nuclear program (see December 26, 1979). [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 62, 239]

Entity Tags: James Earl “Jimmy” Carter, Jr.

Category Tags: Other US Politics

US President Ronald Reagan says at a press conference, “We are opposed to the proliferation of nuclear weapons and do everything in our power to prevent it.” However, Reagan is aware of Pakistan’s nuclear program and is doing nothing to prevent it. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 88, 90-91, 47]

Entity Tags: Ronald Reagan

Category Tags: Other US Politics

Reagan administration official James Buckley.Reagan administration official James Buckley. [Source: Biographical Directory of the US Congress]James Buckley, an undersecretary for security in the Reagan administration, tells the House Foreign Affairs Committee that Pakistan is unlikely to progress with its nuclear weapons program if it receives US aid. He will repeat the argument in the New York Times three months later: “In place of the ineffective sanctions on Pakistan’s nuclear program imposed by past administrations, we hope to address through conventional means the sources of insecurity that prompt a nation like Pakistan to seek a nuclear capability in the first place.” Len Weiss, an aide to anti-proliferation Senator John Glenn, will later comment, “It seemed highly unconventional to reward a country bent on becoming nuclear with extra funding and jets.” [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 82, 88]

Entity Tags: Len Weiss, House Foreign Affairs Committee, James Buckley

Category Tags: Other US Politics

US aid to Pakistan reaches $4 billion in this year. This large amount of aid is being provided in connection with, and in addition to, US support for the anti-Soviet mujaheddin in Afghanistan, who are based in Pakistan (see May 1979). [Raw Story, 4/30/2007]

Entity Tags: Pakistan

Category Tags: Soviet-Afghan War Connections, US Sanctions, Other US Politics

Tensions rise in India and Pakistan due to a crisis in Indian-held Kashmir, and the situation escalates to such a degree that strikes with nuclear weapons are considered. In January, Indian police open fire on pro-independence demonstrators in the province, killing fifty, which prompts the Pakistani government to step up support for pro-Pakistani militants operating there. There are also large protests and India blames Pakistan for the unrest, a charge which is partially correct and leads Indian authorities to try to suppress the protesters. India also moves offensive units to the Pakistan border, prompting the Pakistani army to mass on the other side. A US official will later say that the Pakistani military knew it could not hold out against the Indian army using conventional means: “The only way for the Pakistanis to deal with the Indians is to be able to take out New Delhi.… There’s no way that sending ten F-16s with conventional bombs is going to do it. Only the nukes could strike back.” Richard Kerr, a deputy director at the CIA, will later comment: “It was the most dangerous nuclear situation we have ever faced since I’ve been in the US government. It may be as close as we’ve come to a nuclear exchange. It was far more frightening than the Cuban missile crisis.” [New Yorker, 3/29/1993] The crisis is resolved by National Security Council member Robert Gates, who persuades the two sides to disengage (see May 1990).

Entity Tags: Central Intelligence Agency, Richard Kerr, Robert M. Gates

Category Tags: Other US Politics

When the US learns of a crisis in relations between India and Pakistan that could escalate into nuclear war (see January-May 1990), President George Bush sends Deputy National Security Adviser Robert Gates to meet leaders of both countries in an attempt to prevent armed conflict. Gates will later say he appreciated the seriousness of the situation: “The analogy we kept making was to the summer of 1914… Pakistan and India seemed to be caught in a cycle that they couldn’t break out of. I was convinced that if a war started, it would be nuclear.” However, Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who is on a tour of the Middle East, keeps changing the place where she is to meet Gates, indicating she has no desire to see him. Gates therefore only meets with Pakistani army chief Aslam Beg and President Ghulam Ishaq Khan, who say they will cease supporting insurgents in Kashmir. This is apparently enough to calm the Indians, who allow US officials to check that the Indian army is not on the border preparing to invade Pakistan, and the situation gradually calms down. [New Yorker, 3/29/1993]

Entity Tags: George Herbert Walker Bush, Aslam Beg, Benazir Bhutto, Robert M. Gates, Ghulam Ishaq Khan

Category Tags: Other US Politics

Some US officials become concerned over mounting indications that Pakistan is preparing for nuclear war due to a crisis with India (see January-May 1990). Several signs lead to this concern:
bullet Intelligence from Germany reports that the Pakistanis have designed a nuclear warhead that could be fitted under the wing of an F-16. In addition, the US finds that Pakistan has learned to program the plane’s in-flight computer system to provide the correct flight path for a nuclear-bomb run, and that it has stepped up its F-16 training to practice what seems to be the dropping of a nuclear bomb.
bullet The NSA intercepts a call from army chief Mirza Aslam Beg to the Khan Research Laboratories facility in Kahuta authorizing technicians to put together a nuclear device.
bullet A US spy satellite sees that thousands of workers are evacuated from the site in Kahuta, a key facility in Pakistan’s nuclear program. A US analyst will comment later, “We thought the reason for the evacuation of Kahuta was that they expected a retaliatory attack by India, in response to a Pakistani first strike.”
bullet The US detects high-explosive tests, an essential element of the nuclear weapons triggered process, being conducted near a suspected nuclear storage facility. The US finds that the facility has an unusually high degree of security and has also been visited by A. Q. Khan, head of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program.
bullet Satellite and other intelligence produces signs that the weapons are actually being deployed—a truck convoy from the suspected facility to a nearby Air Force base with secure zones similar to those used by the US military when transporting nuclear weapons.
bullet The US then comes to believe the nuclear weapons have been loaded onto aircraft. The analyst will comment, “They had F-16s pre-positioned and armed for delivery—on full alert, with pilots in the aircraft.”
However, opinion is split in the US over the imminence of a possible nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan. CIA officer Richard Kerr will comment: “There’s no question in my mind that we were right on the edge.… This period was very tense. The intelligence community believed that without some intervention the two parties could miscalculate—and miscalculation could lead to a nuclear exchange.” President George H. W. Bush sends National Security Council member Robert Gates to mediate between the two rivals (see May 1990). [New Yorker, 3/29/1993]

Entity Tags: Richard Kerr, Central Intelligence Agency

Category Tags: Other US Politics, Western Intel on Pakistani Nukes

Staff at the US embassies in India and Pakistan underestimate the seriousness of a crisis between the two countries (see January-May 1990), because they have been given manipulated intelligence about Pakistan’s nuclear capability. As they think Pakistan does not have nuclear weapons, they assume the crisis will not escalate into war. The US has been aware that Pakistan does have a nuclear weapons program and a nuclear weapon for some time (see 1987-1989 and May 1990), but has been suppressing this knowledge so that it could continue to support anti-Soviet mujaheddin and sell fighters to Pakistan (see August-September 1989). An example of the way the seriousness of the crisis is not appreciated is that US ambassador to India William Clark learns that the Pakistani air force is practicing dropping nuclear bombs, but is wrongly told that this is not important because the intelligence suggests Pakistan does not have nuclear weapons. The CIA, State Department, Pentagon, and White House are actually aware that this is a serious warning sign (see May 1990), but the intelligence has been altered to indicate Pakistan does not have nuclear weapons. For example, a report to Defense Secretary Dick Cheney by Pentagon analyst Richard Barlow was completely rewritten and Barlow’s conclusions were reversed to say Pakistan did not have nuclear weapons (see Mid-1989). Barlow was later fired from his job due to his opposition to an arms deal (see August 4, 1989). [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 209-210]

Entity Tags: William Clark, Richard Barlow, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, US Department of State, US Department of Defense, Bush administration (41), Central Intelligence Agency

Category Tags: Cover-up of US Intelligence, Other US Politics, Richard Barlow

Gordon Oehler, the US national intelligence officer for weapons of mass destruction, resigns from his position, taking early retirement. Authors Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark will say that Oehler is “exhausted and cynical” by this time. This is because he has frequently warned of the dangers of allowing China to proliferate nuclear weapons technology, but the administration has not done anything about it (see (April 1992), (Mid-1990s), Early 1996, May 1996, and September 1996). A senior non-proliferation official in the State Department will later say Oehler “kind of set down an ultimatum” that was ignored, “and he felt he had to walk.” [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 260, 512]

Entity Tags: Gordon Oehler

Category Tags: Other US Politics

Karl Inderfurth.Karl Inderfurth. [Source: Harikrishna Katragadda Mint]Assistant Secretary of State Karl Inderfurth, accompanied by State Department counterterrorism expert Michael Sheehan, visits Pakistan, shortly after Pervez Musharraf took power in a coup (see October 12, 1999). Inderfurth meets with Musharraf, and is disappointed with Musharraf’s reluctance to take any action against al-Qaeda or the Taliban. Al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida is living openly in the Pakistani town of Peshawar, and the previous month was implicated in an attempted bomb plot in Jordan (see November 30, 1999). A number of intelligence agencies are monitoring Zubaida’s communications (see October 1998 and After), and one of his top aides, Khalil Deek, appears to be a Jordanian intelligence mole (see Shortly After December 11, 1999). There are allegations that the Pakistani ISI intelligence agency has been protecting Zubaida (see 1998-2001). Musharraf indicates to Inderfurth that he is unwilling to act on US intelligence about Zubaida. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 295] US ambassador to Pakistan William Milam will later say: “The Pakistanis told us they could not find him, even though everyone knew where he was. The ISI just turned a blind eye to his activities.” In fact, there is evidence Zubaida was working with the ISI, helping them vet and train militants to later fight in the disputed region of Kashmir (see 1998-2001). [Rashid, 2008, pp. 48] Musharraf also tells Inderfurth that he is unwilling to support any program to capture Osama bin Laden, as his predecessor, Nawaz Sharif, had been willing to do (see October 1999). And asked to pressure the Taliban, Musharraf sends ISI Director Lieutenant General Mahmood Ahmed to meet Taliban leader Mullah Omar. Mahmood is well known to be a supporter of the Taliban, so his visit is considered an empty gesture. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 295] Robert Einhorn, a specialist on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons in the Clinton administration, does not go on the trip. Inderfurth will later say Einhorn’s absence showed a lack of interest by the administration in non-proliferation: “The fact that Mike [Sheehan] was included and Bob left out showed our priorities at that time. Our agenda was counterterrorism, al-Qaeda, and democracy. We had somehow divorced these from the nuclear threat and A. Q. Khan.” [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 292]

Entity Tags: Robert Einhorn, Pervez Musharraf, Michael Sheehan, Abu Zubaida, Osama bin Laden, Karl Inderfurth, Mahmood Ahmed, Khalil Deek, William Milam

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Other US Politics

George W. Bush taking the oath of office.George W. Bush taking the oath of office. [Source: White House/ Wally McNamara]George W. Bush is inaugurated as president, replacing President Bill Clinton. Bush is sworn in after a tumultuous, sharply disputed election that ended with a US Supreme Court decision in his favor (see 9:54 p.m. December 12, 2000). He takes the oath of office on the same Bible his father, George H.W. Bush, used in his own 1989 inauguration; the oath is administered by Chief Justice William Rehnquist. In his brief inaugural address, delivered outside the US Capitol, Bush asks Americans to “a commitment to principle with a concern for civility.… Civility is not a tactic or a sentiment. It is the determined choice of trust over cynicism, of community over chaos.” In words apparently chosen to reflect on the criticisms surrounding former President Clinton and his notorious affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, Bush says, “I will live and lead by these principles—to advance my convictions with civility, to pursue the public interest with courage, to speak for greater justice and compassion, to call for responsibility, and try to live it as well.” He continues addressing the American people, saying: “I ask you to be citizens. Citizens, not spectators. Citizens, not subjects. Responsible citizens, building communities of service and a nation of character.” At a post-ceremonial luncheon, Bush issues a series of executive orders, some designed to block or roll back several Clinton-era regulations. He also acknowledges that because of the election turmoil, many Americans believe “we can’t get anything done… nothing will happen, except for finger-pointing and name-calling and bitterness.” He then says: “I’m here to tell the country that things will get done. Republicans and Democrats will come together to do what’s right for America.” [New York Times, 1/21/2001]
Thousands of Protesters - Thousands of protesters line the streets during Bush’s ceremonial drive to the Capitol, a fact not heavily reported by many press outlets. Salon reports, “Not since Richard Nixon paraded down Pennsylvania Avenue in 1973 has a presidential inauguration drawn so many protesters—and last time, people were out to protest the Vietnam War.” Though Capitol Police refuse to estimate the size of the crowd lining the street, Salon reports that “many thousands of protesters were in evidence.” Liz Butler of the Justice Action Movement, the umbrella organization that helped coordinate the protests, says: “The level of people on the streets shows that people are really upset about lack of democratic process. They took it to the streets. We saw tens of thousands. We saw far more protesting Bush than supporting him.” Some of the people on the streets are Bush supporters, but many more are not, and carry signs such as “Bush Cheated,” “Hail to the Thief,” “Bush—Racism,” “Bushwhacked by the Supremes,” and others. The crowd, though outspoken in its protests and unrestrained in its heckling of Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, is generally peaceful, and no serious violence is reported, though a few minor altercations do take place, and large contingents of police in riot gear—including personnel from every police department in the District of Columbia as well as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and from departments in Maryland and Virginia—are on hand. At least one protester throws an egg at the limousine transporting Bush, Cheney, and their families to the inaugural ceremonies; perhaps in response to the protests, Bush breaks with tradition laid down by earlier presidents and does not walk any large portion of the parade route. Nine people are arrested for disorderly conduct, most for allegedly throwing bottles and other debris. Bulter says: “Of course, we’re ashamed that Bush has decided to be a ‘uniter’ by uniting people against him. They all chose to come out in the freezing rain—even the weather couldn’t stop these people.” Protester Mary Anne Cummings tells a reporter: “I think it’s important to remind the incoming administration the country does not want a right-wing mandate. They did not vote for a right-wing mandate.” [Salon, 1/20/2001; CNN, 1/20/2001; New York Times, 1/21/2001] Thousands of protesters march in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and other cities as well. [CNN, 1/20/2001]

Neoconservative and incoming Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, testifying before the Senate in his nomination hearings, tells the assembled senators that he supports overthrowing the Iraqi government. [Unger, 2007, pp. 206] Wolfowitz also criticizes the policy of turning a blind eye to Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program pursued by the Carter, Reagan, and, initially, first Bush administration. “I specifically sensed that people thought we could somehow construct a policy on a house of cards that the Congress wouldn’t know what the Pakistanis were doing,” he says. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 300, 518]

Entity Tags: Paul Wolfowitz

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

Category Tags: Other US Politics

US Secretary of State Colin Powell and his deputy, Richard Armitage, discuss a list of demands to be put to Pakistan the next day. The demands are to be issued as a result of 9/11, perceived Pakistani assistance to radical Islamists, and the need for Pakistan’s help with any campaign against al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. According to authors Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark, although the US is opposed to the nuclear proliferation operations headed by Pakistani scientist A. Q. Khan, Powell and Armitage “back […] off from pursuing the nuclear question, reasoning that the priority was to get [Pakistani leader Pervez] Musharraf’s commitment to fighting terrorism.” The demands are put to Mahmood Ahmed, director of Pakistan’s ISI intelligence agency, the next day (see September 13-15, 2001). [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 305]

Entity Tags: Richard Armitage, US Department of State, Colin Powell

Category Tags: Other US Politics

According to Seymour Hersh of The New Yorker, a few days after 9/11 members of the elite Israeli counterterrorism unit Sayeret Matkal arrive in the US and begin training with US Special Forces in a secret location. The two groups are developing contingency plans to attack Pakistan’s military bases and remove its nuclear weapons if the Pakistani government or the nuclear weapons fall into the wrong hands. [New Yorker, 10/29/2001] There may have been threats to enact this plan on September 13, 2001. The Japan Times later notes that this “threat to divest Pakistan of its ‘crown jewels’ was cleverly used by the US, first to force [Pakistani President] Musharraf to support its military campaign in Afghanistan, and then to warn would-be coup plotters against Musharraf.” [Japan Times, 11/10/2001]

Entity Tags: Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan, Sayeret Matkal

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Other US Politics, Israeli Attitude to Pakistan Nukes

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]

Entity Tags: Pervez Musharraf, Abdul Qadeer Khan, Ahmed Rashid, Paul Wolfowitz, Al-Qaeda

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Other US Politics

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