Pakistan and nuclear transparency

Courtesy of the Secrecy News blog, a project of the Federation of American Scientists Project on Government Secrecy, comes this post:

The declaration of emergency rule in Pakistan has focused new concern on the status of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. It may also bring renewed attention to the case of Richard Barlow, the former intelligence officer who attempted to warn Congress two decades ago about Pakistan’s clandestine acquisition of US nuclear technology and who was punished for his trouble.

In a classic whistleblower tale, Mr Barlow’s security clearances were suspended, the state secrets privilege was invoked, and he was personally vilified after he attempted to notify Congress of irregularities and illegalities in Pakistan’s US acquisitions program. Yet his allegations about Pakistani export control violations and official attempts to conceal those violations were ultimately corroborated.

A summary account of Mr Barlow’s actions and experiences was presented in one of two pending amendments introduced by Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) last summer to provide belated compensation for his losses.

Mr Barlow’s story, and much else about the clandestine development of the Pakistani nuclear weapons program, is presented in a new book called Deception: Pakistan, the United States, and the Secret Trade in Nuclear Weapons by Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark (Walker & Company, 2007). The Congressional Research Service examined ‘Pakistan’s Political Crisis and State of Emergency’ (pdf) in a new report dated November 6, 2007.

See also ‘Pakistan-US Relations’ (pdf), updated October 18, 2007…

Here is an excerpt from the second CRS report cited in Secrecy News:

The AQ Khan Nuclear Proliferation Network. Press reports in late 2002 suggested that Pakistan assisted Pyongyang’s covert nuclear weapons program by providing North Korea with uranium enrichment materials and technologies beginning in the mid-1990s and as recently as July 2002. Islamabad rejected such reports as baseless, and Secretary of State Powell was assured that no such transfers were occurring. If such assistance is confirmed by President Bush, all nonhumanitarian US aid to Pakistan may be suspended, although the President has the authority to waive any sanctions that he determines would jeopardize US national security. In early 2003, the Administration determined that the relevant facts “do not warrant imposition of sanctions under applicable US laws.” Press reports during 2003 suggested that both Iran and Libya benefitted from Pakistani nuclear assistance. Islamabad denied any nuclear cooperation with Tehran or Tripoli, although it conceded in December 2003 that certain senior scientists were under investigation for possible independent proliferation activities.

The investigation led to the February 2004 public humiliation of metallurgist Abdul Qadeer Khan, known as the founder of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program and a national hero, when he confessed to involvement in an illicit nuclear smuggling network. Khan and at least seven associates were said to have sold crucial nuclear weapons technology and uranium-enrichment materials to North Korea, Iran, and Libya. President Musharraf, citing Khan’s contributions to his nation, issued a pardon that was later called conditional. The United States has been assured that the Islamabad government had no knowledge of such activities and indicated that the decision to pardon is an internal Pakistani matter.

While President Musharraf did promise President Bush that all information learned about Khan’s proliferation network would be shared, Pakistan has refused to allow any direct access to Khan by US or international investigators. In May 2006, days after releasing from detention nuclear scientist and suspected Khan collaborator Mohammed Farooq, the Islamabad government declared the investigation ‘closed.’ Some in Congress remained skeptical, however, and a House panel subsequently held a hearing at which three nongovernmental experts insisted that US and international investigators be given direct access to Khan, in particular to learn more about assistance given to Iran’s nuclear program. No alleged Pakistani participants, including Khan himself, have faced criminal charges in the case. In May 2007, the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies released a report on the Khan network, finding that at least some of Khan’s associates appear to have escaped law enforcement attention and could, after a period of lying low, resume their black-market business. Shortly after, a House panel held another hearing on the Khan network, at which several Members and nongovernmental experts called for Pakistan to allow direct access to Khan for US investigators. In July, Islamabad reportedly eased house arrest restrictions on Khan, although the Foreign Ministry denied any change in Khan’s status. (See also CRS Report RL32745, Pakistan’s Nuclear Proliferation Activities and the Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission.)

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