Nuclear bazaar back in business
WMR has learned from a knowledgeable source that Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan, recently released from four years of house arrest in Pakistan, is back in the nuclear proliferation business. Khan and his associates allegedly paid $2 billion to the government of Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari to have Khan, the "father of the Pakistani nuclear bomb," released from his house arrest. The High Court of Pakistan ordered Khan released from house arrest. Khan is now permitted to move freely about Pakistan away from his luxurious home in the affluent E-7 neighborhood of Islamabad, Pakistan's capital. Zardari is known as "Mr. 10 percent" in Pakistan because of the financial cut he receives from major business transactions.
Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair recently told the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) that "there are restrictions on him [Khan' imposed by the [Zardari] government."
Blair testified that Khan is now unconnected with his old nuclear proliferation network. WMR has been told by a source who works within the nuclear intelligence community that Blair was far from being truthful and, in fact, Khan has re-established the Khan network. Furthermore, in addition to Iran, North Korea, Libya, and Saudi Arabia having been part of the original Khan network, along with Turkey and Israel as middlemen, WMR has learned that another silent partner was the People's Republic of China. WMR has previously reported that Saudi Arabia was another recipient of Khan nuclear secrets but that the connection was suppressed by U.S. intelligence so as to not offend the Saudis, believed to be strong allies in America's "global war on terrorism."
The Press Trust of India recently revealed that Khan's network also included Japan, where a Tokyo company called Western Trading procured missile nose cones for Khan as early as 1980.
When Representative Anna Eshoo (D-CA) asked Blair whether Khan still posed a nuclear proliferation threat, Blair said he could only answer that question in a closed and classified session.
Oddly, the Bush administration waited until its last month in office to impose sanctions on Khan and members of his network. Former Dutch Prime Minister Ruud Lubbers said that when the Dutch intelligence service discovered that Khan was stealing nuclear secrets while employed by URENCO in Almelo in the Netherlands, the CIA pressured the Dutch to back off arresting Khan on at least two occasions.
China's role in the Khan network has been downplayed by U.S. intelligence. Among the nuclear design documents discovered by the United States in Libya were exact duplicates of those from Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico that had been translated into Chinese. The Obama administration has signaled that it wants to transfer control of the nation's nuclear laboratories from the Department of Energy to the Department of Defense. The reasons are said to be for enhanced security. However, the Energy Department's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), responsible for protecting the nation's nuclear secrets, has been woefully unfunded and the Obama administration is pushing the entire U.S. nuclear weapons program to the Pentagon, which has repeatedly flunked nuclear surety inspections at a number of Air Force bases, including Minot, Malmstrom, and F. E. Warren.
The current counter-intelligence security budget at Los Alamos is estimated as $115 per year per foreign national present in the area of the laboratory. The H1/B1 guest worker visa program, WMR is told, was the number one method by which the Chinese and the A. Q. Khan network were able to gather so many American nuclear secrets. The program, WMR is told, was pushed in the early-to-mid 1990s by Microsoft founder Bill Gates, with the blessing of his friend Warren Buffett and the lobbying efforts of Preston Gates law firm lobbyist Jack Abramoff. The Washington Posthas been a major proponent of the H1/B1 visa program primarily because Bill Gates' wife, Melinda, and Buffett sit on the Washington Post company's board of directors. The nuclear security problem arising from the introduction of a large number of nuclear physicists and other scientists via the H1/Bi program has largely been downplayed by the Post as a result.
The current fear by those tasked with protecting the United States from a nuclear terrorist attack is that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is doing little to protect the country's air space and seaports from the threat of a W-88 nuclear warhead-sized explosion. The W-88 was designed for the nose cones of multiple independent re-entry vehicle (MIRV) warheads.
The TSA has two programs to interdict the importation of a relatively small-size 475 kiloton W-88 warhead into the United States. The Large Aircraft Security Program (LASP) is designed to monitor the contents of large cargo aircraft arriving into the United States. An aircraft-borne nuclear weapon is a major fear since to cause maximum destruction to a city, a plane at an altitude of 2100 feet is considered an optimal height to destroy the greater downtown area of a city.
The second potential delivery method is by container ship. The Advanced Research and Applications Corporation (ARACOR) Eagle X-ray imaging system is undergoing testing at the port of Miami. The system is designed to look inside containers for things like nuclear weapons. However, there is a major flaw. If a W-88 size warhead were placed within an battery-powered Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) unit, the lead batteries contained within the UPS unit would shield the warhead from X-rays. WMR has learned that China is the leading exporter of UPS systems to the United States.
The other vulnerability to X-ray scanning is the time it takes to scan one container. the ARACOR Eagle takes 90 seconds to scan a single container. The super container ship "Emma Maersk" can carry up to 15,200 containers. There are container ships on the drawing boards that will be able to carry as much as 20,000 containers.
Condoleezza Rice was fond of saying "we don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud." Based on the Bush administration's policies, especially the outing of Valerie Plame Wilson's Brewster Jennings & Associates CIA non-official cover (NOC) counter-proliferation program, which we are now told by U.S. intelligence sources did include the Swiss Tinner family, the Bush administration has ensured the next smoking gun will be a mushroom cloud over a U.S. city. And based on DNI Blair's testimony before Congress that A. Q. Khan and his network no longer represent a threat, the evidence is clear that the Obama administration is pursuing the same delusional and dangerous nuclear proliferation policy as that of its predecessor.