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June 21, 2008

Another Tenet Sting Failure?


by Gordon Prather

According to the Washington Post, David Albright – a man their sycophantic reporter inexplicably considers to be "a prominent nuclear weapons expert" – has charged that an "international smuggling ring," having already "sold bomb-related parts to Libya, Iran and North Korea," has somehow acquired "blueprints for an advanced nuclear weapon," which Albright contends were intended to be – or already had been – "sold" to any number of countries, including Iran.

According to Albright, in 2004, Swiss investigators seized computer files – containing more than 1,000 megabits of information, which were encrypted and difficult to decipher – belonging to Swiss nationals, Friedrich, Marco and Urs Tinner. Albright alleges the files, when finally deciphered in 2006, "included essential details for building a compact nuclear device that could be fitted on a type of ballistic missile used by Iran and more than a dozen developing countries."

How could Albright possibly know that? Well, according to Albright, the Swiss government – which lacked nuclear weapons expertise – asked the International Atomic Energy Agency for assistance. Of course, the IAEA also lacks nuclear weapons expertise.

But, according to Albright, a "senior IAEA official" – almost certainly lacking nuclear weapons expertise – told Pakistani government officials about the "designs" found on the Tinners’ computers. According to Albright, the Pakistanis were "upset," since "they realized that the designs had to be from their nuclear weapons arsenal." "Had to be!"

According to Albright, the Pakistanis were "genuinely shocked."

Why?

Well, according to Albright, the Pakistanis realized that their national hero, metallurgist A.Q. Khan, "may have transferred his own country’s most secret and dangerous information to foreign smugglers so that they could sell it for a profit. And these advanced nuclear weapons designs may have long ago been sold off to some of the most treacherous regimes in the world."

Now, wait a minute. Albright is most assuredly not a "nuclear weapons expert." In fact, going back to his alleged position of "Senior Scientist" at the Friends of the Earth in the early 1990s, Albright has opposed all nuclear programs, because of the unacceptable health and safety risks he and his eco-wacko friends maintain even peaceful IAEA Safeguarded programs pose, and because of the ease with which he and his neo-crazy friends claim even IAEA Safeguarded programs can be turned into nuclear weapons programs.

But, ever since Secretary Hazel O’Leary established her program of "Openness" at the Department of Energy – which resulted in practically all the health and safety "dirty linen" in the closets of the predecessor Atomic Energy Commission being aired (Albright was a charter member of Hazel’s Openness Advisory Panel) – practically the whole world has known that bombs like the Fat Man, with removable fissile "capsules," are large, heavy and essentially undeliverable by ballistic missile.

However, in Chapter II of the Cox Committee report, the whole world learned – courtesy Chairman Chris Cox and Counsel Scooter Libby – that the secret to making a compact missile-deliverable nuke was to make a non-removable pit out of Plutonium-239 and to boost it with Tritium.

Now, the Pakistanis are believed to have both Plutonium-239 and Tritium production facilities. But they have insisted, officially, over and over that the world need not worry about terrorists somehow acquiring the nukes in their stockpile, because the fissile material in the nukes in their stockpile is removable and is in fact stored separately in a well-guarded facility.

So, either the Pakistanis are lying or Albright’s story is about as wrong as it could be.

But it gets worse.

In May 2005, Der Spiegel reported that Urs Tinner, who had been arrested by German authorities in October 2004, and accused of supervising the manufacture of centrifuge components in Malaysia, was, in fact, a CIA agent! And, according to Albright, the recipient of "a large sum of money and a CIA commitment" to keep him out of jail.

Now, the Swiss had already "cleared" Friedrich Tinner of charges that he had shipped uranium-enrichment centrifuges to Iraq. So, according to Der Spiegel, as a result of a deal with the United States, the Germans were persuaded to extradite Urs Tinner to Switzerland.

According to Albright, the CIA apparently expected the Swiss would "clear" all the Tinners of all charges. When that didn’t happen, and the Swiss eventually obtained what appeared to be "blueprints" for a Cox-Committee-type tritium-boosted Pu-239 missile-deliverable warhead, Albright claims the CIA intervened again to "destroy" all that smoking deciphered data.

But wait a minute. If the nukes in Pakistan’s arsenal are not Cox-Committee-type tritium-boosted Pu-239 missile-deliverable warheads, and Urs Tinner is or was a CIA agent, and had "blueprints" for a Cox-Committee-type tritium-boosted Pu-239 missile-deliverable warhead, where did he get them?

Well, in January a federal grand jury issued a subpoena to James Risen, New York Times reporter for national security and intelligence affairs, and author of State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration, which was published in 2006.

The grand jury wants to know Risen's sources for his revelations about a CIA covert program called Operation Merlin, among other things.

According to Risen, back in February 2000, the CIA (reportedly in collusion with Israeli intelligence and with the approval of President Clinton) sent a "Russian defector" to IAEA headquarters in Vienna with what Risen characterized as "blueprints for a nuclear bomb" with instructions to give them to the Iranian delegate to the IAEA.

"Nuclear bomb"?

Well, no. Apparently Risen is no more a nuclear weapon expert than Albright.

The Russian was actually "carrying technical designs for a TBA 480 high-voltage block" – otherwise known as a "fire set" – for a Russian-designed nuclear weapon.

Risen says the design – which he was told was "authentic" – had been slightly altered, so that if "built to print" it wouldn't work. Risen says the CIA was providing the presumably stupid Iranians misinformation.

But what if CIA-Mossad hoped that the Iranians would at least put the Operation Merlin stuff into their files, perhaps even correcting the errors and building working prototypes, to be found by the IAEA at a later date, providing "evidence" that the Russians were helping the Iranians develop nuclear weapons?

And what if the CIA-Whoever had supplied Urs Tinner a "slightly modified" Chinese or Russian Cox-Committee-type tritium-boosted Pu-239 missile-deliverable warhead, hoping he could somehow get it into Iran’s files, for the IAEA to find?

Well, Albright to the contrary, Iran would certainly not have bought such a design. What good would it be to them? Iran has neither a tritium or a Pu-239 production capability.


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Physicist James Gordon Prather has served as a policy implementing official for national security-related technical matters in the Federal Energy Agency, the Energy Research and Development Administration, the Department of Energy, the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Department of the Army. Dr. Prather also served as legislative assistant for national security affairs to U.S. Sen. Henry Bellmon, R-Okla. -- ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee and member of the Senate Energy Committee and Appropriations Committee. Dr. Prather had earlier worked as a nuclear weapons physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California and Sandia National Laboratory in New Mexico.

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