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February 14, 2009

Tenet’s Greatest Hit a Miss


by Gordon Prather

In 1991, when inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency were allowed back into Iraq – after United Nations forces ejected the Iraqi invaders from Kuwait and Saddam Hussein had agreed to comply with certain UN Security Council resolutions – they quickly discovered that Saddam had been in violation of the Iraqi IAEA Safeguards Agreement.

Whereupon the Security Council passed Resolution 687, which among other things, ordered the destruction – under supervision of a specially constituted IAEA Action Team – of all remaining elements of Iraq’s nuclear programs, and imposed sanctions on Iraq until such time as the IAEA Action Team could report that such destruction had been accomplished and that Iraq was once again in compliance with its IAEA Safeguards Agreement.

The IAEA Action Team made such a report, first in 1998, and updated it in succeeding years.

In particular,

"Iraq was at, or close to, the threshold of success in such areas as the production of HEU through the EMIS process, the production and pilot cascading of single-cylinder gas centrifuge machines, and the fabrication of the explosive package for a nuclear weapon."

It’s worth noting that the only Iraqi actions which violated the letter of their Safeguards Agreement would have been those that involved the chemical or physical transformation of certain materials proscribed by the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

In fact, the actual fabrication of the explosive package for a nuclear weapon, even had it occurred, would have literally been none of the IAEA’s business.

Now, the single-cylinder gas centrifuge machine the IAEA Action Team referred to was a third-generation composite-rotor machine that German engineer Karl Schaab and associates supplied them back in 1989. There is no evidence that the Iraqis ever got even one to work – despite hands-on assistance by Schaab, himself – much less introduced uranium-hexafluoride into it.

However, when the German authorities learned what Schaab had done, they prosecuted him for violating German export control laws. Schaab plead guilty but was able to avoid serious jail-time because, among other things, gas centrifuge technology was, and is, "dual-use."

Fast forward to October, 2003, when a ship destined for Libya was intercepted and its apparently legal cargo of dual-use first-generation gas-centrifuge parts and components confiscated. You’re probably wondering what pirate was responsible for the apparently illegal search and seizure of a ship on the high seas.

Well, about a year earlier, after having accused Iran, Iraq and North Korea of being an "axis of evil," and repeatedly accused them since of developing – right under the noses of IAEA inspectors – nuclear weapons, to give to "terrorists," President Bush the Younger announced his National Strategy to Combat Weapons of Mass Destruction [.pdf].

From it, Bush developed – in blatant disregard of existing international law – the Proliferation Security Initiative, announced shortly after his launch of a war of aggression – in blatant disregard of existing Security Council Resolutions and the UN Charter – against Iraq.

According to Bonkers Bolton, then our principal non-proliferation weenie, the PSI was necessary because "proliferators and those facilitating the procurement of deadly capabilities are circumventing existing laws, treaties and controls against WMD proliferation."

Translation? What A.Q Khan and his recently "outed" network had been doing may not have been against the law, international or otherwise, but Bonkers was going to put a stop to it, even if it meant our violating the law, international or otherwise.

In the last century, Pakistan had asked – but was not allowed – to become a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group.

Comprised of 44 nuclear-supplier states – including China, Russia, and the United States – NSG members voluntarily agree to coordinate their export controls governing transfers of civilian nuclear material and nuclear-related equipment and technology to non-nuclear-weapon states.

But, since 1992, to be "eligible" for importing certain items from an NSG member, an importing state – irrespective of whether it is a NPT signatory or not – must have in place a comprehensive IAEA safeguards agreement covering all their nuclear activities and facilities.

So what were the Pakistanis to do?

Well, establish their own clandestine – but not necessarily illegal – suppliers/users group.

When Pakistan held its first international arms bazaar in 2000, there was even available at the booth of Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) a second-generation uranium-enrichment gas-centrifuge brochure, as well as an associated 10-page catalog of specialty vacuum pumps, gauges, high-voltage switches, power supplies, and other equipment.

According to KRL representatives, all the listed items were available for sale and had been approved for export by the Pakistani government.

So, what did CIA-Director George Tenet judge to be his greatest accomplishment?

"Our spies penetrated the [A.Q. Khan] network through a series of daring operations over several years. Through this unrelenting effort, we confirmed the network was delivering such things as illicit uranium enrichment centrifuges."

Illicit? Says who?

No one. Nevertheless, this shipment to Libya of Khan’s first-generation junk sure looked like a job for Bonkers Bolton and his PSI pirates.

How about Khan’s, better, second-generation stuff? The IAEA has been unable to find any indication that Iran or anyone else ever bought any of it.

And there is no reason to suppose that Schaab – with his third-generation stuff – was ever a part of A.Q. Khan’s "network."

Nevertheless, not long after the PSI seizure of the Khan junk shipment to Libya, A.Q. Khan was placed under house arrest and made a "confession" on Pakistani TV, in English, now a matter of historical record.

Contrary to what you’ve heard, over and over, from the neo-crazy sycophantic media, Khan did not "confess" to supplying Iran, Libya and North Korea with anything, much less "weapons technology." In fact, A.Q. didn’t even mention Iran, Libya or North Korea in his TV "confession."

What he said was that he had been confronted with a number of allegations, that he had concluded that "some of them" were true, and that he accepted responsibility for them.

President Musharraf promptly pardoned A.Q Khan.

But, perhaps for his own protection against Tenet’s "spies," he remained under ‘house arrest."

Bush the Younger is no longer President, Musharraf is no longer Dictator, Tenet is no longer CIA-Director and a Pakistani High Court has just effectively released A.Q. Khan from house arrest.

The United States has expressed "deep concern."


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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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