Lost in all the hullabaloo over Dubya's commutation of the jail sentence handed former White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby was this little gem of a news item from Pakistan:
Pakistan eases curbs on atomic scientist
By MUNIR AHMAD, Associated Press Writer Mon Jul 2, 1:49 PM ET
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - A.Q. Khan, the scientist who became a national hero for developing Pakistan's atomic bomb and went on to sell nuclear secrets abroad, can leave house arrest to meet with friends and relatives, officials said Monday.
Strange coincidence? Perhaps. But, not unrelated. For it’s a small, small world in spookdom.
A strange coincidence, indeed.
More below . . .
A large part of Valerie Plame’s job at CIA was to track the illicit trade in nuclear technologies peddled by Dr. Khan’s network. Khan’s Nuclear Walmart made it very easy for customers to buy what they needed to start home bomb-making. Khan’s one-stop shop for WMDs made it just as easy for the CIA to keep track of nuclear programs in at least half-dozen unfriendly countries, and a variety of criminal organizations in a dozen more that supplied money and know-how. When Khan’s operation was publicized on June 1, 2001 by a Bush Administration official, that long-standing CIA counter-proliferation program was also effectively ended. That official was Richard Armitage, who is also said to be the first to out Plame, a key manager at CIA Counter-Proliferation.
There was never any chance that AQ Khan or Libby would do hard time - they were both "made men" who know too much.
Khan was a founding member of the CIA and ISI partnership, going back to the mid-1970s, when he first started stealing U-235 enrichment technologies from the nuclear lab where he worked in the Netherlands. According to a BBC interview with the former Dutch PM, Ruud Lubbers, the Dutch police wanted to arrest A.Q. as early as 1975, but the CIA interceded to prevent Khan's arrest and enforcement of an INTERPOL warrant after he fled back the following year to Pakistan. During the six year period the warrant was on the books, Khan travelled freely to dozens of countries pursuing his global nuclear proliferation mission. http://news.bbc.co.uk/... ; http://www.hindu.com/...
The CIA's involvement and protection of Khan goes back years before the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, so the Cold War rationale offered for the Agency's quarter-century long involvement with the Pakistan's nuclear program begins to break down under scrutiny. It wasn't just simply a matter of
doing a favor in exchange for the secret war in Afghanistan against Soviet invaders. Somebody wanted Pakistan to build atomic bombs, and the CIA was instrumental in allowing that to happen, as it was in the later spread of nuclear technologies to other countries.
The question is, why?
Intelligence historian Joe Trento writes in Prelude to Terror that the Reagan and Bush Administration entered into a quid pro quo with Pakistan and its Saudi and Gulf financial backers in exchange for their assistance in driving the Soviets out of Afghanistan. The financial, logistical, political and commercial networks that were cemented in place endured after the Russians retreated and the Soviet Union collapsed. To hear Trento tell it, the very same network of rogue spooks, corrupt bankers, and mercenary weapons designers was the seed from which BCCI, Iran-Contra, and 9-11 sprang.
This is the strange tale of the alliance of Middle East jihadists and their business partners, entrepreneurial elements of the CIA Old Guard led by George Herbert Walker Bush. Together, they developed a global network that peddled nuclear weapons, cultivated global terrorist groups, subverted the U.S. government, and tried to impose their own global dynasty under cover of a manufactured Forever War of religious genocide.
The Safari Club
The Khan network was the product of more than an alliance against the Soviet Union. It sprang out of a post-Watergate era partnership between disgraced former covert operators who had been thrown out of American intelligence, the Saudi Royal family, and third-country partners who provided manpower and technical assistance. It was called, "The Safari Club". In early 1976, under its outgoing Director George H.W. Bush, elements within the Agency turned to the Saudi royal family for help. Those were difficult times for CIA Old Guard. As ground involvement in Vietnam ended in 1973, the Agency ramped up the covert operations and secret wars that spread into Laos and Cambodia. The Phoenix Program targeted tens of thousands of South Vietnamese officials and suspected Vietcong sympathizers for assassination, a program in which James Mann tells us in Rise of the Vulcans a naval officer, named Richard Armitage, participated. http://www.warandpiece.com/...
Two years later, despite the extraordinary exertions of some within the Agency, and a fellowship of committed Cold warriors, Saigon fell. Within that group was the perception that the Cause had been betrayed by liberals, Democrats, and bean counters, and that would never again be allowed to happen.
1974 had seen the unraveling of the Watergate scandal, in which the hand of the CIA Old Guard in domestic politics was revealed. Finally, by 1976, it had become widely perceived as the rogue Agency. In the "Year of Intelligence," the Church and Pike Committees publicly exposed decades of shocking crimes carried out and covered up by the intelligence community. This forced newly-elected President Carter and Congress to finally exert real oversight and limit intelligence operations around the world.
In August 1977, CIA Director Stansfield Turner ordered 823 positions within the covert Directorate of Operations eliminated, firing most of the Agency's hard men such as Ted "Blonde Ghost" Shackley, Thomas Clines, and Edwin Wilson. Their response was to take their deadly talents and wares into the private sector. That same year, Armitage left his DIA post in Iran, where he worked with Richard Secord and the Shah’s Secret Police, SAVAK, and was reassigned to State Department cover in Thailand.
In a bid to reestablish their independence, Right-wing Agency operators turned to new sources of cash and foreign patronage, particularly the Saudis, for the resources needed to shake off strictures imposed by President Carter and the Democratic Congress.
Through the Safari Club, Trento writes, "the Saudi royal family had taken over intelligence financing for the United States" at 102. The shared cause of anticommunism justified the privatization and merger of U.S. and Saudi intelligence, but it also opened avenues for personal and political enrichment for those who would create and run a run a shadow oligarchy. It created a set of alliances and mutual obligations. It was also highly illegal under U.S. law for American intelligence officers and officials to accept private foreign cash -- whether or not this was the original intention, this ended up allowing the Saudis, Pakistanis, and other foreign members in the Safari Club blackmail and veto power over those U.S. officials involved. George H.W. Bush and those around him who had accepted the deal also had to live with it.
Another key figure in this saga is Prince Turki al-Faisal, until his sudden resignation on September 4, 2001, the 24-year veteran head of Saudi foreign intelligence, the General Intelligence Directorate - GID, and according to the Financial Times, Osama bin-Laden’s former case officer.
Turki gave a detailed description of the Safari Club in a 2002 speech to the Georgetown University alumni. Joseph Trento relates this oration:
"And now I will go back to the secret that I promised to tell you. In 1976, after the Watergate matters took place here, your intelligence community was literally tied up by Congress. It could not do anything. It could not send spies, it could not write reports, and it could not pay money. In order to compensate for that, a group of countries got together in the hope of fighting Communism and established what was called the Safari Club. The Safari Club included France, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, and Iran.
The principal aim of this club was that we would share information with each other in countering Soviet influence worldwide, and especially in Africa. In the 1970s, there were still some countries in Africa that were coming out of colonialism, among them Mozambique, Angola, and I think Djibouti. The main concern of everybody was that the spread of Communism was taking place while the main country that would oppose Communism was tied up. Congress had literally paralyzed the work not only of the U.S. intelligence community but of its foreign service as well.
And so the Kingdom, with these countries, helped in some way, I believe, to keep the world safe at the time when the United States was not able to do that. That, I think, is a secret that many of you don’t know. I am not saying it because I look to tell secrets, but because the time has gone and many of the actors are gone as well." Quoted in Trento 102
CIA Goes Mercenary for the Saudis
What did all that Saudi money that started flowing into pockets at the CIA at the end of the Nixon Administration go to? Perhaps the best answer available without a security clearance is found in David Corn's 1994 book, Blonde Ghost: Ted Shackley and the CIA's Crusades. The main outlines of how the CIA's original mission of intelligence collection and analysis was subverted into one of intelligence falsified to support Presidential policy, assassination, torture, terrrism, overthrow of elected government, privatization of covert operations, and political warfare against Democratic Presidents and Congress follows the career of men such as Shackley, Wilson, Secord and, at the head of things, Bush, Sr. That set the pattern for the similar criminal abuses of intelligence carried out by Bush's son and those around him, many of whom started their careers during the Vietnam War. The chronology of events decades ago are summarized in this review of Corn's book: http://www.bearcave.com/...
In Vietnam the CIA moved away from intelligence gathering and toward covert action aimed at helping the Saigon government and defeating the North Vietnamese. Although some intelligence was gathered, any analysis that contradicted the view that the United States would prevail was ignored. During the early 1960's William Colby, who later became director of the CIA, was the Saigon station chief. Under Colby the CIA became involved in "pacification" programs, that attempted to track down the Viet Cong and their sympathizers in South Vietnam. In 1968, when Shackley became station chief, Colby was on leave from the CIA to head "Operation Phoenix", which became infamous as an assassination program responsible for killing those suspected of aiding the Viet Cong. The CIA also established Provincial Reconnaissance Units PRU and Provincial Interrogation Centers PIC, all staffed by South Vietnamese, who became known for their brutality.
Shackley's story continues:
Under Shackley, the Saigon station churned out intelligence reports. These were all reviewed by Shackley, who rejected any report without the proper positive "can do" tone. Although the United States had been involved in Vietnam since the mid-1950s, few agents had been developed and little real intelligence was reported. Much of the information that was forwarded to Langley came from interrogations from the PRUs. Most of this information was useless and the CIA failed to report the major build-up of North Vietnamese forces in preparation for the Tet offensive in 1968.
The fight against communism was used to justify terrible atrocities and the United States government and the CIA lost its moral compass in Vietnam. The CIA in Vietnam naturally selected for people who would pursue the cold war fight without question. It is not surprising that the same people went on to do terrible things in South America during the 1970s and during the "Contra war" in the 1980s.
When Shackley was recalled to Langley, in February of 1972, he was put in charge of the CIA's Western Hemisphere Division.
Shackley also inherited an operation that was funneling money to right wing opponents of Salvador Allende, in Chile. Eventually Allende was overthrown. This was followed by the first act of international terrorism on American soil, the September,1976 car bombing in Washington's Embassy Row that took the lives of former Chilean Ambassador, Orlando Letelier, and a passenger, Ronni Moffitt, sister of a liberal U.S. Congressman from Connecticut. The assassination was later shown to have been organized by a Chilean military officer on the CIA payroll and carried out by an American-born extreme Rightist who was let into the U.S. despite being on the State Department Watch List. See, George H.W. Bush, the CIA & a Case of State Terrorism by Robert Parry, http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/...
David Corn recounts the events in the Chilean coup that overthrew what was then the second-oldest democracy in the world:
Salvador Allende died during the coup. When the smoke cleared, General Augusto Pinochet, the head of a military junta, was in dictatorial control. Political parties, including Langley's favored Christian Democrats, were banned. The Chilean Congress was closed. Elections were suspended. The press was censored. Allende supporters and opponents of the junta were jailed. Torture centers were established. Executions replaced soccer matches in Santiago's stadiums. Bodies floated down the Mapocho river. Due in part to the hard work of Shackley and dozens of other Agency bureaucrats and operatives, Chile was free of the socialists.
The reviewer recounts:
After serving as director of the Western Hemisphere Division, Shackley was promoted to the position of Associate Deputy Director for Operations, the number three position at the CIA. This was to be his last promotion. Shackley was a friend of Edwin Wilson, an ex-CIA contractor, who became an arms dealer. Wilson was jailed for shipping C4 plastic explosive and detonators to Libya. Admiral Stansfield Turner, who was head of the CIA during the Carter administration, never forgave Shackley for his association with Wilson. He transferred Shackley to the bureaucratic equivalent of Siberia and Shackley left the Agency in 1979.
After leaving the CIA Shackley worked briefly for Thomas Clines, who had worked for Shackley in Laos and Vietnam. Clines had left the CIA before Shackley, in 1978. Using money loaded to him by Edwin Wilson, Clines incorporated International Research and Trade, which became involved in shipping arms purchased in the United States to Egypt. The cost of shipping the arms was billed to the Defense Department, which later claimed that Clines and his associates had illegally inflated their billings. Shackley later left Clines' firm and formed his own company, Research Associates International, which specialized in providing intelligence to business. The loose fraternity of ex-CIA employees kept in touch with each other and with the United States government. During the Reagan administration, both Shackley and Clines became involved in the Iran-Contra affair, along with an associate from their days in Laos, Richard Secord. Clines was later convicted of under reporting income from his Iran-Contra dealings by at least $260,000 and served several months in a prison as a result. Shackley's involvement in the Iran-Contra affair is more difficult to discern.
Why did Khan and Pakistan get into the proliferation game, and why did it take twenty years to get him out?
The other major project of the alliance between Bush Sr. rump CIA and the Saudis was to finance and organize the construction in Pakistan of the "Islamic Atom Bomb." This illegal program continued in direct defiance of U.S. commitments to UN anti-proliferation treaties as well as in contravention of the official policy of the United States during the Carter and Clinton Administrations opposing further proliferation on the sub-Continent.
The first part of that question is easily enough answered by a combination of greed, patriotism, and ideological zeal on the part of all those involved. However, the more interesting question is why did the U.S. allow it to go on for the better part of a quarter century? Author Gordon Corera, Shopping for Bombs: Nuclear Proliferation, Global Insecurity and the Rise and Fall of the A.Q. Khan Network provides part of the answer to both sides of the Khan and CIA enigma. The Economist offers a good, but incomplete, answer:
Why did he do it? The Khan network began in support of Pakistan's determination to "eat grass or leaves" if need be to get its hands on a bomb to match India's. Quite when this Pakistan-centred import procurement network turned into the core of a global export-led proliferation network, run increasingly for private profit, isn't clear.
By all accounts, Pakistan bought North Korean nuclear-capable missiles in the early 1990s for cash. When money later got tight, it bartered nuclear expertise instead. Dealings with Iran and Libya over the years seem to have been driven increasingly by personal greed rather than by state policy or by Mr Khan's avowed nuclear patriotism.
He got away with it for so long, first, because Western governments in the 1980s saw fighting communism as more important than fighting proliferation—a false choice, argues Mr Corera — and, later on, because Pakistan's own nuclear buying provided a cover for its selling through the same intermediaries. The picture was hard to piece together. Eventually Western intelligence agencies, relying on traditional derring-do, penetrated the heart of the Khan operation.
As Trento and Corera tell us, development of a nuclear program was not a stand-alone operation for the Pakistanis. They could not afford to do it on their own, and the Saudis demanded service for their money. The same deal applied to the CIA -- those who took money, had to deliver something of value. To keep their patrons happy, Pakistani and rogue U.S. intelligence operators formed an alliance. The CIA operated as ISI's enabler, shielding Pakistan from investigation and retaliation, just as elements of the Agency had the Saudi money men. In exchange, Pakistan provided services in the areas such as recruiting, harboring, and training terrorists. Thus, by 1985 every side had what it needed. Pakistan had the prestige of being treated as a de facto nuclear power, Right-wing elements within the CIA and the Reagan-Bush Administration had the money they needed to carry out covert domestic and international operations -- ie, Iran-Contra -- and the Saudis had veto and blackmail power over the key figures in American politics, intelligence, law enforcement and the private sector to sheild the international financial crimes carried out by more enterprising helpers -- BCCI and the S&L scandal.
The Reagan-Bush Administration was the first American Presidency that was truly controlled by spooks and foreign interests. The political crimes carried out under Nixon and Ford had been more insular, domestic affairs. From that time onward, the Pakistani military was free to spin-off a nuclear weapons retail business involving a global free trade in atomic bomb parts, dirty money, and terrorist provocateurs. As the Kerry Commission Report makes clear, BCCI, the S&L rip-off, and Iran-Contra were international crimes involving Saudis and Pakistanis facilitated by corrupt American political and intelligence officials. Elements of U.S. intelligence, federal law enforcement, the State Department, and the Pentagon were, of course, well aware of this. Those U.S. officials who tried to put a stop to it encountered the CIA Old Boys, and were pushed aside or silenced.
One such casualty was a CIA officer named Richard M. Barlow, a specialist on Pakistan’s nuclear program, who the NYT reports was fired two decades ago after he blew the whistle on his superiors at DoD – Cheney, Wolfowitz, Libby, and Hadley -- for lying to Congress about the state of that country’s nuclear program. The destruction and intimidation of honest U.S. intelligence, military and law enforcement was another aspect of the ongoing Bush Saudi ISI criminal enterprise: http://topics.nytimes.com/...
Criticism of C.I.A. Analyst's Dismissal Bolsters a Fight for Whistle-Blower Protections
By JEFF GERTH
General Accounting Office questions Pentagon's dismissal of intelligence analyst eight years ago after he complained to his agency superiors that Federal officials were misleading Congress about Pakistan's nuclear abilities; criticizes earlier internal investigation by Defense Dept for concluding that whistle-blower protections already in place did not affect case of analyst, Richard M Barlow, who worked for Central Intelligence Agency; Barlow never disclosed his concerns outside CIA, and his cr...July 20, 1997 U.S. News
More recently that story was picked up by BBC, and reported here by Lukery, who has extensively covered the subject of FBI translator Sibel Edmonds, who encountered the same network before 9/11 and was also silenced when she attempted to draw attention to it: http://www.dailykos.com/...
CIA Barlow was the CIA's key expert on Pakistan's nuclear program - he engineered sting operations and arrests of key AQ Khan personnel. For his efforts, Barlow was retaliated against - he says that Cheney, Libby, Wolfowitz and Hadley "viciously tried to destroy my life, personally and professionally... in truly extraordinary ways that no one had ever seen before or since — at least not until the Wilsons (Joe, Valerie) were victims of the same people years later."
Barlow was recently featured in a BBC documentary about AQ Khan called "The Nuclear Walmart" which highlights that the US government was fully aware of the development of Pakistan's nuclear program, as well as Pakistan's proliferation to countries like North Korea and Iran - and sat by quietly and did nothing.
As we see it, there are several reasons why Khan's network continued as long as it did, and ended when it did. To recap: the Khan network started as part of a larger deal with the Saudis to revive the activist Right-wing of the CIA; was allowed to metasticize because it had US officials over a barrel; later, during the Clinton years, the A.Q. Khan operation was to some extent captured ( "turned" ) by (more or less) legitimate elements within CIA as a means to monitor and sabotage the nuclear program of several target countries, including North Korea, Iraq, Iran and Libya. The effectiveness of that Clinton-era program, I argue, was demonstrated last October when North Korea’s nuclear test shot was a dud. http://www.dailykos.com/...
Now, it becomes clearer how Khan came to act with near impunity for two decades, protected on several sides by the Pakistani government, his customers, monied Saudi backers, and several western intelligence agencies, including the Bush Sr. Old Spook crowd.
Then there's the final irony to this story. After Clinton-Gore were elected, proliferation continued, but his Agency minders were different. Khan was watched with care by career CIA officers and other U.S. officials as he spread his wares around the world. Those involved in this phase of the Agency operation were told by the Bush-era operatives that Khan had been "turned", which to some degree was quite plausible. The equipment that Khan sold to North Korea, Libya, and Iran was very expensive but very poor quality, prone to breakdown, constantly in need of spare parts, the flow of which was used to monitor the pace of production of fissionable material, which turned out to be far less than what any of these countries needed to make an enriched uranium bomb. By using Khan as a supplier, these countries actually set themselves back relative to what they might have achieved if they had made a real effort to obtain more modern, efficient designs available -- with much greater effort -- elsewhere on the international black market. See, http://www.democraticunderground.com... ; http://www.democraticunderground.com...
Two of those who monitored Khan were Valerie Plame and her husband, Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who followed Khan to Niger after A.Q. had visited that uranium-producing country in February, 1999. See, http://www.washingtonpost.com/... http://www.slate.com/...
Wilson’s uneventful follow-up trip to Niger in 2002 was to become a grand distraction in L’Affaire Plame. With so many people paying such close attention to him for so long, Khan must have felt as if he were truly untouchable.
But, after the 2000 election, the rules were changed about how the U.S conducted covert operations. With the Bush-Cheney Administration, quiet surveillance and penetration of Saudi-financed WMD and terrorist networks were out, and the very fact that target countries were running nuclear programs -- with the help of the CIA -- became a casus belli for military attack of "Axis of Evil" countries.
- One can easily accept that the Bushites, now back in power, were desperate enough to advance their war-making agenda that they were willing to sacrifice the CIA’s most effective nuclear counter-proliferation program.
- An alternative explanation is that one faction of the Agency that had split in the 1970s was out to destroy its rival, which had managed the counter-proliferation and counter-terrorism divisions with a light touch during the Clinton years.
- Or, it has been suggested, that certain third countries had also piggy-backed onto the A.Q. Khan network, and outed the Pakistanis in an attempt to spark a regional war as a way manipulate the U.S. into, once-and-for-all, disposing of their regional rivals.
- Finally, there is evidence that the Bush team did some quick housekeeping once back in the White House, and simply did away with the source of so much incriminating evidence, the A.Q. Khan network had outlived its original purpose, and had to be shut down because it continued to use many of the same financial and logistical networks linked to the Saudis and Pakistanis, and that had already compromised too much.
Perhaps, some combination of these motives, along with a simple-minded executive decision to "take out" Khan explains it. The fact of the outing is indisputable, however. Within months of taking power, the Administration closed down much of the counter-proliferation and counter-terrorism programs they inherited. In May 2001, CIA Director George Tenet and Undersecretary of State Richard Armitage, an old Bush Asia hand, met with Pakistani President Musharaff. Two weeks later, Khan was outed with the publication on June 1 of a story in Rupert Murdoch's Financial Times quoting Armitage as saying that a certain ranking "retired figure" within the Pakistani nuclear establishment had been trading weapons technology with North Korea. See, http://www.globalsecurity.org/... http://www.dailykos.com/...
Bush-Cheney Closed Down U.S. Counterterrorism Along with the CIA's Khan "Sting" Operation, Leading to 9-11
At the same time, major U.S. counter-terrorism operations with a nexus in Pakistan were closed down, as they used much of the same financial and logistical network as Khan, But, for some reason, terrorist operatives scattered around the world -- a number of them inside the U.S.-- were not rolled-up or otherwise neutralized. In early 2001, the FBI terminated Operation Monarch Crossing, which linked Saudi-controlled financing in the U.S. with Pakistani nuclear proliferation. http://www.storiesthatmatter.org/... The Bureau was also forced to shutter Operation Catchers Mitt, http://www.dailykos.com/... at the same time NSA and DIA were ordered to erase much of the data it had compiled in Able-Danger, another Clinton-era secret program mapping the al-Qaeda network inside the U.S.
There has been little attention paid to the Bush-Cheney Administration's orders to shut down these counter-terrorism programs. Given the larger context, it should come as no surprise that these people are willing to sacrifice just about anything to cover their tracks.
END OF PART 1