Saturday, March 26, 2005
Courtesy of our venerated colleague Prometheus 6, a pair of news items that do not play well together. First, the crime, from the L.A. Times:
A federal criminal investigation has uncovered evidence that the government of Pakistan made clandestine purchases of U.S. high-technology components for use in its nuclear weapons program in defiance of American law.And the punishment, from the New York Times:
Federal authorities also say the highly specialized equipment at one point passed through the hands of Humayun Khan, an Islamabad businessman who they say has ties to Islamic militants.
Even though President Bush has been pushing for an international crackdown on such trafficking, efforts by two U.S. agencies to send investigators to Pakistan to gather more evidence have hit a bottleneck in Washington, said officials knowledgeable about the case . . . .
"This is the age-old problem with Pakistan and the U.S. Other priorities always trump the United States from coming down hard on Pakistan's nuclear proliferation. And it goes back 15 to 20 years," said David Albright, director of the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security. Albright, a former United Nations weapons inspector in Iraq, favors getting tougher with Pakistan.
U.S. and European officials involved in nonproliferation issues say they recently discovered evidence that Pakistan has begun a new push to acquire advanced nuclear components on the black market as it tries to upgrade its decades-old weapons program.
Current and former intelligence officials said the same elements of the Pakistani military that they suspected of orchestrating efforts to buy American-made products may also have worked with Abdul Qadeer Khan, the so-called father of the Pakistani nuclear program who supplied weapons know-how and parts to Iran, North Korea and Libya. Abdul Qadeer Khan and Humayun Khan are not related.
The United States will sell F-16 jet fighters to Pakistan in a deal that State Department officials said Friday would improve regional security. But the decision was immediately denounced by India as adding a fresh element of instability to relations between the nuclear neighbors.
The size of the arms sale has not been decided, State Department officials said, although Pakistan previously said it was seeking about two dozen of the planes, which can be used in ground or air attack roles and have a maximum range of more than 2,000 miles . . . .
The Bush administration has also chosen to overlook or play down other irritants, including what some officials say has been a lack of cooperation in investigating the nuclear black-market network run by A. Q. Khan, a Pakistani scientist, and the slowness of General Musharraf to return his country to democracy.