I’ve got a few items today.
Firstly, former FBI translator Sibel Edmonds and I were interviewed by Scott Horton for Antiwar Radio last week. The interview went live on Monday. From the blurb:
“Sibel Edmonds and Luke Ryland discuss the London Times series on her case and the international nuclear black-market network surrounding A.Q. Kahn, the U.S. government’s total clamp-down by gag orders even against Congress, the American foreign policy hypocrisy of demonizing certain nuclear ambitions and supporting others, the military-industrial-congressional complex revolving door, the bipartisan lack of enthusiasm in pursuing whistleblower cases, the movie about Sibel’s case “Kill The Messenger,” and how it only takes one congressman to call her to testify to blow the case wide open.”
The DoJ has previously released a 35 page unclassified summary of the report, but this is the first time that the 100 page redacted version has been released publicly. You won’t learn much from trying to read the report but it is striking to see how much of the report is redacted. Here is the ‘Introduction’:
Sibel highlighted the fact that people like Hastert and others who have been involved like former #3 at the State Dept, Marc Grossman, have become ‘untouchable.’ From the interview:
“Horton: Even though for years now your story has somehow implicated [Hastert] in basically criminal interaction with these groups, and now he still goes right to them for employment when he quits [government]!
Edmonds: Absolutely – they all do. Because they have become… we have these people who have become untouchable.
So what I’m trying to say here is that you have this root problem in our country, you have this pattern, so when you say “Nothing happens to Marc Grossman,” I’m telling you that these people are untouchable. They are the untouchables because you see this with many, many people, and it’s not raising any flags, the mainstream media is not reporting on it, the congress is not doing anything about it, so what does Marc Grossman have to worry about? They have really thick skin, they are really, really bold about their moves, because they are saying “I’m doing all this despite all this stuff out there. Come and touch me. Catch me if you can.” And there is no one out there for us to go and ask to catch these guys.”
On the other hand, Sibel reiterated that although these people rightly feel untouchable, it only takes one honest congressperson to have the courage to stand up and invite Sibel to testify under oath in congress to bring down the house of cards and send some of the ‘untouchables’ to prison. Sibel has repeatedly said that the FBI counterintelligence officials that she worked with are also willing, and eager, to testify if called.
We also discussed the nuclear black market in the interview:
“Edmonds: You have to focus on one aspect, and that is that right now we are talking about a black market, the nuclear black market, and you’re looking at international players within this nuclear black market activity, and this involves to a certain degree the Russians, Israelis, South Africa, Turkey, Iran, North Korea, so you’re looking at many, many players…
The big deal is our hypocrisy-ridden foreign policy, and the fact that on one hand, we’re talking about the danger of these weapons of mass destruction in the hands of whoever at the time we declare to be in the “Axis of Evil,” and using this as a technique, and as a tactic, to invoke fear here in our country…
On the other hand, when it comes to these really serious issues and cases, a lot of them involving weapons of mass destruction, we cherry-pick the intelligence, and we cherry-pick on what we are going to take action.
As you know, right now, we are talking about possibly attacking Iran because they may have the nuclear capabilities and technology. On the other hand, we are looking the other way when it comes to this global scale nuclear black market activities, in some of which we have U.S. players, participation, and their role. But yet, we go out of our way – and this is our government – to quash this information, to gag this information, to let these people off the hook, and we can’t do that!
That is the importance of it, it’s not that “Okay, fine, Pakistan got it, and who played what role?” It is the fact that there is this nuclear black market, and we have many, many players, and some of these players happen to be our allies, some of these players happen to be U.S. persons, and yet, we only get partial stories, and whenever it is convenient for our government to say “Oh, okay if it is Syria, or if it is Iran…” and yet looking the other way when it happens to be people who we call our allies.”
Some of those ‘allies’ who participate in this nuclear black market include officials from Israel and Turkey and the US. As reported in the UK’s Times in January’s “For sale: West’s deadly nuclear secrets”:
“A backlog of tapes had built up, dating back to 1997, which were needed for an FBI investigation into links between the Turks and Pakistani, Israeli and US targets. … (Sibel) heard evidence that pointed to money laundering, drug imports and attempts to acquire nuclear and conventional weapons technology.
“What I found was damning,” she said. “While the FBI was investigating, several arms of the government were shielding what was going on.”
The Turks and Israelis had planted “moles” in military and academic institutions which handled nuclear technology. Edmonds says there were several transactions of nuclear material every month, with the Pakistanis being among the eventual buyers. “The network appeared to be obtaining information from every nuclear agency in the United States,” she said.”
This part of the interview was in response to the news last month that the CIA had helped orchestrate the destruction of evidence in a Swiss case involving some key suppliers to the proliferation network. I wrote about that a couple of weeks ago. Please note that this interview was conducted late last week, prior to the news in the US media in the last few days, scaremongering about the possibility that Iran and others might have received blueprints for a new compact nuclear weapon. As I mentioned in my previous post, the US media was silent about this story for weeks, before finding a way to spin it onto the front page of the Washington Post on Sunday (“Smugglers Had Design For Advanced Warhead“)
The apparent trigger for this latest round of reporting in the US was a new report (pdf) by former weapons inspector David Albright which was released on Monday (and leaked in draft form over the weekend).
It will be interesting to watch how the spin on this story plays out. Albright’s report notes that the defendants in the Swiss case, the Tinner family, had one full page, in a three page report, dedicated to the fact that the Tinners were working for the CIA, and notes that they received ‘a large sum of money’ from the CIA, but I suspect that part of his report will go largely unmentioned in the US media, even while credible outlets in the rest of the world have argued for the past month that the Swiss government destroyed the evidence in the case at the behest of the CIA.
Back in May the Guardian reported:
While the Swiss government maintains the treasure trove of nuclear intelligence was destroyed for reasons of national security, the Americans may have been involved because Tinner is believed to have also been working for the CIA. Albright said Tinner was recruited by the American agency from 1999-2000.
“The Swiss were doing other people’s dirty work,” said an international official familiar with the investigation into the Khan network. “The allegation is that Urs was on the CIA payroll for a very large sum of money.”
Olli Heinonen, deputy director general at the IAEA, has led the investigation into the Khan network for years. Last year his office sought and gained access to the Tinner files and some of his officials were also summoned to witness their destruction.
The Americans were also present, according to the international official. “The Americans were involved in the destruction. They were calling the shots,” he said. The IAEA refused to comment publicly on the case. A former senior IAEA official said: “I am quite astonished. It’s very unusual to see people destroying documents like this.”
Yesterday the Guardian stated flatly that:
“Officials from the Vienna agency and Washington supervised the recent destruction of the Swiss files”
The reporting in the US media has not been quite so forthcoming about the US role. Washington Post merely reported that the evidence in the case was “recently destroyed by Swiss authorities under the supervision of the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency.” The New York Times timidly reported that “the Tinners had provided information to the C.I.A”
According to Albright’s latest report, the CIA promised to keep the Tinners, key suppliers of the network, out of prison but that the “CIA was unable to keep its promise on jail time.” In fact, by destroying the evidence in the case, the CIA might be able to keep the promise after all, as the Tinners are now likely to go free because the destruction of the evidence means that they are now unable to get a fair trial.
Of course, the US government isn’t necessarily concerned about keeping their promise to the Tinner family; it may very well be that they don’t want their involvement, and the involvement of their allies, reaching the light of day. What is missing from the current reporting is that while the Swiss were trying to build a case against the Tinners in 2005 and 2006, the US government refused to even reply to multiple requests for assistance over an 18 month period. David Albright himself testified in congress that:
The United States should respond to the Swiss requests for assistance as quickly as possible. To continue to ignore these requests undermines the vital prosecution of key members of the Khan network and risks undercutting support for Swiss cooperation in non-proliferation matters. In addition, I find this lack of cooperation frankly embarrassing to the United States and those of us who believe that the United States should take the lead in bringing members of the Khan network to justice for arming our enemies with nuclear weapons.
As I wrote last week:
In an interview on Democracy Now a week (after his testimony in Congress), Albright said that he finds the US stonewalling “disturbing and perplexing,” “mystifying” and “embarrassing as an American,” adding:
“The signal (the U.S. government is) sending is that it doesn’t want the Swiss to prosecute these three people, and yet they provide no reason for that.”
Albright’s perspective certainly add some important context to the allegations that the US government pressured the Swiss to destroy the Tinner files in order to prevent a public trial – and all that might entail…
Given this context, MSNBC’s ‘Deep Background’ has some interesting reporting. For some reason:
“U.S. officials are downplaying reports in the New York Times and Washington Post that Pakistan’s A.Q. Khan may have given Iran–and other nations–blueprints for a miniature nuclear warhead first developed for his country’s program.
Publicly, U.S. officials have been low key in discussing the reports, surprising in that the Bush administration has been pressing Iran to stop its uranium enrichment program.
A spokesman for the CIA declined all comment.
A senior U.S. official familiar with the network’s operation explained why the U.S. is downplaying the reports, at least publicly.
“You’ll have a hard time proving or disproving this,” he said, referring to the possibility that Iran was given the blueprints. “We don’t know that this transfer took place.”
It sure is ‘surprising.’ Whatever happened to “We don’t what the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud”?
Even as the rhetoric against Iran continues to heat up, the Bush administration is trying to deflect attention away from this matter. Why is that? This seems like the perfect ‘opportunity’ to scale up the pressure. Why are they distancing themselves? What do they have to hide?
In other news, I was interviewed by Peter B Collins about Sibel’s case for 20 minutes on Monday. You can listen to that here (mp3)