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The Nuclear Jihadist: The True Story of the Man Who Sold the World's Most Dangerous Secrets...and How We Could Have Stopped Himby Douglas Frantz
Synopses & Reviews
The world has entered a second nuclear age. For the first time since the end of the Cold War, the threat of nuclear annihilation is on the rise. Should such an assault occur, there is a strong likelihood that the trail of devastation will lead back to Abdul Qadeer Khan, the Pakistani father of the Islamic bomb and the mastermind behind a vast clandestine enterprise that has sold nuclear secrets to
Journalists Douglas Frantz and Catherine Collins tell this alarming tale of international intrigue through the eyes of the European and American officials who suspected Khan, tracked him, and ultimately shut him down, but only after the nuclear genie was long out of the bottle.
"In tackling the story of Pakistani nuclear scientist A.Q. Khan, Frantz and Collins (Death on the Black Sea) are entering a crowded field. As Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark did in Deception (reviewed July 30), this husband-and-wife team divides attention between Khan's influence over Pakistan's nuclear program and how the American government ignored evidence of his progress because Pakistan served as a convenient ally. While much of this story is familiar, Frantz and Collins do provide more detail on Khan's background and draw on several different U.S. sources. (They reveal, for example, that the State Department discussed assassinating Khan as far back as 1978.) They also give the Pakistani government more benefit of the doubt than most other commentators: an internal corruption investigation ordered by Pervez Musharraf shortly after he became Pakistan's president is interpreted as suggesting that Khan's dealing with nations like Libya and Iran might not have been sanctioned by his government. Deception has more about Pakistan's internal politics and an edge in readability and 'zing,' but this is an equally serviceable overview. (Dec. 3)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Abdul Qadeer Khan's sale of nuclear technology to rogue nations is no longer a secret. The Pakistani physicist, revered in his homeland as the father of the Islamic bomb, was forced to confess his 'unauthorized proliferation activities' on Pakistan's state television in 2004. He has been confined to house (more accurately, mansion) arrest ever since. But the staged confession and... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) wrist-slapping were only one act in a long-running farce whose full consequences have yet to play out. U.S. intelligence agencies first got wind of Khan's nuclear black-market activity during the Carter administration. Yet he continued to operate, uninterrupted, through the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations, the Clinton years and George W. Bush's first term, until his network was formally shut down in 2003. Despite being incommunicado, Khan is such a compelling figure that three teams of investigative reporters have come out with books on him this fall. While differing in emphasis, they arrive at some important, common conclusions. Together, they dispel any notion that Khan was an independent actor or that he operated on the fringes of legality, beyond Pakistani government control. They also show that U.S., British and other intelligence services knew a great deal about him. Most damning, they provide evidence that Khan's operation could have been shut down in the "70s or "80s — long before this bitter, egomaniacal physicist was able to provide nuclear technology to Iran, Libya, North Korea and possibly other state and non-state actors. Instead, successive U.S. administrations turned a blind eye to Khan's network in return for short-term favors from Pakistan, first in funneling arms to the mujahedeen combating the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and, after 9/11, in helping with the global war on terror. At times, Khan also profited from sheer bumbling by Western intelligence agencies and their failure to understand, until it was too late, how global networks of front companies could buy small pieces of nuclear weapons technology in hundreds of separate transactions, some legitimate and some not. Back in the early "60s, Khan was a low-paid postal inspector in Karachi, known for demanding bakshish, or bribes, according to Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark, who write for the London Guardian. Then he visited a U.S.-sponsored exhibition on Eisenhower's vision of 'Atoms for Peace' and, ironically, had an atomic vision of his own: a Pakistani bomb. He headed to Holland to study metallurgy, married a South African woman of Dutch descent and got a job at a subcontractor for Urenco, a consortium of European governments that operates a top-secret uranium enrichment facility on the Dutch-German border. 'An expatriate Muslim from a South Asian country known to be in pursuit of the bomb, Khan should have stuck out,' Levy and Scott-Clark rightly note in 'Deception.' Instead, the Dutch gave him a limited security clearance and, before long, access to highly classified designs for an enrichment centrifuge. He did little to hide his translating, copying and photographing of the plans, scribbling data in a black notebook that his co-workers grew to know well. It was these designs that he provided first to his own country and later to others. Khan couldn't operate alone. He was a master at using people and companies in Europe and at promoting his agenda within Pakistan. The West, India and Israel had or would have the bomb, he argued, and only Muslims would be left unprotected in the nuclear world. Pakistani leaders — from Mohammad Zia-ul-Haq to former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto to Pervez Musharraf, who is now ruling by decree — agreed. Of these three books, 'Deception' is the most complete and authoritative. Levy and Scott-Clark take the reader deep inside Khan's operations, including his extensive and previously unreported contacts with China, which gave him technical help beginning in the early 1980s. Their book also provides the fullest picture of Khan's turbulent family life, his constant tension with his wife, his extramarital affairs and even his visits to a psychiatrist, who noted that he seemed 'eaten up ... as if he was unable to sate his ambition.' It was this insatiable ambition that appears to have led Khan to move beyond just developing Pakistan's nuclear capability and into the world of black market proliferation in the "80s. As his ego and expensive tastes grew, so did the recklessness with which he sold off nuclear plans and materiel. In the late 1990s, he went so far as to draw up a menu of nuclear goods and services he could provide. Pakistani officials occasionally sought to limit his business trips abroad, indicating they had inklings of his proliferation activities. All three books suggest that this mediocre physicist could not have carried out his plans without the backing of at least some senior military and government officials. 'Deception' also gives the harshest indictment of Pakistan's duplicity. By Levy and Scott-Clark's account, Musharraf has often told the West what it wanted to hear while following what the ISI — Pakistan's entrenched intelligence service, which has strong ties to Islamic militants — wanted to do. His recent declaration of a state of emergency has left Pakistan adrift and control over its nuclear arsenal arguably more tenuous than ever, as the army's command and control structure has frayed. Yet Musharraf seems confident that the United States, Britain and other patron states will not dare cut Pakistan off militarily or economically, precisely because of that arsenal. 'The Nuclear Jihadist' covers much of the same ground from a narrower, U.S.-centered perspective. Of particular interest is a behind-the-scenes account of the negotiations that led Libya's Moammar Gaddafi to give up his nuclear program, one of the few bright spots in this saga. In clear, gripping prose, the husband-and-wife team of Douglas Frantz and Catherine Collins recount the race to intercept a shipment of equipment that would have helped make Libya's nuclear ambitions a reality. They also add new details of the key role that Gaddafi's son, Seif Islam Gaddafi, played in the negotiations. 'America and the Islamic Bomb' is a ground-level look at the operational failures of U.S., British and other intelligence services in assessing the Khan network. Relying on government documents and interviews, David Armstrong and Joseph Trento reveal multiple scuttled investigations and chronicle the infighting within several U.S. administrations, beginning under Reagan in the 1980s, over what to do about Khan and, more broadly, Pakistan, whose cooperation was deemed vital in fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan. Rivetingly, Armstrong and Trento also recount the deals that Khan made through a Dubai-based company, Gulf Technical Industries, to supply uranium centrifuges to several countries. And they tell the story of Operation Aquarium, a successful British effort to uproot the tentacles of Khan's illicit purchasing network from Malaysia to Spain and France. It shows what Western intelligence services can do when they have clear direction and international cooperation. But, on the whole, these books give little grounds for optimism that the West will be able to prevent Islamic extremists from getting their hands on nuclear weapons. 'There are plenty of ideologues, thinkers and Islamic strategists who are working towards precisely that goal,' Levy and Scott-Clark write, 'and here is a regime in Islamabad that has no hard and fast rules, no unambiguous goals or laws, and no line that cannot be bent or reshaped.' Douglas Farah's most recent book is 'Merchant of Death: Money, Guns, Planes and the Man Who Makes War Possible.'" Reviewed by Douglas Farah, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
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Journalists Douglas Frantz and Catherine Collins tell the alarming tale of Abdul Qadeer Khan--the Pakistani mastermind behind a vast clandestine enterprise that sold nuclear secrets to governments around the world. Although the U.S. ultimately shut him down, it was only after the nuclear genie was long out of the bottle.
About the Author
Douglas Frantz is managing editor of the Los Angeles Times, where he has been a business reporter, an investigative reporter, and a foreign correspondent based in Istanbul. He has also been a reporter for the New York Times and the Chicago Tribune. He is a two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist and has won several honors for his investigative reporting.
Catherine Collins has been a reporter for The Chicago Tribune and written for The Los Angeles Times and The New York Times. She has authored several books with her husband, Douglas Frantz, including Celebration and Death on the Black Sea.
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