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Question of the Day
The issue was mentioned briefly during a House hearing on July 22 when Rep. David Scott, Georgia Democrat, asked Vann Van Diepen, the acting assistant secretary of state for international security and nonproliferation, whether remnants of the Khan network were operational.
Mr. Van Diepen, who earlier asserted that the Khan network was “defunct,” declined to comment and said the issue needed to be discussed only in closed session.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence declined to comment.
According to a senior U.S. intelligence official, some Khan-network members escaped prosecution because of concerns that they would go into hiding. In other cases, their smuggling activities did not violate the law in countries where they set up their activities. For example, the United Arab Emirates and Malaysia — important hubs for the Khan network — have established export-control laws only in the past two years.
John R. Bolton, who was undersecretary of state for arms control and international security when the United States began rolling up the Khan network, said governments faced difficult choices on prosecuting the suspects.
“Once you expose the network, everyone who is a piece of it will try to run for cover,” Mr. Bolton said in an interview. “That is part of the decision to break it open and expose it publicly. That is part of the cost-benefit analysis.”
He added, “The same kind of calculus applies to the decision to prosecute or not to prosecute. You are also shutting front businesses down and making them known to the nuclear suppliers group. Their identities, capabilities are much more widely known. Moreover, you do not stop the information-gathering activities about this. The fact is, you can’t prosecute everyone, even if you wanted to, both for the sources and methods reasons, and you can’t get cooperation from countries that don’t have legal systems or laws that allow you to prosecute or get the information you need for a successful prosecution.”
David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security and the author of “Peddling Peril,” a new book that focuses in part on the Khan network, said the nonproliferation community has worried for years about elements of the Khan network that escaped prosecution.
“One of the things that emerged in the prosecution is that these guys don’t know any other business,” Mr. Albright said. “There has been a constant worry that the second and third tier of the Khan network would resume the illicit business of the network.”
Mr. Albright, who is also a former weapons inspector, added: “So few people were ever prosecuted and you get the sense that this network was never truly disrupted, ripped out root and branch.”
Among the many unanswered questions about the Khan network is the role of Pakistan’s government in supporting the illicit activities. A congressional aide familiar with the issue said, “Given Pakistan’s proliferation history, there is good reason to be skeptical that the entire network is out of business.”
Pervez Musharraf, Pakistani president at the time, was one of the first to disclose the proliferation of uranium-enrichment technology from the network to Libya, Iran and North Korea in his 2006 memoir, “In the Line of Fire.”
In September, journalist Simon Henderson disclosed a handwritten 2007 letter from Mr. Khan that revealed that he ran the network on behalf of the Pakistani government, contrary to claims from Pakistani officials that he worked independently of the wishes of their government or military.
© Copyright 2013 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
By Michael P. Orsi
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