Iran’s nuclear buddy

It was Pakistan, says the CIA

Pakistan was quick to use its favourite dismissive when an Iranian opposition group alleged that Iran had received nuclear warhead designs from the Khan Wal-Mart. Relying on dissidents, after all, does not look like a bad idea — not after Ahmed Chalabi’s machinations. Coming from those unreliable dissidents, such allegations were exactly that, mere allegations.

But when such allegations come from the CIA, especially in official reports to the United States Congress, they become ‘intelligence’.

Not unlike British colonials who regaled their London audiences with tales of dangerous man-eating tigers of India, George Tenet, the CIA’s former director, has been making some very candid remarks on the nature of the Khan’s network. But if, as he boasts, the CIA had already come to know a lot about Khan in the late 1990s, and both President Clinton and Bush knew about it, why then was it allowed to remain in business for so long?

In a recent closed-door speech to a private group, George J. Tenet, the former director of central intelligence, described Mr. Khan, the father of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program, as being “at least as dangerous as Osama bin Laden” because of his role in providing nuclear technology to other countries.

In that speech, Mr. Tenet said that the C.I.A.’s role had stretched back to 1997, and that he had kept it secret in the government from everyone but President Bill Clinton and President Bush. Describing a “hidden network that stretched across three continents,” he said: “Working with British colleagues, we pieced together his subsidiaries, his clients, his front companies, his finances and manufacturing plants. We were inside his residence, inside his facilities, inside his rooms. We were everywhere these people were.”

Mr. Tenet called the agency’s role “one of the greatest success stories nobody ever talks about.”[NYT]