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Posted at 8:32 PM ET, 06/ 7/2010

Former CIA analyst alleges China-Saudi nuclear deal

By Jeff Stein

A former CIA officer who managed intelligence reports on Saudi Arabia has sent an uncleared manuscript to congressional offices claiming that China supplied nuclear missiles to the kingdom early in the George W. Bush administration.

“I believe the People’s Republic of China delivered a turn-key nuclear ballistic missile system to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia over the course of several years beginning no later than December 2003,” writes Jonathan Scherck in a self-published book, “Patriot Lost,” which he provided to SpyTalk on Monday.

He also e-mailed copies to the offices of Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who chairs the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.), ranking Republican on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

Scherck, who became convinced that the White House was covering up the China-Saudi nuclear connection so as not to damage relations with a major U.S. ally and oil supplier, said he formed his conclusions while reading intelligence reports from Riyadh during his 18 months on “the Saudi account” in the Near East Division between 2005 and 2007, as well as talking with other CIA personnel in contact with the Bush White House.

“Based on the author’s knowledge of U.S. satellite imagery spanning this time period, along with first-hand accounts of revealing interactions between Cheney’s office and CIA management,” a press release says, “Patriot Lost details how -- out of political expediency amidst the war in Iraq -- the Bush White House opted not to intervene in an oil-for-nuclear weapons pact between the Chinese government and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. This heavily shrouded deal and Washington’s shocking complicity constituted a flagrant violation of the long-standing but crippled Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty ratified decades ago under the Richard Nixon administration.”

But his manuscript provides little in the way of detailed evidence for his conclusions.

Scherck joined the CIA in 2004 but quit before finishing the agency’s rigorous clandestine career training course, in November of that year. He then joined SpecTal, a Reston, Va.-based intelligence contractor, which assigned him to the CIA as a collection management officer on the Saudi desk. He supplied SpyTalk with corroboration of his agency employment and correspondence with the CIA’s Publications Review Board over his manuscript.

Scherck also said he was fired “because of my continued interaction with the NGA” – the National Geospatial Agency, which provides spy satellite pictures to the CIA and other U.S. intelligence components.

He said he tired of the board’s “foot dragging” on his manuscript, although he had submitted it only in April, the correspondence shows. Negotiations can drag on for several months.

Publishing the manuscript without the CIA’s approval opens him to criminal prosecution.

CIA spokesmen were not readily available for comment. Spokesman for Feinstein and Hoekstra could not be reached. (Update: A Feinstein spokesman later said the office was "still digesting" the manuscript and would have no comment.)

“I was a contractor supporting America’s intelligence community,” Scherck writes.

“As a contractor working at CIA … I served as a middleman between HUMINT [human intelligence] collectors in the field overseas and policymakers downtown at the White House and National Security Council. But in this role, I was one of only a few individuals in Washington with access to what was being said overseas at the time about Saudi Arabia’s procurement of a new ballistic missile system from China. “

“I read things, I heard things, I saw things,” he continued. “Admittedly, I did not see all—but I saw enough.”

Over the years there have been constant reports on secret collaboration among China, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan in nuclear and ballistic missile development.

By Jeff Stein  | June 7, 2010; 8:32 PM ET
Categories:  Foreign policy, Intelligence, Military  
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Let's hope this book is a work of fiction by a disgruntled former CIA analyst. If it is not the ramifications are world-changing: a nuclear arms race in the Middle East, Arab nuclear-tipped missiles that could hit Israel, continued flagrant violation by China of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, greater competition with China than previously understood for Saudi Arabia’s oil and “friendship”, to list a few. Such an alleged deal might also help explain why the Chinese do not seem too concerned about Iran’s efforts to develop a nuclear weapons capability.

Posted by: wbishop | June 7, 2010 10:13 PM | Report abuse

It is the right of Saudi Arabia to acquire nuclear power to defend it self against Iran and mostly Israel; a country that has nuclear capabilities and is not supervised by the IAEA and also is committing atrocities aginst humanity. Israel is a country that is above the law and we, Saudis, can not live under the threat of such a renegade country

Posted by: mossab | June 8, 2010 8:23 AM | Report abuse

Jeff, why are you publicizing the work of a crackpot? If there were any truth to Scherck's allegation that China provided Saudi Arabia with nuclear weapons, how could it possibly remain secret for seven years. Would the Israelis or the pro-Israel lobby in Washington actually have nothing to say if they suspected Saudi Arabia possessed nuclear warheads? Also, your post appears to intentionally fudge whether Scherck is saying that China sold Saudi Arabia ballistic missiles (which could carry nuclear warheads) or whether they actually provided missiles with nuclear warheads.

Posted by: RealityBasedDC | June 8, 2010 10:28 AM | Report abuse

Saudi Arabia got nuclear-capable CSS-2 IRBMs from China back in 1988:

So the question of interest is whether they subsequently got the nukes.

Though it isn't particularly important for this story, Scherck wasn't an intelligence analyst as such. His job as a contractor seems to have been something like a reports officer.

Posted by: TexLex | June 8, 2010 11:10 AM | Report abuse

Lame Psy Ops Dept.


* Here's how they do it -- are you unjustly "targeted" too?

* What don't they want reported? See link at the end of this article: OR

Posted by: scrivener50 | June 8, 2010 12:40 PM | Report abuse

What a coincidence for this to happen soon after the Israeli foreign minister declared that his country was going to wage a PR campaign against Saudi Arabia in the US and elsewhere...

Posted by: SomeHuman | June 8, 2010 8:20 PM | Report abuse

This story of the Saudi purchase of Chinese ballistic missiles is not new.

In 2002, I published a satellite imagery report at showing the Chinese-built Saudi ballistic missile base at Al Sulayyil among others.

It seem this whole matter is a publicity stunt by Mr. Scherckto sell his new book.

Typically, intelligence agencies and analysts don't make US foreign policy. He quit before finishing his training with the CIA, and is now trying to influence US foreign policy, which he is free to do as long as he does not reveal classified information.

Right now the US has very limited options. We need the Chinese to keep buying our T-bills, and we need Saudi oil. We don't have leverage with either to start a spat over aging intermediate range ballistic missiles.

Tim Brown
Senior Fellow

Posted by: timbrown2 | June 11, 2010 2:57 PM | Report abuse

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