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Mystery Over Nuclear Blueprints Grows

POSTED: 12:33 PM ET, 06/16/2008 by Derek Kravitz

The revelation that blueprints to build a smaller, easily transportable nuclear weapon were discovered on computers in a handful of foreign nations has set off a worldwide search to see if any rogue nations or groups got ahold of the plans.

The A.Q. Khan smuggling ring, which is accused of sharing the plans for an advanced nuclear weapon with a Swiss family, also sold bomb-making material to Libya, Iran and North Korea. And it's unclear whether Khan, the 72-year-old father of Pakistan's nuclear weapons program, sold the nuclear bomb blueprints to anyone else.

The fallout from the public acknowledgement of the plans, which were discovered in 2006 on computers owned by the Tinner family in Switzerland, sent U.S. officials scrambling over the past week and prompted a not-too-subtle warning to Pakistani officials regarding the potential release of Khan, who is currently under house arrest, The New York Times reported.

Khan, who admitted in a televised broadcast in 2004 that he sold bomb-making plans and know-how to foreign governments, said he was coerced into confessing to that crime. In a June interview with The Post's Candace Rondeaux, Khan said he only did what Pakistani officials asked of him and denied any role in a smuggling operation. "I didn't want to leave behind the stigma for my family that their father or husband is a traitor or a bad man," he said.

The blueprints and their discovery were detailed in a Sunday Post article by Joby Warrick.

Still, the mystery continues.

United Nations officials, who supervised the destruction of the drawings by Swiss authorities recently, could not rule out the possibility that the blueprints were shared with others before their discovery, the report's author, prominent nuclear weapons expert David Albright, told The Post.

And U.S. officials have been unable to determine if the plans were shared with other countries, The New York Times reported.

By Derek Kravitz |  June 16, 2008; 12:33 PM ET
Previous: Mortgage Discounts for VIPs | Next: Boeing Sought $1 Billion-Plus It Didn't Deserve

Comments

Please email us to report offensive comments.



Pakistan should hand him or to the U.S. or the United Nations for a proper Interigation. We cannot rely on Pakistan to do it. I do not consider them our friend in any way shape or form. That information is now out all over the world. It make our country at risk.

Posted by: F Plecas | June 16, 2008 2:33 PM

It is foolish to think that any country swimming in billions of dollars in oil money could not easily purchase blueprints for nuclear weapons technology or hire/train scientists to create their own. We are suffering under the delusion that these people are totally ignorant and incapable of living in the 21st century while they dangle us on a string and rifle through our pockets over a few gallons of gasoline. This is more fear mongering and another "scare the sheep" excercise from the Bush Administration, hatched two years after the knowledge was actually obtained and two weeks after the Supreme Court took away their right to suspend Habeus Corpus.

Posted by: Jim | June 16, 2008 3:09 PM

For starters, interrogating A.Q. Khan would be pointless insofar that his network has already done irreversible damage by assisting other countries in nuclear procurement. Second: blueprints for a miniaturized nuclear warhead are useless to most everyone; without the engineering prowess and access to HEU or Pu, manufacturing facilities, and a delivery mechanism, they're more of a novelty.

Posted by: Smith | June 16, 2008 3:20 PM

Excellent investigative reporting by Joby Warrick. As an investigative lead, some of the players mentioned in Warrick's news story were arrested by U.S. Customs agents in 2004 and "somehow" released. I obtained this limited information from a Google search of some of the names listed and the Legacy U.S. Customs Service, and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). In 2004, Customs was already part of ICE.

Posted by: doctormiguel | June 16, 2008 3:30 PM

A.Q Khan would be an invaluable direct source in verifying rather fuzzy aspects of his purported smuggling ring.

To allude otherwise shows a gross ignorance of the topic under discussion. Not to mention the larger secondary or even tertiary issues involved.

As for delusions, I see Jim's argument as an informal fallacy.

The middle east struggles with many handicaps, primarily that it is a 14th century culture attempting to buy the presevation of a flat earth view.

The desire in select areas of this region to aquire WMD is containable. To believe otherwise is an indication of a severe lack of will and vision.

Posted by: Homunculus | June 16, 2008 5:43 PM

Why are we still using the term "blueprints"? They're files containing information on how to build nuclear devices. They might be text files, or CAD files, or executable programs, but they're not paper prints made with an ammonia-based process that uses an arc lamp.

The distinction isn't trival, as calling them "blueprints" implies they're a complete, fully detailed set of plans for building an actual device.

Posted by: jim | June 16, 2008 5:45 PM

When we grant a whole country like IRAN's power and resources to a mad backward fundamentalist like Komeili (talking to you, Mr. Carter!), when we attack wrong targets like Saddam and Iraq instead of the pouring bombs on the right targets like the most powerful, influential state terrorism entity - Iranian Islamic government, and their nuclear enrichment facilities (talking to you Bush-Chaney!) and when we let our so-called European allies make money out of terrorist governments in the absence of US proactive and effective stick& carrot policies and the presence of apathy towards terrorist governments - whatever happened to the Great president Ragan's way of doing business ?- and when we let our young sons and daughters put their lives at the mercy of barbarians instead of we remote-fighting with US enemies by buying out their low-life leaders and influencing their neighbor countries, sending war-contractors to fight them, and working with our allies to limit/stop their accesses to the civilized, modern world's infra-structures, we should expect even worse, as we have been lucky so far!

Posted by: Hello! | June 16, 2008 5:57 PM

I find it amazing that we have no qualms about Pakistan's uranium enrichment program for nuclear bombs!

Posted by: Newportian | June 16, 2008 7:20 PM

hi mr. hello!,

so why aren't we 'pouring bombs on the right targets' like the repressive sudanese regime? or the zimbabwean dictator? or the saudi regime? they still don't let women drive cars and still cut people's arms if they are caught in the act of theft.

it's high-time that we realize that 'pouring bombs' is not a one-size-fits-all solution. and being selective in claiming moral high-ground doesn't work, either.

Posted by: mvk123 | June 16, 2008 7:51 PM

There are several paradox in this story:

1 - Who is Mr. Tinner and family? a member of A Q Khan network or a CIA spy? He is member in this story but report to CIA about selling nuclear things to Libiya in 2004 !!
2- He is not cooperating with Swiss officials about the claims, but suddenly they decide swiss is not a safe place for these important documents and they should distroy them, the evidence of Mr. Tinner involvment in prolifration !! a court document? and then they speak how to release him later ! !
3- No one make a deep investigation about this family. No direct word from him? No pressure on Swiss to make an interview possible? How to belive this new story?

- a new furged story to manipulate public and follow fear based policies.

Posted by: Dario | June 16, 2008 9:41 PM

We should also have an investigation of the purchasers of nuclear arms, etc. from the old Soviet arsenal via arms dealers on the international black market--and hope Iran was not among the customers.

Posted by: Shirley Freeman | June 16, 2008 10:14 PM

I wonder if the UN officials can rule out the possibility that the "blueprints" are forgeries commissioned by the CIA and placed by CIA agents on these computers. Even experts have trouble detecting good forgeries. The only people who could say for sure are the designers who created them and they can never see them since they were destroyed. I can't see the business model that would lead the alleged khan network to leave encripted, but not unbreakable, bomb designs on a disk. You sell the centrafuge technology and if by chance someone succeeds in using it to make enough HEU to build a bomb (No country has done this yet, not even Pakistan which uses much better centrafuges and PU to make its bombs) then, you offer to sell them the encription key to the bomb design for an extra $10 mil? I think forgery sounds more likely.

Posted by: rgp | June 16, 2008 11:16 PM

A.Q. Khan, Ph.D. after stealing nuclear secrets from URENCO in Almelo, the Netherlands, actively proliferated these secrets to several countries. According to some accounts, Khan pocketed about $2 billion from those countries.

An excellent overview of Khan's intellectual property theft has been prepared by a former colleague of Khan, Frits Veerman at http://www.atoomspionage.com/excollege.htm
(Portions are in Dutch.)

See also page three of this investigative article that was published in January, 2008, "The Greedy Gates Immigration Gambit."
http://www.thesocialcontract.com/pdf/eighteen-one/tsc_18_1_nelson.pdf

Please also review this article regarding the W-88 warhead, a compact nuclear weapon with a yield of about 1/2 megaton.
http://www.globalsecurity.org/intell/library/news/1999/08/990822-secretdocs.htm

All of these strands, when connected, yield a very unsettling story.

Posted by: Dr. Gene Nelson | June 16, 2008 11:31 PM

Khan must stay locked up, lest he reveal the extend of top-level western cooperation in his network.

Posted by: Ruggy | June 17, 2008 2:49 PM

The story is a bogus fodder for an uncritical public willing to believe anything feed to them by authority figures. Joby Warrick either is a plant or has been used; regardless Warrick is a source of disinformation. Too many of the players in the article are paid agents of state intelligence agencies. The notion of a nuclear weapon blueprint is bunk science watered down for the uneducated masses.

A nuclear weapon is not designed independent of it's industrial base. Thus a Russian team of nuclear weapons experts could not make a duplicate of a U.S. weapon nor vice versa. Such simple things as minor differences in explosive formulation due to manufacturing defects will result in differing assembly times that will radically alter a weapon's design requirements. Small shifts here and there will propagate through the entire design. Thus "advanced" designs will be nothing more than a theoretical tutorial for foreign designers. As far as the information to design a physics package from scratch, that sort of information can't be stored on a laptop; otherwise we wouldn't waste billions of dollars maintaining design labs.

You all should be ashamed of yourself for falling for such simple lies. Truly sometimes I feel mankind deserves the leadership we have as punishment for our collective stupidity.

Posted by: reality check | June 19, 2008 4:47 AM

reality check:

I share your conclusions. I hope you also read the link suggested by gene nelson archived at global security on the Wen Ho Lee (designated scapegoat of the 1990's) case which gives a fairly accurate picture of the Security at the US nuclear weapons lab. There is much speculation that what the Swiss had was the W-88 (the largest of the Trident (submarine) warheads with a yield of 475MT, of which up to 10 could be MIRV'd on one missile). AQ KHan was a Supplier. Why should he limit himself to just one source. I can think of no other reason why the US would pressure the Swiss to destroy (rather than secure) the evidence. As the article points out, the copies of weapons design is massive, and the security lax.

So yes, the more interesting question, is why THIS story did not have a byline, and why it was written.

Here are a couple of links the first abour Sibel Edmonds connection (and part of the Valerie Plame/ Brewster Jennings / Scooter Libby/ Marc Grossman case here:

http://www.antiwar.com/orig/horton.php?articleid=13002

The second is a 5 min clip from mark Hibbs, Davbid Albright, George Tenet, and a sposkeman from the SWiss AG office on the Tinner and Lerch cases here:

http://tinyurl.com/6n473y

Posted by: erichwwk1 | June 19, 2008 9:13 AM

NOT NEW AND NOT NEWS!!!
I TRIED TO NOTIFY VARIOUS GOVERNMENTAL AGENCIES(CIA, DOS, DOE, NRC, FBI,...) OF THIS ALL FOR SEVERAL DECADES, BUT THE EVER-DYSFUNCTIONAL "NOT INVENTED HERE" SYNDROME, IT WAS LIKE WHISTLING IN THE DARK!!! THE MUSLIM CRAZIES ARE FAR AHEAD WITH THEIR AGENDA THAN ANY OF US EVER REALIZED!!!:
DR. EDWARD SIEGEL
WHISTLEBLOWER VS. "GROUPTHINK" (JOHN BRADSHAW) DYSFUNCTIONAL I.A.E.A. & WHOLE DYSFUNCTIONAL NUC"EL"AR INDUSTRY!!!
WESTIN"KL"OUSE-NUC"EL"AR-1973-1974;
P.S.E.&G.(N.J.)-CHF. METALLURGIST/MGR. NDT/E-1974-1976[REF: ANA MAYO. "IF LEAKS COULD KILL", THE VILLAGE VOICE, PAGE 40, 8/21/78];
I.A.E.A.-"STEX"-BANDUNG, JAVA, INDONESIA(PUSAT ATOM REAKTOR/CENTRAL ATOM REACTOR, 71 JALAN TAMANSARI(JUST NORTH OF FANTASTIC ZOO)/31 JALAN RADEN PATAH(RESIDENCE)-1977-WHERE KHAN ATENDED MY LECTURES AT BANDUNG INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY(WWW.ITB.IN);
A. Q. KHAN AT INT'L. VACUUM CONGRESS, THE HOFBURG, VIENA, AUSTRIA-WITH CRAIG TEDMON(LATER A.B.B. EXEC.-V.P./TECHNOLOGY/WORLDWIDE);
CONSULTANT TO A.B.B. CO-CHM. DAVID de PUERY--1980s-1990s;
I.C.T.P.(GOOGLE IT)/T.W.A.S./I.A.E.A.-TRIESTE; ITALY(190; 1992)-[REF.: CONFIRMING SOURCE FOR: STEVE COL, CARYL MURPHY, CLAIRE PEDRICK, ~"TEHERAN STEPS IN TO FINANCIALLY RESCUE U.N. NUC"EL"AR-LABORATORY IN ITALY: WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION DESIGN ALLEDGED", FRONT PAGE, WORLD NEWS SECTION, THE WASHINGTON POST, 12/26/92-SIMPLY SEARCH IN WASHINGTON POST WEBSITE ON "ICTP": DR. HAMADI, DR. MIR-ALI]
[CONFIRMING REFS: SCRIPTA METALLURGICA 13, 913 (1979); SEMICONDUCTORS AND INSULATORS, 5, 39 & 47 & ??(1979); JOURNAL OF MAGNETISM AND MAGNETIC MATERIALS: 7, 334(1978); IBID. 7,190 (1978); IBID. 7, 312(1978)-ALL LATTER THREE SYSTEMATICALLY("NOT AVAILABLE: NOT YET SCANED"WITH VOLUME 10 SUMMARY-INDEX VOLUME (SINCE 1978???; 20O2???) UPON GOOGLING "JOURNAL OF MAGNETISM AND MAGNETIC MATERIALS" AND GOING TO "FOR AUTHORS"(UPPER RIGHT-HAND SIDE; FIRST LINK, THEN SCAN DOWN LEFT-SIDE TO VERY-BOTOM!!!) EFFECTIVELY DELETED FROM WORLD WIDE WEB/INTERNET BY: REED-ELSEVIER/ ALCATEL-LUCENT-THALES GROUP-THOMPSON CSF/...???, BUT PHYSICALLY FINDABLE IN ANY SCIENCE/ TECHNOLOGY LIBRARY!!! ;
WWW.APS.ORG AND GO TO MARCH MEETING AND THEN SEARCH ON MY NAME "EDWARD SIEGEL"]

Ph.D.-NUC"EL"AR-METALLURGY-M.S.U.-1970;
M.S.-UNIV. OF MICHIGAN-NUC"EL"AR-PHYSICS-1969
B.S.-C.C.N.Y./C.U.N.Y.-PHYSICS-1965
[ATTENDED: COLORADO SCHOOL OF MINES; HARVARD; UNIV. OF PENNSYLVANIA; N.Y.U.; OXFORD; CAMBRIDGE]
CONTACTS:
c/o S. EDWARDS, c/o 6655 LA JOLLA BLVD., LA JOLLA, CA. 92037;
c/o S. EDWARDS, c/o 6333 LA JOLLA BLVD., LA JOLLA, CA. 92037;
c/o S. EDWARDS, c/o 1101 HORNBLENDE., SAN DIEGO, CA. 92109;
WHISTLEBLOWER@SAN.RR.COM;
FLYING-WATER@SAN.RR.COM

Posted by: DR. EDWARD SIEGEL/WHISTLEBLOWER/NUC"EL"AR-METALLURGIST/PHYSICIST | June 22, 2008 10:28 PM

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