Pakistan's Quest for the Bomb-Newly Declassified Documents

Discussion in 'Military History' started by LETHALFORCE, May 23, 2012.

  1. LETHALFORCE

    LETHALFORCE Moderator Moderator

    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2009
    Messages:
    20,536
    Likes Received:
    6,539
    The United States and Pakistan's Quest for the Bomb

    The United States and Pakistan's Quest for the Bomb
    Newly Declassified Documents Disclose Carter Administration's Unsuccessful Efforts to Roll Back Islamabad's Secret Nuclear Program
    Nationalistic Pakistani Officials Insisted That Their Country had an "Unfettered Right to do what It Wishes"
    National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 333

    Posted - December 21, 2010

    For more information contact:
    William Burr - 202/994-7000


    Washington, D.C., December 21, 2010 - The Wikileaks database of purloined State Department cable traffic includes revelations, published in the Washington Post and the New York Times about tensions in U.S.-Pakistan relations on key nuclear issues, including the security of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal and the disposition of a stockpile of weapons-grade highly-enriched uranium. (Note 1) These frictions are not surprising because the Pakistani nuclear weapons program has been a source of anxiety for U.S. policymakers, since the late 1970s, when they discovered that Pakistani metallurgist A.Q. Khan had stolen blueprints for a gas centrifuge uranium enrichment facility. U.S. officials were alarmed that a nuclear Pakistan would bring greater instability to South Asia; years later, the rise of the Pakistani Taliban produced concerns about the nuclear stockpile's vulnerability to terrorists. Since 2002-2004 the discovery that the A.Q. Khan's nuclear supply network had spread nuclear weapons technology to Libya, Iran, and North Korea, and elsewhere raised apprehensions even more. (Note 2) Last week, before the Wikileaks revelations, the recently disclosed North Korean gas centrifuge uranium enrichment plant raised questions about the proliferation of sensitive nuclear technology by the Khan network. (Note 3)

    Recently declassified U.S. government documents from the Jimmy Carter administration published today by the National Security Archive shed light on the critical period when Washington discovered that Pakistan, a Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty [NPT] hold-out, had acquired key elements of a nuclear weapons capability. Once in power, the Carter administration tried to do what its predecessor, the Ford administration, had done: discourage the Pakistani nuclear program, but the CIA and the State Department discovered belatedly in 1978 that Islamabad was moving quickly to build a gas centrifuge plant, thanks to "dual use" technology acquired by Khan and his network. The documents further disclose the U.S. government's complex but unsuccessful efforts to convince Pakistan to turn off the gas centrifuge project. Besides exerting direct pressure first on President Zulkifar Ali Bhutto and then on military dictator General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, Washington lobbied key allies and China to induce them to pressurize Islamabad, but also to cooperate by halting the sale of sensitive technology to Pakistan.

    Declassified government documents show that the Carter administration recognized that export controls by industrial countries could not sufficiently disrupt Pakistan's secret purchases of uranium enrichment technology, so it tried combinations of diplomatic pressure and blandishments to dissuade the Pakistanis and to induce them to reach an understanding with India. Washington's efforts met with strong resistance from top Pakistani officials; seeing a nuclear capability as a matter of national survival, they argued that Pakistan had an "unfettered right" to develop nuclear technology. The Indians were also not interested in a deal. Senior US officials recognized that the prospects of stopping the Indian or the Pakistani nuclear programs were "poor"; within months arms controller were "scratching their heads" over how to tackle the problem.

    Among the disclosures in the documents:

    â–ª U.S. requests during mid-1978 by U.S. diplomats for assurances that Pakistan would not use reprocessing technology to produce plutonium led foreign minister Agha Shahi's to insist that was a "demand that no country would accept" and that Pakistan "has the unfettered right to do what it wishes."

    â–ª By November 1978, U.S. government officials, aware that Pakistan was purchasing technology for a gas centrifuge enrichment facility, were developing proposals aimed at "inhibiting Pakistan" from making progress toward developing a nuclear capability.

    â–ª By January 1979, U.S. intelligence estimated that Pakistan was reaching the point where it "may soon acquire all the essential components" for a gas centrifuge plant.

    â–ª Also in January 1979, U.S. intelligence estimated that Pakistani would have a "single device" (plutonium) by 1982 and test a weapon using highly-enriched uranium [HEU] by 1983, although 1984 was "more likely".

    â–ª On 3 March 1979, Deputy Secretary of State Warren Christopher spoke in "tough terms" with General Zia and Foreign Minister Shahi; the latter claimed that the U.S. was making an "ultimatum."

    â–ª On 23 March 1979, senior level State Department officials suggested to Secretary of State Vance possible measures to help make the "best combination" of carrots and sticks to constrain the Pakistani nuclear program; nevertheless, "prospects [were] poor" for realizing that goal.

    â–ª The decision in April 1979 to cut off aid to Pakistan because of its uranium enrichment program worried State Department officials, who believed that a nuclear Pakistan would be a "new and dangerous element of instability," but they wanted to maintain good relations with that country, a "moderate state" in an unstable region.

    â–ª During the spring of 1979, when Washington made unsuccessful attempts to frame a regional solution involving "mutual restraint" by India and Pakistan of their nuclear activities, Indian prime minister Morarji Desai declared that "if he discovered that Pakistan was ready to test a bomb or if it exploded one, he would act at [once] 'to smash it.'"

    â–ª In July 19799, CIA analysts speculated that the Pakistani nuclear program might receive funding from Islamic countries, including Libya, and that Pakistani might engage in nuclear cooperation, even share nuclear technology, with Saudi Arabia, Libya or Iraq.

    â–ª By September 1979 officials at the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency said that "most of us are scratching our heads" about what to do about the Pakistani nuclear program.

    ▪ In November 1979, ambassador Gerard C. Smith reported that when meeting with senior British, French, Dutch, and West German officials to encourage them to take tougher positions on the Pakistani nuclear program, he found "little enthusiasm … to emulate our position."

    â–ª In the wake of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, when improving relations with Pakistan became a top priority for Washington, according to CIA analysts, Pakistani officials believed that Washington was "reconciled to a Pakistani nuclear weapons capability."

    Like the Israeli bomb, the Pakistan case illustrates how difficult it is to prevent a determined country, especially an ally, from acquiring and using nuclear weapons technology. It also illustrates the complexity and difficulty of nuclear proliferation diplomacy: other political and strategic priorities can and do trump nonproliferation objectives. The documents also shed light on a familiar problem: a US-Pakistan relationship that has been rife with suspicions and tensions, largely because of Washington's uneasy balancing act between India and Pakistan, two countries with strong mutual antagonisms, a problem that was aggravated during the Cold War by concerns about Soviet influence in the region. (Note 4)

    The Pakistani nuclear issue was on Jimmy Carter's agenda when he became president in early 1977 because he brought a significant commitment to reducing nuclear armaments and to checking nuclear proliferation. His initial, though unrealized goal, of deep cuts of strategic nuclear forces, and his support for the comprehensive test ban treaty were of a piece with his support for the long-term abolition of nuclear weapons, suggesting that his concerns about proliferation were not the usual double standard of "what's good for us is bad for you." Carter made the danger of nuclear proliferation one of his campaign themes and during his presidency government agencies and Congress tightened up controls over nuclear exports; this led to the 1978 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Act, whose unilateral features were controversial with some allies, especially Japan and West Germany. The administration also engaged in a protracted, but generally successful, attempt to curb the Taiwanese nuclear weapons programs, although the effort to tackle South Africa's met with less short-term success. Another tough challenge was a West German contract to sell uranium enrichment and reprocessing plants to Brazil, although technical problems would ultimately undercut the agreement. (Note 5)

    Pakistan's successful drive for a nuclear arsenal was perhaps the most significant frustration for the Carter administration's nonproliferation policy. Five years before Carter's inauguration, following Pakistan's defeat in the 1971 war with India, President Bhutto made a secret decision to seek nuclear weapons which he followed up in 1973 with negotiations to buy a nuclear reprocessing facility (used for producing plutonium) from a French firm. (Note 6) Apparently U.S. intelligence did not seriously examine the prospects for a Pakistani bomb until after India's May 1974 "peaceful nuclear explosion." In the following months, the authors of Special National Intelligence Estimate [SNIE] NIE 4-1-74, "Prospects for Further Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons," expected Pakistan to "press ahead" with a nuclear weapons program, which they projected as "far inferior to its prime rival, India, in terms of nuclear technology." (Note 7) In August 1974, US intelligence estimated that Pakistan would not have nuclear weapons before 1980 and only as long as "extensive foreign assistance" was available. Over a year later, however, a new prediction emerged: that Pakistan could produce a plutonium–fueled weapon as early as 1978, as long as it had access to a reprocessing plant.

    By 1978 Pakistan did not have a reprocessing plant or the bomb. Nevertheless, that same year a pattern of suspicious purchases detected by British customs officials led to the discovery that Pakistan was secretly acquiring technology to produce highly-enriched uranium as an alternative path to building the bomb. The "extensive foreign assistance" postulated by the SNIE turned out to be the theft of plans for a gas centrifuge enrichment technology from the Uranium Enrichment Corporation [URENCO] in the Netherlands. The perpetrator was metallurgist Abdul Q. Khan who founded a worldwide network to acquire sensitive technology for his country's nuclear project and later for providing nuclear technology to Pakistan's friends and customers. (Note 8)

    Recent studies of the U.S.–Pakistan nuclear relationship see moments during the mid-to-late 1970s when it may have been possible to bring the Pakistani program to a halt by preventing Khan from acquiring sensitive technology. The Dutch may have had the best chance in 1975 when they suspected that Khan was a spy; whether the U.S. and British governments had similar opportunities to nip the Pakistani nuclear effort in the bud remains a matter of debate. (Note 9) For example, when British officials learned that Khan and his associates were trying to purchase high frequency electrical inverters needed to run centrifuges, they acted too late to stop the Pakistani from acquiring this technology, which they soon learned how to copy and manufacture. So far declassified documents do not shed light on when the British told the U.S. government about this development and how Washington initially reacted to it, or what else U.S. intelligence may have been learning from other sources. In any event, some of the documents in this collection suggest that the U.S. intelligence establishment may have had a mindset that prevented it from acquiring, or looking for, timely intelligence about the Pakistani secret enrichment program.

    A significant problem was U.S. intelligence's assumption during 1974-1978 that Pakistan would take the plutonium route for producing the bomb. SNIE 4-1-74, "Prospects for Further Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons," (published by the National Security Archive in January 2008) and two documents in this collection, a "Memorandum to Holders" of SNIE 4-1-74 and a 1978 CIA report, shed some light on the former assumption. Both documents give virtually exclusive emphasis to the plutonium route for acquiring the fissile material required for building the bomb. Thus, intelligence analysts assumed that countries like Pakistan would try to try to acquire reprocessing technology so that they could chemically extract plutonium from the spent fuel rods taken from nuclear power reactors. This was a reasonable premise because plutonium has played a central role in modern nuclear arsenals. Nevertheless, during the early 1960s, U.S. intelligence had assumed that China would first build and test a plutonium weapon, but as it turned out, Beijing found it more expedient to produce highly-enriched uranium for the nuclear device which it tested in October 1964. This surprised Washington, but if the intelligence community conducted any postmortems, they did not yield long-lasting lessons. (Note 10)

    That Pakistan could try to acquire and develop advanced gas centrifuge enrichment technology was not an element in intelligence analysis. While the authors of SNIE 4-1-74 recognized the possibility that interested nations could secretly undertake a gas centrifuge enrichment program for producing highly-enriched uranium, they posited that it was "highly unlikely" that it could be undertaken "without our getting some indications of it." The possibility that "indications" might come too late was not discussed, but the tight secrecy controls over the gas centrifuge technique may have created a certain confidence that it would not leak out. Thus, the "Memorandum to Holders" did not include any discussion of what it would require for a country to build a gas centrifuge plant by purchasing "dual use" or "gray area" technology; no doubt its authors assumed that poor countries such as Pakistan were unlikely to pull off such a stunt. Indeed, according to some accounts, U.S. intelligence analysts dismissed Pakistan's competence to take the enrichment route. (Note 11) Whether such thinking may have made U.S. intelligence somewhat less watchful when Khan and his associates were creating their network will require more information than is presently available.

    So far no U.S. government reports on the actual discovery of the enrichment program and the Khan network have emerged, although a few declassified CIA items in this collection include estimates how far Pakistan could go with the stolen technology. Most of the documents published today reflect the thinking of State Department officials— ambassadors and assistant secretaries--who worried about the Pakistani bomb, but were less than wholehearted supporters of a rigorous nuclear nonproliferation agenda because it might interfere with securing Pakistan's cooperation on regional issues. This collection does not tap the resources of the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library, but several documents at the National Security Council-level provide insight into high-level policy debates and strategy discussions. A few items provide some insight into President Carter's thinking because they include his observations in handwritten marginalia (see documents 2 and 36). No documents from the files of the former Arms Control and Disarmament Agency are yet available, although a few forceful memoranda by special ambassador on nonproliferation Gerard C. Smith may have dovetailed with ACDA views.
     
  2.  
  3. LETHALFORCE

    LETHALFORCE Moderator Moderator

    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2009
    Messages:
    20,536
    Likes Received:
    6,539
    In 1974 Estimate, CIA Found that Israel Already Had a Nuclear Stockpile and that "Many Countries" Would Soon Have Nuclear Capabilities


    Washington, DC, January 14, 2008: In the wake of the Indian "peaceful nuclear explosion" on May 17, 1974 and growing concern about the spread of nuclear weapons capabilities, the U.S. intelligence community prepared a Special National Intelligence Assessment, "Prospects for Further Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons," published today by the National Security Archive.

    The 1974 Indian test created shock waves in the U.S. government, not only because of its broader implications, but because the intelligence community had failed to detect that it was imminent (This failure led to an intelligence post-mortem.) The possibility that the Indian test might lead to a nuclear arms race in South Asia and create new pressures for nuclear proliferation elsewhere induced the U.S. government, which under Secretary of State Henry Kissinger had treated this problem as a lower-level issue, to begin viewing developing policies to curb proliferation as a higher priority. That the SNIE estimated that "many countries" would have the economic and technological capability to produce nuclear weapons by the 1980s underlined the seriousness of the problem, as did another statement: "Terrorists might attempt theft of either weapons or fissionable materials." Noting that there were over 50,000 nuclear weapons in the world, the report observed that "absolute assurance about future security is impossible."

    The CIA released the 1974 SNIE in response to a FOIA request by National Security Archive senior fellow Jeffrey Richelson, author of Spying on the Bomb: American Nuclear Intelligence from Nazi Germany to Iran and North Korea (New York: W.W. Norton,2006). Quicker than usual, the CIA posted the SNIE on its Web site before the National Security Archive published the document. In response to the CIA posting, the estimate has already received some play in the U.S. and Israeli press, as well as on Arms Control Wonk • an arms control blog network. Interestingly, twenty years ago, the CIA released an excised version of the "Summary and Conclusions" of this document in response to a FOIA request by the Natural Resources Defense Council. It became the subject of a front-page story in The New York Times on 26 January 1978, under the headline, "C.I.A. Said in 1974 Israel had A-Bombs." In response to press queries, the CIA stated that the release was a mistake because it included some classified details. Two years ago, the Archive posted an unredacted version of page one of the "Summary," as found in the Joseph Sisco files at the National Archives.

    When it reviewed the 1974 SNIE for the most recent release, the CIA heavily excised the discussion of the Indian nuclear program, but the release includes discussion of the nuclear prospects and potential of a number of countries, which, as Washington Post reporter Walter Pincus has noted, included correct and incorrect judgments, such as:

    Israel:"We believe that Israel already has produced and stockpiled a small number of fission weapons."

    Republic of China (Taiwan):"We believe facilities are being developed with conscious intent to keep a nuclear weapon option open."

    South Africa: "In the short run, South Africa is of more concern in the proliferation context as a potential supplier of nuclear materials and technology than as a potential nuclear weapons power."

    Japan: "Technologically speaking, [Japan] is in a position to produce and test a nuclear device within two or three years," but "the Japanese are unlikely to make a decision to produce nuclear weapons unless there is a major adverse shift in relationships among the major powers."

    Argentina: "if Buenos Aires dedicated itself to the earliest possible development of a nuclear weapon and received … foreign assistance in building the necessary facilities, Argentina could have an initial device in the early 1980s."

    This SNIE was the latest in a series of estimates on the nuclear proliferation issues that the intelligence community had been preparing since the late 1950s. In an earlier posting the National Security Archive published all of the available estimates, from 1958 to 1967. While some of the estimates were more heavily excised than others that the CIA had begun to release them in response to declassification requests has been a change for the better, in contrast to the earlier policy of blanket denials. The 1974 SNIE is the subject of a pending appeal by the National Security Archive, which may lead to the release of more details from the estimate.

    Special National Intelligence Estimate 4-1-74, "Prospects for Further Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons,"23 August 1974, Top Secret, Excised Copy
     
    trackwhack likes this.
  4. LETHALFORCE

    LETHALFORCE Moderator Moderator

    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2009
    Messages:
    20,536
    Likes Received:
    6,539
    [​IMG]

    Pakistani dictator General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq shaking hands with national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski; President Jimmy Carter stands by smiling, 3 October 1980. The Carter administration had pressed Zia to abandon Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program, but it moved forward nevertheless. After the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Washington turned down the heat and Carter offered Pakistan $400 million in assistance, an offer which Zia dismissed as “peanuts.” Not only did he want more money, he wanted stronger security commitments, including a guarantee against an attack from India. Those issues remained unsettled during 1980, but later in the year Zia had a friendly meeting with Carter at the White House. (Photo from Jimmy Carter Presidential Library, contact sheet 19520.24)
    [​IMG]

    Career ambassador Arthur W. Hummel (1920-2001) served as U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan from June 1977 to July 1981. The telegraphic reports of his meetings with general Zia on nuclear issues remain classified, but in one of them, on 24 January 1979, he apparently confronted the general with satellite photography of the gas centrifuge plant at Kuhuta (see document 25). (Photo source: National Archives and Records Administration, Still Pictures Division, RG 59-S0, box 8)

    [​IMG]

    Deputy Secretary of State Warren Christopher (b. 1925) traveled to Islamabad in March 1979 for difficult talks on the nuclear program with general Zia (see documents 26A-B). During Bill Clinton’s first term as president, Christopher served as secretary of state. (Photo source: National Archives and Records Administration, Still Pictures Division, RG 59-S0, box 4)
     
    Last edited: May 23, 2012
  5. LETHALFORCE

    LETHALFORCE Moderator Moderator

    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2009
    Messages:
    20,536
    Likes Received:
    6,539
    Last edited: May 23, 2012

Share This Page