U.S. Retains Hidden Grip on Pakistan's Nukes

Discussion in 'West Asia & Africa' started by LETHALFORCE, Feb 28, 2009.

  1. LETHALFORCE

    LETHALFORCE Moderator Moderator

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    http://www.metimes.com/International/2009/02/27/us_retains_hidden_grip_on_pakistans_nukes/9552/

    U.S. Retains Hidden Grip on Pakistan's Nukes

    With Pakistan's political instability spreading, nervous concern has mounted over the fate of Islamabad's nuclear arsenal should Taliban sympathizers gain power within the Pakistan military, but under the terms of secret agreements, U.S. personnel have been stationed in Pakistan whose sole function is to guarantee and secure the safety of Islamabad's nuclear arsenal and keep it out of the hands of terrorists, according to several serving and former U.S. officials.

    Some of the American technicians have had direct access to the nuclear weapons themselves, these sources said.

    In any case, Pakistan's nukes are currently secure, in the opinion of several former and serving U.S. officials. "They are for now," said one.

    The concern over Pakistan's arsenal extends back in time, before the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. As early as 2000, the Clinton administration created a joint commission, a 'liaison' group, consisting of top American and Pakistani scientists. The purpose of this group was to help the Pakistanis create command and control codes for its nuclear weapons that would be unbreakable. One former senior U.S. intelligence source told me that in the course of such work, America gained "a pretty full knowledge" of Pakistan's command and control system.

    The United States then used Special Forces 'snatch teams' to kidnap Pakistani scientists who were peddling Pakistan's nuclear technology or knowledge of it to undesirables. For example, a group of such scientists abruptly disappeared while traveling in Burma, these sources said.

    In addition, the kidnappings disrupted an alleged 200 links between the Pakistani nuclear community and terrorists with ties to al-Qaida, they said. Other Pakistanis sympathetic to al-Qaida such as Sultan Bashiruddin, a much-decorated scientist in Pakistan's nuclear community, were arrested and interrogated.

    The fact was that even before 9/11, U.S. intelligence had thoroughly infiltrated the nuclear smuggling ring of Pakistan's lead nuclear scientist, A.Q. Khan, without disclosing this to the government of Pakistan. The penetration proved a chief factor in Libya's abandoning its own nuclear program and why Iran, another Pakistan client, disclosed its own activities to the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Vienna watchdog group.

    After the 9/11 attacks, American aid to Pakistan to safeguard and secure its arsenal was drastically stepped up, with the George W. Bush administration using the proposed $3 billion U.S. aid package that included F-16s and all sorts of advanced hardware, as a bludgeon. Under U.S. pressure, within two days of the attacks, Pakistan's military began to secretly relocate critical nuclear weapons components to six new secret locations, U.S. sources said. Warheads and delivery systems, which were already being kept separated, were put even more widely apart, and additional surveillance was put on Pakistan's nuclear labs and their personnel, they said.

    Additional steps were also taken to separate fissile material from the labs or the weapons themselves, they said.

    More U.S. 'technical advisory' teams, many staffed by Defense Intelligence Agency or Energy Dept. intelligence officials, began to appear in Pakistan along with warning and assessment equipment.

    Communications systems between Pakistani nuclear commanders and nuclear storage sites were reviewed and modernized, and certain key nodes were, at some point, on a U.S. target list, sources said.

    Thanks to U.S. technical means, the United States became aware of defects and miscommunication between Pakistani military centers of command during atomic tests which helped U.S. analysts to grasp facets of Islamabad's command and control areas that were of dubious reliability.

    Following 9/11, when U.S. advisors persuaded Pakistani scientists to adopt some key features that add security to U.S. nuclear command procedures, tension rose over whether to install Permission Action Links (PALs), an electronic lock that renders a weapon null and void until political commanders relinquish control of the special codes that allow the weapon to be turned on, several sources said. In addition, the weapons could not be used without employing a dual-key system, meaning that a single rogue commander could not initiate their use.

    In brief, the PALs would prevent the unauthorized use of a nuclear weapon by an aberrant member of the military, and they would prevent use of such a weapon by terrorists, and therefore are important, U.S. officials said.

    Yet disputes arose immediately. There were legal implications about sharing such sensitive military technology with a foreign power, and some senior U.S. officials balked at using the PALs, thinking they would give the Pakistanis too much insight into America's own nuclear war fighting system. "The Paks are smart. What they can see and examine, they can re-engineer," said one.

    For their part, the Pakistanis feared that American scientists would insert a 'dead switch' into the PALs, which would freeze the weapons if someone attempted their use, similar to being able to stall a stolen car from a remote position.

    There is some ground for Pakistani misgivings. For years, U.S. intelligence has infiltrated the front companies used by Iran to acquire nuclear weapons technology from the West, especially Europe. Many of these companies were originally part of the Pakistani network set up by A.Q. Khan that procured both components and information for North Korea, Libya and the like. Many are engineering consulting firms, U.S. officials said.

    An atomic bomb requires enriched uranium, and to enrich uranium, machines called centrifuges are required – rapidly spinning tubes that are used to separate and concentrate isotopes in gasified uranium. Spinning at several thousand revolutions per minute, they rest on superb bearings, in perfect balance, in a vacuum, linked by pipes to thousands of other spinning units. When the process works, the gas ends up in a solid form, but any minute defect, and the product is decisively marred.

    The same is true of the other equipment required: tools, magnets, exotic steel, vacuum pumps, ball bearings and instruments of all kinds, all must be perfect.

    Iran uses front companies, fake end-user certificates and third-country destinations to disguise the true purpose, but according to one former senior CIA official, "We have infiltrated such companies and have been able to insert flaws into the technology that we can exploit. It goes along the line of our selling computers that have trap doors into which U.S. technicians can enter to manipulate the machine."

    During the Kosovo war, NSA systems were able to make false insertions into the workings of Serb air defense radars, rendering them inoperable.

    Other Iranian targets include electronic circuits, electromagnetic machines called caultrons, industrial circuits, power supplies, and compressors for window mounted air conditioners.

    "The point is that when they push the button, the stuff won't work," the former senior official said.

    He and others said that the operation "is fairly long-standing" and successful.

    Pakistan is said to have between 25-40 strategic nuclear weapons, and Jane's Defense Weekly says Pakistan also has about 60 short-to-medium range missiles and 34 F-16s capable of delivering an atomic warhead. Islamabad exploded its first weapon in 1998.
     
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  3. pyromaniac

    pyromaniac Founding Member

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    This one was from late 2007...BTW very interesting post LF...thanks




    WASHINGTON
    : Pakistan's nuclear weapons are already under American control even as analysts are working themselves into a lather on the subject,
    a well-regarded intelligence journal has said.

    In a stunning disclosure certain to stir up things in Washington's (and in Islamabad and New Delhi's) strategic community, the journal Stratfor reported on Monday that the "United States delivered a very clear ultimatum to Musharraf in the wake of 9/11: Unless Pakistan allowed US forces to take control of Pakistani nuclear facilities, the United States would be left with no choice but to destroy those facilities, possibly with India's help."

    "This was a fait accompli that Musharraf, for credibility reasons, had every reason to cover up and pretend never happened, and Washington was fully willing to keep things quiet," the journal, which is widely read among the intelligence community, said.

    The Stratfor commentary came in response to an earlier New York Times story that reported that the Bush administration had spent around $100 million to help Pakistan safeguard its nuclear weapons, but left it unclear if Washington has a handle on the arsenal.

    Over the past fortnight, even since the crisis in Pakistan broke and eclipsed every other geopolitical story, including Iraq, US officials and analysts have been speaking in different voices on the subject of a jihadi takeover of Pakistan's nuclear weapons.

    Some officials have expressed deep concern at the possibility and suggested US is ready with contingency plans to defang Pakistan of its nuclear weapons, while others have tried to assuage Islamabad by saying they believe the country's military rulers have good custodial control over their crown jewels.

    On Monday, a State Department official once again addressed the issue and hinted that Washington was in control of the situation.

    "... ultimately, the major responsibility for that falls with the Pakistani government. They have made public comments to the effect that the arsenal is secure, that they have taken a number of different steps to ensure that," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said.

    "We ourselves see no indication to indicate to the contrary. It is secure. We obviously have an interest in seeing that it is secure," McCormack added.

    Stratfor , too, appears confident that the Bush administration has a handle on Pak's nukes.

    Not everyone is so sanguine. In a separate commentary over the weekend that had some US and Pakistani analysts blowing their gasket, two prominent Washington commentators detailed a US military action plan inside Pakistan, possibly with the cooperation of moderate Pakistani forces, to seize the nuclear arsenal if there was imminent danger of an extremist takeover.

    "As the government of Pakistan totters, we must face a fact: the United States simply could not stand by as a nuclear-armed Pakistan descended into the abyss," proposed Frederick Kagan and Michael O'Hanlon, analysts at two Washington DC think-tanks. "One possible plan would be a Special Forces operation with the limited goal of preventing Pakistan's nuclear materials and warheads from getting into the wrong hands."

    Pakistan's own leaders have spoken about the subject -- of nuclear weapons falling into extremist hands --with different emphasis and objectives.

    General Pervez Musharraf has suggested continued Western support to his military regime is the best way to prevent the nukes from falling into extremist hands, an "after-me-the-deluge" argument that some analysts see as unabashed blackmail.

    The country's opposition leader Benazir Bhutto has also invoked the loose nukes scenario to urge US to abandon the military regime, which she says has given rise to growing extremism and fissiparous tendencies that increase the danger of the nuclear arsenal going awry.

    Officially though, Islamabad is touchy about any commentary on its nuclear arsenal, and goes into transports of hysteria to assert that it is a responsible country with good command and control over its crown jewels.

    In the latest outburst, the country's out-going foreign minister Khurshid Kasuri asserted that Pakistan is fully capable of securing its nuclear assets and some Western lobbies are busy in creating confusion taking the advantage of ongoing conditions in Pakistan.

    The multi-layer security structure of the nuclear assets has a strong command and control system in place and there is no need for anyone at home or abroad to worry about the security of these assets, he insisted.

    But judging by the volume of worried commentary and analysis the subject is now getting, there aren't many takers for such assurances and the last word on the matter hasn't been said or written.

    http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Pak_nukes_already_under_US_control_Report/articleshow/2556824.cms
     
  4. LETHALFORCE

    LETHALFORCE Moderator Moderator

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    I wonder how much of this is true?
     
  5. pyromaniac

    pyromaniac Founding Member

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    This is interesting because if this is the case then Obama's huge bag of goodies to Pakistan will actually make sense.
     
  6. LETHALFORCE

    LETHALFORCE Moderator Moderator

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    it maybe true because the cia let aq khan go unquestioned
     
  7. pyromaniac

    pyromaniac Founding Member

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    Hey do you think there is a possibility that India knows where they are? I mean it only makes sense for USA to provide India with these locations in case of an emergency because after all we have to live with the consequences of whatever happens there. You think its a possibility?
     
  8. LETHALFORCE

    LETHALFORCE Moderator Moderator

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  9. pyromaniac

    pyromaniac Founding Member

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    Thats true but aren't they usually shielded by either heavy cement bunkers or with lead so as to block the radiation? Unless they take em out only to mate the warheads with the missiles.
     
  10. LETHALFORCE

    LETHALFORCE Moderator Moderator

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  11. pyromaniac

    pyromaniac Founding Member

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    Good find once again :) .....so there is really no fool proof way to block the radiation? Going by that, cant you jut find nuclear subs by scanning for high levels of radiation?
     
  12. thakur_ritesh

    thakur_ritesh Administrator Administrator

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    there have been contradicting news emerging from US, and from these so called sources who's names as a matter of fact are never disclosed so for that matter even you and i can be a "source", so it really depends who one would be talking to, and mostly the term source gets used when the author wants to give some substance to his/her imaginations. not long back all hell had broken lose in the west over the security of pak nukes, one would wonder what would have happened to the same security then.


    lets stop living in a fools world to believe that the pak nukes which have fine imprints of chinese, have been taken care off, and neither are the pakistanis so foolish that they would ever let such a thing happen for they know too well, that there never has been a more deceptive back stabber “ally” than the US. imagine a country which screws one around on fighter jets, will such a country ever be trusted on the nukes, on their locations, the numbers they have, the way they are secured, etc, i would for one never believe such a thing for there is too much of fantasy involved. do you part with some thing on which your existence rests, not quite and even more so in a country where all their ills are seen as an act of conspiracy theories all hatched in the west or israel or india.


    what i suspect is, US is in the know how of some 15-20 odd nukes, their locations etc, and there is a hype surrounding that, and as was reported recently there is a possibilty that pakistan could have more nukes than india, and if that report were to be believed then there are at least 3 digit figure nukes in pakistan. may be the pakistanis have given a false sense on the numbers to the US, or may be they have been convinced that the nukes are all secure under a very strict guard as per their instructions. i recall reading an article where it was mentioned how the US was only allowed to brief pak scientists under the surveillance of pak army on how to secure their nukes and they were not allowed to interfere in their securing any further, and then the US was briefed back, but the process that was used by the PA was kept a secret and the US was told only that much that was felt necessary and something which never undermined their security from the hands to pak army.


    lets get realistic for a change!
     
  13. Singh

    Singh Phat Cat Administrator

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    even if US somehow has control over Pak nukes, they will not inform India , reason $.
    Again US ability to detect the extent of nuclear programmes is debatable, Iran had one for years, Iraq never had any, AQ Khan network was flourishing officially till January 2009 !

    Nuclear weapons need specialised storage facilities, security setup, special infrastructure etc. which Pakistan couldn't have developed overnight; reports also suggest that Chinese tested a nuke for Pakistan. adding 1 and 2 together China has a better, more definite knowledge of the extent of Pak WMD programme and not US.
     
  14. thakur_ritesh

    thakur_ritesh Administrator Administrator

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    i will any day buy that argument, and i recall this was confirmed by a senior officer on WAB.
     

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