The Perfidy of Western “Intelligence” Agencies: The A.Q. Khan Case

Katabasis, Going Postal


This article was first published in print nearly ten years ago now, (and under a different name) towards the end of 2008. At the time, Iraq and Afghanistan had clearly become quagmires and there was a lot of hope that the promises of president-elect Barack Obama were going to be fulfilled and that the U.S. could and would, finally, withdraw from pointless interventions and entanglements across the globe. It was not to be ( Sound familiar?). One of Obama’s first acts as president in the new year was to order the droning of targets in Pakistan. Indeed, endless (and rarely reported in the Western press) drone warfare was to define his presidency.

Another sore point of premature optimism at the time was the internet and social media technology. Many, myself included, still believed in the promise of networked and social technologies for researching the truth, disseminating it and holding our respective establishments to much greater account. No one I think anticipated just how censorious the West would soon become. I also neglected to archive many of the references listed below, a mistake I would not repeat today. Alas many of the links will now be dead or moved. It is not true that ‘the internet never forgets’. It forgets a very great deal indeed. Sometimes it is forced to forget. More on that another time.

I was initially driven to research and write this piece by two things: Firstly, the initial work of FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds. Edmonds worked briefly as a translator in the post 9/11 recruitment rush, translating wiretaps from many officials and VIPs, especially Turkish ones. She made many claims that will be familiar to researchers of Deep State interests, particularly that there appeared to be immense official collusion behind the scenes on various warmongering and “intelligence” issues that should not have occurred at all, including between notional enemies. One of those claims concerned knowledge of the A.Q.Khan nuclear proliferation ring, in which British interests appeared to play a part. Unfortunately Edmonds has since suffered the disturbingly regular pattern of intelligence whistleblowers and has gone completely off the reservation (think cross dressing David Shayler and his ‘9/11’ holograms). Which is a tragedy as her initial testimony was credible and backed up by other insiders. I’d commend it to the house even if I would not endorse her later work. But then, who better to gently nudge someone over the edge subtly to gradually discredit them over a few years than the “intelligence” agencies once burned? Especially when someone is as isolated as only an ex intelligence whistleblower can be.

Secondly, two journalists for the Sunday Times effectively broke media cover and got the story of the nuclear proliferation ring on the front pages, including two follow up pieces. I was immensely hopeful a breakthrough was imminent and the mainstream press would start going after the Deep State. Alas I was to be disappointed. One front page was not enough to gain traction and people soon forgot about the astonishing story. I decided to follow the story up myself and work through every source I could get my hands on legally in order to piece together just how much of a role British interests, including our “intelligence” agencies had to play in this nuclear proliferation ring. The resulting piece of work will disturb you as it disturbed me and I have never been able to trust Anglo-American or Israeli “intelligence” agencies since. I simply cannot get past the fact they were willing to tolerate, and sometimes even protect, an international nuclear proliferation ring that successfully did its evil work for decades.

This article draws together a lot of disparate threads into a coherent picture that many readers here will find interesting as it is of great relevance to yet another irresponsible rush to war today and – damningly – includes so many of the same actors and actions. Fans of ‘QAnon’ will definitely find the information contain herein useful for understanding where we were and where we are now and hopefully we can all continue to help each other get to the truth of the matter, however long that takes and whatever obstacles our ever more authoritarian and disturbing establishments place in our path.


Sibel Edmonds, the former FBI translator turned whistle-blower, claimed in 2002 to have uncovered an extensive nuclear black market with links to officials in governments across the globe, including the U.S. and U.K. Despite recent exposure this year in the U.K.’s Sunday Times, [1] her allegations have reached few other mainstream outlets. Despite being published in a British paper of record, it appears that no investigative journalists have chosen to pursue the British angle. As the core of Edmonds’ allegations link directly to the U.S., a number of relentless American bloggers, most notably Luke Ryland, [2] have carefully picked apart and further investigated her story. Although there are substantial leads in this complex story linking to the U.K., this latter corpus of evidence remains undissected on the table.

Of particular concern was the fact that no other mainstream British news source that I could find picked the story up (aside from a brief mention in  a  Guardian  blog [3]), not  even  to  repeat what The Sunday Times had already reported; this despite the fact that  The Times  produced  two  follow-up  pieces [4].  On a positive note however, according to Joe Lauria, [5] one of the journalists who wrote these articles, The Times’ investigation is ongoing and more may be revealed soon. Readers shouldn’t hold their breath however, as one of the consistent patterns in this story is the regular quashing of investigations that threaten to go somewhere.

The only other British media link was The Observer’s David Rose, who wrote an article for Vanity Fair three years ago [6]. Rose recently revealed that he had a relationship with MI5 and MI6 in the past,[7] and, given the proximity of British intelligence to the A. Q. Khan network, which forms the core proliferation group which Edmonds links to U.S. officials, it is difficult to know what to make of his piece exposing Edmonds’ allegations to a wider audience. He states that ‘both agencies decided to stop speaking to me several years ago.’  Coincidence?

Of particular note is the fact that since The Times articles were published the FBI has filed a formal complaint with The Times requesting that Joe Lauria stay away from the numerous FBI agents he has been interviewing in relation to Edmonds [8]. Let me repeat that: a Federal U.S. organisation, made a formal complaint to a British-based news provider with a view to restricting their activities. According to Lauria, the agents, who had worked with Edmonds, all corroborated her story in general terms. Another aspect that has been overlooked by the mainstream media is the fact that in a recent New York Times article referring to the A. Q. Khan network (although with no mention of Edmonds) is the implicit, albeit according to Luke Ryland, accidental acknowledgement of the fact that the U.S. was indeed part of the smuggling network [9].  The article makes a clear attempt to spin its material towards Iranian intransigence and away from the U.S. side of the network (which, according to Edmonds, includes Israel, Turkey and Pakistan as key players and partners), making the accidental admission almost comical.

Exposition of some of the U.S. responses to Edmonds is essential as they cannot be realistically separated from the U.K. angle given that the two countries’ realpolitik goals and strategies are so intertwined. Indeed, much of the disturbing evidence that points in a British direction includes joint Anglo-American operations. Moreover, the A. Q. Khan network, at the centre of the international nuclear proliferation, is truly profligate, having customers and suppliers in many nations. Thus explanation of the British angle requires substantial exposition of the network’s activity elsewhere for it to make any sense.

The core

The core of Edmonds’ allegations is that foreign intelligence services have infiltrated key nuclear-related institutions within the U.S. and used these positions to disseminate nuclear know-how, and even materials to the infamous A. Q. Khan network. She states that it took place (and potentially is still taking place) with official sanction at the highest levels. The reason I have used ‘web’ in the title of this article is that both the content of Edmonds’ allegations and the history of her censure by various arms of the U.S. establishment is so far reaching that it cannot be reasonably described in one sitting. The focus of this article in particular is where her allegations link to British involvement. Unfortunately, even this is not simple: for Edmonds’ case touches not only on the nuclear black market, but also on the drugs and money laundering trades, aspects which also have British dimensions.

The official response to Edmonds has been to put her under a gag order (under the ‘State Secrets Privilege’) and effectively quash her legal proceedings. It is important to note that the ‘gag’ also applies to public officials, even in Congress, as evidence linked to Edmonds’ case has been ‘retroactively classified’. Complaints that she made against her employer, the FBI, where they concerned the termination of her employment, were perhaps the mildest element of her case. These complaints were upheld by the Office of the Inspector General. Now while the OIG carefully restrained its remit to Edmonds’s difficulties with the FBI as an employer, never intending to deal with the actual content of her accusations beyond FBI operational matters, almost the entire official report is redacted [10].

The British connection

The list of nations that may have benefited from the A. Q. Khan network include those on the ‘axis of evil’ and other nations supposedly at odds with the West. Worse, the major conduits are supposed to be key Western allies – Turkey, Israel and Pakistan. The official cover story, explaining Western inaction (despite Edmonds reporting that the FBI had been gathering extensive evidence on a number of officials, and the fact that a joint Anglo-American operation has been supposedly monitoring the network over an extended period), is that the evidence-gathering was part of a sting operation and they didn’t want to reveal their hand too soon. Too soon? The A. Q. Khan network has been active since the 1970s [11]. When exactly were these officials planning to pull the plug? As Armstrong and Trento put it in their America and the Islamic Bomb, ‘it suggests that protecting the intelligence operation took precedence over stopping the spread of nuclear weapons.’ [12]

It has been the case that sincere efforts were made by individuals involved in the intelligence operations monitoring the network. Success, however, seems to have been met with shutdown, if not outright censure. U.K. Customs agent, Atif Amin, is the prime example of such official interference on the British front. Amin’s investigation (‘Operation Akin’) was aborted, despite successfully closing in on the Khan network’s operation. Reasons given at the time were to ‘preserve diplomatic relations’ and, of course, ‘protect the ongoing intelligence operation.’ The former puts one in mind of official interference in the BAe /Saudi scandal more recently [13].

Amin was a seasoned British customs officer with previous experience in international operations. Unlike Edmonds, he was not a whistleblower. And this is what makes his contribution to this story so striking: Amin represented the objectives of the intelligence and customs agencies entering into direct conflict with high level foreign policy, diplomatic relations and outright corruption. In short, Amin only got himself into trouble through earnestly trying to do his job.

In fact, Amin was reeled in last year by U.K. police, under the auspices of the Official Secrets Act, in response to publication of the Armstrong and Trento book mentioned above. British intelligence apparently thought Amin had been the primary source. The book’s authors responded, however, that Amin was the ‘subject’ not the ‘source’ of the book and that ‘the most obvious answer to why they’re going after him is that this is potentially embarrassing to U.S. and British intelligence sources’ [14].  I return to Amin below.

Proliferation – from the Cold War to Customs

The floodgates for nuclear proliferation opened in the 1950s when the Eisenhower White House decided to allow nuclear technologies and materials to be transferred to other nations for civilian purposes. This was in contrast to the attitude that prevailed in the Truman administration beforehand, for whom nuclear technology was to remain the sole preserve of the U.S. government, on pain of death [15].  The programme, focusing on civilian applications for nuclear power, was known as ‘Atoms for Peace’. Without these civilian programmes, the creation of nuclear weapons would have been beyond most of the participating nations. And it is worth noting, in the context of Edmonds’ allegations, that the first and second signatories were Turkey and Israel respectively.

Perhaps the most important factor in assisting proliferation however, was the U.S. relationship with Pakistan, first as a Cold War ally, and then as an asset in the ‘war on terror’. Pakistan first joined the ‘Atoms for Peace’ programme in 1955. U.S. authorities knew full well that Pakistan was seeking nuclear weapons as far back as the 1970s. However, there was a need to appear at arms length from Pakistan’s fledgling programme, while simultaneously providing indirect assistance. A substantial amount of money was given to the various Pakistani governments, much of which was distributed unaccountably through their Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) agency. It stretches credulity to believe that the U.S. gave this money ignorant of the fact that some of it would be diverted to fund the nuclear effort.  Given that the Pakistani authorities could not be seen to be overtly developing this programme, it had to take place through various front companies, with parts sourced from all over the world. The A. Q. Khan network was the result.

In an almost ironic turn to current world events, when Pakistan finally mastered the bomb in 1986/7, it was then able to make use of the network to pump know-how and materials back out as assiduously and covertly as they had been pumped in. And it was during the 1980s that Iran was making its greatest efforts to master the technology, with (covert) Pakistani assistance. Despite knowledge of these interactions, Washington decided not to excoriate its erstwhile cold war ally. Yet in 1993/4 the network was able to sell centrifuges to the Iranian regime. Meetings between representatives of both sides in the deal continued through 1996 – 1999.

This brings us back to the U.K. When he was working in Holland in the late 70s,  A. Q. Khan made a key British contact, the engineer Peter Griffin, whose company, Weargate Ltd, effectively became the first British company associated with the network. (I return to Griffin below.) It was not until the late 80s that British authorities began in earnest to take a look at Khan’s operations.

In 1988, a Khan associate, Sinawappu Seeni Mohamed Farook, established a front company, Foremost Trading Ltd, in London for the network. He was assisted in this by supposed longtime friend and associate of A. Q. Khan, Abdul Mabood Siddiqui, who was an accountant working in West London for Reddy Siddiqui & Co. Banking services for the company were provided by the Bank of Credit and Commerce International, (BCCI). Foremost Trading Ltd. was later replaced in London by another, SMB Europe Ltd., in 1994. Siddiqui also went on separately to form his own front company in 1995, Orland Europe Ltd. Given that the official story regarding BCCI, namely that it was to be the ‘honeytrap’ for black market, illegal and terrorist operations, we might assume that the CIA was at this point aware of Siddiqui, if not the network itself.

On 11 January 1999, H. M. Customs agent Maxine Crook paid Orland Europe a visit, following a tip off from MI6. She testified later that the purpose of her visit was to inform Siddiqui about export regulations (including exports for which licences would be required) and to remind him that he should consult the Department for Trade and Industry (DTI) for a number of orders (notably those going to other known network fronts in Pakistan and Dubai). Subsequently a raid took place at the Thamesport docks, where an export order Siddiqui had arranged for twelve metric tonnes of aluminium was seized. Some of the aluminium bars did not have the specific export licence required. Customs officers also searched Siddiqui’s business, home and his parents’ house. Numerous materials were recovered linking Siddiqui with Khan, and, importantly, with knowledge of the nature of Khan’s business via his front companies (something that Siddiqui would deny later in court).

Operation Akin

It is at this point we return to Atif Amin. He led an investigation code-named Operation Akin, part of which was unravelling Siddiqui’s dealings with the network. He was part of a counterproliferation team within Customs’ Commercial Fraud Branch. (Amin had previously taken part in investigations of mercenary Tim Spicer and co [16]) Amin travelled  to  Dubai  in  April 2000 to further investigate some of the suspected front operations. Even before he left for Dubai, however, Amin received a strange warning from MI6: he was to stay away from a company known as Desert Electrical Equipment. The organisation was not even on the list gleaned from the investigation of Siddiqui. However, it later emerged that facilities at the company were being used in the manufacture of centrifuge components and for the training of Libyan scientists.

Amin’s Custom’s contact at the British embassy was one Malcolm Nesbit. Upon arrival in Dubai, Nesbit set up a meeting with the local MI6 station chief. At this point he received yet another warning, this time to stay clear of Habib Bank, an organisation that was already on Amin’s list as it had been used to transfer funds to Siddiqui. Local police officer Alwari Essam was assigned to work with Amin. According to Armstrong and Trento [17] ‘early on they discovered connections between some of the front companies and high ranking Dubai officials.’ Unfortunately, the authors don’t provide any further details or sources on this.

Several weeks into the investigation, Essam and Amin examined the records held by a company called Deepsea Freight Services. It is here that Amin discovered records of key components in the manufacture of centrifuges being transhipped (to avoid export controls) to Libya. The consignee for some of these shipments was none other than Desert Electrical, which Amin had been warned off earlier.

The cover-up begins

It was at this point that the thwarting of Amin’s investigation began in earnest. Upon returning to the Dubai police headquarters, Amin and Essam were informed that they could no longer conduct field interviews, (apparently at the request of Dubai secret services), and all interviewees (whether witness or suspect) would be invited (not compelled) to headquarters where the police would ask questions on Amin’s behalf. In addition, all materials related to the investigation were to be turned over to the police. A subsequent request to the police by Amin to obtain the Deepsea files he had consulted previously resulted in receipt of the files minus the Libyan entries.

Soon after Nesbit revealed to Amin that MI6 had asked him to monitor shipping containers that were going to Libya from Dubai. Amin had another meeting with the MI6 station chief, where he related his recent experiences at police headquarters. He was awoken later that night in the early morning hours for an impromptu meeting. The MI6 officer warned him that he was in immediate danger. Amin dismissed these concerns and insisted that he could continue the investigation, relying on the local British embassy for security if need be. The following evening he received a call from his boss, Mickey Bispham. He was ordered to return to London immediately.

Amin was thereafter almost taken back to square one. The only hard evidence he had to rely on had already been recovered in the raid on Siddiqui. While it did seem there was a credible threat to Amin (and possibly his family) from the Khan network, what remained unclear is exactly who had scotched his investigation and why. Amin was reportedly informed by a senior customs official, Euan Stewart that he was ‘finding out too much’.

With regard to this official interference in Amin’s case, the standard line was trotted out, as it has been for the entire history of the Khan network: intelligence and official quarters did not want to move prematurely. It was supposedly a quandary: act on what was already known to disrupt the network, or wait in order to gather more intelligence. It was not until 2004, three years after the end of Amin’s investigation, that any significant move was made against the network and Khan, along with several others, was arrested.

Siddiqui however, was brought to trial, and convicted, in August 2001 for violating British export regulations. He was reportedly described to the jury as a procurement agent for Khan’s network. Siddiqui was due to be sentenced in October 2001. However, before this could happen, the 11 September attacks took place and the political landscape shifted once again. Pakistan’s assistance was required anew – this time in the ‘war on terror’. The Anglo-American alliance could not afford the consequences of revealing Pakistan’s role in the network. Nor, given the subsequent queries regarding intelligence surrounding the attacks and the espoused aims of the ‘war on terror’, could they reveal that they had been sitting on evidence of a nuclear proliferation network for – potentially – decades. Come October, Judge Bathurst-Norman, presiding over Siddiqui’s sentencing claimed that ‘exceptional circumstances’ applied. Bearing in mind that the government now wants to detain individuals in the U.K. for up to 42 days on mere suspicion of ‘terrorist’ activities or sympathies, it is nothing short of shocking to look back at this case: convicted of one of the most serious crimes of our age, Siddiqui was released with a £6000 fine and a twelve-month suspended sentence.

Waiting for what?

Siddiqui’s former business partner, B. S. A. Tahir, subsequently set up a new company in Malaysia in December 2001 which manufactured centrifuge components for the Libyan regime. This replaced the work of Desert Electrical, which Amin had investigated in Dubai (and been warned away from). They had ceased operation around the time Amin had been investigating, though it is unclear whether this was a result of his enquiries (or whether or not there were actually Anglo-American assets within the company). Despite the evidence Amin had gathered, and Siddiqui’s conviction, an opportunity to fully unwind the network had been lost and it continued operating more or less at full strength for approximately another three years. Western intelligence was to watch and wait. The question is….wait for what?

Amin is quoted by Armstrong and Trento as having said to colleagues: ‘They knew exactly what was going on all the time. If they’d wanted to they could have blown the whistle on this a long time ago.’ [18] Armstrong and Trento also claim that, at  the  time  of Siddiqui’s trial, despite key figures being named, ‘front companies revealed, and details of the network’s mode of operation laid bare, all in open court..…..there was little coverage of the case and not a single news organization bothered to follow the extensive trail of evidence that had been laid out at trial.’ [19] Indeed, even Sibel Edmonds’ case has received more attention in the British mainstream media, although this follows the same pattern of relative ignominy despite the substantial trails of evidence to follow and extremely serious (i.e. newsworthy) implications.

It is important to be reminded here of the current political context: the major focus of ‘the war on terror’ since 2001 has, by far, been on ‘weapons of mass destruction’ – in particular those relying on nuclear technology. And all of the nations that have been on the ‘hit list’ at various points – Iraq, Iran, Libya and North Korea – had dealings with the Khan network. In the most awful irony, of those nations it was Iraq that had the most minimal contact; the others purchased services, components or information from the network, while the Iraqi regime only held a meeting with a Khan representative, subsequently declining their services, suspecting that it might have been a sting operation [20].

Thus, while our political leaders and media talking heads stir up a frenzy about these weapons programmes, no one mentions that our own intelligence agencies, with official sanction, have in fact facilitated this network; and one of our supposed major allies in the region, Pakistan, has acted – is acting – as the primary hub of activity. To quote Armstrong and Trento again:

“While the United States had justifiably concluded that the threat of terrorists acquiring a nuclear capability required an urgent response, it was content to allow the transfer of nuclear technology to state sponsors of terror to continue, under the watchful eye of Western intelligence.” [21]

Even now, with attention finally turning to the role Pakistan has played in the development and protection of Islamist terrorists in its sphere of influence, and with tensions rising with the U.S., one wonders whether any of this will yet come to light. Western intelligence not only knew almost every move that Khan and his associates made, they were apparently also deeply interpenetrated with the network. Risk of exposing MI6 and CIA assets was allegedly one of the reasons Amin’s investigation was closed down. George Tenet, former director of the CIA, is quoted as saying in his memoirs with reference to the network that ‘we knew virtually everything there was to know.’[22]

In 2004 the A. Q. Khan network was supposedly damaged beyond repair. Khan and some of his colleagues were arrested and some of the front organisations were closed down. Khan read out a ‘confession’ detailing his activities and issuing a mea culpa. Coming as it did when the Anglo-American government and intelligence agencies were under pressure for the failures in the ‘war on terror’, particularly with regard to Iraq, much hay was made with the news. Yet elements of his network continued to operate freely. The Pakistani government was the prime mover for these arrests. The White House simply accepted Musharraf’s claims that the situation had been dealt with adequately. Moreover, he refused to allow U.S. and other nations’ investigators access to Khan. Shortly afterwards, Khan was pardoned – by Musharraf – and given a cabinet level position! The worst that Khan suffered was to be placed under house arrest. The idea that the ‘bust’ was in any way a success is completely laughable.

Khan was also portrayed – in that all too familiar light – as a lone nut operating independently, something we’ve been treated to recently with the anthrax affair [23]. As in the  Edmonds  story, there are simply too many cooks involved in baking the cake to pin it on only one of them.

It is notable at this point that Benazir Bhutto, in September 2007 – several months prior to her assassination – had promised to give the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Authority) access to Khan. [24] It was also in September 2007 that Bhutto was presented with a copy of America and the Islamic bomb by one of its authors.

Libya and Peter Griffin

Unsurprisingly, the Libyan part of the supply chain had other British connections. This is where we return to British national, Peter Griffin. Griffin was one of the partners for a Dubai-based organisation, Gulf Technical Industries that, according to a Customs report in 2002, helped to supply the Libyan government with centrifuge equipment. Griffin appears to have a very long and extensive history of involvement in the A. Q. Khan network: his British based company, Weargate Ltd., had already been part of a scandal in the 1970s involving suspect exports to Pakistan.

It was also in the 1970s when the first whistleblower appeared: Dutch technician Frits Veerman, a work colleague of Khan’s at the time at FDO (the Physical Dynamics Research Laboratory in Holland). In 1975 and 1976 Veerman took his concerns about Khan, with written evidence, to his superiors. In a disturbing foreshadowing of what would happen to future whistleblowers, he was told by his employers that he would be arrested if he pursued the claims. Veerman was fired, arrested and censured [25].

As a result of a 2004 investigation by Malaysian police into the activities of Khan associate, B. S. A. Tahir, Griffin was named as a middleman for a project to create a machine shop in Libya. Griffin subsequently won libel cases against the BBC [26] and The Guardian [27] for alleging that  he  had been knowingly involved in assisting the Libyan regime in developing its nuclear programme. He claimed complete ignorance of the network’s activities, despite having been a regular Khan supplier (not to mention personal Khan acquaintance) since the 1970s.

Armstrong and Trento, however, present a damning list of evidence against Griffin, obtained from  two, unfortunately  confidential, Customs reports from 2004 and 2005 into his activities [28]. These reports include findings from a raid on Griffin’s French residence, along with several businesses he had dealings with. They found, amongst other things, extensive electronic material related to the manufacture of components for uranium-enrichment centrifuges, designs for components identical to those originally pilfered by A. Q. Khan in the 1970s, records showing substantial payments to several members of the network (including some of those arrested), and a letter from Griffin that indicated ‘a close personal relationship’ with A. Q.  Khan.

Griffin’s defence was that the equipment he supplied could be used for civilian purposes and that he remained ignorant of the uses to which they were actually put until 2004 when he was incriminated. This, he claimed, was the first time he learned about centrifuge technology. This seems incredibly unlikely however, as one of the reports concluded that a number of the components detailed on Griffin’s computer ‘would not have any other application’ than as parts in a centrifuge. It stretches credibility beyond belief to suppose that Griffin had gone to such lengths, and extensive detail (including producing ‘a carefully designed floor plan for the machine shop that appeared to be based on an early layout used by Pakistan for its uranium enrichment program’), simply to familiarise himself with centrifuge technology. The evidence shows that Griffin had been far from ignorant about the applications of the technology he provided and had in fact known about this for a long time.

As quoted by Armstrong and Trento, the 2005 report states:

“From material available, Peter Griffin appears to be a member of the A. Q. Khan network working closely with B. S. A. Tahir and others. He has a long history of personal and business dealings with Dr. A. Q. Khan and there is evidence to show that for many years, Peter Griffin has been engaged in the proliferation of technology and equipment to Pakistan’s WMD programme

….[Griffin] played a hugely significant role in assisting the Libyans in their quest to develop a nuclear weapon.”

Lauria also had access to the Customs files and comes to similar conclusions regarding Griffin [29].

Despite all of this, after being questioned for two days by British officials in June 2005, he was released without charges. What is more curious is that as the evidence cited by Armstrong and Trento appears to completely undermine Griffin’s libel defence against the BBC and The Guardian, why have they not pursued subsequent litigation? Armstrong and Trento also cite a source familiar with Griffin’s case stating that there is ‘no appetite’ to bring charges. Moreover, they state that U.S. and European intelligence officials have suggested that he is, and always has been, an intelligence asset. We’re back to the perennial question again of just who is pulling whose chain?

Recently, the Swiss engineers, the Tinners, entered the news [30] as they had been arrested in relation to activities within the Khan network, having also been part of it, like Griffin, since the 1970s. The CIA has claimed them as assets. And yet, amongst intense controversy, thousands of files linking to their work have been destroyed, apparently at the behest of the U.S., subsequently ruining the Swiss government’s case against them. What is going on?

Butler on Khan

In the Butler Report, [31] which effectively exonerated the UK intelligence services with regard to the Iraqi ‘intelligence failures’, there is repeated mention of the A. Q. Khan network. However, not once is the network tied to Pakistan as a political entity, even when it explicitly identifies ‘suppliers’ – according to Butler in this case, just A. Q. Khan and North Korea. This is despite stating at the start that Khan was the director of Pakistan’s nuclear programme for 25 years, and noting that his network was at one point based in Pakistan (subsequently claiming that it had moved to Dubai).

The schizophrenia in the Butler report is nothing short of amazing: despite the claims made by Khan several months before Butler, that the Pakistani military-intelligence community was fully apprised of his activities, [32] it toes  the  official  line  that  the Pakistani establishment had nothing to do with Khan’s network and he acted solely as a private individual in this respect. Indeed, since having the conditions of his house arrest relaxed, allowing him the use of a telephone, he has gone on the attack, claiming that his original ‘confession’ was written for him by Pakistani authorities [33].

Of the National Intelligence Estimate of 2007 Joseph Trento said: ‘In light of the new NIE, it’s clear that what happened in Dubai between 2000 and 2003 is the biggest CIA embarrassment since WMD in Iraq.’ [34] This refers to  the closure  of Atif Amin’s investigation. Despite all of the evidence gathered, the network was permitted to continue operation. And the NIE is silent on Iran’s development of nuclear capabilities with the assistance of the network in those three years. This is not to mention the fact that, with the evidence Amin gathered, attempts could have been made to stymie the network’s operations in Libya almost immediately.

‘the Libyans blew up the Pakistanis’

On this topic a stunning revelation is provided by Seymour Hersh, from a source within the Libyan intelligence community: the source states that it was ‘the Libyans who blew up the Pakistanis.’ [35] This refers to the October 2003 seizure of cargo on the transport ship BBC China, carrying components bound for Libya. The seizure was the high point of the supposed Western intelligence efforts that allegedly resulted in Khan’s mea culpa and the rolling back of his network. Hersh cites this source, claiming that in fact the intelligence resulting in the seizure of the BBC China and the ‘exposure’ of the A. Q. Khan network came from Libyan and not Western intelligence. Apparently Qadaffi realised that this was the perfect opportunity to come in from the cold; the West desperately needed a ‘victory’ in the ‘war against terror’ and a reprieve for its intelligence apparatus, and he gave it to them. If Hersh’s source is correct, then the Anglo-American governments have disseminated the worst kind of lie to cover their own duplicity and incompetence. If it was indeed the Libyans who were responsible for forcing the ‘great purge’ that resulted in the arrest of Khan et al and the ending of the Libyan programme, then precisely which Anglo-American operations have been going on all these years that needed to be protected from sincere investigators?

Joe Lauria mentions that journalists were warned away from The Times stories because they might compromise a sting operation [36] – the same line we heard with regard to Amin’s investigation in Dubai. Where there was a legitimate sting operation in progress, the case of Brewster Jennings acting as a front for the CIA, its activities were ‘outed’ not just once but twice, on the second occasion also ‘outing’ one of the key CIA officers, Valerie Plame. Moreover, Plame was probably already dangerously exposed after the first outing, which is why she expressed shock at Edmonds’ revelations that she had overheard conversations between Turkish-connected interests indicating that BrewsterJennings was a sting operation. As Lauria notes, the mainstream media focused on the second ‘outing’ and apparently has no desire to go back to the first. While the political motives and surrounding circumstances of the second ‘outing’ are important, the first ‘outing’ shows that there was official collaboration with protecting the network earlier on that compromised any potential sting.

Similarly, Trento details [37] several attempts by journalists in the U.S. media to follow up their findings on the A. Q. Khan network, only to be thwarted by higher-ups. Lauria notes that such behav-iour is to be expected from the U.S. media because ‘the American mainstream press does not allow certain ideas to easily filter through: the idea that high-ranking US officials might actually be facilitating this…….It’s entertainment all the time.’ [38] The pattern identified in the media follows that in intelligence circles: low to mid-level employees attempt to pursue and investigate the leads, only to be shut down. It’s self-censorship that occurs from the top down, rather than being something endemic to the institutions. However, as Edmonds and others in her whistle-blower network [39] have pointed out, the less attention and protection these people receive, the harder it is going to be in future for other individuals, until we reach the point that these institutions really do have endemic self-censorship and corruption from top to bottom. And it has been a pattern a long time in the forming: Veerman in the 70s, CIA agent Richard Barlow in the early 90s, [40] and, more recently, Sibel Edmonds and Atif Amin.

That being said, some media institutions wilfully come to false conclusions.  For example, a review of the Armstrong and Trento book in The Washington Post, [41] states:

‘they tell the story of Operation Aquarium, a successful British effort to uproot the tentacles of Khan’s illicit purchasing network from Malaysia to Spain and France. It shows what Western intelligence services can do when they have clear direction and international cooperation.’ Anyone who has read the book, the evidence provided, and the conclusions they come to could not possibly have asserted this truthfully.

So we reach an impasse once more. Considering the weight of evidence, particularly in light of the Edmonds case, it is very difficult not to see official complicity in the activities of the A. Q. Khan network, including its British arms, as an extension of the ‘great game’, allowing participants to continue their power plays across the globe on the basis of a pack of lies – ‘counter proliferation’, the ‘war on terror’. We’ve been warned repeatedly by insiders about what is happening and ignore it at our peril.

© Katabasis  2018
First published at i-squared

End notes

[1] ‘For sale: West’s deadly nuclear secrets’, The Sunday Times, 6 January 2008, <>
[2] <>
[3] < usjournalistsignoresundayt>
[4] Sunday Times ,‘FBI denies file exposing nuclear secrets theft’, 20 January 2008, < americas/article3216737.ece> and ‘Tip-off thwarted nuclear spy ring probe’, 27 January 2008, < and_americas/article3257725.ece>
[5] In an interview with’s Scott Horton – go to
<> for the mp3 file. Alternatively a full transcript is available here: <>
[6] Vanity Fair, David Rose, ‘An Inconvenient Patriot’, 15 August 2005.
[7] New Statesman, David Rose, ‘Spies and their Lies’, 27 September 2007. <>
[8] Revealed in the Scott Horton interview with Lauria. See note 5.
[9] In ‘Nuclear Net’s Undoing, a Web of Shadowy Deals’, New York Times, 24 August 2008, < nuke.html>
[10] 10 PDF downloads: part 1:
<> part 2:
<> , part 3:

[11] A. Q. Khan, when working for Dutch engineering firm FDO, was able to abscond in 1975 with plans for highly classified ultra-centrifuges, which were to be used by a European consortium in order to end uranium fuel dependence on the U.S.These plans have turned up repeatedly across Khan’s network since.
[12] 12 Armstrong, D. and Trento, J., America and the Islamic Bomb,
(Hanover, New Hampshire: Steerforth Press, 2007), p. 169
[13] ‘SFO wrong to drop BAE enquiry court told’, The Guardian, 10 April 2008, <>.
[14] ‘Customs official in secrets enquiry over nuclear revelations’, The Guardian, December 19, 2007. < dec/19/>.
[15] The U.S. Atomic Energy Act of 1946, also known as the McMahon Act.
[16] The same Tim Spicer who, incidentally, through his representatives at Schillings, is trying to censor ex-UK diplomat Craig Murray in his forthcoming book,
The Road to Samarkand: The Catholic Orange Men of Togo and other conflicts‘. See <>
[17] America and the Islamic Bomb (see note 12) p. 183
[18] America and the Islamic Bomb, (see note 12) p. 195.
[19] Ibid, p. 196.
[20] David Albright and Corey Hinderstein, ‘Documents Indicate A.Q. Khan Offered Nuclear Designs to Iraq in 1990’, Institute for Science and International Security,
4 February 2004, < publications/southasia/khan_memo.html>
[21] <
[22] Cited in Armstrong and Trento, (see note 12), p. 204.
[23] See for example, Glenn Greenwald’s comprehensive debunking of the ‘lone nut’ theory with regard to scientist Bruce Irvins
< > Greenwald highlights proof positive of a media-establishment conspiracy surrounding the original anthrax story in the form of ABC’s four or five ‘separate well placed sources’.
[24] ‘Benazir to give IAEA access to A.Q. Khan’, Anwar Iqbal, Dawn, Sept 26, 2007, <>
[25] See, for example, ‘The Wrath of Khan’, Atlantic Monthly, November 2005 <>.
[26] <>
[27] ‘Guardian libel case settled’, The Guardian, 4 May 2005, < publishing>
[28] Armstrong and Trento, (see note 12), ch. 10
[29] ‘Inquiry into Nuclear “Mr fix-it” dropped’, The Sunday Times, 13 January 2008, <>
[30] ‘Nuclear bomb blueprints for sale on world black market, experts fear’, The Guardian 31 May 2008, <>
[31] Review of Intelligence on Weapons of Mass Destruction, (Butler
Committee Report) (London: The Stationery Office, 14 July 2004) <>
[32] ‘Musharraf named in Nuclear Probe’, Washington Post, 3 February, 2004. <>
[33] Dawn, 5 July 2008. <>
[34] ‘Trento’s Column: The CIA and MI6 Protect A. Q. Khan as the British Government Destroys a True Hero’ <>
[35] Seymour Hersh, ‘The Deal’ in The New Yorker, 8 March 2004, <>
[36] Interview with Scott Horton. See note 5
[37] Joseph Trento, ‘Trento’s column: The BBC Demonstrates Cowardice. NBC, ABC, CBS Just Hew to the Bottom Line’, 21 December 2007,
[38] Interview with Scott Horton.
[39] <>
[40] Barlow, in a case very similar to that of Atif Amin, made numerous attempts to report the truth about the Pakistani nuclear capabilities and smuggling. Barlow presented this evidence, like Amin, not as a whistleblower initially, but as part of his normal duties as a CIA officer. See, for example, Seymour Hersh, ‘On the Nuclear Edge’, The New Yorker, March 29 2003
< 1993_03_ 29_056_TNY_CARDS_000363214>
[41] Washington Post Book World: ‘A. Q. Khan’s Atomic Vision’, 18 November 2007.