A.Q. Khan: Spreading Nuclear Technology

Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan, who is sometimes referred to as the father of the Pakistani nuclear bomb, is now making news regarding nuclear proliferation.

From Dawn:

Last month, Dawn received a copy of the pamphlet purportedly distributed by A. Q. Khan Research Laboratories, offering vacuum technology for sale. The distributors said the technology can also be used in nuclear plants and thus the offer can be interpreted as promoting nuclear technology.

The pamphlet has a Rawalpindi address, P.O. Box 502, and has pictures of the equipment it promotes. It also has a picture of Dr Khan on the extreme right corner wearing the medals awarded by the government of Pakistan.

A message distributed with the pamphlet says: “Besides manufacturing of vacuum components and systems, our vacuum consultancy services are also available for system design, operational troubleshooting, quality assurance, maintenance, system development and human resource training.”

The distributors of the pamphlet seemed particularly concerned about the offer of “human resource training” because they claimed it was offering to train people for making a key component of a nuclear plant.

From the Los Angeles Times,

If one man sits at the nuclear fulcrum of the three countries President Bush calls the “axis of evil,” it may well be Abdul Qadeer Khan.

The 66-year-old metallurgist is considered the father of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb. He is a national hero at home, where hospitals bear his name and children sing his praises. U.S. and other Western officials do not. They say Khan is the only scientist known to be linked to the alleged efforts of North Korea, Iraq and Iran to develop nuclear weapons.

“If the international community had a proliferation most-wanted list, A. Q. Khan would be most wanted on the list,” said Robert J. Einhorn, who was assistant secretary of State for nonproliferation in the Clinton administration.

U.S. intelligence long has known of Khan’s activities. But the extent of his ties to all three “axis” nations became public only recently as North Korea admitted resuming its nuclear weapons effort, satellite photos showed that Iran may be conducting clandestine nuclear work and Khan’s name appeared in a letter offering to “manufacture a nuclear weapon” for Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

Pakistan denies giving nuclear assistance to other countries and insists that Khan has done no wrong. But under intense U.S. pressure, President Pervez Musharraf abruptly removed Khan as head of nuclear weapons development two years ago. Bush administration officials, wary of undermining a partner in the U.S.-declared war on terrorism, publicly downplay concerns about Islamabad’s possible role in spreading nuclear knowledge.

[…]Khan, with graying wavy hair and a salt-and-pepper mustache, has shrugged off charges that he is a nuclear Johnny Appleseed. Instead, he portrays himself as a scientist, a patriot — and a pacifist.

“Some people have the impression that because I built a nuclear bomb, I’m some sort of cruel person,” he told a Pakistani journalist in 2001. “That’s not the case. I built a weapon of peace, which seems hard to understand until you realize Pakistan’s nuclear capability is a deterrent to aggressors. There has not been a war in the last 30 years, and I don’t expect one in the future. The stakes are too high.”

Unlike two other senior Pakistani nuclear scientists who were questioned by U.S. and Pakistani authorities in 2001 after meetings with the Taliban and Osama bin Laden, Khan is not an Islamic radical.

“He is not a fundamentalist, though he is nationalist — and sometimes nationalism and religion get mixed up in Pakistan,” said Pervez Hoodbhoy, an anti-nuclear activist and MIT-trained physicist who teaches at Quaid-i-Azam University in Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital. “He has been in it for the power, the money and the glory.”

Khan has received all three. When he ran Pakistan’s bomb-building program, he reported directly to the nation’s leader and had free-flowing funds at his disposal. U.S. officials say Khan owns several palatial residences. And he is revered not only at home, where he is hailed for putting Pakistan on an equal nuclear footing with rival India, but also in much of the Muslim world, where he is lionized as the man who built the “Islamic bomb.”

I hope the Pakistani government and A.Q. Khan have more sense than that. But I am not exactly sure what to think of the LA Times report.

Death Penalty Racism

According to the New York Times,

Blacks who kill whites are significantly more likely to face the death penalty in Maryland than are blacks who kill blacks or white killers, according to a state-sponsored study released yesterday. By itself, the study found, the race of the defendant was essentially irrelevant.

[…]The report found that two counties with the highest death sentencing rates, Baltimore and Harford, were also the two counties with the highest rates of capital homicides involving white victims and black killers.

The report also found that choices made by prosecutors about whom to charge with a capital crime accounted for almost all of the racial disparity. Later decisions by prosecutors, judges and juries had little impact.

[…]Maryland has executed three men since capital punishment was re-established there in 1978. Eight of the 13 men on death row today are black, according to the study. All 13 were sentenced to death for killing whites, it said, though 55 percent of the victims in all cases in which the death penalty was or could have been sought were not white.

I can’t say I am surprised, though I would like a national study attempt to isolate the effect of the race of the victim.

US/Pakistan Forces Clash

I know I am late on this news about the clash between US forces and Pakistani Border Scouts near the Afghan border (there’s a dispute about which side of the border it happened.) But then this is a weblog, not a news site. Plus I was enjoying my brother-in-law’s wedding the day it happened.

Unqualified Offerings has the Pakistani press stories about the incident. He says:

The writ of the Pakistani national government extends only tenuously to NWFP, and NWFP has longstanding blood and ideological ties to the Taliban. To the extent that Pakistan’s cooperation with the US is sincere, it faces a couple of unpleasant options: Rely on local troops whose enthusiasm for cooperating against the Taliban is low or bring in troops from outside with no local ties and maybe even antipathy —- a recipe for unrest.

I wish it was as simple as that. First, this incident did not happen in NWFP (North West Frontier Province), it happened in South Waziristan Agency which is part of FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas). The provincial government does not rule there. In fact, even the federal government doesn’t. These tribal areas, unlike the actual province of NWFP, have been more or less independent to run their local affairs. The British, before 1947, and the Pakistani government later have had some influence through the tribal elders (sometimes by bribing them.) FATA is sometimes considered part of NWFP because it should have been; it is populated by Pashtuns/Pathans who are the dominant ethnic group of NWFP (though not the only one; the Hazara area in NWFP is populated by Hindko-speaking people.)

The NWFP provincial assembly and government is dominated by the religious alliance, Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) [United Assembly for Action], a number of whose leaders are also Pashtun and some of whose constituent parties created the Taliban in their madrassas. In addition, the members of National Assembly from FATA (FATA is not represented in the provincial assembly) do not belong to any political party but are allied with the MMA. However, the tribal areas are fiercely independent, extremely backward and heavily armed. Almost every kid I saw there (quite a few years ago) was carrying an AK-47.

The reaction to this incident that I saw among people in Pakistan was definitely anti-American. For the people there, the most important detail was the 500-lb bomb that was dropped by the US. It fit the stereotype of the US military that just bombs from miles up.

Abductions of Foreigners

Responding to my post about the abduction and internment of Japanese from Latin American during World War II, the Head Heeb points out the modern-day abduction of drug dealers from Latin America and how it’s legal:

The Supreme Court explicitly legalized this process in the 1992 case of United States v. Alvarez-Machain, which involved a Mexican doctor kidnapped and brought to trial in California on charges of abetting the murder of a DEA agent. Relying on the “Ker-Frisbie doctrine” – a nineteenth-century principle of law holding that “the power of a court to try a person for crime is not impaired by the fact that he had been brought within the court’s jurisdiction by reason of a forcible abduction” – the court decided that the manner in which Alvarez-Machain was brought to the United States did not bar his trial. In fact, the court held that the power of the United States to prosecute Alvarez-Machain was even greater than if he had been formally extradited; since the extradition treaty with Mexico had not been invoked, the United States was not bound by the limitations on prosecution contained therein. In an additional triumph of form over substance, the court stated that, since the United States and Mexico had no treaty specifically forbidding abductions of Mexican citizens, the kidnapping – although possibly “shocking” – was perfectly legal.

I knew about the abductions of drug dealers, but am a little shocked by this case.

Nigerian 419 Scam Variation

I have received quite a few emails from the well-known Nigerian 419 scam artists. Today I received a Brunei variation:

My name is Haja I am a 23 years old and a British citizen who was taken to Brunei by my father at the young age of 12. He deceived me that I was going there on vacation and later married me off to a wealthy Prince in Brunei who is 30 years older than me.

I was thus forced into marriage and when I objected I was beaten and raped by this Prince. I was locked up in a house for two years after which I submitted and decided to accept my faith, knowing that was the only way out.

After I got my freedom back I have been allowed by my husband to have access to his businesses. Over the years I am been able to acquire some money $16,000,000.00 ( Sixteen million dollars), which I diverted into a private finance house in Darussalam without his knowledge.

Right now I have mapped out a plan of escape out of Brunei, first of all I want to move the fund out of the Brunei. This is where I need your assistance, I will move the fund out of Brunei on your name through a Cargo courier company to Europe to avoid been detected by my husband. After which you will help me secure the fund before I get out of Brunei.

If you know you are capable of handling such a huge amount of money respond to me and I will compensate you by giving you 10% of
the total fund.

Note also that you must keep this transaction secret as my life is at stake if my husband or any of his relatives hear of this transaction
they will stone me to death or hang me.


Eve Tushnet has a series of thoughtful posts on race (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 6a, 7, 8, 8a, 9a, 9b, 9c, 9d, 9e). She discusses the employment study that I talked about earlier (1, 2, 3, 4). I don’t agree with all of Eve’s ideas but they are interesting nevertheless.

Islamabad: Pakistani or not?

Ikram Saeed commented about Islamabad:

Any thoughts on Slamma-bad (that’s the hip-hop name)? I’ve been only once, and found it odd that the capital of Pakistan is such an un-Pakistani city. It felt like Muscut more than Multan.

It reminds me of an American friend who visited Pakistan. According to him, Islamabad is a city 10 miles outside Pakistan.

I lived in Islamabad for only 3 years before coming to the US. However my family have been living there for quite some time and I used to visit Islamabad quite a lot when I was in Pakistan. It is definitely very different from a typical Pakistani city; even from the big cosmopolitan ones like Lahore and Karachi. I remember Islamabad as a small well-planned city of government employees in the 1980s. It was a strange place, with no life. It used to become a ghost town during holidays as people went home. There really was nothing much to do. I have seen Islamabad grow over the years into something close to a city with life of its own. Now at least there are people who call it home. The shopping centers finally have some character. Karachi company, Aabpara, Jinnah supermarket are finally places to shop and wander. There’s nothing like Anarkali, Liberty market, etc. (Lahore) in Islamabad. It doesn’t even have good restaurants, nothing like Lahore or Karachi. You can have Italian or Chinese cuisine in Islamabad, but the local food is just bland.

What I like about Islamabad though is that it is well-planned. There are good roads and residential and commercial areas were designated in the original master plan of the city. Driving in Pakistan is really crazy; Islamabad however has much better traffic. For most of the cities of Pakistan, growth has been haphazard with no input from city planners. Islamabad however is a modern city. It was founded in 1960 specifically to be the capital. That is its virtue as well as its sin. It was created by government bureaucrats for bureaucrats, so it has no soul. But it is no longer a small or medium-sized city, the capital territory, including the city and some surrounding rural areas, has about 950,000 residents in about 900 square kilometers (approx. 350 sq.miles) while the city of Islamabad had 529,000 residents in 1998 according to the the Census Organization of Pakistan.

History Lesson: Abduction by the US

According to the Washington Post,

The internment of Japanese Americans? No. Matsubayashi was recalling a shameful and forgotten chapter in American history. From 1942 onward, the United States abducted some 3,000 people of Japanese, Italian and German ancestry from Latin America, shipped them to the United States and placed them in internment camps. These prisoners were never charged with crimes.

[…]During World War II, the U.S. government exchanged some of these prisoners for American prisoners of war in Japan. When the war with Japan ended in 1945, the rationale for holding the prisoners evaporated.

From November 1945 to February 1946, at least 1,400 of the Japanese internees were sent “voluntarily” to Japan. It is doubtful that all of them truly left on their own volition. Most of the new deportees, after all, had never even seen Japan.

But what to do with those remaining in detention in peacetime? Technically, the government considered the prisoners to be illegal residents of the United States, so the prisoners had no right to remain in the country. Peru refused to take back many of its former residents. A few children born in the camps could claim U.S. citizenship. In December 1947, Interior Secretary Harold Ickes, lamenting “our maimed, mutilated and missing civil liberties,” questioned why the United States was still holding “293 naturalized Peruvians of Japanese descent, who were taken by force by our State and Justice Departments from their homes in Peru.” As late as 1949, some Japanese remained in detention. Some former internees, ironically, eventually became U.S. citizens.

In 1999 the United States issued an apology for its treatment of the Peruvian Japanese and provided them with a token payment of $5,000 for their ordeal. It never admitted, however, that it had violated international law by abducting noncombatant civilians from another country during wartime.

Will history judge us as harshly for detaining enemy combatants without due process indefinitely? Have we learned anything from history?

And finally, for all those nostalgic for a better era from the past, it did not exist. The past has dirty secrets we have forgotten.

Special Registration: Pros and Cons

Suman Palit of the Kolkata Libertarian has two posts on the pros and cons of the special registration process:

If I were a de-facto emigrant from Pakistan, like someone on a H1-B work visa or a F-1 student visa, or a J-1 exchange visa, or even a B-1 business traveller visa, I would be worried and incensed by this ruling. It’s the result of the same kind of illogic that characterizes typical gun-ban arguments. (Criminals are using guns to commit crimes, so lets ask all gun owners to register their guns so that we can pretend that we know when a gun is used in a violent crime, er.. okay then)

Pakistanis with legitimate visas are already in the INS database. They have jobs, Social Security numbers. They are the ones actually going to class, earning PhDs, teaching American kids on their way. They are possible future immigrants whose loyalty and faith in the American dream must be nurtured, not hobbled and caged by unwarranted suspicion. Asking them to “register” is a fools errand for the INS. A way for the bozos with Homeland Security to pretend they are doing “something”.. after all, “something” must be done to make this country safer. Must it not..?

What makes the INS think that if there are Pakistani immigrants with visions of blowing up the Mall of America, that these men are going to comply with this ruling? What makes the INS think they can actually track them down if they fail to register. You have to wonder whether this program is a ploy to cover up INS and FBI intelligence failures of the past. This is an organization that renewed visas for the WTC bombers after 9/11. This is the organization that Americans are supposed to put their faith in? This is the organization that Americans from Pakistan are supposed to trust?

[…]The percentage of the demographic likely to comply with this ruling are going to be people with the most to lose by being deported. Students and temporary workers looking forward to converting their non-immigrant visas into immigrant visas. In other words, the ones who are least likely to be involved, even tangentially, with any terrorist sleeper cells.

[…]The INS has limited resources. Interviewing several thousand men from over twenty countries is going to be an expensive proposition. Creating, maintaining and ultimately effectively sifting through this database of information is not a one-time effort. It’s an ongoing expense with little benefit.

This program is going to generate a large number of false positives. Imagine if you will, a slightly nervous 20-year old, being interviewed by people he is certain don’t like him much.. They ask him if he knows anyone named Adil Pervez. He tells them he has two uncles in Pakistan with that name. The INS interviewer gets all excited, calls the FBI in. The FBI then pursues a lengthy investigation and finds out that one of these men is an invalid living in Peshawar, the other is a businessman now in London. But now the kid has been flagged. He may or may not be telling the whole truth.. right? Maybe the kid gets deported. Just in case, you know..? Keeping the country safe, that’s all.

If we are to win the long-term war against Islamic Fundamentalism, then we need to find ways to engage the Muslim community in a serious debate that will have to include the sensitive and highly-charged subject of Islamic reformation. Programs of registration like the one currently proposed is going to set the debate back by a generation. We do not have the luxury of that much time. We need the Muslim community on our side, and we need to find ways to encourage them to be front-line troops in this war. Not cannon fodder for bureaucrats looking to cover up flaws in their organizations and their procedures.

Just being back from Pakistan, the one question I got from everyone was about special registration. Everyone was worried and incensed because of it. Even though there is huge anti-American sentiment in Pakistan right now (more on my impressions from Pakistan later), that doesn’t mean we should take actions that anger Pakistanis more, especially things that that don’t really add to our security.

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Happy New Year! I am finally back home in Jersey. Blogging to resume soon.