Special report on the Khan network: Where is the justice?

October 24, 2006

CHICAGO, Ill. "We busted the A.Q. Khan network," President George W. Bush declared in 2004. Yet, two years later, most of Khan's collaborators have slipped through legal loopholes or served short sentences, according to Kenley Butler, Sammy Salama, and Leonard S. Spector, all of the Monterey Institute of International Studies' Center for Nonproliferation Studies. "Aggressive pursuit and prosecution of wrongdoers and more substantial penalties for those convicted may help to deter future smuggling networks," they note, "but the inconsistent record to date, with its strong tilt towards leniency, suggests that much remains to be done to achieve such results."

The article is accompanied by a roundup recapping the status of Kahn associates from Germany, Pakistan, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Britain, including Gotthard Lerch, Zoran Filipovic, Abu Siddiqui, and Nazeer Ahmed, among others.

Dutch national Henk Slebos is the focus of an in-depth feature detailing the consequences of his long association with Khan dating back to the 1970s, when the Pakistani scientist was suspected of misappropriating centrifuge design blueprints while working in the Netherlands. Although Slebos was found guilty in late 2005 on five counts of illegally exporting dual-use nuclear parts, he received a reduced sentence and is appealing the conviction, according to Mark Hibbs, editor at Platts' Nuclear Fuel and Nucleonics Week.

Also in this issue of the Bulletin: The Department of Energy has ignored repeated recommendations to consolidate more than a dozen storage sites in the continental United States for highly enriched uranium (HEU) and plutonium. Terrorists could penetrate these facilities and use the "special nuclear materials" to construct crude nuclear weapons or dirty bombs, according to Nick Schwellenbach and Peter D. H. Stockton from the Project on Government Oversight (POGO). Consolidation of nuclear sites would not only mean enhanced security--it could also save U.S. taxpayers billions of dollars.

Related articles and opinion pieces describe the ambiguity and contradictions surrounding Iran's nuclear intentions; Australia's hopes to increase exports of its recoverable uranium; and a discouraging assessment of the reliability of the Department of Homeland Security's Ready.gov website.


Embracing junk science
A review of Sharon Weinberger's Imaginary Weapons: A Journey Through the Pentagon's Scientific Underworld by physicist Lawrence Krauss, who says the book confirms "a government that refuses to listen to its scientific advisers is bound to make bad policy decisions."

A fiery proposition
Are U.S. forests next on Al Qaeda's target list? Gary Ackerman, the director of the Center for Terrorism and Intelligence Studies offers his assessment.
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Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

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