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Last Updated: Wednesday, 15 November 2006, 15:59 GMT
The nuclear Walmart: Transcript
NB: THIS TRANSCRIPT WAS TYPED FROM A TRANSCRIPTION UNIT RECORDING AND NOT COPIED FROM AN ORIGINAL SCRIPT: BECAUSE OF THE POSSIBILITY OF MIS-HEARING AND THE DIFFICULTY, IN SOME CASES OF IDENTIFYING INDIVIDUAL SPEAKERS, THE BBC CANNOT VOUCH FOR ITS ACCURACY.

PANORAMA
THE NUCLEAR WALMART
RECORDED FROM TRANSMISSION: BBC ONE
DATE: 12:11:06


TARANTO, ITALY

OCTOBER 2003

JANE CORBIN: It's midnight, a containership has been secretly diverted to a port in Italy. Intelligence agents are watching as five containers destined for Libya are offloaded. Inside they find components for centrifuges to enrich Uranium for the bomb. This MI6 and CIA operation bust open the world's biggest and most deadly nuclear trade.

GEORGE BUSH: These mats are the sobering evidence of a great danger.

CORBIN: Iran is using centrifuges to enrich uranium which could be used for a nuclear weapon. The balance of power in the world is changing. North Korea has just tested an atomic weapon. This unstable, repressive regime has a secret uranium enrichment programme too. Iran and North Korea paid hundreds of millions of dollars to get their hands on nuclear know-how. They were customers of a global black market which drew on the skills of rogue engineers to produce bomb grade uranium.

DANIEL GEIGES: Just under 24 kilograms of highly enriched stuff.

CORBIN: Enough for a bomb, though.

GEIGES: It is, yes. It is, possibly two.

CORBIN: Tonight we unravel the story of the man behind what investigators have called a nuclear supermarket and discover why it took decades to put him out of business.

Khan Research Laboratories video

Twenty-two years down the road and today one of the finest uranium enrichment plants is successfully in operation in Kahuta.

CORBIN: We've obtained this remarkable video, the first time it's been seen on western television. It's a brazen sales pitch by the man at the heart of the deals with Iran and North Korea and Libya where this video was found.

[Video] And Doctor Khan, along with his colleagues in this ...

CORBIN: For two decades he touted for business, nuclear weapons business, under the nose of his government and the West.

[Video] Together we can really work wonders ...

CORBIN: It all began in a small town called Almelo in Holland, home to a consortium of Dutch, British and German scientists. They worked on a top secret project at this anonymous looking plant, URENCO. In 1972 a young Pakistani scientist arrived at Almelo. Abdul Qadeer Khan and his family were made welcome. He had degrees from European Universities, spoke several languages. Soon he was helping translate technical documents.

TREVOR EDWARDS
URENCO Engineer 1971-75
He was supposed to only obtain unclassified information and lowly classified, namely restricted information. Unfortunately he was a) a very charming man as I remember, he was often asked for his advice, and he became trusted beyond what his security clearance was.

CORBIN: Inside URENCO's heavily guarded buildings are thousands of complex and highly engineered machines. These rarely seen pictures from URENCO show the ranks of synchronised, delicately balanced centrifuges, they spin non-stop for years to produce enriched uranium. At low levels it can be used to generate electricity. But enriched to 90% it becomes bomb grade. That's why centrifuge designs and technology are highly classified.

THE PHOTOGRAPHER

Almelo's technical photographer, Frits Veerman, made friends with AQ Khan. He took pictures of centrifuges for him, but began to have his doubts when he went to dinner at Khan's house.

FRITS VEERMAN
Technical Photographer
Top secret centrifuge drawings were lying around in Abdul's house. They were only supposed to be used in the plant and stored in vaults there afterwards. That was my biggest worry, what was he doing with those drawings? All the little pieces of the jig-saw put together made me come to the conclusion that Abdul was spying.

CORBIN: Frits Veerman tried to warn his bosses about Khan again and again.

What did the company do?

VEERMAN: Niets.

CORBIN: They did nothing.

VEERMAN: Nr, niets.

CORBIN: Khan was allowed to continue working. A few months later the family suddenly packed up and returned to Pakistan without a convincing explanation.

EDWARDS: We believe that Mr AQ Khan, when he left the Netherlands in 1975, he took with him the designs of an early URENCO centrifuge and that was the Dutch design.

CORBIN: He stole those designs.

EDWARDS: He acquired that design, and he left and went to Pakistan.

CORBIN: Khan took with him URENCO's centrifuge blueprints and know-how, and just as valuable, their list of western companies supplying specialised parts. The scientist, a fiercely patriotic man, had secretly offered his services to his country to build the bomb. He kept up the charm offensive, writing letters to wheedle more sensitive information out of his friend.

So he wanted more technical specifications ...

VEERMAN: Yes, yes.

CORBIN: ... he was asking you to find out.

VEERMAN: Yes, he had some problem about the building of the ultracentrifuge and he asked me for this information.

CORBIN: But this is classified information.

VEERMAN: Yes, sure, sure, very.

CORBIN: Veerman was questioned by Dutch intelligence, told not to talk about the embarrassing security failure.

VEERMAN: It was made clear to me that I should stop talking about the problem and that the media should not be given any information about it. So all this could be swept under the carpet in Holland. Yes, I had to keep my mouth shut. There were government officials who just said to me you're not allowed to discuss it any further.

CORBIN: It was India's atomic test in 1974 which galvanised its old rival, Pakistan, to get the bomb at any cost. Khan was given free reign to set up a research laboratory at Kahuta. His orders: to develop a uranium enrichment programme as fast as possible. What went on behind these walls was top secret. Years later Khan acknowledged his debt to Holland while concealing the true scale of his activities.

AQ KHAN: As far as the Dutch friends are concerned, I would like to emphasise that I am extremely grateful to them and I assure them that neither I, nor any other officer or my government would indulge in any nuclear proliferation or the spread of nuclear weapons or the use of nuclear weapons. We will never indulge in this horrible act.

CORBIN: Armed with nuclear know-how and his list of contacts from Almelo days, A.Q. Khan set up a clandestine buying network in the West. One of his most important contacts was a German engineer, an expert in Uranium enrichment. Gotthard Lerch would have a long and lucrative partnership with the Pakistani scientist. Thousands of miles away in America, Khan's buying spree was quickly detected. I travelled to Montana to meet a man who'd once been a Washington insider. Today this whistle-blower lives in a trailer park. He lost everything for daring to expose what Khan was up to.

THE CIA AGENT

Richard Barlow was a rising star at the CIA in the 1980s. He was investigating the smuggling of western nuclear technology by Pakistan.

BARLOW: It was a huge, hundreds of millions of dollars programme.

CORBIN: And was it known by, not only yourself obviously, but those you reported to at the CIA that A.Q. Khan was behind this procurement network?

RICHARD BARLOW
CIA Intelligence Officer 1985-88
Oh yes, it was known throughout the national security community and the US Government, numerous agencies, every agency.

CORBIN: But the CIA man had to give up the spying game, get out of Washington, when he revealed what Khan was doing. Called to testify to Congress in 1987 Mr Barlow got caught between powerful political interests.

BARLOW: Those inside the administration who were concerned about the Cold War saw me as a traitor, even though I was following orders and I got caught up in the middle of a huge battle.

CORBIN: In those Cold War days Pakistan, supporter of the Afghan Mujahideen against the Soviet invaders, was a vital US ally. But some Congressmen, afraid Pakistan would build the bomb, were urging sanctions. The Cold War Hawks won the day, but Barlow's evidence caused a storm.

BARLOW: I was literally accused of being a traitor to my country by some senior level officials and state department; some people tried to have me fired etc, and my career took something of a nose dive.

CORBIN: Richard Barlow didn't give up. A year later, now working for the Pentagon, he spoke out again, threatening valuable defence contracts with Pakistan. His security clearances were evoked, his intelligence career was over, but Khan carried on buying.

BARLOW: We had superb intelligence on the Pakistani programme on A.Q. Khan's network etc. But for one reason or another the proliferation issue in Pakistan always took a back seat to some other immediate policy concern.

CORBIN: First Holland, now America, a second chance to stop Khan had been wasted. As Khan's PR video shows, he was able to import the western technology he needed to develop and operate centrifuges, some of the most highly engineered machines in the world. By 1984 Pakistan had its bomb, thanks largely to A.Q. Khan. It was still a secret known only to a few in the military establishment which has always ruled this country.

THE BRIGADIER GENERAL

Brigadier General Feroz Khan was closely involved in Pakistan's nuclear programme. The Brigadier General watched the scientist's reputation and his ego growing.

Brig Gen (Rtd) FEROZ KHAN
Pakistani Nuclear Programme 1994-2001
He lived in fear that his work is being done in such a clandestine way, that it is possible that it might never be acknowledged because of the secret knowledge of the programme, and he wanted to show off that, that was part of his personality.

CORBIN: Khan nursed resentments against his own government and scientific rivals. He was angry with the Dutch who had belatedly tried to prosecute him. It was now that he turned his service to his country into making profit for himself. The Pakistani version has it that the scientist acted on his own account.

FEROZ KHAN: It was a mixture of his frustration, his anger against the west, his anger against his own government of not recognising him, and then combined with that greed and he wanted to prove the point.

CORBIN: Whatever Khan's motivation, the lack of will in the US administration to tackle Pakistan's procurement network played into his hands.

RICHARD BARLOW
CIA Intelligence Officer 1985-88
There were people who were determined to shut down our operations against the AQ Khan and Pakistani networks.

CORBIN: And what effect did that have on the network?

BARLOW: It allowed them to continue to operate. Ultimately it allowed what was at this point a buying network, to become the selling network that provided critical nuclear weapons technology to North Korea, to Libya and to Iran.

CORBIN: And so the seeds were sown that would grow into a global security nightmare for decades to come, Dubai at the crossroads of the Middle East, Africa and Asia became Khan's operational hub. Export controls were lax, it was an ideal place to do business.

Reconstruction

In 1987 three officials from the Uranium Atomic Energy Organisation arrived discreetly at a hotel to haggle with Khan's representatives. Iran was locked in a war of attrition with Iraq, a million men had died. The Ayatollahs wanted the ultimate weapon, and Khan was prepared to trade his country's secrets.

FEROZ KHAN: He could be confident enough by late 80s to say to people outside: "If you want anything, I can get it delivered to you. I have contacts. If you need European technology, talk to my company in Dubai, they will deliver it to you." This is how it began.

CORBIN: Khan sent a young Sri Lankan, BSA Tahir, as one of his emissaries. His German contact, the engineer Gotthard Lerch, masterminded the whole deal. The Iranians were offered specifications for a complete plant, mats for 2000 centrifuges and one sample machine. They were promised other uranium related technology. The price - $8 million for Khan and his associates.

FEROZ KHAN: It wasn't he, one man alone, but he had other people with equal grade and business advantages who could easily deliver.

CORBIN: I went to Vienna to find out more about Khan's dealings with the Iranians. This city is home to the world's nuclear watchdog, the international atomic energy agency. For nearly two decades they say Iran, a member of this UN body didn't tell the truth about the extent of its nuclear programme and its relationship with AQ Khan.

THE INSPECTOR

Weapons inspector, Olli Heinonen, heads the teams investigating both Iran and the Khan network.

OLLI HEINONEN
Deputy Director General, IAEA
Maybe in the beginning we really didn't know the magnitude of the effort and who actually was behind it. It's only in the last recent years when we got to the bottom ... the bones and skeleton of this organisation.

CORBIN: At first Iran tried to use Khan's 1987 offer as a shopping list. They set up their own secret effort to buy technology through Dubai, but they found it impossible to build the complex centrifuges themselves. They were forced to go back to Khan who was only too happy to oblige.

HEINONEN: What Iran states is that some time in around 93-94 his network came with another proposal,, and this is one of the big puzzles for us is to find out the dynamics of the second deal.

Reconstruction

CORBIN: Over three years the Iranians held a series of meetings with the network on Dubai. Khan now gave them 500 centrifuges from his own laboratory, but he palmed off some old used machines, as Iran soon discovered.

FEROZ KHAN: Obviously those Iranians thought that whatever A.Q. Khan had given him was junk, and they turned back and said: "What the hell have you given up?" because when they tried to assemble, they start breaking apart.

CORBIN: To appease his clients, Khan's network came up with a special offer, blueprints and samples of an advance centrifuge Khan had developed from URENCO's most state of the art design. The network boasted of the briefcases of cash they got for this new machine, which speeds up the laborious process of enrichment.

Khan Research Laboratories video

In his PR video, Khan invited offers for this step change in technology, the so-called P2 centrifuge.

[Video] Hence came P2 which had an increased diameter and reduced length of the rotors which ran successfully without any hindrance.

CORBIN: But in public Khan always insisted he would never trade any nuclear technology, whatever money was on offer.

AQ KHAN: We know the danger of nuclear weapons. We will never indulge in any proliferation, we have not indulged so far despite of economic hardships and problems. We have not collaborated with any other country.

CORBIN: But Khan was lying. Not only had he sold nuclear secrets to Iran, he had tried to do business with its bitter enemy, Iraq. Saddam Hussein had defied the West over his nuclear programme. After the coalition invaded in 1991 they discovered how close he'd been to developing the bomb.

THE NUCLEAR EXPERT

Nuclear expert, David Albright, was a UN Weapons Inspector in Iraq after the conflict. Documents were found revealing an astounding offer from Khan to sell Saddam a complete nuclear warhead design. The Iraqis, fearing a sting operation, turned it down.

DAVID ALBRIGHT
UN Weapons Inspector 1992-97
The outrageousness of Khan going to Iraq so that they could have a nuclear weapon to use against the coalition forces, that that definitely outraged people, and they thought my God, this guy was willing to offer our enemies help in building a nuclear weapon to use against us, and he calls himself our friend. When this information was presented to the Pakistani government they just riled against us, this just a forgery, it's a like, Khan is an honourable person.

CORBIN: And was there a lack of political will from the West, particularly from America, given its close relations with Pakistan, to actually tackle this problem.

ALBRIGHT: Well they let it fester, I mean they let Khan get out of control. At the very heart of the US government there was no desire to step on Pakistan hard enough to get them to stop Khan.

CORBIN: Yet again the Pakistani scientist had been let off the hook. He'd become untouchable. Far from controlling Khan, by now the Pakistani government were encouraging him to get involved with another nuclear wannabe.

Brig Gen (Rtd) FEROZ KHAN
Pakistani Nuclear Programme 1994-2001
By the mid 90s he had also been officially engaging with North Korea by this time. He had authorisation to deal with North Korea, Pakistan state authorising him to deal with that. By the way, that's a big difference between his contact with Iran and his contact with North Korea. Khan's contact with North Korea was state sanctioned.

CORBIN: The dictator Kim Yong-ll headed the world's most bizarre and repressive regime. But Pakistan needed him and his impressive arsenal of rockets. America had cancelled Pakistan's order for US fighter bombers. The Cold War over, Pakistan was no longer a vital ally and they were now being punished for developing the bomb.

FEROZ KHAN: We were in limbo, we didn't know what to do, so we were looking to find ways and means to have an ultimate delivery means for nuclear weapons.

CORBIN: North Korea has missile expertise and missiles can deliver nuclear weapons. So A.Q. Khan was sent to bargain for this technology.

FEROZ KHAN: The North Koreans needed money, they would sell a missile for ten dollars, and they were not selling just to Pakistan, they were selling to Iran, they were selling to other countries as well, so we were.. they were very happy to deal with them.

CORBIN: That deal is still a murky secret. Spy satellites recorded Pakistani military planes in North Korea transferring arms technology. Islamabad insists it paid in cash, but somewhere down the line Khan gave North Korea centrifuges to start their own uranium enrichment programme. There are suspicions his government sanctioned a barter deal, missiles for nuclear know-how, though this has never been proved. The Pakistanis claim they suspected Khan was up to something and challenged him.

FEROZ KHAN: Khan would publicly.. in fact forcefully deny in all forum that I've attended, that he ever gave any nuclear technology to North Koreans. He would ...

CORBIN: And you asked him that in meetings?

FEROZ KHAN: Oh yes, I mean senior people asked him, and President did, and on many such occasions it did happen - he'd deny it.

CORBIN: In 1998 Pakistan defiantly declared it had joined the nuclear club. Khan was ecstatic.

FEROZ KHAN: Then the mountain it turned white. It was looking black and then we were looking at it and it turned white completely and then some dust blew up in the air.

CORBIN: As Pakistan celebrated the public hailed A.Q. Khan as the father of the Islamic bomb. He seemed at the height of his power and influence.

AQ KHAN: I consider the Pakistani nuclear weapons as peace guarantors. Who the hell is going to use nuclear weapons?

CORBIN: But behind the scenes the maverick has been eased out. There are fears he was out of control. And indeed he was. By now Khan was dealing with Colonel Gaddafi, Libyan dictator and sponsor of terrorism.

Reconstruction

Since 1997 Khan himself had been conducting discreet negotiations in Istanbul and Casablanca with the chairman of the Libyan Agency for Atomic Energy. Khan offered Gaddafi's regime a complete nuclear weapons package for hundreds of millions of dollars. Once again Dubai became the conduit for his most ambitious project.

Reconstruction

Electrical equipment and magnets came from Turkey, machine tools from Spain and training for Libyan technicians. Centrifuge components were manufactured by a company in Malaysia. It was a veritable nuclear supermarket.

OLLI HEINONEN
Deputy Director General, IAEA
It was a one stop shop. This was like a nuclear Walmart.

CORBIN: A Walmart?

HEINONEN: A Walmart. You walk in there, you tell what you want and you ... everything gets delivered in your cart, and then you walk away. So this was what this network was able to provide.

CORBIN: For 20 years Khan had got away with it but this time he'd gone too far. London and Washington tasked their spies to penetrate the network. They feared the Libyans with a history of sponsoring terrorism would now get nuclear weapons. Only a handful of people were privy to the secret operation.

ROBERT JOSEPH
Undersecretary of State for Arms Control & International Security
The US and the UK intelligence services worked very closely together and were able over the course of a number of years to put together a relatively completely picture of the network's activities. In many ways the network resembled the multinational corporation.

CORBIN: Khan was the boss, the money man B.S.A. Tahir, the Sri Lankan involved in the earlier deal with Iran. The German, Gotthard Lerch, was again the technical director, tasked with supplying the complete uranium enrichment plant. He had a friend, Gerhard Wisser, with just the skills they needed.

Reconstruction

A dinner party was arranged at Tahir's apartment in Dubai. Lerch invited Wisser who ran his own small engineering company. Wisser agreed to do the job. His cut - four million dollars. Lerch would provide the designs for the plant, the same ones he'd supplied to his friend, Khan, two decades earlier.

JOSEPH: It goes back many years. He was able to develop in the Netherlands and elsewhere a series of contacts. They became friends and they became associates later in the network. The network stretched across three continents.

CORBIN: Next stop on the trail, South Africa, a place with its own secret nuclear history. The apartheid regime developed the bomb, but when it fell South Africa renounced it's atomic weapons programme. But the specialist skills were still there, ready to be exploited by Khan. I'd come to Johannesburg to meet someone who worked for the network. He'd agreed to talk exclusively to Panorama.

THE ENGINEER

Nuclear engineer Daniel Geiges learnt his trade working in his country's secret bomb programme. His boss, Gerhard Wisser, tasked him to draw up plans to Lerch's specifications.

GEIGES: In my opinion, you know, the name Lerch is synonymous with nuclear, that's his speciality.

CORBIN: So it was clear to you that what you were making was Iranian enrichment plant.

DANIEL GEIGES
Nuclear Engineer
It was part of uranium enrichment plant.

CORBIN: But there was no doubt what its purpose was.

GEIGES: Yes, I never had the slightest doubt as to what it was.

CORBIN: Forty miles outside Johannesburg the network found an anonymous industrial park, ideal for their purpose. The plant, three stories high, took shape inside this workshop - TradeFin. Geiges, the project manager, knew it was capable of enriching uranium to the highest levels.

GEIGES: I only had confirmation that the plant was capable of enriching to 90 per cent ...

CORBIN: Bomb grade.

GEIGES: ... about half way through the project. But the information which I had also told me the quantities which could be produced in a plant as we knew it, the minimal just under 24 kilograms of highly enriched stuff in a year.

CORBIN: It's enough for a bomb though.

GEIGES: It is, yes. It is, possibly two if you get a good design.

CORBIN: The engineers at TradeFin knew the plant was destined for the Middle East, for one of the region's pariah regimes. Two Arabs arrived to monitor progress, and then a cheque arrived from Libya.

But what you did was wrong at the point at which you knew that it was destined for Libya and that it was bomb grade material that you were going to be able to produce in this plant that you had helped to build.

GEIGES: I would just ask you one question. What qualifies the Americans to have in excess of 10,000 nuclear explosive devices just waiting for somebody to press a button. What does qualify the Americans to have this and not others?

CORBIN: And so they justified it to themselves and worked hard to deliver on time. Everything seemed to be going smoothly.

NATANZ, IRAN

But by the summer of 2002 evidence of Khan's earlier nuclear trade with Iran was beginning to surface. A secret enrichment plant at Natanz was revealed by an opposition group. The Iranians tried to claim their own scientists were developing centrifuges to make fuel for power stations, but many people didn't believe them.

DAVID ALBRIGHT
UN Weapons Inspector 1992-97
I don't think we'd be discussing Iran's nuclear weapons programme now if it hadn't been for A.Q. Khan because Iran could not have build a centrifuge on its own, and if you look at their programme, they even had trouble with Khan's assistance building a workable centrifuge, and they're still having trouble getting it to work.

CORBIN: Ironically it was the invasion of Iraq in search of weapons of mass destruction where none existed which finally spelt the end of the network whose nuclear trade had spanned two decades. Colonel Gaddafi received the message loud and clear. Seeking WMD can be fatal for your regime. He sent word to London, he was ready to discuss rumours of Libya's nuclear programme.

ROBERT JOSEPH
Undersecretary of State for Arms Control & International Security
The Libyan message at that point was that that they wanted to talk about things that were being said about WMD and Libya. It was a far distance from ... you know ... we have weapons of mass destruction, please come and take them away.

Reconstruction

CORBIN: What Gaddafi didn't realise was that MI6 and the CIA already knew what he was up to. They'd secretly recorded Khan meeting with the Libyans. Talks began that dragged on for months while Gaddafi dithered about coming clean.

JOSEPH: We had a number of conversations and intelligence channels with the Libyans, but the Libyans were never quite ready to allow us to come into their country and to look for ourselves at the programmes.

Reconstruction

CORBIN: But then, in October came the tip off from a mole inside the network. A ship called the BBC China, carrying Centrifuge parts was on its way from Malaysia to Libya. Secretly diverted to a port in Italy the five suspect containers yielded up the evidence of centrifuge components. Confronted by the proof the Libyans admitted everything. They publicly renounced their nuclear weapons programme and spilt the beans on the network.

BUSH: Colonel Gaddafi made the right decision. Today, because the Libyan government saw the seriousness of the civilised world and correctly judged its own interests, the American people are safer.

CORBIN: As news of the ship's cargo and the intelligence operation flashed around the world, the network went into meltdown. A text message was sent to TradeFin in South Africa: "They have fed us to the dogs. Destroy the bird, feathers and all."

Reconstruction

The IAEA arrived in Libya to investigate what the network had already delivered. The same inspectors had already been stonewalled by the Iranians as over the source of their centrifuges. Now the experts entered a vast warehouse near Tripoli to find proof that the network was even wider than they feared.

OLLI HEINONEN
Deputy Director General, IAEA
Frankly speaking, it was an amazing amount of equipment when we walked to this storages in Tripoli. And then I saw that some of the things were packed exactly the same way as they were packed in Iran. It was amazing.

CORBIN: So you put two and two together at that point.

HEINONEN: Yeah, yeah, you know, when you saw the equipment there was a matter of seconds when you knew that you're dealing with the same source.

CORBIN: The discovery that Khan had sold to Iran as well as Libya piled the pressure on Pakistan.

THE JOURNALIST

The journalist, Simon Henderson, lived in Pakistan and became a friend of AQ Khan's, he believes he didn't act alone.

SIMON HENDERSON
Washington Institute for Near East Policy
I'm personally convinced that every Pakistani government over the years knew what Khan was doing. There's a military bureaucratic elite which forms the permanent establishment of Pakistan. They knew what he was doing. They sanctioned it. It was part of a policy that they agreed with Khan.

CORBIN: Mr Henderson was on his morning bike ride by the Thames on the day the connection was established between a Pakistani scientist and Iran. His mobile alerted him to the turmoil in official circles in Islamabad.

HENDERSON: It was Khan, he told me that his people were being arrested, he said: "It's about Iran. They're trying to scapegoat me, they're trying to blame it all on me."

CORBIN: The President of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf, had been given an ultimatum by the Americans: "Deal with Khan or else." They gave him the proof. Pakistani centrifuge blueprints found in Libya.

Brig Gen (Rtd) FEROZ KHAN
Pakistani Nuclear Programme 1994-2001
He confronted him one on one. AQ Khan denied it, and then when the proof... the full proof was given in front of him, to my knowledge he then collapsed and he admitted it.

February 2004

AQ KHAN: I have chosen to appear before you to offer my deepest regrets and unqualified apologies to a traumatised nation on account of my activities which were based in good faith but on errors of judgement relative to unauthorised proliferation activities.

HENDERSON: It was vintage Khan, it was absolutely him but he was being made to confess. He did the business, I know he did the business, but he did it with the permission and instigation of the government of Pakistan, and he was just being forced to take the blame.

CORBIN: After his public confession Khan was pardoned, still a hero to his countrymen he retired to his villa under house arrest. Today his health is failing, but Khan is still protected from direct questioning by the West.

FEROZ KHAN: A.Q. Khan holds the national secret for Pakistan's nuclear programme. How can you allow any intelligence agencies or anybody to interrogate that? That would mean your entire national security is compromised.

CORBIN: And for that reason, outside intelligence agencies will never be able to talk to him.

FEROZ KHAN: No, I don't think they will ever be able to talk, and this is the position Pakistan Government has very firmly held on to.

CORBIN: Investigations into a dozen members of Khan's network continue in eight different countries. Khan's money man, the Sri Lankan, B.S.A. Tahir has been arrested in Malaysia. Gotthard Lerch, still fighting a prosecution in Germany, denies any illegal trading in nuclear technology. At TradeFin the engineers, proud of what they had built, had ignored the warning text. The uranium enrichment plant was discovered in a police raid. Daniel Geiges will be tried next year alongside his boss Gerhard Wisser. They could face 15 years in prison on charges of nuclear proliferation.

Can you sleep easy at night, knowing what you did?

GEIGES: Yes. Yes. The consequences of it, that's a different matter. I think we have to face the music as it comes but ...

CORBIN: We may all have to face the music one day. Khan's network didn't just flog centrifuge technology, they sold the most sensitive know-how of all, a tried and tested design for the nuclear warhead itself. The Libyans were given blueprints wrapped in plastic bags from Khan's tailor in Islamabad, but the network also made copies on computer disk and no one knows where they might be.

DAVID ALBRIGHT
UN Weapons Inspector 1992-97
Where are those designs? Who got offered? Did Iran get some? Did North Korea? You know, we may never get to the bottom of it, but it does mean that these nuclear weapons designs were floating out there. They haven't all been recovered and they could emerge later, and in another country's programme or in the hands of terrorists.

CORBIN: Khan's network was eventually smashed, but the nuclear genie has escaped the bottle. It may be too late to put it back. Iran and North Korea are still buying on the black market and A.Q. Khan made regular trips to a dozen other countries. Who knows what he and his friends were doing there.


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