Saturday, May 31, 2008

Nuke Blueprints for Sale

Gives you a very comforting feeling, doesn't it?
Nuclear bomb blueprints and manuals on how to manufacture weapons-grade uranium for warheads are feared to be circulating on the international black market, according to investigators tracking the world's most infamous nuclear smuggling racket.

Alarm about the sale of nuclear know-how follows the disclosure that the Swiss government, allegedly acting under US pressure, secretly destroyed tens of thousands of documents from a massive nuclear smuggling investigation.

The information was seized from the home and computers of Urs Tinner, a 43-year-old Swiss engineer who has been in custody for almost four years as a key suspect in the nuclear smuggling ring run by Abdul Qadeer Khan, the Pakistani metallurgist who in 2004 admitted leaking nuclear secrets and is under house arrest in Islamabad.

The Khan network trafficked nuclear materials, equipment and knowhow to at least three countries: Iran, Libya, and North Korea.

President Pascal Couchepin stunned his Swiss compatriots last week by announcing that the Tinner files, believed to number around 30,000 documents, had been shredded. The extraordinary move, prompting demands for a parliamentary inquiry, was warranted to prevent the documents "getting into the hands of a terrorist organisation or an unauthorised state", according to Couchepin.
Of course, thanks to Khan and Tinner, that's probably too late.
However, there are widespread fears this has already happened or still could. "We know that copies were made," said Mark Fitzpatrick, an expert on the illicit networks at the British-based International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS). "Both US intelligence and the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN's nuclear watchdog] had been pursuing this with great urgency and diligence. But what happened to the other copies that [Tinner] made? It is worrisome that there are other plans floating around somewhere out there."
At some point could the media stop referring to the IAEA as a "watchdog"? The only thing they've been watching is a number of countries going nuclear under their watch.

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