Ev­i­dence at bin Laden home raises nu­clear con­cerns

The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitics - BY ELI LAKE

In­tel­li­gence an­a­lysts are sift­ing through phone num­bers and email ad­dresses found at Osama bin Laden’s com­pound to de­ter­mine po­ten­tial links to Pak­istani gov­ern­ment and mil­i­tary of­fi­cials while U.S. of­fi­cials and an­a­lysts raise con­cerns about the safety of Pak­istan’s nu­clear ma­te­ri­als.

Ac­cord­ing to three U.S. in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials, the race is on to iden­tify what Pres­i­dent Obama’s top coun­tert­er­ror­ism ad­viser, John Bren­nan, has called bin Laden’s “sup­port sys­tem” in­side Pak­istan. These sources sought anonymity be­cause they are not au­tho­rized to speak to re­porters.

“My concern now is that we can­not ex­clude the pos­si­bil­ity that of­fi­cers in the Pak­istani mil­i­tary and the in­tel­li­gence ser­vice were help­ing to har­bor or aware of the lo­ca­tion of bin Laden,” said Olli Heinonen, who served as the deputy di­rec­tor gen­eral of the In­ter­na­tional Atomic En­ergy Agency (IAEA) from 2005 to 2010.

“What is to say they would not help al Qaeda or other ter­ror­ist groups to gain ac­cess to sen­si­tive nu­clear ma­te­ri­als such as highly en­riched ura­nium and plu­to­nium?”

The U.S. has wor­ried qui­etly about the in­fil­tra­tion of Pak­istan’s In­ter-Ser­vices In­tel­li­gence (ISI) and mil­i­tary for years. Those con­cerns height­ened in re­cent months when the CIA learned that bin Laden’s com­pound in Ab­bot­tabad was a stone’s throw from Pak­istan’s mil­i­tary academy.

Politico first re­ported last week that CIA Di­rec­tor Leon E. Panetta told mem­bers of Congress that bin Laden’s cloth­ing had two phone num­bers sewn into it at the time of the raid. Those num­bers and other con­tacts found at the com­pound are key clues in an ef­fort to de­ter­mine what el­e­ments of Pak­istan’s na­tional se­cu­rity es­tab­lish­ment pro­vided sup­port to bin Laden and al Qaeda.

“I can tell you that concern about al Qaeda and other ter­ror­ists’ in­fil­tra­tion into the ISI is not new on the part of the Congress or the [Ge­orge W.] Bush and Obama ad­min­is­tra­tions,” said Rep. Steve Roth­man, a New Jer­sey Demo­crat who serves on the House Ap­pro­pri­a­tions sub­com­mit­tee that funds de­fense and for­eign aid.

Mr. Roth­man has at­tended topse­cret brief­ings on the Ab­bot­tabad raid and the im­pact of the raid on Afghanistan and Pak­istan.

“As a mat­ter of course, and for good rea­son, the ma­te­ri­als that were re­moved from bin Laden’s home in Pak­istan are be­ing run down for leads that could as­sist the United States in ap­pre­hend­ing in­di­vid­u­als or en­ti­ties who have sought to harm Amer­i­cans or who have en­abled oth­ers to harm Amer­i­cans,” he said.

An­other U.S. in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cial told The Wash­ing­ton Times that other phone num­bers and emails were re­cov­ered in the raid.

Mr. Roth­man said al Qaeda op­er­a­tives in 2009 “came within 60 kilo­me­ters of what is be­lieved to have been Pak­istan’s nu­clear arse­nal,” though he could not elab­o­rate on the in­ci­dent.

“Two years ago, al Qaeda came close, too close for com­fort,” Mr.

“Two years ago, al Qaeda came close, too close for com­fort,” said Rep. Steve Roth­man, a New Jer­sey Demo­crat who ser ves on the House Ap­pro­pri­a­tions sub­com­mit­tee that funds de­fense and for­eign aid. “That re­sulted [. . . ] in new safe­guards and new mea­sures taken by the United States and Pak­istan and oth­ers to min­i­mize any pos­si­bil­ity of any­one ac­quir­ing the Pak­istani nu­clear weapons or ma­te­rial.”

Roth­man said. “That re­sulted [. . . ] in new safe­guards and new mea­sures taken by the United States and Pak­istan and oth­ers to min­i­mize any pos­si­bil­ity of any­one ac­quir­ing the Pak­istani nu­clear weapons or ma­te­rial.”

Pak­istan is nei­ther a mem­ber of the IAEA nor a party to the nu­clear Non-Pro­lif­er­a­tion Treaty. Nonethe­less, it has agreed to some IAEA safe­guards on its civil nu­clear pro­gram, but noth­ing com­pre­hen­sive.

An­a­lysts es­ti­mate Pak­istan to have more than 100 nu­clear weapons. The lat­est es­ti­mate by Prince­ton Univer­sity’s In­ter­na­tional Panel on Fis­sile Ma­te­ri­als, which takes ac­count of the world’s nu­clear ma­te­rial, esti- mates that Pak­istan pos­sesses be­tween 1.6 tons and 3.8 tons of weapons-grade ura­nium and be­tween 132 pounds and 286 pounds of plu­to­nium.

“Up to now, the Pak­ista­nis have said the nu­clear ma­te­rial is un­der mil­i­tary and ISI con­trol and par­tic­u­larly the plu­to­nium and highly en­riched ura­nium,” Mr. Heinonen said. “These are from fa­cil­i­ties that are not un­der IAEA con­trol at all.”

A Feb. 19, 2009, cable from the U.S. Em­bassy in Islamabad said the nu­clear arse­nal is “un­der the con­trol of the sec­u­lar mil­i­tary, which has im­ple­mented ex­ten­sive phys­i­cal, per­son­nel and com­mand and con­trol safe­guards.”

“Our ma­jor concern has not been that an Is­lamic mil­i­tant could steal an en­tire weapon but rather the chance some­one work­ing in [Pak­istani gov­ern­ment] fa­cil­i­ties could grad­u­ally smug­gle enough fis­sile ma­te­rial out to even­tu­ally make a weapon and the vul­ner­a­bil­ity of weapons in transit,” said the cable, which was re­leased May 4 by the anti- se­crecy web­site Wik­iLeaks.

The cable was pre­pared in an­tic­i­pa­tion of the Fe­bru­ary 2009 visit to Wash­ing­ton of Gen. Ash­faq Kayani, who is chief of staff of Pak­istan’s mil­i­tary. In it, the cable also ac­knowl­edged how the ISI and Pak­istani army have el­e­ments that still sup­port ter­ror­ist groups.

“We need to lay down a clear marker that Pak­istan’s Army/ISI must stop overt or tacit sup­port for mil­i­tant prox­ies. [. . . ] We should pref­ace that con­ver­sa­tion with an agree­ment to open a new page in re­la­tions; Kayani, who was ISI Chief from 2004-2007, does not want a reck­on­ing with the past,” the cable said.

The de­tails on bin Laden’s com­pound al­ready have led some mem­bers of Congress to threaten to cut off mil­i­tary aid to Pak­istan, which re­ceives more than $3 bil­lion an­nu­ally from the U.S.

Mr. Roth­man said he wants to use U.S. mil­i­tary aid to gain more lever­age with Pak­istan’s gov­ern­ment.

“We should con­tinue to use what­ever for­eign and mil­i­tary aid to Pak­istan [. . . ] in or­der to help guide the Pak­ista­nis into cre­at­ing the kind of sta­bil­ity and co­op­er­a­tion we are look­ing for from them on a con­sis­tent ba­sis,” he said.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Tak­ing it all in: Jour­nal­ists and lo­cal res­i­dents gather May 4 at a rooftop close to a house where al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was caught and killed in Ab­bot­tabad, Pak­istan.

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