THE MAGAZINE

Shopping for Bombs: Nuclear Proliferation, Global Insecurity, and the Rise and Fall of the A. Q. Khan Network

By Gordon Mitchell, Ph. D, CPP

***** Shopping for Bombs: Nuclear Proliferation, Global Insecurity, and the Rise and Fall of the A. Q. Kahn Network. By Gordon Corera; published by Oxford University Press, USA www.oup.com/us (Web); 288 pages; $28.

When I saw the newspaper headlines in my hotel in The Hague—something about a guy named Kahn stealing nuclear secrets from a laboratory a couple hours away—the story didn’t mean much to me. I had never heard of Ultra Centrifuge Nederland and didn’t know that A. Q. Kahn was a key link to bomb projects in Pakistan, North Korea, Iran, Iraq, and Libya.

This book details Kahn’s role in stealing uranium centrifuge plans, becoming the father of the bomb in Pakistan, then selling his nuclear knowledge for hundreds of millions to the highest bidders. The author also goes into details of the race between western intelligence agencies and the Kahn network.

One of book’s most interesting elements is its account of the international effort to stop Libya’s fast-moving nuclear program. Western authorities knew late in 2003 that a secret Malaysian supplier was providing critical parts to Libya’s effort. A specific shipment was known to be on a vessel for Tripoli. In the middle of the night, the ship was diverted and its cargo seized thanks to the combined efforts of German, Italian, American, and British intelligence agencies. The event led directly to Libya’s abandonment of its nuclear aspirations.

The book carries readers from the 1970s to 2005, with details of secret nuclear proliferation networks and the detective work of those who cracked them. The author obviously has well-placed sources who were directly involved in intelligence collection, investigations, and negotiations.

This book would be a good read for nearly any audience, but it is recommended in particular to anyone interested in foreign intelligence and nuclear proliferation. It shows, on a grand scale, the value of those individuals who work to make the world more secure.


Reviewer: Gordon Mitchell, Ph.D, CPP, operates Future Focus, a Seattle company that provides computer forensic services and inspections for electronic eavesdropping devices. He is a member of ASIS.

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