By David Albright; Reviewed by G. Ernest Govea, CPP
The true story of how greed and weak export controls allowed Pakistani A.Q. Khan to steal and proliferate nuclear technology to rogue states.
* Peddling Peril: How the Secret Nuclear Trade Arms America’s Enemies. By David Albright; published by Free Press, www.simonandschuster.com; 295 pages; $27.00.
In this text, physicist and counterproliferation insider David Albright examines how scientist Abdul Qadeer “A.Q.” Khan stole nuclear technology from European nations to build the nuclear program of his native Pakistan, then distributed the technologies to rogue states including Iran, Iraq, Libya, and North Korea. The book is a true story of how greed and weak export controls compromised classified information and continues to affect the global balance of power.
Educated in Pakistan and Europe, Khan spent part of the the 1970s in the Netherlands as a subcontractor for URENCO Group, which produced fuel for nuclear power plants in the United Kingdom and Germany. It was URENCO gas centrifuge technology that Khan smuggled home and then distributed around the globe with support from elements within the Pakistani government—if not the discreet sanctioning of the government itself.
Albright discusses the complacency of governments and their lack of cooperation in stopping the Khan network, usually for reasons of profitability. The book identifies China and North Korea along with Pakistan as countries that treat nuclear technology as a commodity to be bought and sold—or given away in exchange for leverage on other issues—to anyone who can keep the secret.
Albright describes how the U.S. intelligence community and his own former employer, the International Atomic Energy Agency, failed to detect the illicit acquisition of nuclear components and the existence of covert nuclear sites in foreign countries. He notes that terrorists continue to seek nuclear weapons and believe that acquiring them “is a religious duty.” The threat of terrorists smuggling a nuclear weapon into the United States and detonating it in a large city persists, he writes.
Peddling Peril is worthwhile reading for any security professional, but it is of particular value to those involved in national security, export control, classified material protection, and security education.
Reviewer: G. Ernest Govea, CPP, is facility security officer and security director of government security for Parsons in Pasadena, California. He has been responsible for the protection of classified information for 34 years in the military and the defense contractor community. He is a Vietnam veteran and a member of ASIS International.