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Sibel Edmonds Case: Nukes for sale (Pt 2)

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In a blockbuster article two weeks ago, the UK's Sunday Times described how a criminal network of Turkish, Israeli, Pakistani and American diplomats and officials conspired to steal nuclear secrets and sell them to the highest bidder in the nuclear black market. The article, based primarily on the case of former FBI translator Sibel Edmonds, noted that:
"The wider nuclear network has been monitored for many years by a joint Anglo-American intelligence effort. But rather than shut it down, investigations by law enforcement bodies such as the FBI and Britain's Revenue & Customs have been aborted to preserve diplomatic relations."
The decisions to preserve those "diplomatic relations" - Pakistan, Turkey and Israel - were made by people within the US Government who happened to be personally profiting from those same relationships. In this post, I'll discuss two other dimensions of the network that the Times article didn't cover: a) The use of Turkish front groups to supply nuclear hardware to the network b) The extraordinary legal steps the US and UK governments have used to hide their guilt ***** Turkish Front Groups One of AQ Khan's American suppliers was a company with strong Turkish roots called Giza Technologies in New Jersey. Giza's 'exposure' was 'officially' the result of an anonoymous email tip in 2003, however, as we know from Sibel's case, the FBI was aware of Giza's role in the AQ Khan network at least two years earlier. According to a documentary about the nuclear black market element of Sibel's case, Kill The Messenger, Giza's CEO Zeki Bilmen "was on the FBI wiretaps translated by Sibel Edmonds" who left the FBI in early 2002. Given what we learnt in The Times, that phone call was probably between Bilmen and either the American Turkish Council or the Turkish Embassy - both targets of FBI counter-intelligence operations. Inexplicably, Zeki Bilmen was never charged with his involvement, and Giza continues operating to this day. In 2005, Sibel said:
And (Giza's) business - well, business is good. They have many shipments going out, coming in, all day long. To places like Dubai, Spain, South Africa, Turkey. They have branches in all these places. Yep, they're sailing along very smoothly.
When asked how this is possible, Sibel replied:
"It's beyond logical explanation. Maybe it was decided in high places that no one would touch him."
In fact, the identity of the company was even hidden in the indictment of one Humayun Khan, a procurer for the network who was close to Pakistan's ISI. In the indictment, Giza is simply referred to as 'a broker in Secaucus, New Jersey,' whereas every other company is clearly identified. Investigative journalist Joe Trento might have an explanation for why Giza continues to operate, and why the US government wants to hide Giza's involvement. He says that
"The CIA even started using some of the Khan network's front companies for its own purposes."
As I documented here, it is very possible that Giza one of those companies. In Kill The Messenger, an anonymous "U.S intelligence officer" who is "very familiar with Turkish espionage activities" - including Giza and the American Turkish Council - says:
"There are people within the State Department and also in the U.S Congress that were facilitating the Israelis and the Turks in obtaining proprietary information or restricted technology. That's why there is a gag order against Sibel Edmonds!"
That technology, he notes, can be:
"Nuclear or non nuclear. For example, computer hardware, maybe software."
Some people have wondered recently whether maybe Sibel inadvertently stumbled on a sting operation - but that is clearly not the case. The State Dept and Congress are certainly not the people who would be running a sting operation. Further, when Sibel first reported her case to Congress, the first step taken was to make sure that this was not a covert operation, and that there weren't any double agents involved. Only after Senators Leahy and Grassley were assured this wasn't the case did they proceeded to hold unclassified hearings (which were retroactively classified.) This shouldn't come as a surprise. Sibel has previously said that from her experience is concerned:
"The Department of State is easily the most corrupted of the major government agencies."
In fact, the same thing has been true for decades. As far back as 1986, the CIA was running diligent operations against the Khan network; then, as now, it was people at the State Dept who were ruining all the operations. As Seymour Hersh documented in 1993, a high-level top secret inter-governmental group was formed in 1986 "in an effort to stop illegal American exports to Pakistan and other non-nuclear nations." This group ran undercover operations to arrest those buying nuclear-related materials for Pakistan's program. Richard Barlow, "the government's leading expert on illegal Pakistani procurement," with the full knowledge and support of his superiors at the CIA and elsewhere, was able to engineer the arrest of some of Khan's suppliers - but only after they'd learnt not to tell the State Dept what their plans were. Here's Hersh:
"The State Department's Near East Bureau was not told of the planned operation, for fear that the officers there would tip off the Pakistanis, as they had done in the past... "We still have cases on Pakistan and we still don't tell State about it," a senior Customs Service official told me recently, in anger. "The State Department constituted a security problem for us."
The Guardian effectively debunked with the same 'sting' claims recently:
"Intelligence officials on both sides of the Atlantic have said they waited until 2003 to strike against the Khan network in order to gather evidence on all its activities and all its customers. "But what did they achieve?" Armstrong asked. "Where are all the people connected to the Khan network? There were at least 50 people in this thing, and there are only a handful of people under house arrest. Did they need three extra years to do that?""
Not only have very few guilty people suffered any consequences, the US government has even "hampered" the criminal prosecutions of some of the suppliers. A segment on Democracy Now in 2006 notes:
Over the past year Swiss officials have requested at least four times that the Bush administration share documents and evidence related to Khan's nuclear black market. But the United States has never responded. Swiss officials maintain it needs U.S. assistance in order to convict three Swiss men accused of helping AQ Khan set up a secret Malaysian factory to make components for gas centrifuges. Last week U.S. weapons expert David Albright testified before Congress and said, "I find this lack of cooperation frankly embarrassing to the United States and to those of us who believe that the United States should take the lead in bringing members of the Khan network to justice for arming our enemies with nuclear weapons." Albright has floated one theory as to why the Bush administration won't help the Swiss investigators. He says the three Swiss men accused of being part of AQ Khan's underground network may have been working for the CIA and being paid by the U.S. government.
Albright is echoing the same point made by Joe Trento - and if these firms weren't helping with a sting operation, then what on earth was the CIA using them for? The problem is that as soon as these firms are given immunity for their activities, then they immediately become a likely vehicle for all types of nefarious activities - whether it be funding illegal black-ops, or trafficking narcotics, or both. Other American Suppliers Giza is not the only American supplier to Khan's network. Sibel has previously told me that there are others firms. This was confirmed in 2004 by IAEA head Mohamed ElBaradei. The involvement of these firms apparently "sheds new light on the activities of the network, known up to now for primarily supplying technology to North Korea, Libya and Iran." None of these firms have apparently been exposed, let alone faced any criminal charges. Giza's Bilmen claims that he is an innocent victim, though Sibel told me that Bilmen "has social & business ties" with another supplier to Khan's network, Turkish businessman Selim Alguadis. Other Turkish Suppliers Giza is not the only Turkish company involved in supplying the AQ Khan network. Firstly, Turkey served as one of the transhipment hubs for components that were sourced in the US and elsewhere. Further, some of the nuclear components for Khan were actually manufactured in Turkey. In Sibel's fantastic Highjacking of a Nation series, which outlines the contours of her case, she writes:
Turkey played a major role in Pakistan and Libya's illicit activities in obtaining nuclear technologies. In June 2004, Stephen Fidler, a reporter for Financial Times reported that in 2003, Turkish centrifuge motors and converters destined for Libya's nuclear weapons program turned up in Tripoli aboard a ship (BBC China) that had sailed from Dubai. One of those detained individuals in this incident, a 'respected and successful' Turkish Businessman, Selim Alguadis, was cited in a public report from the Malaysian inspector-general of police into the Malaysian end of a Pakistani-led clandestine network that supplied Libya, Iran and North Korea with nuclear weapons technologies, designs and expertise. According to the report, "he supplied these materials to Libya." Mr. Alguadis also confessed that he had on several occasions met A Q Khan, the disgraced Pakistani scientist who has admitted transmitting nuclear expertise to the three countries. Selim Alguadis remains a successful businessman in Turkey with companies in several other countries. He was released immediately after being turned over to Turkish authorities. His partner, another well-known and internationally recognized wealthy businessman, Gunes Cire, also actively participated in transferring nuclear technology and parts to Iran, Pakistan and North Korea. Although under investigation by several international communities, Alguadis and his partners continued to roam free in Turkey and conduct their illegitimate operations via their 'legit international business' front companies.
Gunes Cire has since died, however his company, ETI Elektroteknik, continues to operate freely, with Cire's son now at the helm. Selim Alguadis is apparently 'under investigation' but neither he nor his company, EKA, appear to be in any trouble three years later. It's an odd pattern. There's strong evidence of Turkish complicity in the nuclear proliferation network, yet guilty people are allowed to walk free, and Western governments go to great lengths to cover up the facts. States (cough) Secrets There are significant parallels between Sibel's case and the recent case of British Customs official Atif Amin. The UK government, desperate to cover its complicity in allowing the AQ Khan network to continue proliferating, is trying to shut Amin down using the Official Secrets Act, the British equivalent of the State Secrets Privilege gag that has been used to shut down Sibel's case. Informed observers widely recognize that for the Bush administration, the State Secrets Privilege is simply a 'get out of jail free' card to shield themselves when they commit egregious crimes. The same is true in the UK. An editorial, ', Secrets and lies,' in the Guardian last Friday noted:
"National security is being invoked not to protect us but to shield politicians from embarrassment [...] There are genuine threats to national security and to our public and personal safety. It is a dangerous abuse if a government hoists the flag of national security and deploys the Official Secrets Act when all it is really trying to do is protect itself from embarrassment."
In the US, we've recently seen the State Secrets card played to cover up illegal spying, torture, and any number of other crimes - including complicity in the spread of nuclear weapons to our purported enemies. Enough is enough. ************************** In case you missed it, the unnamed senior State Department official in last week's Times article is Marc Grossman. ************************* In case you missed it, Sibel found a novel way of exposing the other guilty parties. She posted 18 photos on her website, without explanation. I published the faces along with the names here. (cross-posted at Let Sibel Edmonds Speak)
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Luke Ryland is a blogger with a particular interest in Sibel Edmonds' case.
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