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The Sixth Container
Judith Miller is back, writing about nuclear success
Ludwig De Braeckeleer (LUDWIG)     Print Article 
Published 2006-05-31 06:04 (KST)   
On May 16, an article titled "How Gadhafi Lost His Groove" appeared on the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal. The opinion is signed by Judith Miller, the controversial former New York Times reporter. She tells the story of "the complex surrender of Libya's WMD."

Miller begins by reminding her readers of the spectacular interception of the BBC China by U.S.-U.K. intelligence agencies.

"Then, in early October 2003, the U.S., the U.K., Germany, and Italy interdicted the 'BBC China,' a German ship destined for Libya that the Americans had been tracking for nearly a year. A U.S. intelligence official informed the Libyans that the five 40-foot containers marked used machine parts that were offloaded from the ship contained thousands of centrifuge parts to enrich uranium, manufactured in Malaysia by the A.Q. Khan network," Miller writes.

"In fact, the still largely secret talks that helped prompt Libya's decision, and the joint American-British dismantlement of its weapons programs in the first four months of 2004, remain the administration's sole undeniable -- if largely unheralded -- intelligence and non-proliferation success. And a key figure in that effort, Stephen Kappes, is now slated to be the next deputy director of the demoralized Central Intelligence Agency," she adds.

Her column echoes the opinion of George Tenet, the former CIA director, and repeats the praises expressed by her former colleague at the New York Times, White House correspondent David Sanger.

According to Tenet, the intercept of the BBC China was the result of many years of hard work: "An operation superbly planned and perfectly executed."

"So far, the high-water mark of the Bush administration's counter-proliferation efforts has been the interception of the BBC China, a German cargo ship, as it steamed toward Tripoli in October 2003. It was, in the words of one senior intelligence official, the perfect spy story," wrote Sanger.

But Miller forgot to tell her readers a key piece of information concerning Tenet's perfectly executed operation. The CIA agents offloaded five 40-foot containers marked "used machine parts" but they overlooked an additional container.

The fact that the agents left on board a container filled with thousand of parts for a uranium enrichment factory raises serious suspicions about the whole operation. Was it genuine or was it orchestrated to revamp the credibility of the CIA? Could it be that Washington and Tripoli were working hand in hand, preparing the renewal of their diplomatic relations?

B. S. A. Tahir was Abdul Qadeer Khan's chief lieutenant. After the intercept of the German cargo, he was arrested and his activities were investigated by Malaysian authorities.

"The actions against vessel BBC China should be viewed with skepticism in the light of the following allegations made by B. S. A. Tahir," said the inspector general of Malaysian police in his press release.

"Tahir claimed that together with the seized components on board, was a consignment made sent by Gunas Jireh, a Turkish national who supplied aluminum casting and dynamo to Libya. These items were delivered through Dubai using the services of TUT Shipping via vessel BBC China. It is surprising that the consignment from Gunas Jireh direct to Libya was allowed without any actions," the report said.

"Two week after action taken against the BBC China, B. S. A. Tahir claimed to have arranged a transshipment of electrical cabinet and power supplier voltage regulator to Libya through Dubai on behalf of Selim Alguadis. This shipment too arrived in Libya without any obstruction and this is unusual," the report continues.

When, in March 2004, the BBC China finally arrived in Libya, it had on board an additional container of P-2 centrifuge components. Tripoli called the CIA and the International Atomic Energy Agency to report the embarrassing news.

Can anyone seriously believe that the CIA would have overlooked one of the containers after having intercepted the German cargo? Surely, had it been a genuine operation, the CIA agents would have taken the boat apart down to the last screw. As I wrote earlier, I strongly suspect that this operation had been orchestrated by the CIA and MI6 and that these agencies were working with Tripoli since at least 1997.

For the CIA and MI6, the operation provided a great success, much needed to regain a bit of credibility. Their complete failure over pre-war intelligence has totally crippled their ability to convince anyone, anywhere on the planet. After looking at the content of an Iranian laptop, a European diplomat replied to a CIA official, "So what?"

Early in March, the trial of Gotthard Lerch began in Mannheim, Germany. Lerch is accused of supervising the production of centrifuge parts in South Africa.

"Indeed, the entire case is beginning to bear the telltale signs of the CIA and MI6, a windfall for Lerch's defense attorneys, who argue that the entire deal was concocted by the intelligence agencies. Their client, they say, is a victim, not a perpetrator, and he expressly contests the violations of the War Weapons Control Act and the Foreign Trade Act of which he has been accused," wrote Der Spiegel reporters.

The prosecution faces several challenges. Finding witnesses is not the smallest of them. Obviously, no Pakistani scientists, let alone Khan, will be available. Tahir made it clear that he will not say a word in a German court of law.

Urs Thinner and Peter Griffin would be ideal witnesses to the prosecution. Mr. Thinner, a German citizen, is accused of supervising the production of centrifuge parts in Malaysia. Griffin, a Briton, is suspected of organizing the shipment from Dubai.

"Testimony by Urs Tinner would likewise no doubt be valuable to the prosecution. But he is said to have been recruited by the CIA shortly before the end of his mission in Malaysia. Upon his arrest and detention in Germany, the Americans made a big show of supporting him," wrote Der Spiegel reporters.

"For years, Griffin has been seen as a man with good connections in the intelligence community, especially with the British. Amazingly enough, Griffin is still a free man, and the Mannheim court stands little chance of securing his extradition," they add.

Quite possibly, the CIA and MI6 have gone as far as providing some components to the Khan network. The vacuum pumps were manufactured by a German company: Pfeiffer Vacuum. According to the company, these vacuum pumps were sent to the U.S. nuclear weapons research facility in Los Alamos, N. M. Moreover, the source of key components, the most difficult to manufacture, has not been identified.

Saif Gadhafi, the son of the Libyan leader and presumed heir, said he had sensed early on that paying indemnities to the relatives of Lockerbie victims would not be enough to convince Washington and London to renew diplomatic ties with Libya. "We needed something bold, something big enough to have impact," he said.

In his most recent interview with the Western press, Saif Al Islam, "the sword of Islam," confessed that we live in a tough world. "Nothing comes free. You have to pay for everything."

"Had we found WMDs in Iraq, there would have been no BBC China story," admits an American diplomat, a smile on his face.
©2006 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Ludwig De Braeckeleer

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