technologies to countries of concern. In this Section of our Report, we describe the significant help his activities gave to the nuclear programmes of several countries of concern, particularly Libya, and actions taken by the British Government in conjunction with others to close down Khan’s network.
WHAT WAS KNOWN
During the 1990s, there were intermittent clues from intelligence that AQ Khan was discussing the sale of nuclear technology to countries of concern. By early 2000, intelligence revealed that these were not isolated incidents. It became clear that Khan was at the centre of an international proliferation network.
By April 2000, the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) was noting that there was an evolving, and as yet incomplete, picture of the supply of uranium enrichment equipment to at least one customer in the Middle East, thought to be Libya, and evidence linking this activity to Khan. By September 2000, it was pointing out that the network was expanding to mass-produce components for large-scale centrifuge cascades.
During 2001, the JIC continued to track AQ Khan’s activities. An assessment in March 2002 pulled together all the strands of intelligence on AQ Khan then available. The conclusions showed the wide spread of Khan’s network and that he had moved his base outside Pakistan and was now controlling it through his associates in Dubai. At the same time, intelligence showed that he had now established his own production facilities, in Malaysia. He was being helped in his activities by a network of associates and suppliers, including BSA Tahir (a Sri Lankan businessman operating out of Dubai).
By July 2002, the JIC had concluded that AQ Khan’s network was central to all aspects of the Libyan nuclear weapons programme. Since Khan had access to nuclear weapon designs and had been involved in the development of Pakistani missiles, the Government feared that he might not only pass on the technology for enriching uranium but that he might also enable his customers to build nuclear warheads for missiles. As intelligence continued to build up, the JIC assessed that this was the first case of a private enterprise offering a complete range of services to enable a customer to acquire highly enriched uranium for nuclear weapons.
lntelligence also identified further individuals in the supply chain, and more intelligence was also becoming available on finance and transportation methods, including details of banks in a number of countries and the names of the shipping companies involved. Khan was also continuing to develop his business through his overseas facilities. By January 2003, the JIC was becoming particularly concerned at the progress Libya might be able to make as a result of the assistance it had received from the network.
Action to close down the network had until this stage been deferred to allow the intelligence agencies to continue their operations to gather further information on the full extent of the network. This was important to gain a better understanding of the nuclear programmes of other countries which Khan was supplying. But Khan’s activities had now reached the point where it would be dangerous to allow them to go on.