Pakistani Leader Reviews Nuclear Security Amid Newly Reported Concerns

Rachel Oswald, Global Security Newswire
See more stories about...
Rachel Oswald, Global Security Newswire
Sept. 5, 2013, 12:02 p.m.

WASH­ING­TON – Pakistani Prime Min­is­ter Nawaz Sharif on Thursday re­portedly said he was con­fid­ent “our nuc­le­ar fa­cil­it­ies are in safe hands” fol­low­ing new rev­el­a­tions that the U.S. in­tel­li­gence com­munity has been privately ex­press­ing con­cerns.

In re­sponse to a re­port this week in the Wash­ing­ton Post, Sharif con­vened a meet­ing of the Na­tion­al Com­mand Au­thor­ity, which has the re­spons­ib­il­ity of over­see­ing the na­tion’s nuc­le­ar ar­sen­al, ac­cord­ing to a Thursday art­icle in Pakistan’s DAWN news­pa­per.

Re­ly­ing on clas­si­fied doc­u­ments on the in­tel­li­gence com­munity’s so-called “black budget” leaked by former NSA con­tract­or Ed­ward Snowden, the Post re­por­ted that U.S. spy agen­cies have sub­stant­ively ramped up their sur­veil­lance of Pakistani nuc­le­ar, chem­ic­al and bio­lo­gic­al sites.

Re­tired Pakistani Lt. Gen. Khal­id Ahmed Kid­wai, who heads the army di­vi­sion tasked with phys­ic­ally pro­tect­ing the ar­sen­al, said that any ques­tions raised by the Post piece “re­gard­ing the safety of the nuc­le­ar fa­cil­it­ies are ground­less.”

The NCA body re­viewed se­cur­ity pro­to­cols to pro­tect the ar­sen­al, after which the prime min­is­ter in­sisted that the nuc­le­ar as­sets are se­cure.

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion also con­tin­ues to pub­licly as­sert its con­fid­ence in the se­cur­ity of Pakistan’s nuc­le­ar ar­sen­al against the pos­sib­il­ity of ex­trem­ist at­tack or in­filt­ra­tion, des­pite the Post news re­port.

The U.S. State De­part­ment on Wed­nes­day said it was as­sured that Pakistan is ser­i­ous about the se­cur­ity of its nuc­le­ar ar­sen­al.

“The United States is con­fid­ent that the gov­ern­ment of Pakistan is well aware of its re­spons­ib­il­it­ies and has se­cured its nuc­le­ar ar­sen­al ac­cord­ingly,” de­part­ment spokes­wo­man Jen Psaki said in a re­leased state­ment.

“While there is room for im­prove­ment in the se­cur­ity of any coun­try’s nuc­le­ar pro­gram, Pakistan has a pro­fes­sion­al and ded­ic­ated se­cur­ity force that fully un­der­stands the im­port­ance of nuc­le­ar se­cur­ity,” Psaki said. “We re­cog­nize that Pakistan is fully en­gaged with the in­ter­na­tion­al com­munity on nuc­le­ar safety and se­cur­ity is­sues.”

Still, loc­al Taliban strikes on Pakistani mil­it­ary in­stall­a­tions in re­cent years have been “very am­bi­tious, well planned, well ex­ecuted at­tacks that in a num­ber of cases ap­pear to have had in­side as­sist­ance,” Bri­an Jen­kins, a ter­ror­ism ex­pert and seni­or ad­viser to the RAND Corp. pres­id­ent, said in a Thursday in­ter­view. “On the basis of that, the United States does have a con­cern” about the threat to Pakistan’s nuc­le­ar weapons.

The Post’s re­port­ing con­cluded that one of the prin­cip­al drivers of the U.S. sur­veil­lance ef­fort is a de­sire to learn more about how Is­lamabad pro­tects its WMD-com­pat­ible sub­stances, as the Pakistani se­cur­ity es­tab­lish­ment re­fuses to share with the United States most de­tails about how it pro­tects such ma­ter­i­als.

“Know­ledge of the se­cur­ity of Pakistan’s nuc­le­ar weapons and as­so­ci­ated ma­ter­i­al en­com­passed one of the most crit­ic­al set of … in­tel­li­gence gaps,” states the “black budget” sum­mary, as re­por­ted by the Post.

The ab­sence of this in­form­a­tion is par­tic­u­larly alarm­ing due to “the polit­ic­al in­stabil­ity, ter­ror­ist threat and ex­pand­ing in­vent­ory [of Pakistani nuc­le­ar weapons],” the re­port is fur­ther quoted as say­ing.

However, it is the United States’ own re­por­ted secret plan­ning of how to pro­tect Pakistani nuc­le­ar weapons from ter­ror­ist threats in a po­ten­tial in­ter­ven­tion that has con­trib­uted to long­stand­ing re­luct­ance among Pakistani of­fi­cials about shar­ing with Wash­ing­ton in­form­a­tion about se­cur­ity pro­to­cols.

Giv­en the de­gree of ex­trem­ist vi­ol­ence in Pakistan — in­clud­ing in re­cent years a num­ber of highly or­gan­ized and large-scale at­tacks on mil­it­ary fa­cil­it­ies — Pentagon de­fense plan­ners are be­lieved to have brain­stormed about what to do if Pakistani ter­ror­ists are on the verge of ac­quir­ing nuc­le­ar war­heads or the com­pon­ents to build their own crude ex­plos­ive device. 

A Novem­ber 2011 Na­tion­al Journ­al art­icle re­por­ted that the De­fense De­part­ment has de­veloped a range of op­tions for re­spond­ing to dif­fer­ent types of ter­ror­ist threats to Pakistan’s nuc­le­ar ar­sen­al. That kind of plan­ning, ac­cord­ing to the art­icle, has heightened Pakistani fears that the United States could swoop in at any time and steal its war­heads.

Pakistani of­fi­cials re­portedly re­spon­ded at the time by at­tempt­ing to cloak their move­ment of nuc­le­ar weapons from U.S. satel­lite sur­veil­lance by trans­port­ing them in ci­vil­ian-style vans along crowded streets. Meas­ures such as those likely have con­trib­uted to the heightened U.S. fears, as re­vealed by the Snowden doc­u­ment leak, about how little is known of the status of Pakistani war­heads and ma­ter­i­als.

Vi­p­in Narang, an as­sist­ant polit­ic­al sci­ence pro­fess­or at the Mas­sachu­setts In­sti­tute of Tech­no­logy, said there is strong reas­on to doubt Pakistani in­sist­ence about the se­cur­ity of its nuc­le­ar as­sets.

“The ap­par­ent sus­tained mil­it­ant in­terest in at­tack­ing Pakistan mil­it­ary in­stall­a­tions and their re­peated suc­cess in do­ing so would have no doubt privately con­firmed the sig­ni­fic­ant con­cerns the U.S. in­tel­li­gence com­munity has about the se­cur­ity of Pakistan’s nuc­le­ar as­sets,” Narang wrote in a Thursday e-mail.

“As the size of the Pakistan nuc­le­ar pro­gram has grown — both in terms of per­son­nel and as­sets — se­cur­ing it com­pletely against both in­sider and mil­it­ant threats be­comes in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult,” he said.

What We're Following See More »
STAFF PICKS
When It Comes to Mining Asteroids, Technology Is Only the First Problem
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Foreign Policy takes a look at the future of mining the estimated "100,000 near-Earth objects—including asteroids and comets—in the neighborhood of our planet. Some of these NEOs, as they’re called, are small. Others are substantial and potentially packed full of water and various important minerals, such as nickel, cobalt, and iron. One day, advocates believe, those objects will be tapped by variations on the equipment used in the coal mines of Kentucky or in the diamond mines of Africa. And for immense gain: According to industry experts, the contents of a single asteroid could be worth trillions of dollars." But the technology to get us there is only the first step. Experts say "a multinational body might emerge" to manage rights to NEOs, as well as a body of law, including an international court.

Source:
STAFF PICKS
Obama Reflects on His Economic Record
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Not to be outdone by Jeffrey Goldberg's recent piece in The Atlantic about President Obama's foreign policy, the New York Times Magazine checks in with a longread on the president's economic legacy. In it, Obama is cognizant that the economic reality--73 straight months of growth--isn't matched by public perceptions. Some of that, he says, is due to a constant drumbeat from the right that "that denies any progress." But he also accepts some blame himself. “I mean, the truth of the matter is that if we had been able to more effectively communicate all the steps we had taken to the swing voter,” he said, “then we might have maintained a majority in the House or the Senate.”

Source:
STAFF PICKS
Reagan Families, Allies Lash Out at Will Ferrell
2 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Ronald Reagan's children and political allies took to the media and Twitter this week to chide funnyman Will Ferrell for his plans to play a dementia-addled Reagan in his second term in a new comedy entitled Reagan. In an open letter, Reagan's daughter Patti Davis tells Ferrell, who's also a producer on the movie, “Perhaps for your comedy you would like to visit some dementia facilities. I have—I didn’t find anything comedic there, and my hope would be that if you’re a decent human being, you wouldn’t either.” Michael Reagan, the president's son, tweeted, "What an Outrag....Alzheimers is not joke...It kills..You should be ashamed all of you." And former Rep. Joe Walsh called it an example of "Hollywood taking a shot at conservatives again."

Source:
PEAK CONFIDENCE
Clinton No Longer Running Primary Ads
2 days ago
WHY WE CARE

In a sign that she’s ready to put a longer-than-ex­pec­ted primary battle be­hind her, former Sec­ret­ary of State Hil­lary Clin­ton (D) is no longer go­ing on the air in up­com­ing primary states. “Team Clin­ton hasn’t spent a single cent in … Cali­for­nia, In­di­ana, Ken­tucky, Ore­gon and West Vir­gin­ia, while” Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) “cam­paign has spent a little more than $1 mil­lion in those same states.” Meanwhile, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sanders’ "lone back­er in the Sen­ate, said the can­did­ate should end his pres­id­en­tial cam­paign if he’s los­ing to Hil­lary Clin­ton after the primary sea­son con­cludes in June, break­ing sharply with the can­did­ate who is vow­ing to take his in­sur­gent bid to the party con­ven­tion in Phil­adelphia.”

Source:
CITIZENS UNITED PT. 2?
Movie Based on ‘Clinton Cash’ to Debut at Cannes
2 days ago
WHY WE CARE

The team behind the bestselling "Clinton Cash"—author Peter Schweizer and Breitbart's Stephen Bannon—is turning the book into a movie that will have its U.S. premiere just before the Democratic National Convention this summer. The film will get its global debut "next month in Cannes, France, during the Cannes Film Festival. (The movie is not a part of the festival, but will be shown at a screening arranged for distributors)." Bloomberg has a trailer up, pointing out that it's "less Ken Burns than Jerry Bruckheimer, featuring blood-drenched money, radical madrassas, and ominous footage of the Clintons."

Source:
×