U.S. Concerned About Pakistani Nuke Security, Secret Budget Reveals

Global Security Newswire Staff
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Global Security Newswire Staff
Sept. 3, 2013, 9:02 a.m.

U.S. in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials are far more wor­ried about the se­cur­ity of Pakistan’s nuc­le­ar weapons and ma­ter­i­als than the gov­ern­ment has pub­licly ad­mit­ted, ac­cord­ing to a re­port on the secret budget for U.S. in­tel­li­gence op­er­a­tions that was leaked to the Wash­ing­ton Post by former NSA con­tract­or Ed­ward Snowden.

The in­tel­li­gence com­munity has sig­ni­fic­antly heightened its ef­forts to keep tabs not only on Pakistan’s nuc­le­ar weapons but also on chem­ic­al and bio­lo­gic­al fa­cil­it­ies in the vi­ol­ence-wracked South Asi­an na­tion, ac­cord­ing to the so-called “black budget” for fisc­al 2013. That clas­si­fied U.S. spend­ing plan cov­ers the op­er­a­tions of a num­ber of U.S. spy agen­cies in­volved in cov­ert activ­it­ies, coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence and sur­veil­lance.

The 178-page sum­mary of the secret budget re­veals that the United States has grown more sus­pi­cious of Pakistan, and also has car­ried out a much broad­er in­tel­li­gence-col­lec­tion ef­fort of its sup­posed se­cur­ity part­ner than was pre­vi­ously known, the Post re­por­ted.

“Know­ledge of the se­cur­ity of Pakistan’s nuc­le­ar weapons and as­so­ci­ated ma­ter­i­al en­com­passed one of the most crit­ic­al set of … in­tel­li­gence gaps,” re­portedly states the budget over­view, which was signed by U.S. Na­tion­al In­tel­li­gence Dir­ect­or James Clap­per. This lack of in­form­a­tion is es­pe­cially troub­ling in light of “the polit­ic­al in­stabil­ity, ter­ror­ist threat and ex­pand­ing in­vent­ory (of nuc­le­ar weapons) in that coun­try,” the doc­u­ment is said to read.

The budget over­view does not dis­close the spe­cif­ic amount of money spent on sur­veil­lance of Pakistan, though it does in­dic­ate the coun­try is a fo­cus of U.S. non­pro­lif­er­a­tion and anti-ter­ror­ism ef­forts.

The U.S. in­tel­li­gence com­munity re­ques­ted roughly $6.9 bil­lion for fisc­al 2013 to fund ef­forts to lim­it the spread of weapons of mass de­struc­tion and $16.6 bil­lion to com­bat al-Qaida and oth­er ter­ror­ist or­gan­iz­a­tions. When com­bined, those two areas take up close to 50 per­cent of the spy agen­cies’ de­sired fund­ing for the cur­rent fisc­al year, which ends Sept. 30.

U.S. spy agen­cies are con­cen­trat­ing on two es­pe­cially troub­ling pos­sib­il­it­ies in Pakistan: the chance that atom­ic sites in the na­tion would be as­saul­ted by loc­al ex­trem­ist groups, and that rad­ic­al mil­it­ants would be able to in­filt­rate the mil­it­ary or in­tel­li­gence agen­cies, giv­ing them a bet­ter po­s­i­tion to gain ac­cess to nuc­le­ar ma­ter­i­als or to mount an in­sider at­tack, ac­cord­ing to the art­icle.

The United States does not know much about how Pakistani nuc­le­ar ma­ter­i­al is channeled through the vari­ous fa­cil­it­ies in­volved in the war­head pro­gram. U.S. wor­ries about the coun­try’s nuc­le­ar weapons seem to be the res­ult of just how little in­form­a­tion is known than by any par­tic­u­lar in­form­a­tion that would sug­gest a se­cur­ity gap, the Post con­cludes after re­view­ing the budget doc­u­ments.

The budget sum­mary re­portedly con­tains a table that lists a min­im­um of six areas where in­form­a­tion about Pakistan’s nuc­le­ar weapon activ­it­ies is deemed lack­ing. The Post does not dis­close what those six areas are.

The U.S. in­tel­li­gence com­munity’s form­a­tion of a Pakistan WMD Ana­lys­is Cell to mon­it­or the phys­ic­al status of atom­ic sub­stances was seen as help­ful in provid­ing a “more com­pre­hens­ive un­der­stand­ing of stra­tegic weapons se­cur­ity in Pakistan,” the doc­u­ment is said to state.

Still, “the num­ber of gaps as­so­ci­ated with Pakistani nuc­le­ar se­cur­ity re­mains the same,” the budget over­view re­portedly says, and “the ques­tions as­so­ci­ated with this in­tract­able tar­get are more com­plex.”

Mul­tiple men­tions in the secret doc­u­ment about the aug­ment­a­tion of U.S. sur­veil­lance over Pakistani bio­lo­gic­al and chem­ic­al re­search fa­cil­it­ies is thought to be the res­ult of con­cerns that ex­trem­ist or­gan­iz­a­tions might at­tempt to steal WMD-rel­ev­ant sub­stances from the state-man­aged labor­at­or­ies, ac­cord­ing to the Post.

The United States also is mon­it­or­ing the se­cur­ity of neigh­bor­ing In­dia’s nuc­le­ar activ­it­ies, the budget re­port is said to state.

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