- A Whistleblower has made a series of extraordinary claims
about how corrupt government officials allowed Pakistan and other
states to steal nuclear weapons secrets.
- Sibel Edmonds, a 37-year-old former Turkish language
translator for the FBI, listened into hundreds of sensitive intercepted
conversations while based at the agency's Washington field office.
- She approached The Sunday Times last month after reading
about an Al-Qaeda terrorist who had revealed his role in training some
of the 9/11 hijackers while he was in Turkey.
- Edmonds described how foreign intelligence agents
had enlisted the support of US officials to acquire a network of moles
in sensitive military and nuclear institutions.
- Among the hours of covert tape recordings, she says she
heard evidence that one well-known senior official in the US State Department
was being paid by Turkish agents in Washington who were selling the information
on to black market buyers, including Pakistan.
- The name of the official who has held a series
of top government posts is known to The Sunday Times. He strongly
denies the claims.
- However, Edmonds said: "He was aiding foreign
operatives against US interests by passing them highly classified information,
not only from the State Department but also from the Pentagon, in exchange
for money, position and political objectives."
- She claims that the FBI was also gathering evidence against
senior Pentagon officials including household names who were
aiding foreign agents.
- "If you made public all the information that the
FBI have on this case, you will see very high-level people going through
criminal trials," she said.
- Her story shows just how much the West was infiltrated
by foreign states seeking nuclear secrets. It illustrates how western government
officials turned a blind eye to, or were even helping, countries such as Pakistan
acquire bomb technology.
- 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.
- Edmonds, a fluent speaker of Turkish and Farsi, was recruited
by the FBI in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks. Her previous claims
about incompetence inside the FBI have been well documented in America.
- She has given evidence to closed sessions of Congress
and the 9/11 commission, but many of the key points of her testimony have
remained secret. She has now decided to divulge some of that information
after becoming disillusioned with the US authorities' failure to act.
- One of Edmonds's main roles in the FBI was to translate
thousands of hours of conversations by Turkish diplomatic and political
targets that had been covertly recorded by the agency.
- A backlog of tapes had built up, dating back to 1997,
which were needed for an FBI investigation into links between the Turks
and Pakistani, Israeli and US targets. Before she left the FBI in 2002
she heard evidence that pointed to money laundering, drug imports and attempts
to acquire nuclear and conventional weapons technology.
- "What I found was damning," she said. "While
the FBI was investigating, several arms of the government were shielding
what was going on."
- The Turks and Israelis had planted "moles"
in military and academic institutions which handled nuclear technology. Edmonds
says there were several transactions of nuclear material every month, with
the Pakistanis being among the eventual buyers. "The network appeared
to be obtaining information from every nuclear agency in the United States,"
- They were helped, she says, by the high-ranking State
Department official who provided some of their moles mainly PhD students
with security clearance to work in sensitive nuclear research facilities.
These included the Los Alamos nuclear laboratory in New Mexico, which
is responsible for the security of the US nuclear deterrent.
- In one conversation Edmonds heard the official arranging
to pick up a $15,000 cash bribe. The package was to be dropped off at an
agreed location by someone in the Turkish diplomatic community who was
working for the network.
- The Turks, she says, often acted as a conduit for the
Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Pakistan's spy agency, because
they were less likely to attract suspicion. Venues such as the American
Turkish Council in Washington were used to drop off the cash, which was
picked up by the official.
- Edmonds said: "I heard at least three transactions
like this over a period of 212 years. There are almost certainly more."
- The Pakistani operation was led by General Mahmoud Ahmad,
then the ISI chief.
- Intercepted communications showed Ahmad and his colleagues
stationed in Washington were in constant contact with attachés
in the Turkish embassy.
- Intelligence analysts say that members of the ISI were
close to Al-Qaeda before and after 9/11. Indeed, Ahmad was accused of sanctioning
a $100,000 wire payment to Mohammed Atta, one of the 9/11 hijackers, immediately
before the attacks.
- The results of the espionage were almost certainly passed
to Abdul Qadeer Khan, the Pakistani nuclear scientist.
- Khan was close to Ahmad and the ISI. While running Pakistan's
nuclear programme, he became a millionaire by selling atomic secrets to
Libya, Iran and North Korea. He also used a network of companies in America
and Britain to obtain components for a nuclear programme.
- Khan caused an alert among western intelligence agencies
when his aides met Osama Bin Laden. "We were aware of contact between
A Q Khan's people and Al-Qaeda," a former CIA officer said last week.
"There was absolute panic when we initially discovered this, but it
kind of panned out in the end."
- It is likely that the nuclear secrets stolen from the United
States would have been sold to a number of rogue states by Khan.
- Edmonds was later to see the scope of the Pakistani
connections when it was revealed that one of her fellow translators at
the FBI was the daughter of a Pakistani embassy official who worked for
Ahmad. The translator was given top secret clearance despite protests from
- Edmonds says packages containing nuclear secrets
were delivered by Turkish operatives, using their cover as members of the
diplomatic and military community, to contacts at the Pakistani embassy
- Following 9/11, a number of the foreign operatives were
taken in for questioning by the FBI on suspicion that they knew about or
somehow aided the attacks.
- Edmonds said the State Department official once
again proved useful. "A primary target would call the official and
point to names on the list and say, 'We need to get them out of the US
because we can't afford for them to spill the beans'," she said. "The
official said that he would 'take care of it'."
- The four suspects on the list were released from interrogation
- Edmonds also claims that a number of senior officials
in the Pentagon had helped Israeli and Turkish agents.
- "The people provided lists of potential moles from
Pentagon-related institutions who had access to databases concerning this
information," she said.
- "The handlers, who were part of the diplomatic community,
would then try to recruit those people to become moles for the network.
The lists contained all their 'hooking points', which could be financial
or sexual pressure points, their exact job in the Pentagon and what stuff
they had access to."
- One of the Pentagon figures under investigation was Lawrence
Franklin, a former Pentagon analyst, who was jailed in 2006 for passing US
defence information to lobbyists and sharing classified information with
an Israeli diplomat.
- "He was one of the top people providing information
and packages during 2000 and 2001," she said.
- Once acquired, the nuclear secrets could have gone anywhere.
The FBI monitored Turkish diplomats who were selling copies of the information
to the highest bidder.
- Edmonds said: "Certain greedy Turkish operators
would make copies of the material and look around for buyers. They had
agents who would find potential buyers."
- In summer 2000, Edmonds says the FBI monitored one
of the agents as he met two Saudi Arabian businessmen in Detroit to sell
nuclear information that had been stolen from an air force base in Alabama.
She overheard the agent saying: "We have a package and we're going
to sell it for $250,000."
- Edmonds's employment with the FBI lasted for just six
months. In March 2002 she was dismissed after accusing a colleague of covering
up illicit activity involving Turkish nationals.
- She has always claimed that she was victimised for being
outspoken and was vindicated by an Office of the Inspector General review
of her case three years later. It found that one of the contributory reasons
for her sacking was that she had made valid complaints.
- The US attorney-general has imposed a state secrets
privilege order on her, which prevents her revealing more details of the
FBI's methods and current investigations.
- Her allegations were heard in a closed session of Congress,
but no action has been taken and she continues to campaign for a public
- She was able to discuss the case with The Sunday Times
because, by the end of January 2002, the justice department had shut down
- The senior official in the State Department no longer
works there. Last week he denied all of Edmonds's allegations: "If
you are calling me to say somebody said that I took money, that's outrageous
. . . I do not have anything to say about such stupid ridiculous things
- In researching this article, The Sunday Times has talked
to two FBI officers (one serving, one former) and two former CIA sources
who worked on nuclear proliferation. While none was aware of specific allegations
against officials she names, they did provide overlapping corroboration
of Edmonds's story.
- One of the CIA sources confirmed that the Turks had acquired
nuclear secrets from the United States and shared the information
with Pakistan and Israel. "We have no indication that Turkey has its
own nuclear ambitions. But the Turks are traders. To my knowledge they
became big players in the late 1990s," the source said.
- How Pakistan got the bomb, then sold it to
the highest bidders
- 1965 Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Pakistan's foreign minister,
says: "If India builds the bomb we will eat grass . . . but we will
get one of our own"
- 1974 Nuclear programme becomes increased priority
as India tests a nuclear device
- 1976 Abdul Qadeer Khan, a scientist, steals secrets
from Dutch uranium plant. Made head of his nation's nuclear programme by
Bhutto, now prime minister
- 1976 onwards Clandestine network established to
obtain materials and technology for uranium enrichment from the West
- 1985 Pakistan produces weapons-grade uranium for
the first time
- 1989-91 Khan's network sells Iran nuclear weapons
information and technology
- 1991-97 Khan sells weapons technology to North Korea
- 1998 India tests nuclear bomb and Pakistan follows
with a series of nuclear tests. Khan says: "I never had any doubts
I was building a bomb. We had to do it"
- 2001 CIA chief George Tenet gathers officials for
crisis summit on the proliferation of nuclear technology from Pakistan
to other countries
- 2001 Weeks before 9/11, Khan's aides meet Osama
Bin Laden to discuss an Al-Qaeda nuclear device
- 2001 After 9/11 proliferation crisis becomes secondary
as Pakistan is seen as important ally in war on terror
- 2003 Libya abandons nuclear weapons programme and
admits acquiring components through Pakistani nuclear scientists
- 2004 Khan placed under house arrest and confesses
to supplying Iran, Libya and North Korea with weapons technology. He is
pardoned by President Pervez Musharraf
- 2006 North Korea tests a nuclear bomb
- 2007 Renewed fears that bomb may fall into hands
of Islamic extremists as killing of Benazir Bhutto throws country into