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The 'Fallout' Of The CIA's Race To Get Khan.

A new book by journalists Douglas Frantz and Catherine Collins alleges that the CIA was so obsessed with getting information from nuclear trafficker A.Q. Khan's network, it waited too long to shut it down — and stood by while Khan and his associates spread dangerous nuclear technology around the globe.


Other segments from the episode on January 4, 2011

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, January 4, 2011: Interview with Douglas Frantz; Review of Henry Threadgill's albums "The Complete Novus & Columbia Recordings of Henry Threadgill & Air" and "This Brings…


Fresh Air
12:00-13:00 PM
The 'Fallout' Of The CIA's Race To Get Khan


This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

Few things are more chilling than the prospect of nuclear weapons falling into
the hands of terrorist groups or rogue states. Our guest, journalist Douglas
Frantz, chronicles the CIA's penetration of the global nuclear arms trafficking
network created by the Pakistani scientist A.Q. Khan.

Frantz and his wife, journalist Catherine Collins, found that the CIA did a
remarkable job of getting confidential sources in the Khan network but, they
say, the agency waited far too long to shut down the operation, in effect
watching while Khan and his confederates peddled nuclear technology to North
Korea, Iran, Libya and possibly others. The CIA, they write, was addicted to
information, not action.

Catherine Collins has been a foreign correspondent for the Chicago Tribune and
has written for the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times. Douglas Frantz is
a former managing editor of the L.A. Times and a former investigative reporter
and foreign correspondent for the New York Times.

Their book is called "Fallout: The True Story of the CIA's Secret War on
Nuclear Trafficking." Franz spoke yesterday with FRESH AIR contributor Dave


Well, Douglas Frantz, welcome to FRESH AIR. This is a fascinating story of how
the CIA tracked the nuclear smuggling network of A.Q. Khan for years and, at
various junctures, chose to let it operate and monitor it rather than move
aggressively and shut it down. How early did the U.S. become aware of A.Q.
Khan's work and then decide not to interfere?

Mr. DOUGLAS FRANTZ (Co-author, "Fallout: The True Story of the CIA's Secret War
on Nuclear Trafficking"): You know, shockingly, Dave, the CIA became aware of
what A.Q. Khan was up to in 1975. They could literally have stopped him in his
tracks then, and it would have done an enormous amount to delay Pakistan
building its own nuclear weapon, to delay the arms race on the South Asian
continent and to stop Iran from getting to where it is on the nuclear front.

You know, so this is something that the CIA has been, in our view, guilty of
for more than 30 years now. This is the second book that Catherine and I have
written about the A.Q. Khan network. And this one, I think, is even more
damning than the first one because it goes to the heart of what the CIA could
have done and didn't do, and as a result how our international security is much
more vulnerable now than it should have been.

DAVIES: Right, and just going back to that much earlier episode, that was when
he was working - he was a Pakistani national working at a technical lab in the
Netherlands, right?

Mr. FRANTZ: Yes, Khan had recently (unintelligible) a doctorate in metallurgy
from a European university, and he'd gone to work for a consortium of British,
German and Dutch governments, creating the newest centrifuge technology to
enrich uranium for civilian nuclear plants in Europe. This was in the early to

But the problem with enrichment, uranium enrichment, of course, is that the
same technology that develops the fissile material to run electric generating
plants, with a few minor adjustments, develops the same - the fuel for nuclear

And Khan, during his years at this plant in the Netherlands called URENCO,
managed to steal the designs for all of these sorts of centrifuges and to steal
a shopping list for all the companies that could provide the technology.

And while he was doing this, the Dutch security service got on to what he was
up to and wanted to arrest him, and the Dutch government was embarrassed about
the idea that they had a spy in their midst, and so they were dragging their
heels, and the Dutch security service appealed to the CIA, thinking that the
CIA would weigh in and persuade the Dutch government to stop this guy.

Instead, the CIA told the Dutch, let him go, we'll watch him. This was in 1975.
You know, and in the subsequent years and decades, Khan became clearly the most
dangerous proliferator in history.

DAVIES: Let's talk about this family that much of the book focuses on, the
Tinners. Friedrich was the father, two sons, Urs and Marco Tinner. Who are

Mr. FRANTZ: Well, it's very interesting, I think. Friedrich Tinner, in the mid-
1970s, worked for a German company making vacuum technology, and he was, by all
accounts, a brilliant engineer. He patented several types of valves used in

Centrifuges are these cylindrical machines that spin up to twice the speed of
sound and they're used to enrich uranium to create the highly enriched uranium
for nuclear weapons.

And Tinner worked there. He got to know A.Q. Khan, when Khan was at URENCO in
the Netherlands, and after Khan returned to Pakistan in 1975 and began helping
Pakistan build its nuclear weapon, Friedrich Tinner was one of the people to
whom he turned to buy the technology that Pakistan had to have.

Khan said, very, very wittily, I think, in the 1970s that Pakistan couldn't
even build a good bicycle. And so he had to go out and buy all this technology
on the black market. And Friedrich Tinner was one of his principal suppliers,
and he provided him with the centrifuge technology that was instrumental in
Pakistan building its own nuclear weapon.

Now, later down the road, Friedrich Tinner brought his two sons, Marco and Urs,
into the family business. Virtually from the beginning of the Khan network,
these three people became principal suppliers to the Khan network, not only for
Pakistan's nuclear weapon but also for the nuclear program in Iran and the
nuclear program in Libya and some of the same nuclear technology that went to
North Korea.

DAVIES: All right, so one particularly enterprising CIA agent that you write
about, Jim Kinsman, who goes by the code name Mad Dog, manages to recruit Urs
Tinner to give information to the CIA about Khan's nuclear smuggling network.
Tell us, how did he approach him? How did he develop that relationship?

Mr. FRANTZ: Well, the CIA - and first, I should say that Jim Kinsman is not his
real name. That was his cover name. His nickname was Mad Dog. His cover name
was Jim Kinsman. We don't use his real name in the book.

But Kinsman learned that A.Q. Khan had invited Urs Tinner to Dubai, where he
was going to set up a plant to manufacture centrifuges for the Libyan project.

In 1997, Khan got this enormous contract with Libya to build Muammar Gaddafi a
complete, from A to Z, nuclear weapons production facility in Libya. And this
was obviously a secret, clandestine operation, and it was a program of enormous
value to Khan. They would ultimately collect more than $100 million in money
from Gaddafi.

But he wanted to set up his plant to manufacture the centrifuges first in Dubai
because they had the technical infrastructure to do it. Libya certainly did not
at that point and still doesn't today. And so Urs Tinner was invited down by
Khan to help run, set up this centrifuge production facility in Dubai. And the
CIA was monitoring the Khan operation so closely then that they knew when Urs
Tinner arrived in 1999 in Dubai.

And so Mad Dog went down, and it was really a classic recruitment. He started
chatting him up in a bar. He knew a little bit about some of Urs Tinner's
troubled background, and so he was able to use that to coerce him into
providing any information about what the Khan network was doing in Dubai, about
what it was doing on behalf of Iran and Libya at that point. So it was really a
classic recruitment by Mad Dog.

DAVIES: So Mad Dog, the CIA agent, he has information about Urs Tinner's past
and uses it against him. What kind of information?

Mr. FRANTZ: He had some problems with his taxes in Switzerland. He had some
problems with custody of his daughters. You know, some of that is a little
murky, frankly. This is a book about sort of ongoing intelligence operations.
So it was difficult, at various points, to get real clarity.

DAVIES: So he begins with leverage. I mean, Urs Tinner has some trouble. They
build a relationship. He starts getting information. And he ends up paying him
a lot of money, right? I mean, in some cases, as information comes in, picking
up, you know, checks for fancy dinners, et cetera, in Dubai.

And another important part of the relationship, as you describe it, is his
pledge to Urs, and eventually his brother and father, that this is dicey stuff,
and if you get into trouble, we will protect you, right?

Mr. FRANTZ: Yes, yes, that's right. I mean, Mad Dog never spoke to us. He's one
of those CIA agents who believes firmly in his oath, and he didn't speak to us.
But we spoke to a lot of people who know him. Plus, we spoke to Urs Tinner.

And Urs told us that Mad Dog had, indeed, promised to protect him and later his
father and his brother. And, you know, this is one of the pledges that the CIA
agents make, I guess, to get people to cooperate with them.

You know, Urs Tinner took some risks, some physical risks, in cooperating, and
he played an important role in bringing down the Khan network.

But there has to be a point, in our view, where you weight the need to protect
your sources, the ability for the CIA to continue to go out and recruit new
sources and your obligations to the law. And we believe, in this case, and the
heart of this book really focuses on what happened once the Tinners' role in
the Khan network was uncovered publicly and what happened then under the
auspices of the CIA and of senior officials in the George W. Bush
administration, to protect the Tinners and to protect CIA agents who had broken
Swiss law in recruiting the Tinners, too.

DAVIES: So there's this period from 1999 to 2003, four years, where this close
relationship develops between the CIA agent and Urs Tinner and ultimately his
other members of his family. And they have this plant to build a centrifuge for
enriching uranium in Dubai, doesn't work out, can't get the workforce they
need. They move the whole operation over to Malaysia, and there's another
confederate there, named Tahir(ph), right, that they work with.

And it turns out that a lot of this is to help Libya attain nuclear weapons,
and probably a lot of it's going to Iran. And so a lot of important information
about just how active this network is is getting up the channels through the
CIA, through I'm sure the national security apparatus and to people in the
White House.

And how did they react to this, I mean, the threat that Iran might be getting -
might be much farther along in its nuclear program, that Libya could get a
bomb? How did they evaluate and react to this information?

Mr. FRANTZ: Well, there was this ongoing debate, this tension, and it had been
in existence for many years, but now they were very deep into the network by
early to mid-2003, and they were really getting scared about all of the
information that the Khan network was leaking out.

And the British in particular, MI-6, the British secret service, had been
working pretty closely with the CIA throughout this tracking of the Khan
network, and the British were putting a lot of pressure on the American
government, saying act now. We can't let this get any farther down the road.

You know, on the other side, you have the CIA arguing, well, we need to know
more. We need to make sure that when we act, we can shut down every single node
of this worldwide network, and it was indeed a global network. They had
operations, as you said, in Malaysia, in Dubai. They had operations in Europe.
They had operations in South Africa. And they had operations, of course, in

So they wanted to get all of this, but in our view, and I think we document
this, Catherine and I document this very well in the book, they waited too
long. By the time they finally acted in 2003, an enormous amount of the world's
most dangerous technology had been sold to the world's most dangerous regimes.
And that, in our view, was a policy failure, a policy failure of enormous
proportions, really.

DAVIES: Right, and it's a persuasive case. The other side of the argument, I
guess, and you discuss this in the book, is there were important things that
the CIA didn't yet know that it hoped it might learn. For example, was there a
fourth customer beyond North Korea, Libya and Iran? Was there perhaps a
terrorist group that the network was interacting with and perhaps preparing to
sell technology with?

And I guess their thinking was, we've got good sources, if we keep at this,
we'll find out where else it's gone, you know, whether al-Qaeda might be
working on this.

Mr. FRANTZ: Yeah, that's a fair point. Certainly the world knows al-Qaida wants
a nuclear weapon. I think, and most experts think, that it's highly unlikely
that they'll build one from scratch the way Iran is doing now, the way Libya
wanted to do, the way Pakistan and India did before it.

But they could certainly get the fissile material from some of the technology
that A.Q. Khan was selling. And there's a persuasive case that extensive
amounts of technology that A.Q. Khan put into this Pakistani pipeline of his is
missing. It's gone missing and nobody really knows where it is today.

And so there was that concern that was driving the CIA to keep trying to get
more and more information. But I think our point, when we circle back, Dave, is
that they should have stopped it long before it got this far.

DAVIES: We're speaking with investigative reporter Douglas Frantz. He is the
author, with Catherine Collins, of a book called "Fallout," about the CIA's
efforts to track the A.Q. Khan nuclear smuggling network. We'll talk more after
a short break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

DAVIES: If you're just joining us, our guest is investigative reporter Douglas
Frantz. He is the author, with Catherine Collins, of a book about the CIA's
tracking of the A.Q. Khan nuclear network. It's called "Fallout: The True Story
of the CIA's Secret War on Nuclear Trafficking."

Well, during this, there was a four-year period when, you know, the CIA, as we
were saying, had penetrated A.Q. Khan's nuclear smuggling network and let it
operate while they continued to gather more information and monitor it.

But as an alternative to shutting them down, they decided at some point they
would let them continue to operate but somehow sabotage some of the technology
they were getting. How were they able to do that?

Mr. FRANTZ: Through our sources and through some published reports elsewhere,
it's very clear that the CIA orchestrated the delivery of sabotaged nuclear
equipment to both Iran and to Libya.

One of the key components that they sabotaged were vacuum pumps, which are
critical to enriching uranium. And what the CIA did was they bought a batch of
these vacuum pumps from a German manufacturer, and they had them sent to Los
Alamos, the national nuclear laboratory in New Mexico. And there, a guy that
the CIA referred to as the mad scientist altered these vacuum pumps ever so
slightly so that when they reached a certain pressure point, they would explode
and not work.

And these vacuum pumps then were put into the A.Q. Khan nuclear network through
the Tinners, and they made their way to both Libya and to Iran. Similarly,
there were some electric regulators that were manufactured in Turkey that were
sabotaged by the CIA. They also showed up in Iranian and Libyan nuclear

And finally, the third and the most interesting one, the CIA gave Urs Tinner
instructions on how to design very minute flaws into centrifuge parts that he
was manufacturing in Malaysia for the Libyan nuclear project.

He had gone from Dubai - they tried to set up their factory there, and it just
didn't work because they couldn't get the skilled labor. So they moved the
factory to Malaysia, where they did, in fact, find skilled labor. They took
over an existing factory.

And Urs Tinner was in charge of the technology for this plant, and so he took
the plans and he made - he told Catherine in very great detail how he made very
small alterations in these centrifuge components so that they wouldn't work.

DAVIES: So when these parts got shipped to Iran and Libya, of course, Libya
never really developed its program. But I guess the question was, was it
effective? Were the sabotaged parts that made it to Iran effective in
undermining their program or did the Iranians figure out the flaws?

Mr. FRANTZ: Well, it's our belief, based on what we've been told and on the
records we've seen and on reports from the International Atomic Energy Agency,
that these flaws did cause slowdowns and delays in the Iranian facility. But
all the indications are that the Iranians overcame these flaws and that they've
certainly enriched enough uranium by now for at least two nuclear weapons with
further enrichment.

You know, so I think what happened was there were some delays, there were some
slowdowns but the Iranians are very clever engineers and they managed to figure
out what was wrong.

And I think that's one of the reasons, Dave, that we've seen this Stuxnet virus
introduced over the last few months into the Iranian nuclear facility, because
they realized that the sabotage hadn't worked. And in fact, the sabotage, you
could argue, backfired by providing Iran with these vacuum pumps, with these
electronic regulators that they needed.

You know, and so we gave them, essentially, the technology. They figured out
the flaws. So then we had to find, somebody had to find, another way to try and
stop this Iranian nuclear program. And I think that's the origins of the
Stuxnet virus.

DAVIES: So for four years, the CIA monitors this, and you have this wonderful
phrase in the book. You say that the CIA was addicted to information, not
action. And they would take forever to gather more information because that's
what they're in the business of doing.

But at some point in 2003, the top policymakers decide that they will shut down
the Khan nuclear trafficking network. Why then? What tipped the balance and
made them decide it was time to shut it down?

Mr. FRANTZ: Well, I think they started to worry that Libya was getting too
close to having an actual factory up and running. And I think they were worried
that if - by this time, $100 million worth of nuclear technology had been sold
to Libya by the Khan network.

Included in that technology were working plans for a nuclear warhead that would
have been developed by China, and then A.Q. Khan had taken that over and given
it to Libya in a bag from his tailor shop in Islamabad.

And I think there was concern in 2003 that Libya was getting too close. If they
got beyond a certain point, there'd be no way to persuade Muammar Gaddafi that
he had to back away from this program. He'd be too close to the finish line to
be forced to back away. And so I think that was what finally caused them to go
from inaction to action.

GROSS: Douglas Frantz and FRESH AIR contributor Dave Davies will continue their
conversation in the second half of the show. Frantz is the co-author of the new
book "Fallout: The True Story of the CIA's Secret War on Nuclear Trafficking."
I'm Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I’m Terry Gross. Let's get back to the interview that
FRESH AIR contributor Dave Davies recorded with investigative journalist
Douglas Frantz, co-author of the new book "Fallout: The True Story of the CIA's
Secret War on Nuclear Trafficking."

The book is about how the CIA penetrated A.Q. Khan's nuclear trafficking
network but, according to Frantz, waited too long to shut it down. The agency
got a lot of its information from a Swiss family, the Tinners, who acted as
moles within the Khan network.

DAVIES: So the CIA, they had the Tinner family working for them and providing a
lot of information, and then they act to shut down the Khan network. What
exactly did they do?

Mr. FRANTZ: Well, they seized a ship in October of 2003. The ship had left
Malaysia and it was headed for Libya with five crates of centrifuge components,
actually six crates - the CIA didn't know about the sixth one - with six crates
of centrifuge components. They seized it in the Mediterranean Sea and they
offloaded these crates and they used those crates to convince Muammar Gadhafi
that he had to give up his nuclear program. And so in December 2003, Gadhafi
went on television and announced that he was giving up his ambitions to build a
nuclear weapon, and at the same time, Libya provided an enormous amount of
detailed evidence to the CIA and to MI6 about the role played by the Khan
network, by the Tinners, by people in South Africa, by people in Japan, by
other people in Europe, people all over the world, in providing this technology
to Libya. And so the CIA and other government organizations were able to use
that information and try to bring about the arrests of the known participants
in the Kahn network, with the exception of the Tinners, of course. The CIA was
still trying to protect the Tinners, and so they were trying to keep them out
of this mess.

DAVIES: Right. So they shut down a factory in Malaysia. They seize these parts.
They get Gadhafi to shut down. But then there's the matter of A.Q. Khan
himself. And you describe a fascinating moment at which George Tenet, the
director of the CIA, meets with Pervez Musharraf, I think in the Waldorf Hotel
in New York, right?

Mr. FRANTZ: Exactly.

DAVIES: What happens?

Mr. FRANTZ: Well, George Tenet pulls out, from his briefcase - they're sitting
in the presidential suit - and he pulls out, from his briefcase, the plans from
the nuclear facilities in Pakistan and he shows them to Musharraf. And he said
look, this is what A.Q. Khan has been selling to Libya. These are your plans
and he's been selling them to Libya.

And Musharraf said, in his biography – autobiography - later, he said it was
the most embarrassing moment of his life. And Tenet told him then, you have to
stop this man now. This is the hard evidence. You can't duck any longer. And so
Musharraf had to go back to Pakistan. And this was late 2003. Musharraf's power
was never really strong, and this was four years into his dictatorship, and so
things were a little wobbly for him.

A.Q. Khan, however, was a national figure. He was a revered figure in Pakistan
because he was regarded as the father of the Islamic bomb. And so for Musharraf
to go after Khan was a great political risk. He risked having the Pakistani
street go up in arms over this. And so what they did was strike a deal, where
A.Q. Khan would go on television and confess to selling nuclear technology to
Iran, North Korea and Libya and in exchange he would be pardoned completely and
placed under house arrest.

DAVIES: So under indefinite house arrest, do you believe that he has stopped
his nuclear trafficking?

Mr. FRANTZ: Oh, yeah. I don’t think A.Q. Khan is trafficking in nuclear weapons
any longer. I think he's watched far too carefully. The house arrest has been
eased and he's been able to travel around Pakistan. But he's a marked man and
he's not going to be involved in this any longer. But, I think there are
elements of his network that are still surviving. There were elements of his
network that were identified in evidence that was destroyed by the Swiss
government at the insistence of the CIA and, you know, therefore, there are
names of people who participated in this network who - that will never be made
public because of what the CIA did in the aftermath of shutting down the

DAVIES: We're speaking with Douglas Frantz. He is the author with Catherine
Collins of the book "Fallout: The True Story of the CIA's Secret War on Nuclear

We'll talk more after a break.

This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

If you’re just joining us, we're speaking with investigative reporter and
author Douglas Frantz. He is the author with Catherine Collins of a book about
the CIA's tracking of the A.Q. Khan nuclear trafficking network. It's called

So we have a situation where in 2003, the United States shuts down what it can
find of the nuclear trafficking network run by the Pakistani A.Q. Khan. He is
in house arrest. People are rested around the country. Some operations are shut
down. There's great concern that plans and documents may be floating around to
unknown parties, perhaps because the CIA had waited so long.

But there's this matter of their sources in Switzerland, the Tinners. And it's
very important for them to maintain the secrecy of that relationship. Why?

Mr. FRANTZ: Well, on the first and most important level, the CIA always wants
to protect its sources and methods, you know, and that's perfectly
understandable in most cases. You know, they want people who work for them to
feel like they’ll be protected.

The Tinners were paid an - we estimate it's around $10 million by the CIA for
their services, you know, but the biggest payoff was a promise that the CIA
would keep them out of trouble if their names surfaced in connection with the
Khan network. And, in fact, there was this fellow, B.S.A. Tahir, who was Khan's
logistics chief, and he was arrested in early 2004 as the network was coming
down. He was arrested in Malaysia and he - the Malaysian police put out a
statement, a 12-page statement of his, in which he sort of named a couple of
dozen people who had been participants in the Khan network, and among them were
Friedrich Tinner, and Marco and Urs Tinner.

And so the Swiss police in early 2004 saw that three of their citizens were
involved in the Khan network. And these were not names out of the blue for
them. Friedrich Tinner had been on the Swiss radar for a long time as a nuclear
proliferator. He'd been - they tried to charge him a couple times and been

You know, so here these names popped up in connection with the Khan network and
the Swiss police began an investigation and they ran into a stone cold
roadblock from the CIA and the U.S. government.

DAVIES: Right. It's a fascinating situation where the CIA has this secret
operation, but once it blows up, pieces of it begin to become public and people
start protecting their interests. The Malaysian government doesn't want their
little operation to be seen as the center of it, so they point the finger at
the guys in Switzerland. Others want to, you know, puff their chests and take
credit so they point out how important the Tinners were, so information begins
to come out.

And then you also have the investigation by the IAEA, The International Atomic
Energy Agency, which - it wants to look into this. But its job is to stop
nuclear proliferation so it wants to talk to these guys in Switzerland and it
all begins to unravel. And so you have people in Switzerland say we want to
prosecute these guys. We can't let them violate our laws. And the CIA - the
U.S. does what?

Mr. FRANTZ: Well, they did two things: First of all, officially, they
stonewalled them. They refused to reply to any requests from the Swiss attorney
general for help in figuring out what the Tinners had done, for any help in
helping, in allowing them to build a criminal case against them.

But second, and far more nefariously, the CIA, enlisted senior officials in the
Bush administration, including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, and FBI Director Robert Mueller, and senior
CIA officials to begin to put pressure on the Swiss government to stop this
investigation, to kill the investigation of the Tinners. So, and the argument
there from the U.S. was that this will jeopardize ongoing intelligence
operations. Well, you know, that's a difficult hurdle to overcome. Nobody wants
to be accused of damaging ongoing intelligence operations.

But that was only one of the motives. You know, the CIA also wanted to protect
six of its own agents who had broken into Marco Tinner's house and office and
who had recruited the Swiss citizens, and that's illegal in Switzerland. They
violated Swiss law.

DAVIES: Right. And so you had this big debate over whether these, the Tinners,
will be prosecuted. They've been arrested. Their offices has been searched and
there is an enormous store of materials that the Swiss police have seized from
the Tinners, and it has all of these plans for centrifuges and for nuclear
weapons designs, as well as information about suppliers and billing and
invoices and tracking and meeting and all this stuff. And the question is A,
will these guys be prosecuted, and B, what will happen to all that information?
What happened to it?

Mr. FRANTZ: Yeah. Yeah. Well, the U.S. - the first U.S. demand was that all the
information be turned over to the United States government, and that was not
going to work. The Swiss - there was no way the Swiss were going to do that.
The Swiss are, we should remember, traditionally very neutral. And so that's
one of the reasons they took this CIA violating their law by recruiting their
citizens and breaking into property - that's one of the reasons they took it so

There are some countries where you can get away with that. Switzerland is not
one of them. But there was nonetheless, there was a very strong fight within
the Swiss government in which there were elements of the Swiss government that
wanted to cooperate with the Americans because they were worried that
Switzerland would be embarrassed by this. That the Americans, the threat, the
veiled threat, delivered by Condoleezza Rice and other American officials, was
that if you don't help us stop this and if you don't destroy this information,
it's going to look like Switzerland is an obstacle to the worldwide counter
proliferation fight. It's going to look like Switzerland wasn't doing its job
to stop the Tinners for years and years.

You know, so there was an element in the Swiss government that wanted to go
along with the Americans. And then there was another element that wanted to
prosecute the Tinners and wanted to prosecute the CIA agents, and wanted to see
this information become public so that the world would, in fact, know how
dangerous things were.

DAVIES: So what happened to all that information in the end?

Mr. FRANTZ: Well, in February of 2008, they gathered all this information at
that the Swiss federal police headquarters. The amount was truly staggering.
There were hard drives from 90 computers. There were 6,000 CDs, hundreds of
thousands of pages of those financial transactions you mentioned. There were
designs for nuclear warheads. There were blueprints for enrichment plans. There
was, in total, 1.9 tons of paper, 1.3 terabytes of digital information. It's an
enormous amount.

It took two days in late February of 2008 to destroy this information. Under
the watchful eye of this CIA station chief and of two people from the IAEA, the
Swiss officials, they shredded the written material, they drilled out the hard
drives, they smashed the hard drives, and then they took everything in vans to
a commercial incinerator and they burned it, and they made it all go away and
the CIA thought this was a big victory.

And we had a very interesting scene at the end of that destruction. The CIA
station chief and the other Swiss officials are gathered in a room, the
destruction is completed, and the Swiss police official who had led the
investigation of the Tinners and of the CIA agents, spoke about the American
pressure. And he said, this is a very sad day for me, today. I thought I lived
in a democracy, yet in a real democracy the political decisions are kept away
from the police investigations. This Switzerland is a banana republic now.

You know, so there was certainly heartbreak on one side, that Swiss law had
been suborned.

DAVIES: If you’re just joining us, our guest is investigative reporter Douglas
Frantz. He is the author, with Catherine Collins, of a book about the CIA's
tracking of the A.Q. Khan nuclear network. It's called "Fallout: The True Story
of the CIA's Secret War on Nuclear Trafficking."

So the CIA and the American government were successful, it appears, in shutting
down the prosecution of the Tinners, their sources, who had participated in
nuclear trafficking. They got all this information destroyed.

But since your book was written, there have been new developments. I mean I
guess a regional police official now may actually bring these folks to trial
and - is that the case?

Mr. FRANTZ: Well, yes. It is the case. There's last, let's see, two weeks ago
now, I think it was on December 23rd, Andreas Muller, who is a Swiss
magistrate, announced that he had filed a 174 page report, with the Swiss
attorney general, recommending charges against the three Tinners for selling
nuclear equipment to Libya.

Now we have a lot about Andreas Muller in his investigation in our book. What
Andreas Muller did was he came into this case a month after the evidence was
destroyed and he began in the most dogged way imaginable, to try and
reconstruct this case. They found 39 files that were mysteriously and rather
miraculously left in a storage shed and hadn't been - in a storage shelf and
hadn't been destroyed. He's been all around the world searching for additional
information to try and re-create the case against the Tinners.

His mandate did not allow him, he was forbidden to investigate anything related
to the CIA agents. But nonetheless, he has recommended that the attorney
general bring a case against the Tinners.

If the Tinners go to trial - if this recommendation is filed and they go to
trial, you know - all of this could come out in the open eventually which would
be absolutely fascinating.

DAVIES: You know, another lingering question is whether or not the A.Q. Khan
network had a customer, perhaps a government that we know about or a terrorist
network. And you mentioned in the book that there are some indications that
that may have happened. Can you give us a sense, is the material that's missing
and unaccounted for that could have gone to some, you know, unknown actor?

Mr. FRANTZ: Yes. And yes. There is a considerable amount of material that's
missing. There are tool and dye machinery - it's tool and dye machinery that
can be used to build centrifuges. There are measuring equipment. There are
about at least four crates worth of material that just disappeared. Nobody
knows - nobody knows where they went. They packed up a whole shop in Dubai and
closed up it overnight and that material disappeared. It didn’t wind up in
Malaysia. It just disappeared, you know, so it’s out there somewhere.

Is there another customer? Is it a state or is it an organization? We just
don't know. I mean, you know, we offer some possibilities, a sort of list of
usual suspects in the book. I mean Saudi Arabia has at times over the years
dipped its finger in the possibility of a nuclear, developing nuclear weapons.

We know that Syria had, in fact, at least one nuclear facility under
construction until it was bombed into oblivion by the Israelis into 2007. And
there are indications that the Syrians have been continuing to dabble and that
they have blocked the IAEA from thorough inspections there, you know. So there
may be another customer out there. We just don't know.

And that's one of the reasons why it’s so, such an anomaly that the United
States government has never insisted on questioning A.Q. Khan. Never. We’ve
given the government of Pakistan about $13 billion since 2001 and you would
think that would buy us some access to A.Q. Khan to try and find out from the
man who knows where that equipment went and exactly how much information he did
sell to Iran and to other countries, but we've never asked the question.

DAVIES: Well, Douglas Frantz, it's been interesting. Thanks so much for
speaking with us.

Mr. FRANTZ: Thank you very much. I appreciate it.

GROSS: Douglas Frantz spoke with FRESH AIR contributor Dave Davies. Frantz is
the co-author of the new book "Fallout: The True Story of the CIA's Secret War
on Nuclear Trafficking."

You can read an excerpt on our website,

Coming up, jazz critic Kevin Whitehead reviews a retrospective box set of
recording by composer and saxophonist Henry Threadgill, and a recent Threadgill

This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)
Fresh Air
12:00-13:00 PM
Henry Threadgill's No-Groove Groove


Our chats critic Kevin Whitehead says that saxophonist and flutist Henry
Threadgill has been a major composer and a conceptualist for over 30 years. He
threads together musical strains from America's past and all over the globe in
diverse bands like Air, the Threadgill Sextextt, Very Very Circus and Zooid.
Henry Threadgill has a couple of recent releases out, including a box

Kevin has this review.

(Soundbite of song, "Weeping Willow Rag")

KEVIN WHITEHEAD: The trio playing Scott Joplin's 1903 "Weeping Willow Rag." Air
was a flagship of the 1970s avant-garde, but saxophonist Henry Threadgill,
bassist Fred Hopkins and drummer Steve McCall first came together to play
Joplin's piano music. They preserved his rags' multiple themes, but swung them
in a modern way. That blend of the new and recycled is typical Threadgill. With
Air, he sometimes played hubkaphone - a rack of vintage hubcaps - and could
make it sound like a giant African thumb piano.

(Soundbite of music)

WHITEHEAD: This music is from Mosaic' eight-CD box set, "The Complete Novus and
Columbia Recordings of Henry Threadgill and Air." It spans 1978 to '96, with 10
albums' worth of stuff, plus unreleased tracks by his quixotic band X-75, with
its four reeds and four basses.

(Soundbite of music)

WHITEHEAD: In the 1980s, Threadgill led his most fondly remembered group, his
seven-piece so-called Sextett, with the two drummers counted as one. It
typified midsize '80s bands that combined big-band punch with small-group

(Soundbite of music)

WHITEHEAD: Frank Lacy on trombone.

Henry Threadgill loves a good march, like other jazz progressives who served in
the Army. Marches, like ragtime, influenced early jazz as well as his own
multi-part compositions. But with the sextet, he reached back still further, to
the old-folks-at-hominess of 19th-century parlor songs. Threadgill's "Spotted
Dick Is Pudding" sounds like Stephen Foster with a disorienting twist: The main
theme keeps coming back in a different key.

(Soundbite of song, "Spotted Dick Is Pudding")

WHITEHEAD: Henry Threadgill's more recent bands draw connections across
cultures as well as time. In his '90s outfit Very Very Circus, two pumping
tubas hinted at New Orleans parade bands, while two electric guitars
intertwined as in African pop. But that group could shuffle like a Chicago
blues band, and Threadgill on expressively raw alto sax might channel his inner
Jackie McLean.

(Soundbite of music)

WHITEHEAD: In the '90s, Threadgill kept expanding his frame of reference,
drawing on Venezuelan hand drumming and South African accordion music
influenced by Indian drones. In this pan-global context, J.T. Lewis' reggae
drumming in "100 Year Old Game" barely sounds exotic.

(Soundbite of song, "100 Year Old Game")

WHITEHEAD: The quintet, Make A Move, from the final 1996 session in Mosaic's
Henry Threadgill box.

If that bonanza weren't enough, he also has a new recording out, "This Brings
Us To, Volume 2," with his current quintet Zooid. In the late '90s, Threadgill
began spending time in India, and Zooid's rhythmic interplay and slippery lines
suggest a link to sitar-and-tabla Indian classical music. But you can also
trace the orderly collective improvising back to old New Orleans: The tuba's
still there alongside the leader's saxophone and flute. But the no-groove
groove is Threadgill's own. I don't know anyone whose bands ooze through time
the way his do. Even when you hear where he's coming from, he still comes at
you sideways.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: Kevin Whitehead is a jazz columnist for He reviewed "The
Complete Novus and Columbia Recordings of Henry Threadgill and Air" on the
Mosaic label. And this us to "Volume 2" by Threadgill and Zooid on the Pi

You can download Podcasts of our show on our website,

I'm Terry Gross.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: On the next FRESH AIR, investigating how U.S. guns end up in Mexico's
drug wars.

We talk with James Grimaldi, one of the reporters who has contributed to the
Washington Post series of "The Hidden Life of Guns."

Join us for the next FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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