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Correction to This Article
An Oct. 26 article on the Bush administration's efforts to halt nuclear proliferation incorrectly said that Greg Thielmann was the director of strategic proliferation and military affairs in the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research until 2003. Thielmann left the position in 2002.
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Unprecedented Peril Forces Tough Calls

Bush administration hard-liners, who oppose any such incentives for Iran or North Korea, deny that negotiation was involved.

"It's 'engagement' like we engaged the Japanese on the deck of the Missouri in Tokyo Bay in 1945," said one influential advocate of that view, who declined to be quoted by name. "The only engagement with Libya was the terms of its surrender."

Iran's facility in Natanz, seen in a satellite image, was the site where much centrifuge equipment was headed. A Pakistani was the supplier. (Reuters)

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Global Nuclear Initiatives: President Bush has offered a variety of alternative approaches to the traditional tools used to stop nuclear proliferation.
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Unanswered Questions

Iran was Khan's first customer, North Korea his second and Libya his undoing. What troubles U.S. and British officials today is the evidence of a fourth customer yet unknown.

One key clue is a ship that never arrived. Not long before Libya's disarmament, scientists in Tripoli placed an order for additional centrifuge parts. Because Khan's network operated through intermediaries, the Libyans do not know who was going to make the components, or where. Investigators in Washington, London and Vienna said they have been unable to learn.

A more disturbing unknown is the source of Libya's small cache of highly enriched uranium.

Most troubling are orders, invoices and manifests found in Khan's overseas records describing shipments that cannot be accounted for by known customers. U.S. and IAEA investigators have several suspects for a "fourth customer" -- officials named Syria, Egypt, Sudan, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait in approximate order of interest -- but no substantial evidence has surfaced.

The Khan network, in many ways, "is al Qaeda all over again," said one U.S. investigator. Bush said in a Sept. 30 debate with Kerry that "the A.Q. Khan network has been brought to justice." The investigator asked, "Does it matter if we get the leadership? Are the cells, manufacturers and middlemen independent? Do we really know who they are? Hard to believe this is the only one out there."

Since his televised confession on Feb. 4 -- and immediate pardon -- Khan has been held in conditions that Pakistani officials liken to "house arrest." Pakistani intelligence agents accept written questions from U.S. or U.N. investigators. They send replies at their discretion. Information obtained elsewhere, Wolf said, makes clear that Khan "is being less than fully candid."

"Khan knows too much about Pakistan's program" for Musharraf to permit unrestricted questioning, said Feroz Khan, a former nuclear adviser to the Pakistani president. "Also, he is a man of tremendous organizing ability and you never know, his services may be required again some day."

The night of Abdul Qadeer Khan's confession, Musharraf summoned editors from all over Pakistan to Islamabad. Speaking in Urdu for a domestic audience, he complained bitterly that "Muslim brothers" in Libya "didn't even ask us before giving us away," according to a translation of the transcript made for The Post.

Facing Musharraf from a semicircle of colleagues, one editor asked whether Pakistan would submit to outside demands -- for compliance with the Nonproliferation Treaty, for U.N. inspectors to see Khan's records and for an impartial inquiry into the army's alleged complicity with Khan.

"Negative to all three of them," Musharraf replied. "We will do no such thing."

Stockpiles in Russia, Pakistan

Libya's disarmament, Khan's exposure and the ongoing war in Iraq -- signature events in Bush's nuclear record -- do not address what intelligence agencies describe as the major source of terrorist risk: "the vulnerability of Russian WMD materials and technology to theft or diversion," as Tenet put it last year.

Half the world's stockpile of plutonium and highly enriched uranium is in Russia. About 600 metric tons are warehoused in some form. Of that quantity, the Department of Energy reported at the end of 2003 that 22 percent is satisfactorily secured with U.S. technical and financial assistance. The department predicted that such "comprehensive" upgrades would cover 26 percent of the stockpile by the end of this year.

Extrapolating from those figures in his first debate with Bush, Kerry said it would take 13 years to secure Russia's bomb ingredients at the current pace.

"The big gorilla in the basement is the material from Russia and Pakistan," said Robert L. Gallucci, dean of the Georgetown School of Foreign Service and a classified consultant to the CIA and Energy Department laboratories. "This is the principal, major national security threat to the United States in the next decade or more. I don't know what's in second place."

Securing the materials is laborious, expensive and dangerous work. Bush decided to let two of the major programs lapse because Russia declined to accept a change in the agreement that would shield U.S. firms from liability for worker safety.

Sen. Pete V. Domenici (R-N.M.), who asked to testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on June 15, noted Bush's emphasis on the "immense threat" of nuclear terrorism and said acidly, "I wonder if he has been advised that liability -- that the liability issue is preventing destruction of enough plutonium for about 10,000 weapons?"

The Bush administration speaks with many voices about securing global stockpiles of nuclear materials. Some of the loudest are skeptical.

"I don't believe that at this point, or for some number of years, there's been a significant risk of a Russian nuclear weapon getting into terrorist hands," Bolton said. "I say that in part because of all the money we've spent . . . but also because the Russians themselves are completely aware that the most likely consequence of losing control of one of their own nuclear weapons is that it will be used in Russia."

Bush has spoken in favor of "cooperative threat reduction programs" funded under 1991 legislation sponsored by Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.) and then-Sen. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.). He has also sought to reduce their budgets. His 2005 budget request would cut the Defense Department's efforts to secure foreign nuclear stockpiles by $41 million, or 9 percent. On the other hand, Bush has added substantially to budgets that pay for "decommissioning" old U.S. nuclear weapons. That appears to account for his assertion in the debate with Kerry that he increased spending on nuclear cleanup programs by 35 percent.

Gallucci, who held arms control posts under presidents from Gerald Ford to Clinton, said he finds himself "on the edge of saying really shocking things."

"If tomorrow morning we lost a city, who of us could have said we didn't know how this could happen?" he said. "I haven't felt like this in all the years I've been in government or the nine since I've been [out]. I am -- I don't want to say scared, because that's not what I want to project, but I am deeply concerned for my family and for all Americans."

Researcher Robert Thomason contributed to this report.

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