Asher Karni – Nuclear Arms Smuggler

Source: Wayne Madsen Report

February 1, 2007 — As a follow up to the story below on George W. Bush’s senior staff meeting discussing Pakistani nuclear scientist and smuggler A Q Khan, Yukos chief Mikhail Khodorkovsky, and the Turks, it is important to note some of WMR’s past articles on the subject of Vice President Dick Cheney’s involvement with interests involved in the nuclear black market.

This was reported by WMR on July 31, 2005: “U.S. intelligence insiders have pointed out that the White House is using ‘Rovegate’ and ‘Who in the White House said what to whom?’ as a smoke screen to divert attention away from the actual counter-proliferation work Mrs. Wilson and her Brewster Jennings & Associates team were engaged in. The arrival of Timothy Flanigan as Patrick J. Fitzgerald’s boss is likely related to the mountains of evidence Fitzgerald has now collected to indict senior White House officials, particularly, Lewis ‘Scooter’ Libby, for criminal conspiracy in exposing a sensitive U.S. intelligence operation that was targeting some of their closest political and business associates. Libby, it will be recalled, was the attorney for fugitive global smuggler and Clinton-pardoned multi-billionaire Marc Rich, someone who has close ties to the Sharon government and Israeli intelligence. It is no coincidence that FBI translator-turned-whistleblower Sibel Edmonds uncovered nuclear material and narcotics trafficking involving Turkish intermediaries with ties to Israel at the same time Brewster Jennings and the CIA’s Counter Proliferation Division was hot on the trail of nuclear proliferators tied to the Israeli government of Ariel Sharon and the A. Q. Khan network of Pakistan.

An arrest in early 2004 points to the links between Israeli agents and Islamist groups bent on producing weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons. According to intelligence sources, this was a network that was a major focus of Edmonds’ and Valerie Plame Wilson’s work. In January 2004, FBI and U.S. Customs agents arrested Asher Karni, a Hungarian-born Orthodox Jew, Israeli citizen, and resident of Cape Town, South Africa, at Denver International Airport for illegally exporting 200 electrically triggered spark gaps — devices that send synchronized electrical pulses and are used in nuclear weapons — to Pakistan via a New Jersey export company named Giza Technologies of Secaucus (owned by Zeki Bilmen — whom the FBI has identified as a Turkish Jew who was already under surveillance by the CIA team). The cargo manifest listed the equipment as electronics gear [lithotripters used to break up kidney stones] for the Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto, South Africa. However, the initial shipment of 66 triggers did not go to the hospital but to Karni’s Top-Cape Technology of Cape Town, South Africa. Top Cape, in turn, sent the triggers to AJKMC Lithography Aid Society in Islamabad, Pakistan through Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Top-Cape ‘officially’ traded in military and aviation electronics equipment. It was during the summer of 2003, when Valerie Plame and her team — at a critical stage of their investigation of the A. Q. Khan network — were outed by White House officials Karl Rove, Scooter Libby, and at least one other individual (possibly Elliot Abrams), that Karni received an e-mail from his long time Pakistani associate Humayun Khan (no relation to A. Q. Khan) asking for 200 triggers to be sent to his Islamabad-based company, Pakland PME.

After initially attempting to purchase the devices from a sale agent in France — an attempt that proved unsuccessful when the French agent demanded a U.S. export license for the triggers because the end destination was Pakistan — Karni managed to obtain the triggers from Perkin-Elmer’s manufacturing plant in Massachusetts through Giza Technologies. Karni’s e-mail traffic to and from Khan was being intercepted by a covert agent in South Africa and being forwarded to U.S. authorities. It is not known whether the covert agent was a Brewster Jennings’ asset but it would not be surprising considering Karni was an important link in the A. Q. Khan nuclear smuggling network. By the time the initial shipment of 66 triggers were sent to Karni’s Cape Town office, U.S. and South African intelligence were already closely monitoring the transaction and the key players involved. It is also noteworthy that Karni previously worked for a Cape Town electronic import firm called Eagle Technology but was fired after it was discovered by his boss that he was making secret deals to ship nuclear components to Israel, India, Pakistan, and possibly, North Korea. Karni had been in South Africa for 20 years after arriving from Israel. His time in South Africa coincided with the apartheid government’s rapid development of its own (since disestablished) nuclear weapons program and very close military ties between South Africa and Israel.

As for Humayun Khan, the Los Angeles Times discovered that the Pakistani “businessman” had been involved in nuclear weapons smuggling since 1975 when he was engaged in business with a former Nazi named Alfred Hempel, who was the kingpin in a global nuclear smuggling network active throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Hempel died in 1989. In an interview aired by PBS’s Frontline on July 26, Humayun Khan said he never realized Karni was Jewish, stating that the Israeli masqueraded as a Muslim. However, what is clear is that an Israeli-based network, involving key neo-conservatives in the Bush administration, were attempting to speed up the clock on the delivery by the A. Q. Khan network of prohibited nuclear material to countries like Iran, thereby justifying a pre-emptive U.S. (and Israeli-supported) attack on Iranian nuclear installations. It was this network that attracted the attention of the CIA and when it realized some of the “men behind the curtain” were in the Pentagon, they had their smoking gun evidence of double dealing by Bush administration officials and their compatriots in the Sharon government.

Although AJKMC, the Pakistani company, said it merely printed copies of the Koran, U.S. investigators pointed out the initials also stand for the All Jammu and Kashmir Muslim Conference, an Islamist opposition party that supports groups allied to Al Qaeda in Kashmir. Some anti-terrorism experts believe that Osama Bin Laden may be hiding in Kashmir.A Malaysian link was also discovered in Karni’s network, which is significant in light of developments involving Brewster Jennings’ exposure by Rove and Libby. A Swiss citizen named. According to FBI insiders’, ‘wiretaps of phone calls in the Giza-Bilmen-Karni smuggling ring yielded the name Douglas Feith’, ‘the Undersecretary of Defense for Plans and Policy and one of Donald Rumsfeld’s chief advisers’, ‘and Turkish MIT intelligence members of the American Turkish Council’, ‘a lobbying group which represents some of America’s largest defense and private military contractors. Urs Tinner was arrested by German authorities in October 2004.  Tinner was accused of supervising the manfucture of centrifuge components in Malaysia. The United States demanded Tinner’s release, which led to speculation that Tinner was a U.S. intelligence asset who penetrated the A.Q. Khan network and may have been part of the Brewster Jennings operation.According to FBI insiders, wiretaps of phone calls in the Giza-Bilmen-Karni smuggling ring yielded the name Douglas Feith, the Undersecretary of Defense for Plans and Policy and one of Donald Rumsfeld’s chief advisers, and Turkish MIT intelligence members of the American Turkish Council, a lobbying group which represents some of America’s largest defense and private military contractors.

In May 2005, Der Spiegel magazine reported that Tinner was, in fact, a CIA agent. Germany announced that Tinner would be extradited to Switzerland, something that Der Spiegel reported was the result of a “deal” cut between Germany and the United States.  A February 2004 Malaysian police report named both Urs Tinner and his father, Friedrich, as principal engineers in overseeing the machining of uranium-enrichment centrifuge components at a Scomi Precision Engineering (Scope) plant in Malaysia. Friedrich Tinner, owner of a Swiss firm named PhiTec AG, was named in an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report as one of many Swiss individuals involved in shipping nuclear components to Libya and Iran. Swiss authorities had previously cleared Friedrich Tinner of charges that he shipped centrifuges to Iraq. Friedrich Tinner’s other son, Marco, owned a firm called Traco that was also reported as a supplier of equipment and services to Scomi.

If the Tinners were working for the CIA, one subject of interest for them was a Sri Lankan businessman named B.S.A. Tahir who arrived in Malaysia via Dubai in the mid-1990s. In a February 2004 speech at the National Defense University in Washington, DC, President Bush stated that Tahir was A. Q. Khan’s “chief financial officer and money launderer.” Investigators discovered that Tahir made several trips to Germany and Turkey, the native country of Karni’s spark trigger supplier Bilmen, to meet with suppliers for the Khan network.

WMR reported the following on Nov. 5, 2005:

“Undersecretary of Defense for Policy and Plans Eric Edelman has been identified as then ‘then Principal Deputy’ to Vice President Dick Cheney’s recently indicted Chief of Staff Lewis Libby. Edelman replaced Douglas Feith, the chief architect of the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans, as Undersecretary after he was given a recess appointment by President Bush to the Pentagon post. Edelman left the Vice President’s office in June 2003 to take up his post as ambassador to Turkey. However, the indictment indicates that Edelman continued to be involved in discussions with Libby after beginning Turkish language training.

According to FBI sources, Edelman used his position as ambassador to Turkey to cement a triad of weapons and drug smuggling and money laundering involving Turks, Israelis, and Americans. The CIA and US Customs Service busted one nuclear smuggling ring involving South African-Israeli national Asher Karni, a Pakistani businessman named Humayun Khan, and a Turkish Jew with strong Israeli ties named Zeki Bilmen. The smuggling network involved companies in Cape Town; Secaucus, New Jersey; and Islamabad, Pakistan. Karni was convicted by a US court for smuggling nuclear triggers to Pakistan via South Africa. The identification of Edelman in the Libby indictment as one of those possibly involved in the outing of a CIA agent and a covert company bears directly on the use of Turkey as a major facilitator in the trafficking of WMD components, particularly to the AQ Khan network in Pakistan.

An informed government insider revealed that this smuggling network and the outing of Valerie Plame and Brewster Jennings directly involved the fact that the CIA’s counter-proliferation network had accumulated a great deal of intelligence on Douglas Feith’s and Richard Perle’s International Advisors, Inc. (IAI), registered foreign agents for the government of Turkey; former House Speaker Bob Livingston’s lobbying activities on behalf of Turkey and the Cayman Islands; the lobbying activities and Pentagon ties of the American Turkish Council; House Speaker Dennis Hastert’s receipt of Turkish-Russian-Israeli heroin and nuclear smuggling proceeds in the form of campaign contributions; and nuclear smuggling money laundering in Cyprus, Dubai, and the Cayman Islands.

On Nov. 11, 2005, WMR reported the following: “New aspect of Valerie Plame/Brewster Jennings exposure revealed. According to U.S. intelligence sources, the White House exposure of Valerie Plame and her Brewster Jennings & Associates was intended to retaliate against the CIA’s work in limiting the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. WMR has reported in the past on this aspect of the scandal. In addition to identifying the involvement of individuals in the White House who were close to key players in nuclear proliferation, the CIA Counter-Proliferation Division prevented the shipment of binary VX nerve gas from Turkey into Iraq in November 2002. The Brewster Jennings network in Turkey was able to intercept this shipment which was intended to be hidden in Iraq and later used as evidence that Saddam Hussein was in possession of weapons of mass destruction. U.S. intelligence sources revealed that this was a major reason the Bush White House targeted Plame and her network.

In fact, U.S. intelligence sources report that the first shipment of VX nerve gas to Saddam Hussein was carried out between 1988 and 1989. The gas was shipped to Iraq by a U.S. company that was established in 1987 — The Carlyle Group.”

On Feb. 4, 2006, WMR  reported, “The Bush administration’s WMD claims, the original basis for invading Iraq, were discovered to have been without merit. However, Cheney and his staff, including indicted Chief of Staff Lewis ‘Scooter’ Libby engaged in what the Vice President called a ‘work up’ on Joe Wilson. That ‘work up’ also saw Wilson’s wife, a covert CIA officer who worked on WMD proliferation issues, outed by the White House along with her entire Brewster Jennings & Associates cover company network.”

On Feb. 25, 2006, WMR reported, “The White House turned over to CIA Leakgate Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald some 250 pages of e-mails from 2003 that it originally claimed were somehow deleted or lost. The e-mails reportedly demonstrate that Vice President Dick Cheney and his staff were squarely behind and coordinated efforts to discredit Ambassador Joseph Wilson and reveal the identity of his covert CIA agent wife, Valerie Plame Wilson, to the media. The e-mails are said to implicate Cheney and his key staffers in potential criminal wrongdoing involving the disclosure of Mrs. Wilson’s identity and those of her Brewster Jennings & Associates covert colleagues.

The White House said it ‘discovered’ the missing e-mails two weeks ago and turned them over to Fitzgerald. However, three and a half weeks ago, WMR was contacted by an anonymous source who claimed to have intimate knowledge of how the ‘EOP’ (Executive Office of the President) archived older e-mail and other documents. The source said that it is EOP policy to send archival documents to an underground Federal Support Center at 5321 Riggs Road in Olney, Maryland for safekeeping.

WMR passed this ‘tip’ on to those who have ‘back channel’ communications with Fitzgerald’s office with an emphasis that the anonymous source appeared to have a very good working knowledge of White House document handling and archival procedures. The anonymous source suggested that Fitzgerald and a team of FBI agents show up unannounced at the Olney facility and simply seize the e-mails in question. WMR held the information on the possible whereabouts of the missing e-mails so not to alert the White House political operatives of their existence and location.

In any event, except for some e-mails for which Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is claiming executive privilege, most of the the ‘missing’ 2003 smoking gun e-mails involving Cheney’s office have been found and these may prove to be as politically damaging to the Bush White House as the Watergate tapes proved to be for Richard Nixon.”

On March 30, 2006, WMR reported, “Speaking at the American Turkish Council (ATC) meeting this week in Washington, the American Enterprise Institute’s Danielle Pletka speculated that if Iran obtains nuclear weapons, its western neighbors are likely to follow. She said, with ‘a nuclear Iran . . . Saudi Arabia, Turkey will think about nuclear weapons, along with the smaller emirates.’ Although former Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Marc Grossman said he favored coupling the nuclear Iran issue to NATO, with, he said, ‘an Israel relationship,’ Prof. Ilter Turan of Istanbul Bilgi University contended, ‘Turkey does not fear a nuclear Iran.’ Turan emphasized that Turkey has stable relations with Iran.

In its latest edition, the German magazine Cicero is reporting that Saudi Arabia has been secretly working on a nuclear program with help from Pakistani scientists who posed at Hajj pilgrims to surreptitiously enter Saudi Arabia on Saudi-supplied aircraft between October 2004 and January 2005. The magazine also reported that Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have jointly worked on nuclear weapons since the mid-1990s and that Saudi scientists worked alongside Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer (AQ) Khan in jointly developing Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program and Saudi Arabia’s nascent program. It was Valerie Plame Wilson’s covert CIA Brewster Jennings counter-proliferation operation that was tracking the Pakistani, Saudi, and Iranian nuclear programs, including the involvement of Turkish, Emirati, and Israeli nationals in the proliferation of nuclear components. Other news reports point to Pakistan continuing to be a nuclear proliferation hub, even after the house arrest of AQ Khan.

The allegations at the ATC conference about embryonic Saudi, Turkish, and Emirati nuclear programs appear to have been confirmed by the German magazine article.”

On April 22, 2006, WMR reported:

In another development, the exposure of the Brewster Jennings team is continuing to have devastating effects on various informants involved in the A Q Khan nuclear smuggling network. One Turkish player in the network, Gunes Cire, head of Eti Elektronik, died suddenly in 2004 after his company was implicated by the Turkish Directorate General of Customs Control in the export of nuclear materials to Gulf Technical Industries in Dubai either directly or via Malaysia. From Dubai the materials were shipped to Pakistan and Libya. Another Turk, Selim Alguadish, head of EKA Elektronik and 3E Endustriyel Sanayi, was arrested in Germany for extradition to Turkey. Alguadish was linked to Urs Tinner, who was reportedly working with the CIA to provide faulty nuclear components to the Malaysian front for the A Q Khan network, Scomi Precision Engineering. Another Turk who was the focus of U.S. intelligence was Zeki Bilmen, the owner of Giza Technologies of Secaucus, New Jersey. Bilmen provided nuclear trigger spark gaps via a South African-Israeli named Asher Karni, the owner of South Africa-based Top-Cape, who then sent them to the A Q Khan network in Pakistan. With respect to Bilmen and Karni, when it was discovered that the A Q Khan network that was supplying nuclear components to Iran, North Korea, and, possibly, Saudi Arabia, had a potentially significant Israeli-connected component, the pursuit of that particular avenue by the CIA ground to a screeching halt. The CIA’s counter-proliferation work has historically suffered from exposures and interference from all the Bush administrations. In 1989, one of Valerie Plame Wilson’s predecessor’s in the CIA’s Counter-Proliferation Division, Richard Barlow, was fired after he uncovered the involvement of the George H. W. Bush administration in facilitating the A Q Khan network and Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program. The Bush administration did not want to alienate Pakistan, a key ally in the mujaheddin war against the Soviet Union. One of the individual’s involved in muzzling and punishing Barlow was then-Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney’s Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Policy — Stephen Hadley.

On May 31, 2006, WMR reported:

“On May 26, Italian police discovered the badly decomposed body of Canadian diplomat Lewis B. Miskell in a Naples sewer.  Miskell, 49, had been stabbed in the abdomen. Intelligence sources report that Miskell, who assigned to the Canadian embassy in Vienna, Austria, was the attache responsible for liaison to UN specialized agencies in Vienna. The most important UN agency in the Austrian capital is the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the nexus for nuclear talks with Iran and a significant activity surrounding the activities of the defunct Brewster Jennings Associates, the covert weapons counter-proliferation front company outed by the Bush White House. The clampdown on information about Miskell by the pro-Bush Stephen Harper government in Canada indicates that Miskell may have had an intelligence function and was operating under ‘official cover’ at the Canadian embassy in Vienna.

Miskell traveled from London to Naples on March 6 and was supposedly on vacation. He was due to return to London on March 14 but failed to show for his flight. There has been no explanation from Canada why Miskell, who was posted in Vienna, was traveling between Italy and London. There are direct flights between Vienna and Naples. Miskell was last spotted at the Naples train station. A Nigerian national named Desmond Anywi was later discovered with six of Miskell’s credit cards, which he said he found on the floor of the Naples train station. Police have not charged Anywi for robbery and there has been no explanation from police why Miskell was found with his wristwatch and other personal effects.

Computer records showed that Miskell made online inquiries about several hotels in Naples prior to his trip but did not reserve a room in them nor did he visit them. Miskell had a history of photographing “historical” sites in various countries. Suspiciously, unnamed “police” sources in Europe began spreading information that Miskell, who lived alone in Vienna, spent a lot of time on Internet chat rooms trying to meet people and stayed in the seediest parts of European cities, including the area in Naples where he was investigating hotels.

Canada has been a source of tritium, a nuclear weapons component, for Iran. The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) has been known to be lax for its sale of nuclear components to nations abroad. Miskell was posted at the Canadian embassy in Washington, DC during the mid-1990s.

In what may be a related matter, the Swiss Federal Prosecutor’s Office has complained to the United States that the Bush administration has failed to cooperate with Switzerland’s efforts to track the A Q Khan  nuclear proliferation network. The Bush administration’s multiple refusals to assist Switzerland in probing the Khan network, which was a major target of the CIA’s Counter-Proliferation Division, Brewster Jennings Associates, and Valerie Plame Wilson, was revealed by former UN weapons inspector David Albright. Switzerland arrested three members of the Tinner family — Friedrich, Urs, and Marco — for illegally supplying centrifuges from a Malaysian company to Libya. Urs Tinner has been rumored to have been a U.S. intelligence asset. Switzerland has received cooperation in its probe from Southeast Asian nations, including Malaysia and Thailand, and South Africa. All three are key transit points for nuclear materials involving Russian-Israeli Mafia assets who, in turn, are linked to top members of the Bush administration, including Vice President Dick Cheney.”

On June 13, 2006, WMR reported:

“WMR has learned from informed sources of a link between those who “outed” CIA counter-proliferation covert agent Valerie Plame Wilson and her Brewster Jennings & Associates cover firm and convicted GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff. The link centers around convicted Israeli-South African nuclear components smuggler Asher Karni, a former officer in the Israeli Defense Force and Orthodox Jew who illegally smuggled 66 U.S.-made triggered spark gap nuclear detonators, via Cape Town, South Africa, where his company was located, to the Pakistan-based network of Abdul Qadeer  (‘A Q’) Khan, a major target of Plame Wilson’s CIA team. The A Q Khan network sold nuclear materials to Libya, North Korea, and most importantly, Iran. Karni’s end-user client for the nuclear triggers in Pakistan was Humayun Khan’s import-export Pakland Corp. Humayun Khan is no relation to A Q Khan.

In a inexplicable development, after his arrest in Denver on Jan. 1, 2004, Karni was granted, over federal prosecutors’ objections, $100,000 bail by US District Judge for the District of Columbia Thomas Hogan. The government did not appeal Hogan’s bail decision and Karni was released to the custody of the Hebrew Sheltering Home in Silver Spring, Maryland. After pleading guilty to smuggling charges, Karni was sentenced on August 4, 2005 to three years in prison by US Judge Ricardo Urbina. Karni’s Turkish Jewish intermediary for the procurement of the nuclear triggers, Zeki Bilmen, owner of Giza Technologies of Secaucus, New Jersey, apparently died under suspicious circumstances in 2004 after Karni’s arrest by Federal agents. However, Giza Technologies remains in operation to this day.

WMR has learned of a link between Karni and Abramoff. Rabbi Herzel Kranz, the head of the Hebrew Sheltering Home in Silver Spring where Karni was housed after his bail, is also a colleague of Abramoff’s. The January 12, 2006 issue of The Forward contained an article citing praise of Abramoff by Kranz. At the time, Abramoff had just pleaded guilty to federal fraud and racketeering charges. Kranz praised Abramoff for donating to Jewish projects and, referring to Abramoff’s conviction, said, “people make mistakes.”

The Turkish nexus of the Karni-Bilmen-Humayun/A Q Khan smuggling network was of primary interest to both the CIA and FBI. It is also noteworthy that Judge Hogan, who dealt with the Karni case, was also the judge who ordered the FBI raid of Louisiana Democratic Representative William Jefferson’s congressional office. House Speaker Dennis Hastert, who has reportedly been under investigation for receiving Turkish campaign donations and his ties to Abramoff, strongly condemned the FBI raid of Jefferson’s office. After Hastert’s protests, the Justice Department leaked word to the media that the Abramoff scandal extended to include Hastert. Essentially, Abramoff money was being used by the Justice Department as a weapon against Bush administration critics. WMR has also learned that Abramoff’s money was also used to blackmail other members of Congress who were investigating the Israeli connection to nuclear smuggling and the A Q Khan network.

There is also evidence that some of the highly classified CIA information convicted Pentagon analyst Larry Franklin passed through American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) staffers Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman to Israeli agents attached to the Israeli embassy in Washington dealt with Iranian nuclear development and that CIA sensitive sources and methods not disclosed by the outing of Plame Wilson/Brewster Jennings were discovered in the leak of the CIA documents to AIPAC and the Israelis.”

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