Manhattan Project

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Feb. 15 2004 6:51 AM

Manhattan Project

The Washington Post leads with the latest bulletin from the inspectors dismantling Libya's nuclear-weapons program: proof that China supplied Pakistan with bomb designs in the 1980s. The Los Angeles Times leads with, and the others front, the daylight guerrilla assault on a jail in Falluja, which killed more than 20 and freed as many as 100 prisoners. The New York Times leads with an examination of its own city's aggressive effort to train and equip police and health workers for a biological or chemical attack.

The bomb blueprints that Libya surrendered to inspectors were stashed in the white shopping bag of an Islamabad haberdasher (the "Good Looks Tailor"), but they were written in Chinese and based on a weapon tested by China in the 1960s. (Pakistan's own nukes are based on a more modern design.) The inspectors, who have already tied Libya's centrifuge parts to Pakistani designs (see Jan. 24's "TP"), said the Chinese blueprint would have produced a usable weapon, but one too heavy for Libya's small missiles. A former inspector tells the Post that Iranian and North Korean missiles could carry such a bomb. (Al-Qaida, of course, would need only a pickup truck.) "Investigators" assert that Iran has similar nuclear technology to that found in Libya, suggesting a similar origin. The Post notes that the documents from Libya confirm U.S. intelligence's long-standing belief in a China-Pakistan connection in the 1980s. Experts believe that China has since stopped sharing.

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The Falluja jailbreak killed at least 15 Iraqi police officers, four guerrillas, and several civilians, and wounded 30 to 40. The papers note that well over 100 Iraqis have been killed in the past week. The NYT, quoting a "senior occupation official," reports that three of the killed guerrillas may have been foreigners, and that the attackers may have had inside help. The objective may have been to free Iranians that were rumored to have been captured by Iraqi police several days ago. The Post adds that the guerrillas took cover behind barricades designed to stop suicide bombers.  

The NYT's terror-prep feature reveals that New York City officials: are developing automated air samplers capable of detecting 100 pathogens within 45 minutes; have already installed 10 samplers that can detect 15 pathogens after a 24-hour-long lab analysis; already use more than 700 radiation detectors, sometimes at traffic checkpoints and sometimes on parked cars; have distributed 100,000 anti-nerve-gas auto-injectors (similar to those carried by U.S. troops during the Iraq invasion) to hospitals and EMR technicians; intend to train 10,000 police officers in biological and chemical emergency response by the start of the GOP convention; plan to give top-secret security clearances to some health department managers; and have developed contingency plans to distribute emergency medicine from 200 sites around the city. The article also notes that the city has dragged its feet in developing rules to coordinate simultaneous police and fire department response, and has left the position of emergency management director vacant since October.

From deep inside the Post comes word that the U.S. has launched a satellite TV network from Beirut, a kind of Radio Free Europe for the Arab world called Al-Hurra, or "The Free One."

The Post's editors chastise Maryland public school administrators for offering students early dismissals, passes on homework, and credit toward volunteer requirements in exchange for participating in a rally at the state capitol supporting higher school budgets. "If attending a rally for public school funding is good for school credits," they ask, "what about participating in a rally for slot machines at racetracks or in casinos?"           

The NYT's "Word for Word" column excerpts a 2001 brochure written by Pakistani nuclear whiz—and pardoned proliferator—Abdul Qadeer Khan, in which he recounts how he procured equipment from suppliers he had worked with as a physicist in Holland:

The Western world ... literally begged us to buy their equipment. We bought what we considered to be suitable for our plant and very often asked them to make changes and modifications according to our requirements. ... One should realize that all this equipment had a thousand and one uses in other disciplines. ... The Western world was fully aware of [the engineering challenges] and was sure that an underdeveloped country like Pakistan could never master this technology. We proved otherwise.

Pakistan says that Khan's proliferation ring extended to six scientists in his lab, currently imprisoned without trial. Two days ago the Financial Times reported that their relatives have accused the government of scapegoating the scientists to cover up the military's complicity in selling nuclear technology.  

The NYT offers up a lengthy correction to Peter Landsman's recent magazine article on sex trafficking. The paper's ombudsman, meanwhile, says he is still reviewing the piece. To read the Slate series that helped provoke the Gray Lady's second-guessing, click here.

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