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How could a mediocre technologist shake the world?

The short answer is by his audacity coupled with intelligence failures and high-level infighting in the US government.
A low-paid postal inspector in the early 1960s, Khan went on to become the most notorious black marketeer ever. He did it mostly on guile. American, European, and Asian companies dealt with his numerous front companies set up expressly to beg, borrow or steal nuclear technology.

How he did it is made abundantly clear in three current books:

We quote Levy and Scott-Clark:

  • "Khan did little to hide his translating, copying, and photographing of the plans, scribbling data in a black notebook that his coworkers grew to know well. It was these designs that he provided first to his own country and later to others."
  • "There are plenty of ideologues, thinkers, and Islamic strategists working precisely towards that [nuclear] goal, and here is a regime in Islamabad that has no hard and fast rules, no unambiguous goals or laws, and no line that cannot be bent or reshaped."

Armstrong and Trento illustrate the high-level infighting in the US Administrations beginning in Carter's time [when Khan became known for what he was and is] and continuing without interruption until 2003, when Khan was finally exposed. Frantz and Collins include the Libyan thrust into nuclear weaponry in vivid prose.

If Khan looks like a sociopathic mole, he may well be. He may also be motivated by an "out-sized ego" indicative of low self esteem. That would fit his marital problems. Whatever that situation, Khan could yet go down in history as the most "important" personage of the 21st Century.

There is precious little here to be hopeful about. If humanity cares about its own future, it will deal with this issue openly, completely, and permanently.

Otherwise it is only a matter of time until people in this polarized world wake up
over breakfast to mushroom clouds of terror.


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