Peddling armageddon

    This is one of the scariest guys on the face of the earth. Pakistani scientist A.Q. Khan spent a couple of decades trafficking nuclear arms technology around the globe to Iran, North Korea, Libya and who knows who else.

    Today on Fresh Air, I interview a journalist who co-wrote a fascinating account of the CIA’s efforts to penetrate Khan’s network. It’s interesting in part because of the details, like an agent code-named Mad Dog recruiting a Swiss machinist with drinks, dinners and blackmail.

    But it’s also a fascinating case of the government getting the details right and the big picture wrong, with frightening consequences.

    Douglas Frantz says the CIA did a brilliant job of getting sourced inside Khan’s trafficking network, but they failed to act on that information and shut the operation down. The agency, he say, is addicted to information, not action.

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    For four years, Frantz says, the CIA watched and monitored while Khan’s band of nuclear pirates spread terrifying technology around the globe. They finally lowered the boom in 2003, and he writes about their frantic efforts to keep their activities in Switzerland secret.

    Frantz’s book with his wife Catherine Collins is called Fallout: The True Story of the CIA’s Secret War on Nuclear Trafficking.

    You can hear the interview at 3 and 7 p.m. on 91FM. If you’re listening outside the Philly area, you can find a station here.

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