U.S. tracking network of Pakistani scientist

CIA chief tells senators about threat from spread of nuclear technology

February 17, 2005|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

WASHINGTON - CIA Director Porter J. Goss told Congress yesterday that the United States is making a renewed push for access to Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan and acknowledged that U.S. intelligence agencies have yet to identify and eradicate some pieces of Khan's proliferation network.

Goss said efforts to get information from Khan were under way "virtually as we speak," and "we have not got to the end of the trail" in unraveling the scientist's vast international web of nuclear suppliers.

Goss did not disclose details of the requests for information from Khan or whether there had been a response from the Pakistani government, which holds the scientist under house arrest and has rebuffed previous requests. Khan has admitted selling nuclear secrets to Libya and other countries.

The spread of nuclear technology was among security threats Goss highlighted during his first public appearance since replacing George J. Tenet as CIA director last year.

In testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Goss and other top intelligence officials warned that al-Qaida and other terrorist groups continue to pursue plots targeting Americans; that Iran and North Korea pose daunting challenges; and that Iraq has become a recruiting and training ground for an anti-U.S. Muslim militants.

In other testimony, FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III and James Loy, who has been acting secretary of Homeland Security, said al-Qaida and other groups remain focused on carrying out attacks in the United States.

Goss defended the CIA's handling of detainees, saying that "interrogation is a main stream of information" in the war on terrorism, but he insisted that the agency does not engage in torture or deliver suspects to other countries "as a cute way of end-running" laws banning mistreatment of prisoners.

Goss was particularly cautious on North Korea, which declared last week that it had nuclear weapons and was pulling out of diplomatic talks about its program. When asked to expand on a 2002 CIA assessment that North Korea had enough plutonium for one or two bombs, Goss would say only that "they have a greater capability than that assessment. It has increased since then."

On the war in Iraq, Goss referred to militants taking part in the insurgency as a "potential pool" for terrorist networks and cells that could scatter to other countries.

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