When the history of nuclear proliferation is written, the Pakistani scientist A.Q. Khan may be considered among the scourges of our time. A hero in his home country, where he’s credited with fathering its atomic arsenal, Khan is also responsible for floating nuclear blueprints and technology to Libya, North Korea, Iran, and perhaps even terrorist groups. As husband-and-wife investigative reporters Douglas Frantz and Catherine Collins make clear in Fallout, any account of Khan’s rise would be patchy without noting the CIA’s culpability.
Despite evidence of Khan’s actions from as early as 1975, the Agency sat on its hands for decades, even going so far as to persuade allied nations not to press criminal charges, until pulling the plug on Khan’s network served US interests—or in this case, until the war on terror needed an easy victory.
“It is simplistic to blame Iran’s nuclear advances or Al Qaeda’s quest for the ultimate terrorist weapon on the failures of American intelligence,” the authors write. “But the outcome of the last thirty years could have been very different if the agency had seen the world as it was, not as its case officers and spymasters wanted it to be.”