The NY Times reported Sunday on some steps that the U.S. has taken to help secure nuclear weapons in Pakistan. The story is good, as far as it goes . . .
U.S. Secretly Aids Pakistan in Guarding Nuclear Arms
By DAVID E. SANGER and WILLIAM J. BROAD
The New York Times
WASHINGTON, Nov. 17 — Over the past six years, the Bush administration has spent almost $100 million on a highly classified program to help Gen. Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan’s president, secure his country’s nuclear weapons, according to current and former senior administration officials.The real point of the story supposedly is this:
Debate is growing about whether an American classified program has done enough to help protect Pakistan's nuclear weapons.Actually, even the story indicates that the debate took place a few years ago, and it's not at all clear that it's growing, but I digress . . .
The article spends quite a lot of time focusing on the PALS or failsafe code safeguards (that of it as a PIN number that prevents nuclear weapons from being used by unauthorized people), and the fact that the administration debated giving the technology to Pakistan. They ended up deciding not to, supposedly for legal reasons.
Not to defend the decision, but the story doesn't explain that if you understand that technology, it's possible that you could use that knowledge to defeat similar systems in American and Russian weapons. As for the argument about the law preventing it . . .
While PALS systems are important, and something similar should be part of any nuclear device, the presumed lack of those safeguards are only a small part of the overall problem posed by Pakistan's nuclear program.
In fact, the bombs themselves are only the most obvious part of the problem. In the meantime, a good portion of the money given to Pakistan has clearly not been spent as intended. But you probably expected that.
Not the least thing that's interesting about the story is the revelation that the NY Times has been sitting on the information about the secret training aid and Failsafe coding debate (and presumably much more) for several years, supposedly because the administration feared that the stories would harm efforts to secure the weapons. The speciousness of that argument is matched only by their reasoning for printing it now. The newspaper's position basically boiled down to, We're only going to report on this when there's nothing anyone can do about it.
But read the story yourself:
Eventually, you'll read stories that everything is fine because there are contingency plans to secure the warheads if all else fails. Those plans are great as book plots - yes, I speak from experience - but they're poor substitutes for national policy.