The United States and the Pakistani Bomb, 1984-1985:
President Reagan, General Zia, Nazir Ahmed Vaid, and Seymour Hersh

Declassified State Department Documents Disclose Internal U.S. Government Debate over Whether to Enforce "Red Lines" for Nuclear Activities in Pakistan, and Worries about an Indian "Pre-Emptive Strike"

Fears about "Upsetting US-Pakistani Relations" May Have Led State Department to Influence Outcome of Nuclear Smuggling Trial of a Pakistani National, ACDA Official Said

Department Memoranda Depict Reporter Seymour Hersh's Persistent Efforts to Acquire Intelligence Information on Pakistani Nuclear Smuggling

National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 531

Edited by William Burr

Posted - October 14, 2015

For more information, contact:
William Burr: 202.994.7000 or

Image 1
General Zia holds forth with a visiting U.S. Senate delegation: John Glenn (D-OH), James Sasser (D-AR), and Sam Nunn (D-GA), November 1984, some of whom would have a trying conversation with Munir Khan, the chief of Pakistan's Atomic Energy Commission (see document 11) (Image GO96a-08, courtesy John Glenn Papers, Ohio State University Libraries).

Washington, D.C., 14 October 2015 - In July 1984, U.S. customs agents arrested a Pakistani national, Nazir Ahmed Vaid, at Houston International Airport for trying to purchase krytrons--useful for triggering nuclear weapons—and smuggle them out of the United States Some months later, Vaid was found guilty of violating export control laws, but a plea bargain produced a light penalty: deportation. Months later, journalist Seymour Hersh wrote a major article about the Vaid case for the New York Times and quoted a U.S. government official who said that the State Department had been “blasé” about the case.

Declassified documents, published today by the National Security Archive for the first time, portray State Department officials on the defensive in their discussions with Hersh, denying his implication that the Department “had deliberately tried to soft-pedal” the case. Other officials were not so sure. Arch Turrentine, a senior official at the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA), conceded that State “may have been reluctant to push too hard … for fear of upsetting US-Pakistani relations.” According to Turrentine, “we should do better next time.”

Today’s posting thus explores important divisions within the U.S. government over Pakistani nuclear proliferation as it played out against the backdrop of the war in Afghanistan, exposing some difficult and controversial trade-offs in support of U.S. foreign policy interests. At the same time, the documents open a fascinating window into official attempts to manage outside scrutiny of a sensitive U.S. policy by one of America’s hardest-hitting investigative reporters.

Also published today are State Department memoranda about Hersh’s investigation of the Vaid nuclear smuggling case and his persistent effort to persuade reluctant officials to meet with him, to “trade” information, and to tell him whether the United States had intercepts “indicating that Vaid had been sent by the Pakistani government.”

While Hersh was conducting his investigation, the Reagan administration was having an internal debate over policy toward Pakistan’s developing nuclear capability. The debate led to a letter from President Reagan to Pakistani dictator Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, also never before published, asking for a commitment to low levels--five percent--of nuclear enrichment. Five percent would amount to a “red line” which some in Washington believed should trigger sanctions, although Reagan’s letter did not directly threaten to cut aid in the event of non-compliance.

During this period and since then, what worried top level U.S. government officials was that an unchecked India-Pakistan nuclear arm competition could unleash a regional catastrophe, although no administration has been able to do anything effective to mitigate the nuclear rivalry. Earlier postings in the Nuclear Vault have shed light on U.S. efforts to curb the Pakistani nuclear program, including entreaties to General Zia (a “superb and patriotic liar” ) to follow nonproliferation norms, the efforts to encourage other governments to block shipments of sensitive technologies to Pakistan, as well as the internal Reagan administration debates at the time of the 1987 Pervez smuggling case over how much pressure could be brought to bear on Pakistan. Through the 1980s, the war in Afghanistan had priority over Pakistan’s nuclear program and President Reagan and his top advisers did not want to take any action that would jeopardize Pakistan’s role as a conduit for U.S. aid to the Mujahadin.

Other documents published today shed light on an important phase of the U.S.-Pakistani nuclear relationship during 1984-1985 when the Vaid smuggling case, intelligence findings on Pakistan’s nuclear advances, and the dangers of India-Pakistan conflict, raised pressure to do something. Among the new documents:

  • A CIA memorandum warning that Indian leaders believed that Pakistan had enough fissile material to build a bomb and that an Indian “pre-emptive strike is a near-term possibility.”
  • Memoranda on debates within the Reagan administration over how tough a position to take, with ACDA Director Kenneth Adelman arguing for explicit threats to cut aid in event of non-compliance with limits on nuclear enrichment.
  • A record of a meeting between U.S. Senators and Pakistani nuclear authorities with John Glenn (D-OH) arguing that what Pakistan was doing was like Israel: developing nuclear weapons but “stopping short of testing.”
  • A State Department memorandum on plans to send air defense missiles to Pakistan, suggesting that despite nonproliferation concerns, Washington was not going to interrupt military assistance to that country

Except where otherwise indicated, the documents that follow were produced by a mandatory declassification review request to the Department of State for specific files of the former Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. Some documents were denied and are under appeal; many other documents elicited from the files are being coordinated for review by other agencies. More will be learned about this phase of U.S.-Pakistan nuclear relations.

Seymour Hersh's story for the New York Times on the U.S. government's prosecution of Nazir Ahmed Vaid, who was caught trying to smuggle nuclear triggers from Houston International Airport.


Document 1: Kathy Strang through Dean Rust to Lewis Dunn, NWC [Bureau of Nuclear Weapons and Control], Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, “Pakistan/India Activities During Your Absence,” 13 March 1984, Secret/ Sensitive

This memorandum by ACDA staffer Kathleen Strang illustrates Washington’s on-going efforts to use demarches to foreign governments in order to curb Pakistan’s nuclear procurement activities. An especially difficult case at the time involved the Turkish government’s position on export regulations on sensitive items such as inverters, used for operating gas centrifuges. ACDA officials were skeptical that Turkey intended to do anything and a proposed cable to seek “clarification” of the Turkish government’s position was held up in the bureaucracy.

Document 2: State Department draft telegram to U.S. Embassy Pakistan, “Demarche on Nuclear Issue,” 5 July 1984, Secret

Senior State Department officials, including Ambassador Richard Kennedy, who held the nuclear nonproliferation portfolio, wanted Ambassador Deane Hinton to present General Zia with a warning about enrichment activities. The demarche would start with good news: Washington had approved Pakistan’s request for AIM-9L Sidewinder surface-to-air missiles. Nevertheless, the security relationship and arms deliveries could be at risk unless Pakistan halted activities “that appear inconsistent” with earlier assurances that Pakistan would “not acquire nuclear explosives of any kind.” The United States had “extremely reliable reports” about Pakistani nuclear weapons design activities, including recent efforts to obtain neutron generators which could be used for a weapon and capabilities to enrich uranium. Hinton would ask the Pakistanis to “terminate …nuclear explosives development activities” and ensure that uranium was not “enriched beyond the low level required to fuel light water power reactors.”

On 21 July Ambassador Hinton met with General Zia to convey U.S. concerns about the Pakistani nuclear program (see document 4 below); the contents of any demarche that he presented has yet to be disclosed, although it may have dovetailed with this draft telegram.

Document 3: Memorandum from David W. McManis, National Intelligence Officer for Warning to Director of Central Intelligence, Deputy Director of Central Intelligence, “Monthly Warning and Forecast Meetings for July 1984,” 6 August 1984, Top Secret, excised copy

Source: CIA mandatory declassification review release

In this monthly survey of country and regional problems that could produce crises, David McManis reported to DCI William Casey that Pakistan might be able to test a nuclear device in less than a year, although “our best technical estimate suggest that production of weapons-significant quantities of fissile material will not be possible for at least two years.” Nevertheless, Pakistani nuclear activities “greatly disturb” Indian leaders and a “preemptive military strike by India is a near-term possibility.” An Indian attack would generate a Pakistani counter-strike on Indian nuclear facilities” and probable “full-scale war.”

Document 4: Arnold Kanter, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Politico-Military Affairs and Richard Murphy, Assistant Secretary of State for Near East and South Asian Affairs, to Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Michael Armacost, “Memo on Pakistan Nuclear Issue for the NSC,” 24 August 1984, with enclosure, “Responding to Pakistan’s Continuing Efforts to Acquire Nuclear Explosives,” Secret
With intelligence reporting showing that Pakistan’s nuclear enrichment activities would produce a capability to develop nuclear devices and even “stockpile nuclear weapons,” senior government officials initiated a policy review. Seeing a “stark choice” between acquiescing in Pakistan’s nuclear activities” or “terminating the U.S.-Pakistan security relationship,” they believed that either outcome would “constitute a serious foreign policy defeat.” Pakistan could end up with the bomb in any event. In 1982 President Reagan had warned General Zia that the United States would cut aid if Pakistan took certain definitive steps toward a nuclear capability, for example by assembling or testing a nuclear device. More warnings had been given in the spring and summer of 1984. Further, there was growing concern that India might take preventive action against a Pakistani nuclear capability.

Members of the Senior Interagency Group (SIG) wanted a presidential message to General Zia to express “grave concern” about Pakistani uranium enrichment activities while reassuring him of “our commitment to their security.” A specific goal was a written statement by General Zia codifying his recent declaration to Ambassador Deane Hinton that Pakistan would not enrich uranium above the five percent level (suitable for fueling reactors, but not nuclear weapons). A recent non-paper from the Pakistani said nothing about five percent and the Reagan administration wanted Zia’s written assurance that Pakistan would not cross the five percent “red line.” The agencies also wanted to issue a warning if Pakistan crossed the line, but they did not agreed on how to do that: the alternatives were various degrees of threat: warnings that transgression would “have the gravest impact,” that Washington would “terminate its security assistance program,” that it would be “impossible for us to sustain our security assistance program,” or that “I am convinced that … our security assistance program will be terminated.” The Pentagon favored language about the “gravest impact,” which the State Department had used in a previous demarche, while ACDA favored the threat of terminating aid if Pakistan crossed the “red line.” Which option, if any, Armacost preferred is not indicated on the memorandum.

Documents 5A-B: Talking Points for Justice Department on Vaid Case

Document 5A: Routing slip from Donald Koblitz [Assistant Legal Adviser, Nuclear Policy] to Kathy Strang et al., attaching “talking points” on Vaid prosecution, 29 August 1984, with edited draft attached, Confidential

Document 5B: “Talking Points for Phone Call from Deputy Legal Adviser Matheson to John Martin, Chief of Internal Security Section, Criminal Division, Department of Justice,” n.d.

These are the few documents relating to the prosecution of the Vaid smuggling case that have surfaced so far. Worried about reports that U.S. attorneys in Houston were considering a plea bargain with Vaid (see document 12A below), State Department lawyers wanted the Justice Department to ensure that he was prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Consequently, State Department lawyer Donald Koblitz worked up talking points for a telephone discussion with a Justice Department official. A key point was the State Department’s “view that the vigorous enforcement of the law in this case is important to the fulfillment of United States non-proliferation policy.” Whether that point came across to the Justice Department is unclear. In any event, ACDA and State Department officials later found that the Justice Department settled the case in ways that were unsatisfactory from a nonproliferation perspective (see documents 12A-B below).

Document 6: Kenneth Adelman, Director, Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, to the President, “Pakistan Nuclear Weapons Program,” 4 September 1984, Secret, attached reports exempted

Source: National Archives, CIA Research Tool

Whatever option Secretary of State Shultz and his advisors chose, ACDA director Adelman believed that it was too imprecise. He wanted enrichment above five percent to be added to the “red line” nuclear items which, Reagan had warned Zia, could lead to a cut-off of aid; producing highly enriched uranium was qualitatively “no different. Adelman warned that “if we use less precise language, as in the State Department draft, we run a risk of misleading Zia to expect that our assistance will continue even if he begins in effect to stockpile nuclear weapons.” Continued aid under such circumstances was not a “real world” possibility because Congress would “move overwhelmingly to end aid.” Stronger and more precise language was essential to prevent an aid cut-off and to “save our strategic interests.”

Documents 7A-B: Reagan’s Letter to General Zia

Document 7A: President Reagan to General Zia, 12 September 1984

Document 7B: “Talking Points for Use in Delivering Letter to General Zia,” n.d., Secret
In absence of the draft that Adelman was discussing it is not clear whether his argument had any impact. But if he wanted the letter to General Zia to include a specific warning about cutting aid, then the State Department carried the day. In the letter Reagan wrote of his “appreciation” that Zia had made the assurance on five percent, further stating that higher levels of enrichment above five percent “would have the same significance” as the other nuclear activities, such as unsafeguarded reprocessing which “I had personally discussed with you … and would have the same implications for our security program and relationship.” Reagan agreed with Adelman’s point that enrichment above five percent was “no different” from the other activities, but the letter did not make explicit the threat of an aid cut-off.

The Soviet war in Afghanistan, and U.S. support for Pakistan’s aid to the mujahidin, was the context for Reagan’s points on nuclear proliferation. That Afghanistan was the overwhelming priority was also evident in draft talking points that were prepared for Ambassador Hinton: Washington remained “fully committed to supporting you in our common effort.” The talking points went on at some length about nuclear issues, including the importance of Pakistani assurances and the need for Indian-Pakistani dialogue, but they included no reference to penalties if Pakistani cooperation was found wanting.

Significantly, the talking points refer to Washington’s “judgment” that it is “likely that at some point India will take military action to pre-empt your military program.” Such a possibility had been discussed in previous national intelligence estimates. Consistent with the allusion to an Indian threat, the talking points included an inducement for Pakistan to adopt safeguards on its nuclear facilities: in light of the threats that Pakistan faced, “we would be prepared to act promptly to discourage or help deter such action as you move toward safeguards.” Whether this offer, close to a security guarantee, was actually made to General Zia remains to be learned.

By late October, information about Reagan’s letter and some of the controversy over the nuclear issue leaked to the Wall Street Journal and was widely written about. The Wall Street Journal article, written by David Ignatius, included references to possible Indian preemptive action against the Kahura enrichment plant and an offer of a nuclear umbrella, but “senior officials” denied those reports.[1]

Image 1
Journalist Seymour Hersh

Documents 8A-C: Seymour Hersh on the Trail

Document 8A: Page 2 of memo of conversation between Bill Rope and Seymour Hersh, 3 October 1984, Secret

Document 8B: Memorandum to the Files by Donald J. Koblitz, “Inquiry by Seymour Hirsch [sic] Houston Export Case,” 30 October 1984, unclassified

Document 8C: Memorandum to the Files by Donald J. Koblitz, “Inquiry by Investigative Report Seymour Hirsch [sic] Regarding Houston Case,” 31 October 1984, unclassified

In relentless telephone calls to State Department officials, Seymour Hersh sought information on Pakistani nuclear procurement activities and the Vaid case in particular. Probably to avoid being targeted in any future leak investigations, those same officials wrote detailed accounts of the conversations. Hersh told William Rope, with the Office of Southern European Affairs, that he had information from the Greeks about Turkey’s sale of inverters to Pakistan, but Rope refused to discuss intelligence matters and decided to “shut [Hersh] out.” Donald Koblitz, an assistant legal adviser for nuclear policy, also refused to discuss intelligence and rejected Hersh’s offer to “trade” information, but he did say he would arrange a briefing on the Vaid affair. Eventually, the State Department prepared cleared guidance for several briefings to Hersh (See document 10A below).

From Hersh’s comments on the prosecution of the Vaid case, Koblitz received the impression that “he was implying that the Administration had deliberately soft-peddled the Vaid prosecution,” for example, the prosecution’s agreement to a gag order because of “potential sensitivities,” and the defense lawyer’s “stipulation that the Pakistan weapons program would not be brought up during trial.” Koblitz denied “soft-peddling” because the Department had a “limited role” in the prosecution.

Document 9: Letter, General Zia to President Reagan, 7 November 1984, Confidential

Writing to congratulate Reagan on his re-election, President Zia responded to the points about Pakistan’s nuclear activities. The basic stance was one of denial: “Pakistan has no intention whatsoever to manufacture or explode a nuclear device.” Uranium enrichment facilities were only for “research and fuel technology purposes,” but not to “produce highly enriched weapons grade uranium.” Asserting that Pakistan “will do nothing to embarrass your Administration,”

Zia did not mention Reagan’s request to limit uranium enrichment to five percent. Moreover, in light of India’s rejection of Pakistan’s proposals for reciprocal inspections of nuclear facilities, Zia “confess[ed] to some misgivings about the value of unilateral gestures” to further the cause of nuclear nonproliferation.

Document 10: Memorandum from Donald R. Fortier and Shirin Tahir-Kheeli, National Security Council Staff, to national security adviser Robert C. McFarlane, “Pakistan: The Next Steps [:] Breakfast Meeting Item, November 21, 1984,” 20 November 1984, Secret

Source: Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, White House Staff and Office Files, Executive Secretariat, National Security Council, Country Files, file: Pakistan 10/24/84-01/11/1985

NSC staff experts saw Zia’s letter as disappointing and wanted to “press further” to secure Pakistani acceptance of “verifiable measures,” such as a five percent enrichment threshold (mistakenly referred to as three percent) In a conversation with Foreign Minister Yaqub, Secretary of Defense Weinberger expressed dissatisfaction with Zia’s letter and officials at State and Defense were considering such steps as a “tough” reply from President Reagan and holding off notice to Congress of plans to supply Sidewinder air defense missiles for deployment on F-16 aircraft.

In handwriting on the second page, deputy national security adviser John Poindexter (who also initialed the approval for the talking points) wrote that he had “made these points” during a discussion with Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Michael Armacost. While the latter thought “we were in good shape with the earlier 3% [sic] commitment,” Poindexter “tried to disabuse him of this warm feeling.”

Document 11: U.S. Embassy Pakistan Telegram 24145 to State Department, “Nuclear Non-Proliferation,” 29 November 1984, Secret

Source: National Archives (College Park), CIA Research Tool

In late November Senators John Glenn (D-Oh) and Sam Nunn (D-Ga), and Senate staffer Leonard Weiss had an opportunity to take tough positions at a wide-ranging meeting with Munir Khan, chairman of Pakistan’s Atomic Energy Commission. To Khan’s denials of a weapons program, Glenn asserted that Zia’s predecessor, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, had “sought a weapons capability,” that Vaid’s arrest “raised serious concerns”, and that the failure of Assistant Secretary of State James Buckley to extract from General Zia “a commitment renouncing nuclear explosives” was “troublesome.” What Pakistan was doing, Glenn argued, was like Israel: developing weapons but “stopping short of testing.” Weiss raised questions about General Zia’s recent letter, Pakistani procurement of trigger mechanisms, and the need to apply full-scope safeguards to Pakistan’s nuclear facilities, among other matters.
Glenn also raised questions about a U.S. nuclear umbrella for Pakistan. Foreign Secretary Niaz Naik said that Ambassador Hinton had “mentioned” one, but Hinton, who was present, denied any such thing. Pakistani diplomat Najmuddin Shaikh defused the situation by arguing that there had been a “misunderstanding” and that other senior U.S. officials had denied that there could be a “NATO-type nuclear umbrella for Pakistan.”

Plainly the meeting did not reduce suspicions: Glenn argued that he did not “want to get in the way of improved” U.S.-Pakistan relations, but he disagreed with Munir’s claims about “disinformation” on Pakistan’s nuclear activities because Washington had “hard disturbing information.”

Image 1
Nazir Ahmed Vaid

Documents 12A-B: The Agencies Review Seymour Hersh’s Article

Document 12A: Memorandum from Daniel M. McGovern, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Legal Affairs, to the Secretary of State, “New York Times Article on Trial of Pakistani Smuggler,” 27 February 1985

Document 12B: Memorandum from Arch Turrentine, Acting Director of Bureau of Nuclear Weapons and Control, to the Director, Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, “Hersh Article on Nuclear Exports to Pakistan,” 28 February 1985, Secret

Hersh’s article on the Vaid case, “Pakistani in U.S. Sought to Ship an A-Bomb Trigger,” appeared in the New York Times on 25 February 1985. The narrative, which covered the concerted government effort to track Vaid’s efforts to evade export controls and purchase 50 krytrons, included a critical assessment of the prosecution. Government lawyers in Houston did not understand the import of documents linking Vaid to S.A. Butt, an official at Pakistan’s Atomic Energy Commission, and a State Department official acknowledged that the Department “had been too blasé about the case.” Others noted that the decisions to treat Vaid lightly would make Washington look “weak-kneed” in its enforcement of nonproliferation policy.
As would have been expected, senior officials in the administration wanted background on the Vaid case and an assessment of Hersh’s story. In his memorandum to Secretary of State Shultz, Acting Legal Adviser Daniel McGovern focused on the State Department role in the Vaid prosecution, denying that State had tried to soft-pedal the prosecution and did not learn about a gag order imposed by the federal judge until “after the fact.” Moreover, the Department was not aware of the existence of evidence linking Vaid to the Pakistani nuclear weapons organizations “until after the case was concluded.”

McGovern’s account pointed to a lack of follow-up on an important point. The Bureau of Intelligence and Research had asked the intelligence “collection agencies” to provide information to the Justice Department about the connection between Vaid and Khan Laboratories. INR did know if that that happened and was trying to find out.

Arch Turrentine, acting director of ACDA’s Nuclear Weapons and Control Branch, prepared an assessment of Hersh’s story and a critical account of the government prosecution. He found the article to be “well-researched” and “generally accurate.” As for the government’s handling of the case, “we should do better next time.” Turrentine pointed to communication failures, mistakes by the Justice Department, but also errors by the State Department: it should have applied more “pressure” on Justice, ACDA was not consulted enough and some at State “may have been reluctant to push too hard on this case for fear of upsetting US-Pakistani relations.” One consequence was that Washington had sent “the Pakistanis an erroneous signal that we are rather relaxed about their nuclear weapons program.” Another was the government’s decisions may have made it harder to get other suppliers to “take tough legal action.”

Document 13A-B: Business as Usual

Document 13A: Routing Slip dated 4 March 1985, attached to draft memorandum from Herbert G. Hagerty to Richard Murphy, “Your Meeting with Pakistan Ambassador Azim, Monday, March 4, 3:30 p.m,” with attached memorandum from State Department Executive Secretary Nicholas Platt to Robert C. McFarlane, The White House, “Scenario for Pakistan Arms Transfer Notifications,” 23 February 1985, Secret

Document 13B: “Talking Points for Murphy-Azim Meeting,” draft, n.d., Secret

Hersh’s story renewed Congressional concerns—for example, Congressman Steven Solarz (D-NY) asked Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Robert Peck about Pakistani nuclear procurement during hearings on 28 February--and Hersh’s Frontline episode on the Vaid case would raise more questions. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs Richard Murphy had scheduled a meeting with Pakistani ambassador Lt. Gen Ejaz Azim in order to lodge a demarche on the nuclear issue and on strategy for the announcement to Congress of the Sidewinder missile delivery. Whatever Murphy said to Azim it could not have been too harsh because on 5 March the administration notified Congress of its plans, outlined in Nicholas Platt’s memorandum to the White House, to supply Pakistan with 500 Sidewinders. Despite the preferences of ACDA chief Adelman and some NSC staffers, the administration was not going to use aid as leverage and limited itself to appeals for Pakistani cooperation on nuclear non-proliferation...

During a visit to Pakistan a few weeks later, Michael Armacost announced the Sidewinder package and added that he was “heartened” by Pakistan’s assurances that it would neither acquire nuclear weapons nor explode them.[2]

Document 14: Robert J. Bettaeur, L/N [Assistant Legal Adviser for Nuclear Matters] to Mr. [Edward] Djerejian, PA [Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs], “Vaid Case,” 5 March 1985, “Contingency Press Guidance” Attached

The day that the Frontline episode aired the State Department prepared press guidance in the form of questions and answers. The Department acknowledged that it preferred “appropriately stiff sentences” and stressed the importance of increasing penalties for violating the Arms Export Control Act as an alternative to legislative amendments that imposed aid cut-offs. To Hersh’s suggestion that prosecutions under the Atomic Energy Act or the Export Administration Act would have produced stiffer penalties, the Department argued that neither law was applicable.

Document 15: Memorandum from Steven Aoki, PM/NESA, to NEA/PAB H. Hagerty et al., enclosing Q&A’s on “Pakistan’s Nuclear Program,” 25 June 1985, Secret, with marginal comments

In preparation for classified testimony by Robert Peck before the House Foreign Affairs Committee State Department officials prepared questions/answers for his use. One of the questions was whether the attempt to acquire krytrons indicated that Pakistan sought to “conduct warhead testing that would make it unnecessary to actually explode an enriched uranium device to be assured that it would work.” Someone wrote “yes” on the side and partially illegible handwritten comments suggested that Department of Energy experts believed that Pakistan could have “high confidence” in its weapons technology “without really conducting nuclear tests.” To a question about the “additional steps” that the administration had in mind to deter Pakistani efforts to acquire U.S. nuclear-related technology, the answer was, as before, increased penalties. No “other changes in our procedures are necessary.”

Document 16: Central Intelligence Agency, Directorate of Intelligence, Intelligence Assessment, “Pakistan-United States: Dynamics of the Relationship,” NESA 85-10182,

September 1985, Secret, excised copy

Source: CIA Research Tool (CREST), National Archives Library (College Park)

A wide-ranging CIA report analyzed General Zia’s “gamble” on a close strategic relationship with the United States, waged in the face of broad domestic opposition which was deeply suspicious of Washington and fearful that Pakistan would be embroiled in a conflict with the Soviet Union. To keep India and the Soviet Union at bay, Zia wanted to pursue a close security relationship with Washington and secure increased aid to support military modernization. To avoid “pressure” from Moscow, however, Zia opposed any publicity for U.S. indirect aid to the insurgents in Afghanistan, although he wanted it to keep flowing to prevent the Soviets from consolidating their position.

The CIA saw Zia and the Pakistani public generally as deeply committed to a nuclear weapons capability as security against India; accordingly, if Washington cut aid to Pakistan for nonproliferation reasons, CIA analysts argued that Zia would reduce support for the resistance in Afghanistan and intensify work on nuclear weapons development. An aid cutoff could even lead to Zia’s overthrow or resignation in light of his gamble on close relations with the United States.

Document 17: “Background to the Solarz Amendment,” prepared by Libby Ward, Bureau of Nuclear Weapons and Control, International Nuclear Affairs Division, Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, n.d. [circa 1987], Secret

The lenient treatment given to Vaid and the lack of emphasis given to the Pakistan government’s role in the affair “set the stage” for efforts by Rep. Stephen Solarz (D-NY) that would cut economic and military aid when countries like Pakistan violated export control laws. Penalties would be levied when aid recipients sought to acquire “materials, equipment or technology that would contribute significantly to the ability of that country to manufacture a nuclear explosive device.” As passed in August 1985, the law included a waiver that would prevent a cut-off in the event that the president found such action contrary to U.S. security interests. As Libby Ward’s account indicated, the first test for the Solarz amendment was the 1987 Arshad Pervez smuggling case and new efforts by the State Department to instruct the Pakistanis in U.S. export control laws.

[1]. “U.S. Pressuring Pakistan to Abandon Controversial Nuclear-Arms Program,”Wall Street Journal, 25 October 1984; “Reagan Warned Pakistanis on Nuclear Project,” The Washington Post, 26 October 1984

[2] “U.S. to Supply Missiles to Pakistan,” The Washington Post, 14 March 1985.