stories told by Black-water Agent
We were all wondering what Pakistan’s plan was for its nuclear warheads. We knew it had 76 enriched uranium warheads with 5 – 25 kilotons of explosive yield each. We also knew it was working on plutonium fissile materials and had well over 100 tons of raw uranium buried in the hills of Baluchistan. It was a God-awful mess of reckless development.
We knew Pakistan wasn’t afraid to hand off its warheads to some of our worst enemies, and the country had already sold nuclear secrets for oil, gas, and economic trade agreements to North Korea, Iran, Syria, Libya to name a few. The Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence agency, which uncharacteristically and unexplainably oversaw the country’s nuclear program, was also growing increasingly cooperative with China. We felt there was much reason for concern over Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program.
In November 2004, I was given a series of briefs over a three-day period by former Senior Pakistani Military Officers. These men were educated, well traveled, and religious in their beliefs, family oriented and professionally respectful toward everyone in our group. Some unpolished, but very knowledgeable British and American scientists also attended the briefings. The former Pakistani officers conducted a brilliant briefing about Pakistan’s Nuclear Program since it’s inception in the 1970s and made very pointed statements about the ISI’s exclusive control of the country’s nuclear arsenal and its dangerous habit of recklessly moving nuclear warheads.
The briefing also included details of a Pakistani nuclear scientist’s visit to Afghanistan to consult with Osama bin Laden, the Al-Qaida terrorist network and the Taliban-controlled government of Afghanistan of the late 1990s that was orchestrated, planned and executed by Pakistan’s ISI. The General also mentioned China’s now-growing cooperation with the ISI in the advanced production of lighter plutonium warheads for miniaturization and fitment on Chinese missiles made from stolen US and British technology. Plutonium weapons are lighter and have a higher explosive yield than weapons based on enriched uranium, which have been the mainstay of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program. Those weapons are now showing signs of decay due to purity contamination in the early stages of the uranium enrichment processes. By the time we heard this, everyone in the room was silent. The briefing had hit a deep nerve.
I intervened and asked, is it not the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission’s right and duty to oversee the nuclear power development in Pakistan? Also, why would an intelligence services organization like the ISI be in the business of massing a nuclear arsenal? Is it not the central government’s job to ensure that any nuclear energy program is managed and operated by its country’s qualified personnel?
The room went silent again and everyone started shaking their heads in approval, except the Pakistani military officers giving the briefing. They were looking at me and nodding their heads in disapproval. But I understood people from this region of the world usually shook their heads from side to side whether they agreed or disagreed. I was understanding of the culture and bodily gestures they commonly express. The highest ranking officer, Brigadier General Naseer, looked out at our group and was about to say something when one of the American scientists stopped him and stated that he would take it from there.
The American scientist was a nuclear weapons expert and was employed by the Department of Energy. He looked a bit scraggly—long hair, a beard, slacks and a short sleeve shirt. He said: “ I understand that all of you here have been selected by our government to attend this briefing. You all have impeccable credentials and are unusually skilled in specific areas of your profession. We’re all grown men, and I’m going to fast forward a bit here and get to the heart of a very sensitive matter.
“Last week, an elite team of Navy SEALs attached devices to the hull of a luxury yacht off the coast of U.A.E. and
deployed powerful miniature surface water devices that enhanced eavesdropping. On board were three high-ranking Pakistani ISI general officers with Iranian officials to discuss the sale and transfer of nuclear arms to the Islamic Republic of Iran. Furthermore, it has been leaked through a Saudi Arabian official, many years before—whose identity is anonymous—that Saudi Arabia has already made a purchase from the Central Government of Pakistan for 13 enriched uranium nuclear warheads in a long-term oil-for-arms deal. The three ISI officials, who have been identified, are in charge and in control, by succession of Rank and Authority, of various sites that store these warheads and are rouge profiteers conspiring to make the sale and transfer without Pakistani government knowledge.”
“What has been discovered thus far is that the movement of the enriched uranium warheads may occur within the next three to six months, or when there is an event within the country or region that would warrant authorized movement of the warheads from the highest level of Pakistani leadership and power. It is most likely at that time, the ISI General Officers would move three warheads into the possession of Iranian handlers”.
An American General Officer and two company personnel came into the room, and the Pakistani generals along with the American and British scientists were escorted out. The lights were turned on, and my group all filed into another room. We went to lunch, and no one talked. But there was no doubt we could feel the energy of mind vibes at lunch. What was next, we were all thinking. We didn’t have to wait long.
It’s 2004, the US and its allies were at war in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Pakistani government is virtually in a perpetual state of economic default due to expenditures in nuclear development, increased military budgets, cuts in social and food programs for its people and a deep rooted hatred of its neighbor, India. A secret intelligence agency virtually ran everything in and out of Pakistan and killed its own leaders who were determined to either harness or diminish its power and authority, much like the Nazi Gestapo of World War II. The agency was out of control, and the ISI’s own leadership was now in the radical Muslim, “Islamic Jihadi” nuclear black market business.
Planning went into effect to locate Pakistan’s nuclear warheads that were to be sold to Iran.A large team was assembled and assigned various known routes to transport the weapons—rail, air, road, tunnels, ports. Highly sophisticated electronics with powerful penetrating x-ray, sensors, cameras, Geiger counters, radiation-exposure detectors, cellular GPRS eavesdropping devices, even remote satellite command was employed. This was going to be a huge undertaking of diligent efforts on everyone’s part to make this work like a Swiss clock.
My primary responsibility was Aviation Operations Surveillance, and I had all the resources at my disposal I could imagine. I was assigned six crack aviators with impeccable flying skills beyond reproach. These guys were the best we had to offer. There was a team of excellent technicians; all were combat-hardened, proven leaders with solid backgrounds in ethical and moral professionalism. If one of them screwed up, he admitted it, took full responsibility, and held himself to a high standard of maturity while ensuring whatever it was didn’t happen again.
Our home base of operations was in the desolate desert of Afghanistan with operational teams in Pakistan at key sites where the nukes were stored and maintained. I operated out of an airbase in Pakistan with a small fleet of Helicopters and Cessna Caravan Turboprops that were owned by the US and under the operational control of the Pakistani Ministry of Interior.
However, The exact number of planes and helicopters in Pakistan, to include their color, markings, registration numbers, interior and even the scratches or marks on the fuselage were staged just over the border in Afghanistan. In other words, for all the aircraft we had in Pakistan, we had exact lookalikes in Afghanistan that could easily intrude Pakistani Airspace at anytime.
Whenever the Pakistani Ministry of Interior, the Pakistani military, gave the US a mission in Pakistan, the teams in Afghanistan were alerted, given the Pakistani transponder and IFF codes so they could fly covertly over the border into Pakistan to scout any new evidence of moving nukes. In the meantime, the fleet that had always been in Pakistan flew the usual, day-to-day missions. Without the Pakistani Transponder and IFF Codes, our aircraft were sure to be shot down in these highly sensitive areas. We lucked out every time, and these guys never knew what was going on.
Our Cessnas were loaded with highly sophisticated ground-penetrating radar panels inside the cargo holds that emitted a lot of energy on a newly discovered frequency and band that isn’t recorded in any technical literature. We were searching for the enriched uranium signatures below ground, in buildings, on trains, in tunnels, you name it.
No Pakistani-deployed sensors ever picked up the slightest signature of electronic interrogation from our sweeps and it if it was there, we had no problems finding it. The floors and crew compartments of all our aircraft were flamed sprayed with a layer of lead to prevent exposure to the crews and sensitive equipment. The aircraft exterior control surfaces were enhanced with static wicks that dissipated electricity generated through the airframe and improved grounding discharge through landing gear contact with the earth upon landings. We went undetected.
On 8 October, 2005, a 7.6-magnitude earthquake in the North West Frontier Province struck with a destructive force never before seen in Pakistan. Some estimates put the number killed at 84,000 including 1,400 killed in China. All planes and helos we had in Afghanistan at home base immediately went into action as the US was very concerned that now was the time these rogue ISI generals would move the nukes. In addition, the Department of Energy was very concerned that a possible nuclear processing facility was leaking radiation as detected through satellite sensor readings. The Pakistani government knew about the leak, kept the information secret, and had issues getting qualified personnel to the location due to washed-out and debris-covered roads. It was a complete mess, and the Pakistanis had their pride and honor at stake for their inability to handle an emergency of this magnitude.
The Pakistani government is always claiming the need for and arguing for more and more aid and assets from the US. However, this time DOE was very concerned about Pakistan’s aging uranium enrichment processing plants, and it was a well known fact that the Pakistanis needed to bypass roads and get experts to the damaged facilities via air ASAP. The decision was made by DOE to approve funding for the purchase of six more Bell 412s through the Pacific Northwest Nuclear Laboratory. Knowing a great deal about the Pakistani Military Aviation Maintenance Programs and the caliber of technicians and pilots they possessed, this was just a Band-Aid compared to the gushing wound the services lacked.
The program manager for the company I was working for as my cover requested I immediately move air assets from the airbase where I was stationed. I communicated this request to the teams in Afghanistan, and a fully loaded Cessna Caravan landed at the airfield where I was with no issues whatsoever. The Pakistani Military understood the immediate need to get all air assets to the affected region as soon as possible. As we were en route to Qasim Air Base, all equipment was powered on and the surveillance ops were all now in full swing. I had to make a pit stop for fuel and passengers in Multan, and was soon back up and heading into the devil’s lair. Our mission this day was to actually land at Chaklala Air base and electronically interrogate a large hanger and adjacent facilities, as there were reports of a possible movement of warheads from this location.
FINAL APPROACH, MAY DAY, MAY DAY
As we entered Islamabad Airspace I made the usual calls to the tower at Qasim Airbase, gave tail number, heading, altitude, passenger and crew numbers. We were given clearance to enter airspace and as we reached the threshold between Qasim and Chaklala, I initiated an emergency call: “May day, May day! Experiencing power loss and smoke in the cockpit!”
I had tripped a simulated smoke generator, and from the tower at Chaklala Airbase, they could see we were in trouble. But Chaklala Airbase was not authorizing a US aircraft to land at Chaklala. I made another emergency “May day” call over the emergency net frequency and reported total engine failure as I oriented our flight path to the active runway on final. From our position, we could see Pakistani military vehicles scrambling on the runway to prevent our landing. I nosed it over, increased speed, turned on landing lights and proceeded with approach. The aircraft was at max gross weight, we had Pakistani military passengers and a ½ load of fuel. Off to our right, we could see the target hanger and a roadway along its side. The Pakistani troops guarding that hanger facility had mounted up in vehicles and were blocking the freaking runway.
My APR-39 was indicating a surface to air missile laser lock on the aircraft. We knew from intel surveillance that it was the French-design Crotale 2000 SAM System. By now, my pucker factor was a 10 and my co-pilot’s anal retention dropped to zero. If there was a launch, we would be vaporized.
I continued with the emergency calls: “May Day, May Day.” By now, the Pakistani Military passengers were yelling, screaming, saying their prayers to Allah. As soon as I was five feet off the runway, I applied max power on the engine, full feathered the prop and landed with the smoke generators blowing some serious smoke. I immediately steered the aircraft to the roadway next to the target hanger and reported a stuck throttle with braking difficulty. The Pakistani vehicles were all over the roadway waving us down, trying to get us back on the active, but I stayed the course and requested emergency fire vehicles. By now, we were scanning for warheads. “BINGO!” We got three major hits on the scope and the computers were recording everything in real time at the home base in Afghanistan. By the time I got to the other end of the hanger, we had the evidence we were looking for.
I brought the aircraft to a stop, killed the smoke generator, engines and stowed the landing gear light. I made communications with the tower that I was going through emergency shutdown procedures. Before I could thank all my passengers for flying with American Eagle flight 1 from Multan to Islamabad, they were already piling out, looking blue, pale and a little loose in bladder control. Now we were surrounded by Pakistani troops all pointing AK-47s at us. I felt one wrong move, and we’d cut to Swiss cheese. So I put my hands up in the air, and my crew did the same. They opened the door and had us deplane and lie flat on the ground. We were searched and a young captain walked up and asked in English, “Who’s in charge?”
I rolled my head to where he was standing and said I was. He then asked me to get up, and when I did I recognized the man as Captain Javed, a young arrogant officer who was an Aviator in Training. He immediately recognized me: “Mr. Larry! My God, man! What happened?” He ordered his troops to stand down into the low ready, and I explained we had taken on fuel in Multan and experienced engine failure before landing with a loss of oil pressure and high temperature readings from the power gearbox.
The Captain was concerned for us and stated we were in a highly restricted area that was off limits to even the Pakistani Military. He was shitting bricks when another vehicle pulled up and it was Colonel Imtaz, the ISI officer in charge of Chaklala Air base. He was more calm and relaxed and looking like the spitting image of Barney Fife of Mayberry RFD with his big bug eyes. The captain vouched for me, my credentials and crew and stated that I was an Aviation Advisor for the Department of State working as an instructor through the Ministry of Interior. Examining all my ID cards, Colonel Imtaz immediately ordered a search of the plane. (Like the Pakistani’s had any clue what they were looking at!)
Captain Javed told the Colonel all was OK, and that there were only relief supplies on board, which were our travel bags, toolbox and some boxes of aircraft oil. The passengers also were telling the Colonel that if it wasn’t for me and my Co-Pilot, they all would have died. By now my Co-pilot was telling everyone not to forget their box lunches and peanuts! Captain Javed had wanted to qualify in my aircraft, and he was a major kiss ass since I was posted as an instructor. He was always wanting to impress upon me his skills and knowledge as an aviator, but he was a marginal pilot at best.
Finally Col. Imtaz was satisfied with the search of the plane and our engine-failure story. About this time, my co-pilot, “Knuckles,” a big, corn-fed Alabama boy, says to Col. Imtaz, “Where’s the titty bar! Any liquor in this place?” Looking at Col. Imtaz, Knuckles puts this huge dip of snuff in his mouth and lets out a fart! He then reaches for his US Marine Corps K-Bar, pulls it out, and starts picking at a sore on his palm. I wanted to laugh so hard it made pee. Colonel Imtaz was fixated on Knuckles and didn’t know what to say. He looked confused, like he was thinking of a response for Knuckles. Still being surrounded by Pakistani troops, I told the Colonel, “Excuse me for a minute sir,” and took about six steps away and started to piss like a Texas jack ass.
The Pakistani soldiers were all looking at the Colonel and me. The roadway was slanted, and the soldiers started to move out of the way as the river of piss headed for them. Col. Imtaz, also looking at me, was speechless and called Captain Javed over. They walked toward the Colonel’s vehicle and were talking. Col. Imaz got into his vehicle and left the area. Captain Javed came over and said I had to stop pissing, that I was embarrassing him in front of the soldiers, who were all still in shock and staring at me. I told Captain Javed: “Dude, sorry! But I was on a freaking four-hour flight, had engine failure, made an emergency landing, and almost had my head blown off! Ya’ think I would have just pissed in my flight suit?”
Not hearing any response from Captain Javed, I looked over at him and he was staring like the rest of those morons. I finally said, “Hello, hello!” Captain Javed then ordered the troops to push the Cessna to a mooring spot right next to the hanger. Knuckles and I tied it down and got our bags. While Knuckles was talking to Captain Javed, I cycled a remote satellite transmitter that signaled we were OK and on Chaklala Airbase. I ensured the ground-penetrating radar system was completely grounded and the battery disconnected. We got a ride to the Officer’s Club and called U.S. Marine Corps Post 1, US Embassy, Islamabad for a ride ASAP. The young Marine on the other end patched me through to transportation, and our ride was on its way to take us to the safe house.
LEAVE NOW…ER, NEVER MIND
Captain Javed came over to the table where we sat and ordered coffee and tea. He conveyed to us that the aircraft had to be flown out of here by tomorrow or the Pakistani military was going to tow it. I immediately made a call to Qasim Airbase and requested a technician be transported to Chaklala to repair the Cessna by 7 PM that same day. I explained to Captain Javed that the technician had to eat dinner and would come afterward. Our tech knew exactly what to do upon arrival and made a big deal to the Pakistani’s that the work was complicated. I also mentioned to Captain Javed that I wanted to give him the rating on the Cessna and that if he wouldn’t mind accompanying me on flights to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas for the relief efforts, he would surely have enough time behind the wheel to receive the rating with no problems. His eyes lit up like alfalfa and buckwheat staring at a bar of soap. I did this to diffuse the tensions over having the Aircraft moored next to a hanger that was surrounded by troops and seemed suspicious. Col. Imtaz was also on his case to move the aircraft ASAP.
Captain Javed agreed and stated that he would get authorization from his superiors immediately. I mentioned to Knuckles that I would stay behind while he went with the driver to the safe house to shower. By this time it was approaching 7PM and the technician was escorted up to the aircraft by a group of Pakistani soldiers. I told the tech to open the engine doors and that I would get inside the cockpit to do some checks.
By this time, we had an audience, and even the security cameras all around the place were on us recording our every move. We had to make our efforts look good. The tech removed the igniters and cleaned them, replaced a gearbox pressure sensor and went through throttle checks. After about four hours, Knuckles came back, and we went through the preflight checklist, cranked the engine, prop feathering and brake checks. All comms were good, and we asked for permission to taxi to the active. The tower denied permission, and we stayed there for about 10 mins at engine idle listening to U2 and keeping our cool. We needed to get the hell out of there now.
Again I made the tower call and permission was denied. I was then instructed to power off and proceed to the Operations Center. We all just looked at each other and expected the worse. We didn’t know if we’d just been had. But I gave the hand signal for no one to talk as I felt we may have a listening device on board or worse. I did exactly as the tower instructed and looking out at the tower, we could see a lot of military vehicles there and more pulling up all the time. Were we going to be arrested? A jeep drove up to the plane and ground troops in the vicinity rushed the plane and surrounded it. I was then told by a Pakistani military officer that I was needed in the Operations Center and the crew was asked to go to the ready room of the Pilot’s office. We were being separated.
The driver took me over to Operations, and a room full of Pakistani officers was looking at me when I came through the door. I looked around and wanted to know what the problem was. A Brigadier approached and asked why I decided to land at Chaklala instead of Qasim Airbase—since Qasim was the base I should have landed at. I quickly told him, “Sir, I had to turn the troubled aircraft into the wind. I was loosing altitude and power, carrying six passengers. I was dropping like the stock market trying to keep the ship stable. Thinking quickly, I also knew you had a longer runway and emergency fire vehicles here. Which I reported and received no assistance from your fire brigade when I landed! The aircraft was full of smoke from a faulty engine oil pressure sensor that was leaking oil onto the engine, which your crews installed back at the airbase!”
The Brigadier then asked why I had pulled off the runway. “Why didn’t I stop on the active?” I asked. “I had to pull off onto the access road because your military vehicles were blocking the active, and I had to avoid a collision that surely would have resulted in a major incident, loss of life and aircraft. Furthermore, sir, the United States military and all its resources available are lending assistance to your country in a major disaster relief effort to save over a million people that have been trapped in the NWFP (North West Frontier Province)! My crew and myself have been working around the clock to repair the aircraft, move it to Qasim AB at this time and get some rest before daylight. Do I need to inform my Ambassador?”
By now all the officers were shaking their heads, “No.” Looking around, the Brigadier apologized and ordered the tower to give clearance immediately.
When I walked out of there, I was trembling with fear, and I knew I had just saved everyone’s ass. In the background was one of the ISI Generals who had made the deal to sell the nukes to Iran. He sat there listening to every word I had to say. The Brigadier actually had looked at him when I was done talking, and it was the ISI General that gave a hand signal to release us.
I got my guys on the aircraft, we mounted our PVS6 Night Vision Goggles and flew just 10 minutes to Qasim Airbase. We landed, got out of the ship and a new American crew from Afghanistan got in and flew the heavily equipped nuke hunter out of there toward the south. We quickly got into the waiting Suburban and went straight to the safe house without anyone saying a word. When we arrived, we went to our rooms, showered and went to sleep. It was a hell of a long day, but we made a major play in the discovery of the loose nukes.
THREE CARD MONTE
The next day was a day like any other day. The team assembled downstairs, and we all drove back down to Qasim Airbase to assist in the earthquake relief efforts. When we arrived at the tower, I noticed the Cessna Caravan that I usually fly that had always been based out of another airbase was there on station. We managed to pull off this three card monte because when I flew from Chaklala to Qasim, the original Cessna that we always use in country was just 30 minutes away at another airbase. When I took off from Chaklala, the other aircraft took off from the base it was pre-staged at, when I landed at Qasim, we all got off and changed crews. The new crew explained to Qasim Control Tower that they were taking the aircraft for a test flight. As they did, they flew in the direction of the replacement plane and as they passed each other, Transponder and IFF frequencies were swapped. This left the replacement aircraft returning to Qasim and the Nuke Hunter transmitting on another code and frequency that was Pakistani, back to Afghani airspace.
Captain Javed was there at the tower waiting for us and wanting to learn all he could about flying and I was happy to oblige. The relief efforts went on for over two months, and he was qualified afterward.
The mission was a complete success and all teams recalled back to Afghanistan. What we had discovered was a Boeing 737 Saudi Arabian airliner inside the hanger that was fitted for cargo use and having three enriched uranium, 25 kiloton bombs on board. The Saudis claimed to have absolutely no knowledge that the plane was theirs. But little did they know, the corrupt ISI generals were selling to the Iranians what the Saudi’s had already purchased from the Pakistanis in exchange for oil. The US immediately came forward with this information to the Pakistani and Saudi Arabian governments, including the recordings from the luxury yacht as well.
Strangely enough, the Pakistani ISI generals suddenly disappeared without a trace and were replaced within a few days of this disclosure.