In 1988, Pakistan would detonate its first atomic bomb.The Reagan White House cold warriors wanted Pakistan's cooperation in the clandestine war the U.S. was fighting against the USSR in Afghanistan at any cost. The non-proliferation forces took a longer view and considered the proliferation of nuclear weapons to unstable third-world nations too high a price to pay to keep Pakistan totally supporting Charlie Wilson's War.
Former Dutch Prime Minister Ruud Lubbers has said that the CIA was monitoring Khan from the beginning. He asserts that the US turned down offers to detain Khan in 1975 and 1986 because they wanted to “gain more information” about the scientist’s activities.
Intelligence information later showed that the US and its allies allowed Pakistan to clandestinely acquire most of the technology for its nuclear program from abroad, unwittingly facilitating the spread of nuclear weapons technology to Iran, North Korea and Libya over the past several decades. [Snip]
In 1985—following the arrest of a Pakistani agent in the US who attempted to procure specialized switches for nuclear detonators—Congress took steps to prevent Pakistan from developing nuclear weapons, passing bills that would cut off economic and military aid to Pakistan if it were found to be involved in nuclear activities.
One amendment declared that all overt aid to Pakistan—which came to over $4 billion in 1986—must cease unless the President certified annually that Pakistan did not possess a nuclear device. Another prohibited aid to any “non-nuclear” nation found to be illegally exporting nuclear materials from the US.
Given Pakistan's proliferation activities, this meant the ongoing aid to Pakistan was illegal. However, President Reagan wanted military and economic aid to continue flowing to Pakistan to ensure its ongoing support of his covert war against the Russians in Afghanistan.
More important, in my opinion, is that the (mostly) Republican super-hawks, who had never accepted the idea that Nixon did anything to cause his resignation in the face of almost certain impeachment, were reinforced in their belief that Congress was a major barrier in the way of their efforts to "defend" America from its enemies. That justified their efforts to avoid Congressional control - at "any cost."
This same group, many even the same individuals, were utterly shocked that somehow the Democratic hick from Arkansas got elected President in 1992, setting off the perpetual war to remove him. Again, this was worth "any cost." When the impeachment failed, they got George W. Bush to run for President in 2000 and eliminated any other candidate - again at "any cost." Ask Sen. McCain.
That set of attitudes, together with the combination of voter suppression and an extra-Constitutional Florida election decision by the Supreme Court has given us the current Bush White House.
This story is one more building block in the sad structure of failures that characterizes the last six years of the Bush/Cheney regime.