Author Biography

Molly MacCalman is a researcher with the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START). She has over a decade of experience working on international security and development issues in countries such as Afghanistan, France, Bangladesh and Mozambique. She holds a Master’s Degree in International Policy Studies from the Monterey Institute of International Studies (MIIS).


Subject Area Keywords

Nonstate actors, Nuclear weapons and nonproliferation, Pakistan, Science and technology & security, Weapons of mass destruction


Abdul Qadeer Khan, widely viewed as the father of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program, was arrested on January 31, 2004 for his key role in the black market sale of nuclear technology and equipment to Iran, North Korea, Libya, and possibly others. A.Q. Khan’s nuclear smuggling network prospered throughout the 1980s and 1990s and was linked to middlemen and businesses in over 20 countries. The network offered buyers a menu of both technical expertise and materials with prices ranging from millions to hundreds of millions of dollars. The Khan network was ultimately exposed largely due to years of intelligence gathering by the United States and the United Kingdom. However, very few of the network’s members have been successfully prosecuted and the demand for nuclear material by both state and non-state actors continues. The exposure of Khan’s network confirmed that a non-state actor could procure and sell a turnkey nuclear weapons program to willing buyers.


This work was supported by Sandia National Laboratories, Contract #1525332. Any opinions, findings, conclusions and recommendations in this issue are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect views of Sandia National Laboratories or the U.S. Department of Energy.


Editor’s Note: This article forms part of a series of related case studies collected in this Special Issue and should be viewed in the context of the broader phenomenon of complex engineering by violent non-state actors. Readers are advised to consult the introductory and concluding papers for a full explanation and comparative analysis of the cases.

Recommended Citation

MacCalman, Molly. “A.Q. Khan Nuclear Smuggling Network.” Journal of Strategic Security 9, no. 1 (2016): 104-118.
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Journal of Strategic Security