CIA concerned about potential contacts between Pak nuclear scientists and extremists: Haspel

Washington, USAUpdated: May 10, 2018, 10:50 PM IST

US Central Intelligence Agency director nominee Gina Haspel (centre) attends Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's ceremonial swearing-in at the State Department in Washington May 2. Photograph:(Reuters)

The CIA continues to be very concerned about potential contacts between Pakistani nuclear scientists and extremist groups and is monitoring them, US President Donald Trump's nominee to head the agency has said.

Gina Haspel, if confirmed by the Senate, would be the first female director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). 

"There was very deep concern about potential contacts, and we continue to monitor this very closely, between extremists and Pakistani nuclear scientists," Haspel told the members of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee during her confirmation hearing yesterday. 

She was responding to a question from Senator John Cornyn.

Cornyn cited a book that reminded him that post-9/11, the then president George W Bush was concerned about reports that Osama bin Laden and al Qaida were meeting with the Pakistani officials connected with their nuclear programme to gain access to a nuclear device that they might then use for a follow-on attack against the cities like Washington DC.

"Without divulging classified information, can you confirm that there were concerns about follow-on attacks using nuclear devices, biological weapons, other weapons of mass destruction that might have killed more innocent Americans as happened on 9/11? Was that the environment in which you and the country were operating in at the time?" Cornyn asked Haspel.

There were very grave concerns on that front, Haspel answered.

"And indeed, al Qaida had those kinds of programmes, efforts to acquire crude, dirty bombs, efforts to develop -- they had a programme -- a biological weapons programme. I remember the operative who was in charge of that," Haspel said.