FBI searched for Soviet atom bombs in 1950s’ New York, files show

Redacted page from FBI filesBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
American authorities suspected that Soviet intelligence had smuggled atom bombs in New York City and that Moscow was planning to detonate them “at an expedient time”, according to declassified documents. The revelation comes from a set of internal FBI files, which were declassified and released in redacted form in 2010. Copies of the documents, which date from the early 1950s, were posted (.pdf) on The Government Attic, a website specializing in publishing US government files obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests. The documents were then noticed last week by The Village Voice‘s Anna Merlan. The file (.pdf), titled “Atomic Bomb in Unknown Consulate, New York City”, is nearly 80 pages-long. It indicates that the search for a supposed Soviet atomic weapon in New York began shortly after the summer of 1950, when the FBI received a tip from a source in Brazil. The source reportedly told the Bureau that Soviet operatives had “placed an atom bomb in a consulate [...] in New York City to be detonated at such time as the Soviets consider expedient”. The problem was that the FBI was not aware of the identity of the consulate, which was presumed to belong to the USSR or to a country politically aligned with it. The Bureau thus actively engaged in searching for the bomb during the years of 1951 and 1952. The search was primarily conducted by the FBI’s informants in various communist-bloc consulates and agencies in New York, including the Soviet mission to the United Nations, located on Park Avenue, as well as the Polish, Hungarian and Czechoslovakian missions, located a few blocks away from their Soviet equivalent, on East 67th Street. The FBI also appears to have mobilized its informants inside the Soviet government-run Amtorg Trading Corporation, which handled the USSR’s trade with foreign countries, as well as the Telegraph Agency of the Soviet Union (TASS) offices at Rockefeller Plaza. A clandestine search was also conducted at the Soviet diplomatic mission’s retreat on Long Island. American customs agents were also notified to keep their eyes open for oddly shaped diplomatic packages “which appear to be suspiciously heavy in proportion to their dimensions”. Read more of this post

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News you may have missed #880

Augusto PinochetBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
►►Chinese military establishes cyberintelligence research center. The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has announced the creation of a Cyberspace Strategic Intelligence Research Center. Experts say the Center will “provide support in obtaining high-quality intelligence research findings and help China gain advantage in national information security”. Its staff reportedly specialize in such fields as strategic theory research, intelligence studies, and technology management, among others.
►►Chile court says US had role in 1973 killings of Americans. A court ruling released late Monday said the commander of the US Military Mission in Chile at the time of the 1973 military coup gave information to Chilean officials about journalist Charles Horman and student Frank Teruggi that led to their arrest and execution just days after the coup, which brought General Augusto Pinochet to power. The case remained practically ignored in Chile until 2000, when Horman’s widow, Joyce, came and filed a lawsuit against Pinochet.
►►Opinion: Cyber tools are no substitute for human intelligence. A colonel in the Israel Defense Forces critiques “the increasing use of cyber tools as a central and sometimes exclusive role in the work of many intelligence agencies throughout the world”. He argues that “the documents exposed by Edward Snowden show how willing the Americans are to invest in technological systems to collect information and gather as much intelligence as they can using cyber tools”. But he warns that “this almost exclusive reliance on the collection and analysis of intelligence using technology comes at the expense of the human element as a basic component of intelligence-gathering”.

Opinion: Iraq is like South Vietnam in 1963 – the US should walk away

Diem and LodgeBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS* | intelNews.org
As I watch the dramatic collapse of the Federal government of Iraq, I keep telling myself that I cannot possibly be the only person noticing the remarkable political resemblance between the Iraq of 2014 and the South Vietnam of 1963. Just like government of Iraq today, the Republic of South Vietnam, which had been set up with direct American support flowing France’s exit from Indochina in 1954, faced increasing domestic opposition that was both political and religious. In Iraq today it is the Sunni Muslims who have taken up arms against the Shiite-controlled government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The South Vietnamese President, Ngo Dinh Diem, a westernized Vietnamese Catholic, whose family had been proselytized to Christianity in the 17th century, was shunned by South Vietnam’s Buddhist majority. The latter became increasingly agitated in opposition to the American supported government in Saigon, which they saw as alien and fundamentally anti-Vietnamese. Diem’s response was to intensify internal repression in South Vietnam. He unleashed the country’s secret police, controlled by his shadowy brother, Ngo Dinh Nhu, against the Buddhist community. In the summer of 1963, Buddhist monks began resorting to self-immolation in a desperate attempt to draw public attention to their repression by Diem’s paramilitaries. Nhu’s wife, the fashionable Madame Nhu, shocked public opinion by dismissing the incidents as just some “drugged monks barbecuing themselves”. Washington immediately distanced itself from her comments, and increasingly from Diem.

In the summer of 1963, President John F. Kennedy, a personal friend of Diem, publicly accused the government in Saigon of having “lost touch” with the Vietnamese people and condemned the harsh repression of the Buddhist community. In private, Kennedy had gone a step further, instructing the Central Intelligence Agency and his Ambassador to Vietnam, Henry Cabot Lodge, to begin consulting with the South Vietnamese military about the possibility of deposing Diem. By that time, the Diem regime had become immensely unpopular in South Vietnam. Read more of this post

Remembering Gouzenko, the defector who triggered the Cold War

Igor GouzenkoBy ANDREW KAVCHAK* | intelNews.org
In 1998, my wife and I moved to downtown Ottawa, the capital of Canada. In 1999, when my first son was born I took several months off work to stay home with him. Every day I would take him to the local park. It was called Dundonald Park, located on Somerset Street, between Bay and Lyon. While my son was enjoying the outdoors and the fresh air in the park, I was routinely distracted by an old brick two-story building across the street. Something very dramatic happened there decades ago. And yet, there was no marker, no plaque, no statue, no monument…nothing. On the way home my son would typically fall asleep in the stroller. And in my free time I began making some phone calls to city officials and federal government offices. What would it take to erect some sort of historic marker to indicate that the first significant international incident of the Cold War happened in downtown Ottawa, so that generations of future Canadians and tourists in the nation’s capital could be informed or reminded of the historic events that transpired here?

The Japanese formally surrendered to General Douglas MacArthur on the deck of the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay on September 2, 1945. The world assumed that peace and reconstruction would replace war and destruction. However, just three days later, on September 5, Igor Gouzenko, a cypher clerk at the Soviet embassy in Ottawa walked out of the embassy with over 100 secret documents detailing the existence of a vast Soviet espionage network in Canada and other countries of the West. He wanted to expose the Soviet activity and warn the West. He went to the night editor of the Ottawa Journal and provided him with what could have been the scoop of the century, but the night editor told him to come back the next day. He spent the night with his pregnant wife and infant son at their apartment at 511 Somerset Street. The next day he returned to see the day time editor at the newspaper. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #879

Mossad sealBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
►►Israeli spy budget close to $2 billion. According to reports in the Israeli media, the 2014 budget for Israel’s secret services is 6.88 billion shekels, which amounts to US$1.97 billion). This figure represents an approximate increase of 4 percent compared to last year. The funds cover the operations of the Shin Bet, Israel’s domestic security service, and the Mossad, which is the country’s external covert-action agency.
►►Australia and France sign intelligence accord. Australia has struck a second intelligence-sharing agreement in less than a week, this time with France, as fears rise about the Syrian civil war becoming a hub for home-grown terrorism. The two countries have agreed, among other things, to share intelligence on their respective citizens who have gone to Syria to fight in that country’s civil war. A week earlier, Canberra had signed a similar intelligence-sharing agreement with the government of Indonesia.
►►Nazi spy could have changed course of D-Day. Days before the Normandy landings, the Lisbon-based Nazi spy Paul Fidrmuc got wind of the final details of Operation Overlord and sent an urgent message to Berlin. The Allies were not planning to land in Calais, as the Nazis thought and where they had massed 200,000 soldiers. Instead, he wrote, “the preferred plan is around La Manche”. But his dispatch was ignored by his Berlin handlers.

FBI kept tabs on Mandela’s first-ever visit to the US, files show

Nelson MandelaBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
The United States Federal Bureau of Investigation has released for the first time some of its internal files on the late South African leader Nelson Mandela. Among other things, the documents reveal that the Bureau closely monitored Mandela’s first ever visit to the United States in 1990. The legendary black campaigner arrived in the United States in June of that year, just four months following his release from prison after 27 years of captivity. The FBI documents include a redacted memorandum from the Bureau’s field office in Atlanta, Georgia, addressed to William Sessions, who was the FBI’s Director at the time. The memorandum notes that the Bureau had been able to recruit an informant inside, or closely affiliated with, Mandela’s inner circle. The source had provided his FBI handlers with a detailed itinerary of Mandela’s 11-day US tour. The memorandum stresses that the “confidential source” was “newly opened” and thus his or her “reliability [was] not yet established”. But Mandela’s travel itinerary, which had apparently been planned by a member of staff in the office of Coretta Scott King, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s widow, was carefully dissected by the FBI. The documents show that the Bureau’s principal concern was safeguarding the life of the South African political leader, who had received countless death threats in the days prior to his arrival. According to the declassified files, the threats originated from various racist skinhead and neo-Nazi groups, the Ku Klux Klan, as well as a host of white supremacist organizations. But alongside its concern about “terrorist activity being directed” at the civil rights campaigner, the Bureau was obligated to monitor his activities on US soil because at that time Washington still designated the African National Congress, which Mandela led, as a “foreign terrorist organization”. The designation was finally lifted in 2008. Read more of this post

Court allows CIA to keep Cuba invasion document secret

Court documentsBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
The United States Central Intelligence Agency has successfully defended itself against a lawsuit that sought the release of a secret document detailing the failed Bay of Pigs Invasion. On April 17, 1961, a brigade of 1,300 CIA-funded and -trained anticommunist Cubans mounted a surprise assault on the Caribbean island. The failure of the operation prompted the CIA to produce a multi-volume report, whose fifth and final part was authored in the early 1980s by CIA resident-historian Jack Pfeiffer. The first four volumes of the history of the Invasion have been released to the public, one voluntarily by the CIA and three through Freedom of Information Act requests. George Washington University’s National Security Archive sued the CIA in 2011, eventually forcing the Agency to declassify Volumes I, II and IV of the report. This left Volume V, which is the subject of an ongoing dispute between historians and the CIA, going back to 2005. On Tuesday, the US Court of Appeals for the Circuit of the District of Columbia ruled in a split 2-1 decision that the CIA had the right to maintain the secrecy of the entire fifth volume of the report. The two judges that ruled in favor of the CIA’s position, Brett Kavanaugh and Stephen Williams, argued that the volume in question had been “rejected for inclusion in the final publication” of the CIA report. As such, it was not a finished product, but rather a draft manuscript and was therefore not subject to US declassification rules under the Freedom of Information Act. The judges added that, since the document was “predecisional and deliberative” in character, it should be granted the so-called “deliberative process privilege”. This clause stipulates that the authors of deliberative documents are entitled to concrete and long-lasting assurances that the draft documents they are producing will remain secret. This, said the two judges, would allow the authors to advise those who commission their work freely and candidly. Read more of this post

Article sheds light on life of legendary Israeli spy Jacob Cohen

Jacob “Yakuba” CohenBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
Within the ranks of the Israeli intelligence community, Jacob “Yakuba” Cohen is considered a legend. An intelligence officer for the Israel Defense Forces, the Mossad, and finally for Shin Bet, Cohen remains a deeply mysterious figure in the history of Israeli intelligence. Now a new article, published in Israel Defense magazine, which includes parts of a testimony Cohen allegedly gave to a close friend in the years before his death, sheds light on the life and times of one of the 20th century’s most enigmatic intelligence operatives. Cohen was born in 1924 in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood of central Jerusalem. His family, however, had Persian origins, and he spent most of his childhood fraternizing with the Arab populations of nearby neighborhoods and villages. In the late 1930s, Cohen joined the Haganah, a violent paramilitary force set up by nationalist Jews to resist the formation of the British Mandate for Palestine. Cohen eventually entered the ranks of the Palmach, a special-forces outfit of the Haganah, which also conducted intelligence operations. Cohen’s asset, which eventually made him a good fit for Israeli intelligence, was his ability to assimilate into Arab society. He spoke fluent Arabic and was able to observe Arab Muslim cultural conventions and religious practices, regularly attending Mosque services. Soon after the establishment of the state of Israel, Cohen assumed the cover of Jamil Mohammad Rushdi, a Syrian Arab, and moved to Lebanon, where he worked as a taxi driver, regularly transporting customers from Lebanese capital Beirut to Tripoli, Syria, and back. Israeli intelligence historians credit Cohen’s stint in Lebanon as having been instrumental in laying the infrastructure that enabled the eventual creation in Arab countries of Israeli intelligence networks consisting of long-term sleeper agents and other non-official-cover operatives. After Israel’s Sinai campaign of 1956, Cohen was tasked with interrogating thousands of Egyptian prisoners of war. Read more of this post

MI5 releases documents on Dutch double spy Mata Hari

Mata HariBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
The British government has released a set of documents relating to the capture and eventual execution of Mata Hari, modern history’s most legendary female spy. Mata Hari was born Margaretha Geertruida Zelle in northern Holland in 1876. In 1895 she married Rudolf MacLeod, a Dutch Army Captain of Scottish descent serving the Dutch colonial administration of what is now Indonesia. She eventually divorced the alcoholic and abusive MacLeod, who was 20 years her senior, and joined the circus in Paris. Eventually she became wildly popular as an exotic dancer, a position that placed her in close contact with several influential men in France, including the millionaire industrialist Émile Étienne Guimet, who became her longtime lover. Several of her male devotees came from military backgrounds from various European countries. Most historians agree that by 1916 Zelle was working for French intelligence, gathering information from a host of German lovers. However, in February of the following year she was arrested by French counterintelligence officers in Paris and accused of spying on behalf of the German Empire. French prosecutors accused Zelle of having provided Berlin with tactical intelligence that cost the Triple Entente the lives of over 50,000 soldiers. A set of documents released this month by Britain’s Security Service, commonly known as MI5, reveal that allied intelligence operatives trailed the exotic dancer across several European countries before she was apprehended in Paris. They also allege that, while under French custody, the Dutch spy admitted that she had conducted espionage on behalf of the German Secret Service and that her codename was H21. She is also alleged to have admitted that she received payments of approximately 20,000 French francs for her servicse. The papers also suggest that Zelle admitted that several vials of invisible ink fond in her hotel suite had been given to her by her German handlers. However, the MI5 reports claim that the accused spy “never made a full confession” and “never gave away anyone” as her accomplice, leading the British author of the report to conclude that she must have been “working alone”. Read more of this post

More documents emerge on CIA effort to salvage Soviet submarine

Project AZORIANBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
New documents have emerged about a massive effort by the United States Central Intelligence Agency to recover a sunken Soviet nuclear submarine in the 1970s. This blog has written before about Project AZORIAN, a 1974 attempt to recover a Soviet submarine in 5,200 meters of water. The initiative cost the CIA over $800 million, which translates to something like $3 billion in today’s prices. It centered on an effort to salvage K-129, a Soviet Golf II class submarine that had suffered an internal explosion while on a routine patrol mission in the Pacific Ocean, in 1968. The explosion caused the vessel to sink along with the three nuclear ballistic missiles it was carrying and nearly 100 crew members, all of whom died in the incident. The Soviets initiated an immediate frantic effort to recover the vessel but gave up after two months, unable to bring it to the surface. After the Soviets abandoned the site, a number of CIA scientists proposed to undertake an American effort to recover the sunken submarine. This, they suggested, would allow Washington to study the design features of Soviet nuclear warheads, as well as obtain cryptographic hardware that could prove useful in deciphering Soviet naval codes. This prompted the launch of Project AZORIAN, which commenced in 1974, once the Agency secured the necessary funds. As we have indicated before, the recovery team nearly caused a nuclear explosion when the submarine split while being raised, and its body hit the ocean floor. The CIA prepared to enter a new phase of the project in 1975, aimed at launching a second attempt to raise the sunken vessel. But the attempt was cancelled when vague snippets of information about the project were leaked to the press. Nothing more emerged until 2010, when the CIA aired a heavily redacted article about the project, which had originally appeared in the 1980s in Studies in Intelligence, the Agency’s in-house publication. Now, however, intelligence historians are able to rely on 200 pages of mostly fresh information on Project AZORIAN, released under the US Department of State’s Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) program. Read more of this post

IRA ‘tried to kill Queen’s husband’ during Australia visit

Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth in 1973By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
The Provisional Irish Republican Army tried to assassinate Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh and husband of Queen Elizabeth II, during an official Royal visit to Australia in the early 1970s, according to a new book. The claim is detailed in the book Shadow of a Spy, written by Warner Russell, a veteran Australian reporter and retired military intelligence officer. The alleged assassination attempt was uncovered in Sydney on March 15, 1973, during the Prince’s two-day visit to Australia. While there, the Queen’s husband attended a conservation meeting and led an official opening ceremony of a Royal Australian Air Force war memorial in capital city Canberra. According to Russell, two “crude explosive devices” were discovered in Sydney at locations that had been scheduled to be visited by the British Royal entourage. The first device was detected in a trash can in Dowling Street, in Sydney’s downtown Potts Point neighborhood. The second device was found inside a luggage locker at Sydney’s Central Station, a few miles away from the location of the first bomb. The book claims that the two other “suspicious packages” were found, one in a local government building located across the street from an officer’s club that the Prince was due to visit, and another in a trash can at Taylor Square, less than a mile from Central Station. Eventually, the two “suspicious packages” were determined to be “decoys”, says Russell. But the other two devices contained explosive material and were defused by an Australian Army bomb disposal team before being secretly taken to a forensic laboratory for examination. Russell claims that the bombs were defused just minutes before Prince Philip’s group arrived at the two Sydney locations, and Australian authorities were so nervous that they ordered the Prince’s motorcycle escort and protection team to “take evasive action” as they approached Dowling Street. Read more of this post

British spies infiltrated Nazi sympathizer groups, wartime files show

Page from MI5's Jack King filesBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
A British counterintelligence agent managed to neutralize an extensive network of Nazi sympathizers in the United Kingdom by pretending to represent the German government, newly released files show. The documents, which were released this week by the British National Archives, identify the agent only as “Jack King”, which was the operational codename given to him by his handlers in the British Security Service, commonly known as MI5. Senior officials at the agency, which is tasked with counterintelligence, described “King” as “a genius” at luring in Nazi sympathizers in the UK. The files show that “King’s” work helped MI5 identify hundreds of residents in Britain —most of them British citizens— as committed Nazis who were prepared to pass national secrets to Berlin. The MI5 operative utilized his pro-German contacts in the southeast of England and was able to infiltrate pro-Nazi circles operating in and around London. He did so by posing as an agent of the Gestapo, Nazi Germany’s secret police. He quickly gained the trust of some of the most fervent pro-German activists operating in the British Isles. These included Edgar Whitehead, Hilda Leech and Marita Perigoe, a Swedish resident of the UK, who was so fervently pro-Nazi that she once dismissed Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists as “insufficiently extreme”. Many of these Nazi supporters pledged to “King” that they could be relied on to assist in the event of an invasion of Britain by Nazi forces. The files released by the National Archives show that “King” was well connected with British Nazis by 1942. Read more of this post

US employed ex-Nazis to develop interrogation methods

Allen DullesBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
The United States relied on the assistance of dozens of German scientists to develop invasive interrogation techniques targeting the Soviet Union in the early years of the Cold War, according to a new book on the subject. The book, entitled Operation Paperclip: The Secret Intelligence Program that Brought Nazi Scientists to America, by American journalist Annie Jacobsen, is to be published this week. Operation PAPERCLIP was initially set up during World War II by the US Office of Strategic Services (OSS), a forerunner of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Its aim was to recruit scientists that had previously been employed by the German Third Reich, with the primary goal of denying German scientific expertise to the USSR. Hundreds of former Nazi scientists were brought to the US under secret military research contracts during the second half of the 1940s. Eventually, the recruited scientists were used to augment an entire array of American government-sponsored endeavors, including the space program and several intelligence collection techniques. Jacobsen’s book details Operation BLUEBIRD, a program run by the CIA under PAPERCLIP, which employed former Nazi biological weapons experts, chemists and medical doctors. The latter were tasked with employing lysergic acid diethylamide, commonly known as LSD, in order to involuntary extort confessions from Soviet intelligence targets. In several cases, the hallucination-inducing chemical substance was dispensed on Soviet captives, who were also subjected to hypnosis and other methods of psychological manipulation. According to the book, the techniques were developed under the primary supervision of Dr. Walter Schreiber, Germany’s Surgeon General during the Third Reich. Schreiber helped the OSS set up an experimentation facility at Camp King, a CIA site located near Frankfurt in the American sector of Allied-occupied Germany. Read more of this post

Thatcher was warned about CIA activities in Britain, files show

Margaret ThatcherBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was warned in 1984 that American intelligence carried out operations in the United Kingdom without London’s consent. Although she dismissed the warnings, she authorized British counterintelligence to investigate the matter. A secret file from the British Foreign Office, which was declassified last month, shows that concerns about alleged American spy activity in the UK were communicated to the Tory Prime Minister by Paddy Ashdown —now Lord Ashdown— a Member of Parliament for Britain’s Liberal Party. In November of 1984, Ashdown notified Thatcher that he was concerned about a series of “clandestine activities” carried out by the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) aimed at preventing communist countries from acquiring advanced computer technology developed by companies based in Britain. The written warning stated that CIA operatives had made “clandestine approaches” targetting individuals employed by leading British computer firms, inquiring about technology transfers to the Soviet Bloc. Ashdown added that the American intelligence agency had failed to provide the British government with advance notice of these activities, as was customary between the two allies. In his letter to Thatcher, the Liberal Party MP concluded that, based on his personal investigation into the matter, he was convinced the CIA operation was “still continuing”. The Prime Minister responded to Ashdown with an official letter explaining that there was “no evidence of improper activity by the CIA” or that British espionage laws had been violated by American intelligence personnel. She added that there was “close cooperation” between London and Washington on enforcing multilaterally agreed export controls, which included computer technology, and concluded that saw no need for an inquiry at that time. But London-based newspaper The Guardian, which accessed the declassified files on the case, said that Whitehall ordered the Foreign Office to investigate Ashdown’s allegations. The Foreign Office then tasked the Security Service (MI5) to find out whether the US had broken an agreement between the two countries to refrain from clandestine operations on each other’s territory unless the latter were authorized by both nations. Read more of this post

Croatian court authorizes extradition of ex-spy official to Germany

Josip PerkovićBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
A court in the Croatian capital Zagreb has ruled in favor of the extradition of the country’s former spy chief to Germany, where he is wanted for the communist-era murder of a Yugoslav dissident. Josip Perković was a senior official in the Yugoslav State Security Service (known by its Serbo-Croatian acronym, UDBA) during the closing stages of the Cold War. He is a prime suspect in the murder of Stjepan Đureković, a Yugoslav defector who was killed by UDBA agents in 1983. Đureković, who was of Croatian nationality, defected from Yugoslavia to Germany in 1982, while he was director of the state-owned INA oil company. Upon his arrival in Germany, he was granted political asylum and began associating with Croatian nationalist émigré groups that were active in the country. He was killed on July 28, 1983, in Wolfratshausen, Bavaria, in a UDBA operation codenamed DUNAV. In 2009, following testimonies by several former UDBA agents, who were arrested in connection with the crime, the Office of the German Federal Prosecutor issued a European Arrest Warrant for Perković, who is believed to have authorized Đureković’s assassination. However, Croatia consistently refused to honor the warrant and allowed Perković to live in Zagreb. The reason, according to observers, was that the former spy official was instrumental in helping set up Croatia’s first post-independence intelligence agency, which he directed for the first few years of its existence. His contribution to the establishment of Croatia’s intelligence apparatus has contributed to his political legacy in the country, which effectively shielded him from extradition to Germany. Read more of this post

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