Nuclear smugglers to get reduced prison sentences ‘for helping CIA’

Urs TInnerBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Three Swiss engineers imprisoned for participating in an international nuclear smuggling ring are about to have their prison sentences significantly reduced, allegedly for having acted as agents for the United States Central Intelligence Agency. Friedrich Tinner and his two sons, Urs and Marco, were arrested in 2004 in connection with a multinational investigation into the nuclear smuggling network of Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan. The father of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program, who is widely known as A.Q. Khan, had for years subcontracted his nuclear services to North Korea, Iran and Libya, until 2004, when he was placed under house arrest by the Pakistani government, following pressure from Washington. Since then, the Tinners have been under “investigative custody”, a peculiar state of pre-trial detention prescribed by Swiss law. In 2009, Urs Tinner gave an interview to Swiss television, in which he claimed than he, along with his brother and father, had for years informed the CIA on Khan’s activities and assisted the US intelligence agency terminate the Libyan nuclear weapons program. It later emerged that the Swiss government had “inadvertently” shredded some crucial documents required in the prosecution case against the three engineers. Late last year there was apparently concern at Langley that some CIA secrets could surface in court, after Swiss government prosecutors announced that a trial for the Tinners would go ahead. However, new prosecution documents released on Tuesday show that a plea bargain agreement has been struck between the Swiss government and the three defendants in this highly sensitive case. Read more of this post

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Trial announced for Swiss nuclear smugglers said to be CIA agents

Urs Tinner

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Switzerland has officially charged three Swiss citizens with assisting the nuclear smuggling network of Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of Pakistan’s nuclear program, who gave nuclear information to North Korea, Libya and Iran. But the scope of the trial will be severely limited under a peculiar plea bargain struck with the three defendants, which will prevent the court from examining their claims of having worked as agents of the United States Central Intelligence Agency. Friedrich Tinner and his two sons, Urs and Marco, were arrested by German and Italian authorities in 2004 and extradited to Switzerland. Soon afterwards, Swiss authorities came under political pressure from the US Department of State, which appeared displeased with the prospect of a trial for the Tinners. Swiss government investigators quickly realized that the Tinners were considered valuable assets by the CIA, something which Urs Tinner himself admitted in a January 2009 interview. So convinced were Swiss authorities of Urs Tinners’ CIA connection claims, that they turned down repeated requests by the Tinners’ lawyers to release their clients on bail, fearing the three suspects would escape to the United States. In 2007, there was further uproar in Swiss public opinion, when it emerged that the Swiss Federal Department of Defense had secretly shredded 30,000 pages of vital evidence in the Tinners’ case, ostensibly to prevent their falling into the hands of foreign governments or terrorists. Several pundits accused Swiss authorities of destroying the documents under heavy political pressure from Washington. These suspicions were rekindled this week, after Switzerland’s attorney general announced that the Tinners would be tried for “aiding the illegal nuclear weapons program of an unknown state”. Read more of this post

Iran admits some of its nuclear scientists spied for the West

Ali Akbar Salehi

Ali Akbar Salehi

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A top-level Iranian government official has admitted that some scientists and technicians in Iran’s nuclear energy program were successfully lured into spying for Israeli and Western intelligence agencies in the past. The disclosure, which was characterized as “stunning” by the Associated Press, marked the first-ever open admission by the Iranian government that the country’s nuclear energy program has been penetrated by foreign spies. It was made last weekend by Ali Akbar Salehi, Iran’s Vice President and Director of the country’s Atomic Energy Organization. According to the Iranian government-controlled Fars News Agency, Vice President Salehi told an audience that individual scientists and technicians working in Iran’s nuclear program had used their access to classified relevant information to benefit from “foreign purchases and commercial affairs”. Read more of this post

Analysis: Can the CIA sabotage the Iranian nuclear weapons program?

Shahram Amiri

Shahram Amiri

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
There is no doubt that the CIA has been actively trying to sabotage Iran’s nuclear weapons program since at least February of 2008, when US President George W. Bush authorized Langley to intensify its covert efforts against Tehran. It is also true that the US was able to partially sabotage Iran’s nuclear program by eliminating the A.Q. Khan nuclear proliferation network, and by employing scientific front companies and cooperative suppliers, who gave the Iranians faulty hardware. The defection to Washington of senior Iranian nuclear scientist Shahram Amiri provides recent evidence of the existence of a covert US project to “decapitate” the Iranian nuclear weapons program, by luring away leading Iranian researchers. On the other hand, it is worth wondering why the CIA chose to remove Amiri from the Iranian nuclear program, instead of asking him to remain an agent-in-place, which would have been far more beneficial for Langley. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #0273

  • Tinner nuclear spy ring worked for CIA, documents confirm. IntelNews has been reporting for more than a year that Urs Tinner, a Swiss engineer who worked under Pakistani nuclear scientist A.Q. Khan, and was said at the time to be leading “the world’s biggest nuclear smuggling ring”, was in fact a CIA informant. Now documents submitted in a Swiss federal court appear to confirm Tinner’s CIA connection.
  • Son of Georgia’s former president charged with spying for Russia. Some say that Zviad Gamsakhurdia, Georgia’s first post-communist president, was assassinated in 1993. Now his son, Tsotne Gamsakhurdia, has been formally charged with “collaborating with Russian intelligence services”. The former president’s son’s arrest appears to be the latest episode in an ongoing intelligence war between Russia and Georgia.

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News you may have missed #0101

  • Red Army Faction member was on German spy service payroll. German media report that Verena Becker, a former member of the militant student organization Red Army Faction, who was arrested last week in connection with a murder committed thirty years ago, worked as an informant for the German secret services.
  • Pakistanis worried about US embassy expansion. In a rare article in the English-speaking press, The Washington Post examines the Pakistani population’s opposition to the planned expansion of the US embassy in Islamabad.
  • A.Q. Khan tells all about Pakistani nuclear program. Recently released from house arrest, the father of the Pakistani nuclear bomb has given an interview to a Pakistani television station, in which he reveals that Pakistan was able to detonate a nuclear device within a week’s notice in as early as 1984.

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Tinner nuclear smuggling ring documents may prove CIA connection

Urs Tinner

Urs Tinner

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Last January I wrote about Urs Tinner, a Swiss engineer who worked under Pakistani nuclear scientist A.Q. Khan, and was said at the time to be leading “the world’s biggest nuclear smuggling ring”. In 2003, Tinner was arrested, along with his father Friedrich and brother Marco, in connection with an attempt to smuggle centrifuges into Libya. Many were surprised, however, when in 2008 Tinner was released from prison, after the CIA, whose tip led to his arrest in Germany, said it was not interested in prosecuting him. Earlier this year, Tinner went on Swiss television and acknowledged that he had worked as an informant for the CIA –some say he was recruited in as early as 2000. Read more of this post