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

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

News you may have missed #462

  • CIA secrets could surface in Swiss nuclear case. A seven-year effort by the CIA to hide its relationship with the Tinners, a Swiss family who once acted as moles inside the world’s most successful atomic black market, hit a turning point on Thursday when a Swiss magistrate recommended charging the men with trafficking in technology and information for making nuclear arms.
  • Pakistan spy chief to ignore US summons. The Pakistani government has announced that hat there is “no possibility” that Lt. Gen. Ahmad Shuja Pasha, the head of Pakistan’s powerful Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, would obey a summons requesting his appearance before a court in the United States relating to the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks.
  • Australia told to prioritize spy recruitment. Carl Ungerer, from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, has advised the Australian intelligence agencies to “look at ways to improve information gathering from human sources”, as they undergo a period of reform.

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

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

World’s most prolific nuclear arms smuggler admits CIA link

Urs Tinner

Urs Tinner

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
On October 4, 2003, Italian authorities, acting on a tip by the CIA, inspected a Libya-bound German ship anchored at Taranto, Italy. The ship was found to be carrying several centrifuges for use in Libya’s uranium enrichment program. The discovery led to the uncovering of the role of Dr. Abdul Qadeer (A.Q.) Khan, the father of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program, in subcontracting his nuclear knowhow to North Korea, Iran and Libya. It also led to the uncovering of Urs Tinner, a Swiss engineer who worked under A.Q. Khan, and was said at the time to be leading “the world’s biggest nuclear smuggling ring”. Tinner was eventually arrested along with his father Friedrich and brother Marco, both members of Tinner’s ring, and extradited to Switzerland. Strangely, however, he was never charged and was in fact released from detention last December, with the blessings of the CIA, who did not wish to see him prosecuted. Now Swiss TV station SF1 has announced the scheduled airing of a documentary, in which the freed Tinner will acknowledge that he tipped the CIA about the German ship in Taranto and A.Q. Khan’s nuclear subcontracting. Read more of this post