“If you put the [A. Q. Kahn] puzzle together, you get the whole picture.”
Swiss magistrate Andreas Müller
A Swiss man whose computers were destroyed a decade ago during an investigation into the illicit sale of nuclear weapons material to Libya has failed to force Switzerland to pay him more than $1 million in property damages. Follow us on Twitter: @INTEL_TODAY
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Last Chapter of the AQ Khan Saga?
In 2004, Khan’s technology network that extended deep into Switzerland helped spawn one of the greatest nuclear proliferation crises of the atomic age, United Nations officials have said.
Last year, an unidentified Swiss man whose computers were seized by law enforcement officials investigating the case demanded the government pay him 1.05 million Swiss francs.
The destruction in around 2006 of his materials, including backups and compact discs, cost him his life savings and retirement, he claimed in court documents.
A three-judge panel of Switzerland’s highest court, however, confirmed a lower court ruling that concluded the statute of limitations on the matter had expired in 2011.
Though the high court did not release the man’s name, the ruling stated his case was linked to the Tinner family — father Friedrich Tinner, along with sons Marco and Urs — who were arrested in 2005 and jailed for about three years
Swiss Destroyed Key A.Q. Khan Evidence
Swiss President Pascal Couchepin announced May 23 2008 that his government destroyed files associated with a case against Swiss nationals suspected of involvement in the illicit nuclear trafficking network run by Pakistani nuclear official Abdul Qadeer Khan.
The destruction of the documents, collected by Swiss authorities in 2004 as evidence against Urs Tinner as well as his brother Marco and their father Friedrich, might harm the criminal prosecution of their suspected activities.
The documents included digital copies of a design for an advanced nuclear weapon believed to be of Pakistani origin. This design may have been shared with other members of the Khan network or with Khan’s suspected customers, such as Iran and North Korea.
A diplomatic source familiar with the investigation questioned the rationale provided by the Swiss government for destroying the files, telling Arms Control Today June 19 2008:
“If the Swiss can safeguard billions in hundreds of thousands of numbered accounts, they can guard a few CDs.”
The diplomat suspected that the destruction of the documents was intended to “erase evidence of Tinner collusion” with Western intelligence agencies.
Indeed, in August 2007 the Swiss government blocked an investigation into potential espionage collaboration between the Tinners and a foreign government.
Couchepin stated that Bern canceled an investigation against the Tinners for “illegal actions for a foreign country” and “illegal intelligence work against a foreign country.”
This statement appears to confirm suspicions that the Tinners assisted the CIA in its work to prevent Libya from fully developing its uranium-enrichment program.
C.I.A. Secrets Could Surface in Swiss Nuclear Case
A seven-year effort by the Central Intelligence Agency to hide its relationship with a Swiss family who once acted as moles inside the world’s most successful atomic black market hit a turning point when a Swiss magistrate recommended charging the men with trafficking in technology and information for making nuclear arms.
“It’s like a puzzle,” Andreas Müller, the Swiss magistrate, said at a news conference in December 2010.
“If you put the puzzle together you get the whole picture.”
In September 2012, Urs Tinner, 46, his brother Marco, 43, and their 74-year-old father, Friedrich, accepted the charges against them in return for prison terms that are shorter than the time they have already spent in investigative custody.
Federal prosecutors in Switzerland said the Tinners’ cooperation with U.S. authorities and the UN nuclear agency should count as a mitigating factor in their sentencing.
They added that the Swiss government’s 2007 decision to destroy evidence in the case should also weigh in the men’s favor, as the shredding of key documents made many of the allegations hard to prove.
CIA Resisted Kahn Arrest
Ruud Lubbers, a former Dutch prime minister, revealed in August 2006 that the Dutch authorities came close to arresting Khan twice — first in 1975 and later in 1986 — but the CIA requested that they let him act freely.
Dutch intelligence had suspicions that Khan was stealing nuclear secrets in the Netherlands. They began to monitor him as soon as he arrived at the Physical Dynamic Research Laboratory. However, according to Lubbers, the country’s security agency asked the Ministry of Economic Affairs in 1975, then headed by him, not to act against Khan.
“I think the American intelligence agency put into practice what is very common there; just give us all the information. And do not arrest that man; just let him go ahead. We will have him followed and that way we can gain more information.”
“The man was followed for almost 10 years, and, obviously, he was a serious problem. But again I was told that the secret services could handle it more effectively,” Lubbers said. “The Hague did not have the final say in the matter. Washington did.”
Lubbers suspects that Washington allowed Khan’s activities because Pakistan was a key ally in the fight against the Soviets. At the time, the U.S. government funded and armed mujahideen such Osama bin Laden. They were trained by Pakistani intelligence to fight Soviet troops in Afghanistan.
Anwar Iqbal, Washington correspondent for the Pakistani newspaper Dawn, told ISN Security Watch that Lubbers’ assertions may be correct.
“This was part of a long-term foolish strategy. The United States knew Pakistan was developing nuclear weapons but couldn’t care less because it was not going to be used against them. It was a deterrent against India and possibly the Soviets.”
Legal Documents ‘lost’
On September 10 2005, this story took yet another twist. The Amsterdam court, which sentenced Khan to four years in prison in 1983, has lost Khan’s legal files.
The court’s vice-president, Judge Anita Leeser, suspects the CIA had a hand in the documents’ disappearance.
“Something is not right, we just don’t lose things like that. I find it bewildering that people lose files with a political goal, especially if it is on request of the CIA. It is unheard of.”
The Myth of the Libyan Nuke Project
On May 16 2006, an article titled “How Gadhafi Lost His Groove” appeared on the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal.
The opinion is signed by Judith Miller, the controversial former New York Times reporter. She tells the story of “the complex surrender of Libya’s WMD.”
Miller begins by reminding her readers of the spectacular interception of the BBC China by U.S.-U.K. intelligence agencies.
“Then, in early October 2003, the U.S., the U.K., Germany, and Italy interdicted the ‘BBC China,’ a German ship destined for Libya that the Americans had been tracking for nearly a year. A U.S. intelligence official informed the Libyans that the five 40-foot containers marked used machine parts that were offloaded from the ship contained thousands of centrifuge parts to enrich uranium, manufactured in Malaysia by the A.Q. Khan network,” Miller writes.
“In fact, the still largely secret talks that helped prompt Libya’s decision, and the joint American-British dismantlement of its weapons programs in the first four months of 2004, remain the administration’s sole undeniable — if largely unheralded — intelligence and non-proliferation success. And a key figure in that effort, Stephen Kappes, is now slated to be the next deputy director of the demoralized Central Intelligence Agency,”
INTEL TODAY Analysis
The ‘Libyan Nuke Project’ was a ‘sting op’ run jointly by the CIA and MI6 (and perhaps other Western Intelligence agencies).
Quite possibly, the CIA and MI6 have gone as far as providing some components to the Khan network. The vacuum pumps were manufactured by a German company: Pfeiffer Vacuum. According to the company, these vacuum pumps were sent to the U.S. nuclear weapons research facility in Los Alamos.
“Had we found WMDs in Iraq, there would have been no BBC China story,” admits an American diplomat, a smile on his face.
The primary mission of an Intelligence Agency is to protect itself and its image. Once in a while, the Agency needs a success story. When there is none, they make one up. Soon or later, a ‘presstitute’ will happily report the story in the New York Times, the WSJ and other mainstream media.
Dr A. Q. Khan: The Bomb, the Swiss and the CIA