CIA Coverup in Swiss Atomic Blackmarket

A Swiss family who once acted as moles inside the atomic black market and had a relationship with the Central Intelligence Agency might be in big trouble. A Swiss magistrate recommended on December 23 that the men be charged with trafficking in technology and information for making nuclear weapons. The CIA has been trying to hide its relationship with this family because a public prosecution and trial may expose some of its secrets.

The men, Friedrich Tinner and his sons Urs and Marco, were part of a smuggling ring under the direction of A. Q. Khan, one of the creators of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb program. They are accused of supplying the ring with technology needed to make centrifuges, which were then sold in various countries, including Libya, Iran, and North Korea. Secretly, they were also working for the CIA. The men provided information about Khan’s network’s manufacturing and sales and also helped create flaws in equipment sent to Khan’s customers.
The relationship between the family and the CIA is detailed in a new book, “Fallout,” by Catherine Collins and Douglas Frantz, which is scheduled for publication in January 2011. In the book, the authors detail several events. In 2003, the CIA broke into one of the Tinners’ homes and found blueprints for several nuclear bombs. The authors also say that in 2006, then Secretary of the State Condoleezza Rice tried to persuade Swiss officials to drop their investigation. She succeeded, for in 2007 the Swiss government dropped legal proceedings on espionage charges against the Tinners and several other CIA operatives.

They did not completely back off, though, because in 2008 the trafficking charges began surfacing. These charges are not without difficulty: because of their sensitive work for the US, the CIA managed to convince Swiss authorities to destroy equipment and information related to the family. The evidence is incomplete, even though 39 files scheduled for destruction were recovered. The Swiss government says that despite the help they provided the CIA, this evidence shows that the men should still be charged with “supporting the development of atomic weapons”, which is a violation of Swiss law.

If the Tinners go to trial, they face up to 10 years in prison for breaking laws concerning the export of atomic goods. All three have already spent time in jail, termed ‘investigative detention’, which will be counted towards any sentence handed down.

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