What Nuclear Secret Was Kerry Aide Looking for in Switzerland?
(JEFF STEIN) Swiss police threatened to arrest an aide to Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., for espionage last month if he entered the country in pursuit of a CIA connection to Pakistan’s secret nuclear bomb smuggling.
Douglas Franz, a former newsman who recently became a top investigator with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which Kerry chairs, is an expert on Pakistani nuclear scientist A.Q. Khan, suspected of aiding Iran, North Korea and Libya in their secret nuclear bomb programs.
In 2007 Franz coauthored (with Catherine Collins) a book on Khan, “The Nuclear Jihadist: The True Story of the Man Who Sold the World’s Most Dangerous Secrets…And How We could Have Stopped Him.”
Last month Franz told Swiss authorities he wanted to question Urs Tinner, a Swiss citizen suspected of supplying Khan’s network with “the technical knowledge and equipment that was used to make gas centrifuges for uranium enrichment,” The Associated Press reported May 25.
In his book, Franz, a distinguished former New York Times reporter and managing editor of the Los Angeles Times, reported that Tinner had been recruited as a CIA informant, perhaps as early as 2000.
The Swiss held Tinner for five years but never charged him.
Meanwhile, the Swiss penchant for secrecy went into high gear. The government shredded thousands of files of evidence in the case on grounds of “national security.”
And last month, the door was slammed on Kerry’s man Franz.
“Swiss authorities referred Frantz to the country’s penal code, which prohibits unsanctioned activity for a foreign government,” a government spokesman told the A.P.
Franz didn’t have any difficulty deciphering the threat.
“He was told by the chief of the Swiss federal police they would arrest him for espionage if he went there,” the former U.S. intelligence operative told SpyTalk.
But what was Franz looking for?
“I wonder what political ends Kerry is seeking by digging into this,” the intelligence operative, who worked on the nuclear black market, said. “Taking down AQ Khan is one of the agency’s few public successes in the last decade.”
Franz did not respond to two requests for comment.