Friday, September 17, 2010
The US has charged a pair of former nuclear contractors with attempting to leak nuclear secrets to Venezuela.
The husband and wife team were arrested on Friday in New Mexico and accused of passing nuclear information to an FBI agent posing as a Venezuelan spy.
US citizens Pedro and Marjorie Mascheroni were contractors at Los Alamos National Laboratory, a centre of US nuclear research.
The US justice department did not accuse Venezuela of wrongdoing.
"The conduct alleged in this indictment is serious and should serve as a warning to anyone who would consider compromising our nation's nuclear secrets for profit," Assistant Attorney General David Kris said in a statement.
'Access to secrets'
Mr Mascheroni, a 75-year-old native of Argentina, worked as a scientist at Los Alamos from 1979 until 1988, when he was fired after criticising US nuclear research funding priorities, according to court documents. Mrs Mascheroni was a technical writer and editor from 1981 to 2010, the justice department said.
The pair had access to nuclear secrets, including material on the design and manufacture of nuclear weapons, it said.
According to the justice department, in March 2008 Mr Mascheroni met an FBI agent posing as a Venezuelan intelligence operative named Luis Jimenez at a hotel in the US city of Sante Fe.
Mr Mascheroni allegedly said he could help Venezuela develop a nuclear bomb within 10 years and a nuclear energy programme, and described a potential "umbrella" deterrent strategy for the Latin American nation.
"Mascheroni told 'Jimenez' that after Venezuela conducted a test of its nuclear weapons, Venezuela could cause an explosion over New York that would result in an electromagnetic pulse that he contended would not kill anybody but would destroy all the electric power in New York," the federal indictment states.
Mr Mascheroni asked about obtaining Venezuelan citizenship and said he hoped to be paid for his services, the indictment states.
Soon after contact with the agent began, Mr Mascheroni informed his wife about the meeting, characterising it as a "secret".
In July 2009, Mrs Mascheroni helped her husband write and edit a document containing US nuclear secrets, which Mr Mascheroni then delivered to a "dead drop location" for collection by the purported Venezuelan agent, according to the indictment.
Mr Mascheroni was fired from Los Alamos in 1988 after criticising the US government's research funding priorities, according to a 1994 judgement in a lawsuit he filed challenging the dismissal. He argued the government should fund a laser project he was working on, rather than another.
He had refused orders to cease his complaints, was transferred to another division, had his security clearance revoked and was ultimately dismissed, the lawsuit stated.
Posted by Steve Douglass at 12:45 PM
London, England (CNN) -- Investigators in Britain arrested five men on suspicion of terrorism Friday and promptly reviewed security arrangements for Pope Benedict XVI's trip to the island, authorities said.
Some news reports said the arrests involved a potential threat to the pope, who began a visit to Great Britain Thursday, but the Metropolitan Police declined to say whether the case was linked to the pontiff's visit.
Authorities reviewed policing arrangements for the pope's trip to London on Friday after they arrested the men and said they are satisfied the current plan remains "appropriate," and the pope's itinerary did not change.
The men were arrested at around 5:45 a.m. (12:45 a.m. ET) at a business on suspicion of the commission, preparation, or instigation of acts of terrorism, police said.
The men are aged 26, 27, 36, 40, and 50, and were taken to a central London police station to be interviewed by detectives.
Searches were being carried out at a business in central London and at residential locations in north and east London, police said. Initial searches have not uncovered any hazardous items, they said.
"Today's arrests were made after police received information," police said. "Following initial inquiries by detectives a decision was made to arrest the five men."
Police added there was no change to the threat level in the United Kingdom as a result of the arrests.
The pope is scheduled to speak Friday at London's historic Westminster Hall, where he is expected to talk about the positive contributions Catholics have made to society.
He will also lead prayers with the head of the Church of England, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams.
The address by the pontiff comes a day after he said the Roman Catholic Church has not been vigilant enough or fast enough in responding to the problem of sexual abuse by priests.
"These revelations were for me a shock and a great sadness. It is difficult to understand how this perversion of the priestly ministry was possible," he told reporters aboard his plane to Scotland. "How a man who has done this and said this (in his priestly vows) can fall into this perversion is difficult to understand."
He added, "It is also a great sadness that the authorities of the church were not sufficiently vigilant and insufficiently quick and decisive in taking the necessary measures."
British people feel overwhelmingly that the pope has not done enough to punish priests who abuse children, according to a ComRes poll for CNN released as Benedict arrived in the country. Three out of four British people -- and two out of three Catholics in the country -- say he should do more to punish abusive clergy.
Has pope done enough to punish guilty priests?
The pope is in London on the second day of a historic four-day state visit to Britain, where the issue of abuse, and the Vatican's perceived lack of response to it, has created anger.
But there was a warm welcome for him on a cold afternoon in Glasgow, Scotland, for the first major mass of his visit.
Tens of thousands turned out to hear him preach, with members of the faithful describing it as a "happy day" and calling it a "great honor" that he had come.
Benedict elaborated in Glasgow on what's expected to be a major theme of his visit, the value of religion in a society that he sees as increasingly secular.
"There are some who now seek to exclude religious belief from public discourse, to privatize it or even to paint it as a threat to equality and liberty," he said in his homily. "Yet religion is in fact a guarantee of authentic liberty and respect."
He also urged bishops to look after their priests -- possibly an oblique reference to the sex abuse scandal -- and warned young people against the temptations of "drugs, money, sex, pornography, alcohol -- which the world tells you will bring you happiness, yet these things are destructive and divisive."
Benedict started his visit in Edinburgh, where he held a meeting with the queen and greeted thousands who turned out to see him on the streets of the Scottish city.
Though a pope has visited Britain once before -- Pope John Paul II in 1982 -- this is considered the first state visit by a pope to Britain because it comes at the invitation of the queen, not the Catholic Church, as was the case 28 years ago.
Benedict's trip is scheduled to include meetings with political leaders, royalty, and bridge-building events with Anglican Church officials. It will culminate in the beatification of British Cardinal John Henry Newman, a Catholic convert who died in 1890 and is credited with helping rebuild Britain's Catholic community.
There has been widespread outcry over the estimated 12 million pounds ($18.7 million) British taxpayers are having to pay for the visit, though Christopher Patten, the prime minister's representative for the papal visit, has pointed out that one day of last year's G-20 summit in London cost 20 million pounds ($31.3 million).
Criticism has also focused on the armed police squads needed to protect a religious figurehead previously targeted by attackers.
Along with anger about the Vatican's response to child and sexual abuse, there is criticism over the pope being granted a state visit, given the Catholic Church's attitudes towards gender equality and homosexuality.
Posted by Steve Douglass at 6:06 AM