Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

New Danger Sends FBI to Moscow

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

New Danger Sends FBI to Moscow

Article excerpt

The growth of Russian organized crime and its interest in stealing and selling nuclear weapons and materials from the former Soviet Union present "the greatest long-term threat to the security of the United States," FBI Director Louis J. Freeh said Wednesday.

To establish "a police bridge and cop-to-cop contact" to deal with the problem, Freeh announced that he would visit Eastern Europe and Russia next month and open the FBI's first permanent office in Moscow.

The FBI currently has agents known as legal attaches stationed in 22 foreign cities but has never had any permanently stationed in Russia or the former Soviet Union.

Discussions have begun to devise a U.S.-Russian law enforcement assistance treaty that would ease extradition and the exchange of evidence and witnesses, Freeh said.

Russian organized-crime groups are spreading in the United States and Europe and "may have already attained or will attain the capability to steal nuclear weapons" that "could be sold potentially to terrorists who could use them against the United States," Freeh told the Senate permanent investigations subcommittee.

Freeh emphasized that so far there is no evidence that nuclear weapons or weapons-grade nuclear materials have been diverted.

"We have all been fortunate, maybe lucky is a better word, that there apparently have been no nuclear thefts so far. But the threat is now," Freeh said.

He said that in 1992 and 1993, uranium and plutonium were sold illicitly in Europe but the quality of the materials was "well below . . . levels suitable for weapons use."

Freeh appeared with Gen. Mikhail Yegorov, head of organized-crime control in the Russian interior ministry, and Hans-Ludwig Zachert, head of the German Federal Criminal Police.

They called for closer cooperation against Russian organized crime, but Freeh and Yegorov appeared to disagree on the vulnerability of nuclear weapons and materials to theft in Russia.

Subcommittee Chairman Sam Nunn, D-Ga., opened the hearing by saying, "Organized crime in the former Soviet Union is fast becoming not only a law enforcement nightmare but a potential national security nightmare as well."

Freeh said, "We must focus on the possibility of organized crime, rogue nations or bands of terrorists obtaining nuclear weapons or weapons-grade plutonium and uranium from Russia or any other source. …

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