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Report: E.Germany Used Nuclear Tags on Dissidents
Jan 03, 2001

LONDON (Reuters) - In a ploy worthy of a James Bond villain, East German dissidents were "tagged" with radioactive chemicals that allowed secret agents to track them with hidden Geiger counters, New Scientist magazine said on Wednesday.

So that targets would not hear the distinctive clicking of the counter at close range, Stasi secret police agents wore the detector strapped under one arm, while a vibrating alarm was slung under the other arm.

The magazine's article was based on a paper by Klaus Becker, a leading radiation protection expert.

Evidence of the radioactive tracking exercise, dating from the 1970s and 1980s, was found in the vast Stasi archives by officials of the Berlin-based Gauck Commission, a German government agency investigating the former secret police.

"It is a remarkable story," Becker was quoted as saying. "It's the first well-documented case of such a thing."

"It really is the stuff of James Bond movies," said Barrie Lambert, a radiobiologist at St Bartholomew's Hospital in London.

"It's an unpleasant thing to do. The risk is not limited to the person being tagged. You'd be exposing other people, such as a spouse."

The Stasi files revealed that dissidents were labeled with radioactive substances in a number of ways. If people could not be sprayed with a radioactive solution the spies would label their cars, documents or paper money, according to Becker.

If the floors of rooms used for meetings by dissidents could be treated, the Stasi could follow anyone who
attended.

The Stasi also developed an airgun that could fire tags made of small pieces of silver wire into car tires.

Becker said that while doses of radiation were usually below what would seriously harm or kill, there were mishaps.

"The Stasi marked West German deutschmarks with large amounts of scandium to see how they circulated and for what purpose. While they expected to retrieve them, they didn't and the notes disappeared without trace," said Becker.

The Stasi later calculated that if more than one note was in a man's pocket, the effect on his fertility "came close to castration," said Becker.

It has long been suspected that the Stasi used radiation as a weapon, but Becker said it would never be officially proved whether it was true that large X-ray machines were used to covertly irradiate dissidents in political prisons.

Becker left East Germany in 1951, aged 18. He later became a senior official of the Juelich Nuclear Research Establishment in West Germany.

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