APRIL 1982 - VOLUME 3 - NUMBER 4
Kaiser Technicians Arrested at Ghana Plant as Spies
Three employees of the Kaiser Aluminum Company stationed in Ghana were declared personae non gratae, arrested and deported in early March on charges of being "foreign agents" engaged, in "interference and destabilization," according to a statement by Ghana's secretary for internal affairs, Johnny Hansen.
The alleged spies - two Americans, one German - were working as technicians at the giant Volta Aluminum plant in Tema, Ghana. The Volta Aluminum Company (VALCO), by far the largest U.S. investment in the country is owned 90% by Kaiser Aluminum and 10% by Reynolds Aluminum.
Coming just three months after Jerry Rawlings took power in a December 31 coup that toppled the pro-Western government of Hilla Limann, this incident has aroused the anger of Ghana's new leadership. "We shall resist with our very lives, if necessary," warned Hansen, "all attempts by any forces who place their narrow interests above those of our country and our people."
The three VALCO employees . were discovered while in possession of "tape-recordings of messages transmitted on the intelligence network of the deposed government, coded messages of Dr. Limann's sercurity agents as they tried unsuccessfully in the first 48 hours after the revolution to organize a resistance and to plan escape routes of top PNP [Limann's party] personalities and intelligence operatives," reported the government-owned Daily Graphic in a lead story on March 5.
While searching the premises of the Kaiser technicians, Rawlings' government officials found "an automatic electronic, multi-frequency scanner continuously receiving messages on a whole range of frequencies," and "a diary in which political and military events in the country since December 31, 1981 were systematically being recorded," according to the Daily Graphic.
Interior minister Hansen further charged in his statement that the three employees "tried to organize meetings between themselves and Colonel Yahaya, the security coordinator for the Limann government who is now at large and whose name, together with that of Dr. Arthur, secretary to Dr. Limann, appeared in the diary that was found during the search."
The two Americans arrested were Terry Dean Swanny and Clyde Maclean Spears; the German, Siegfried Prangenberg. Swanny "joined Kaiser Aluminum in 1975, and joined VALCO in September , 1980," said Gary Simpson, a Kaiser spokesperson, when asked by Multinational Monitor about the incident. Swanny was employed as a "maintenance project engineer," and Spears "has been a Kaiser employee since 1966," Simpson said, and has been stationed with VALCO for 14 of his 16 years with Kaiser. His latest position there was as "senior maintenance supervisor."
"VALCO is convinced that none of the individuals acted in any way to interfere in Ghanaian affairs of state or served as agents of any government," VALCO announced in a long statement signed by Paul Holbrook, resident director of VALCO.
The Holbrook statement provides VALCO's interpretation of the evidence that the government of Ghana discovered.
"Mr. T.D. Swanny works in the maintenance department," Holbrook stated. "In this capacity, he utilized a scanner, which is a radio receiver capable of receiving transmissions on many frequencies... It is a type of equipment VALCO has had for some years, which the company uses to monitor communications at its hospital, maintenance and traffic operations. "
The diary the officials found was an innocuous document kept for academic reasons by Swanny, Holbrook claimed. "Following the events of December 31, this employee [Swanny] heard transmissions concerning developments then taking place on Ghana," explained Holbrook. "Because he felt he was a witness to history in the, making he recorded some of these transmissions and made notes."
The VALCO statement did not specifically respond to the Ghanaian charges that the employees attempted to arrange meetings with high-ranking officials of the deposed government.
The U.S. State Department issued no statement about this affair and lodged no complaint with the Ghanaian officials over the deportation of the two Americans, Raymond Pardon, the State Department desk officer for Ghana, told Multinational Monitor. Asked for the State Department's reactions to the charges of espionage by U.S. citizens, Pardon would only say: "read the Volta Aluminum statement. I consider it good."
The Ghanaian government has not named the country or countries for whom the Kaiser employees allegedly were spying.
One knowledgeable Ghanaian in the United States, contacted by Multinational Monitor, suspects "the CIA was behind the whole thing."
Though there is no hard evidence of CIA involvement in this particular incident, the CIA does have a history of using multinational corporations as shields for their agents: "commercial cover," the CIA calls it.
This CIA practice is outlined in a secret CIA document "The Principles of Deep Cover," written by C.D. Edbrook, which the Covert Action Information Bulletin obtained and printed in its August-September, 1980 issue. The Edbrook document is "a basic text in CIA training," says Covert Action, a CIA watch-dog organization based in Washington.
"The Principles of Deep Cover" outlines in great detail the usefulness of "commercial cover" and the tactics the CIA should use in securing the confidence of companies to be used as covers. "The agreements with the company should be as simple and clear as possible and understood in the same way by both parties," the text advises.
Secrecy is essential, the document says, for an operation to be successful. "When a cover agreement is negotiated it should be decided early on who in the company has to be made witting (knowledgeable)." Sometimes "only one or two key officials" such as a "company president" will have to know about the cover operation, the document states.
The existence of CIA "commercial covers" came to light most recently when the agency's Iran documents were reconstructed by Iranian officials. The CIA material, discussed in a January 31, 1982 Washington Post article by Scott Armstrong, revealed that Don Meads, president of a U.S.-based firm, Carver Associates, knew that the CIA was using his company as a "deep cover" for an agent in Iran, and that Meads "was prepared to vouch for" the agent.
On February 2, 1982, a front page New York Times article noted that the CIA was currently expanding its "commercial cover" operation: "the United States intelligence-gathering activities are increasingly being conducted under the cover of private commercial organizations," said the Times.