Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Dead

Swiss...uh..."Spy Chief" Albert Bachmann has died. He was 81. Though derided as almost wondrously ineffective it does sound as though he had fun at least.

After being appointed to run Swiss intelligence in 1976, he created Project 26, a secret army of 2,000 resistance fighters trained to wage guerrilla warfare against Soviet troops in the event of an invasion.

To ensure the survival of the Swiss state, he bought Liss Ard, a 200-acre estate near Cork, to serve as a refuge and headquarters for a government in exile and, in the basement of one of its two Georgian houses, a vault for Switzerland’s gold reserves.

Loyalists regarded Colonel Bachmann as a fearless visionary. Others agreed with the intelligence agent who dismissed his former boss as “a glorified Boy Scout who saw evil everywhere and believed that he alone possessed the absolute truth about national defense.”

Colonel Bachmann came to grief after sending one of his operatives, a management consultant named Kurt Schilling, to spy on Austrian troops carrying out maneuvers near the town of St. Pölten in November 1979.

The need for cloak-and-dagger secrecy was unclear, since the Austrian government had invited observers from all over the Eastern bloc to watch the operations. Mr. Schilling, equipped with maps, binoculars and a notebook, nevertheless spent several days snooping around military barracks and command posts before the Austrian police pounced.

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