SAN FRANCISCO — FBI agents, at the request of New Zealand police, are searching here for a suspected French agent who infiltrated the environmental group Greenpeace shortly before a bomb sank the group's ship in New Zealand last July, a Greenpeace official said Wednesday.
Greenpeace spokeswoman Anne Dingwall said that the FBI was asked to join the search for Christine Cabon because she is believed to have entered this country recently, possibly in an attempt to contact a friend at the University of California, Berkeley.
"We received a request from New Zealand authorities and we're complying with their request," FBI spokesman Robert Deklinsky said, but he declined to reveal details of the request.
"They've got a case going and they don't want anyone to know if they're close or not," he said. "We don't want to jeopardize the investigation."
Cabon, who is wanted for questioning by New Zealand authorities, left that South Pacific nation for Israel late in June where, authorities believe, she met the graduate student from UC Berkeley. A month later Cabon flew to New York, Dingwall said.
Dingwall said Cabon befriended the unnamed female student at an archeological dig in Israel where both women worked briefly. The student returned to California for the start of classes last Monday.
FBI agents reportedly have staked out the student's apartment.
Dingwall said Cabon, identified as a member of the DGSE, the French equivalent of the CIA, infiltrated the Auckland, New Zealand, branch of Greenpeace two months before bombs tore open and sank the Rainbow Warrior on July 10.
Cabon, who used the name Frederique von Lieu and represented herself as a marine archeologist, left Auckland "a couple of weeks" before the ship was sunk, Dingwall said, but she is suspected of helping to plan the bombing.
Greenpeace used the Rainbow Warrior to monitor French nuclear weapons tests in the South Pacific. New Zealand, which opposes the use or deployment of such weapons in the Pacific, is the Greenpeace base for the monitoring operation.
A new Greenpeace ship recently left the Netherlands to replace the sunken Rainbow Warrior.
Two men, both of them identified as French secret service agents, already have been arrested by New Zealand officials in connection with the bombing. Three others, described as skilled undersea divers, are sought by New Zealand authorities but have returned to France.
The French government acknowledges that it monitored the ship's activities but denies any responsibility for the explosion, which killed one man.
Despite the student's acquaintance with the agent, Dingwall said, "I think the chances of (Cabon) showing up at this point is rather negligible" because news of the FBI search is beginning to spread.