Switzerland Furious About Snowden's Charge That the CIA Conducts Economic Espionage Against Formerly Secret Swiss Banks


One of the many lurid details in The Guardian's remarkable interview with NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden was his account of what initially prompted him to leak:

By 2007, the CIA stationed him with diplomatic cover in Geneva, Switzerland. His responsibility for maintaining computer network security meant he had clearance to access a wide array of classified documents.

That access, along with the almost three years he spent around CIA officers, led him to begin seriously questioning the rightness of what he saw.

He described as formative an incident in which he claimed CIA operatives were attempting to recruit a Swiss banker to obtain secret banking information. Snowden said they achieved this by purposely getting the banker drunk and encouraging him to drive home in his car. When the banker was arrested for drunk driving, the undercover agent seeking to befriend him offered to help, and a bond was formed that led to successful recruitment.

"Much of what I saw in Geneva really disillusioned me about how my government functions and what its impact is in the world," he says. "I realised that I was part of something that was doing far more harm than good."

Given that the U.S. has waged a long and mostly successful campaign to rid the world of the scourge of Swiss banking privacy, an effort that largely culminated in an agreement signed just last Friday, the long-beleagured Swiss are a bit put out by the allegation that American spooks were thumbling the scale. Here's Swiss Info:

"What is really very serious is that [US] agents are active on foreign territory, and violate the laws of the country where they are," former Swiss parliamentarian and prosecutor Dick Marty told public radio on Monday. 

"This is not the first time they have done this, and I must say that they have been spoiled by the Swiss. For too long Switzerland has tolerated CIA agents doing more or less whatever they wanted on our territory."

Other quotes in the article are more hesitant; most express weariness at a world subjected to Washington's rules.

Meanwhile, GenevaLunch.com reports that the Snowden disclosure "could not come at a worse time for the Swiss government, trying to convince parliament to back its emergency plan that would allow Swiss banks to turn over data on tax evaders to the US government."

It really is remarkable, and not nearly remarked upon enough, how the United States of America just imposes its international legal preferences upon the world, then exempts itself from those rules as necessary.

Three related pieces from me: 

* Judge Alex Kozinski on Third-Party Privacy: "Kiss it Goodbye"

* The Insatiable Taxman: New laws push expatriate Americans to keep their money in their mattresses

* The Dark Side of Anti-"Swiss Bank Accout" Politics

NEXT: LA Retirement System Accused of Concealing Pension Payouts of City Leaders

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  1. Thank Gaia our standing in the world has risen so far since Dubya left that we can weather these little PR storms.

  2. Since Obama is in charge being an American Stooge is perfectly fine.

  3. How did the NSA get the banker out of the DUI? Or did they have the local cops on the take as well?

    1. My presumption was that they reported the banker to the cops. The article doesn’t say they were able to get the banker out of the charges, but that a US agent was helpful – ie, bailed him out, gave him a ride home, etc.

      1. Well whoopdee shit, getting home from the drunk tank was the least of the guys problems. You want me to play ball with spies then they better be bringin the “professional courtesy” Chicago deep dish style.

  4. It would seem he’s found his place of asylum; assuming he can get there.

    1. I certainly hope so, although why he didn’t go there from the start, I don’t know.

  5. It really is remarkable, and not nearly remarked upon enough, how the United States of America just imposes its international legal preferences upon the world, then exempts itself from those rules as necessary.

    There’s a reason the US government doesn’t mind bankrolling everyone else’s military needs and being world cop. The power it gets in exchange is worth it to the scum that inhabit our government.

    1. They hate us for our freedom.

  6. God, I would love to see friendly foreign governments start imprisoning CIA agents.

    1. Didn’t an Italian judge issue a warrant for a whole team of dudes who had snatched up someone and took him to gentle Egypt for light questioning?

      1. Yes, but that disappeared down the memory hole real quick.

        Hopefully, our allies will realize they were all played and there will be consequences for this.

      2. light questioning

        Or perhaps a casual chat.

  7. Look. We’re fucking America, see? We can do whatever the fuck we want. We want to destroy Swiss banking privacy? We fucking do it. We want to impose CFTC rules on foreign banks? We fucking do it! And do you know why?

    That’s right. Because we’re America. Fuck yeah!

    1. Murika, fuck yeah!

      Where’s Tulpa when Murika needs defending from the anarchist heathens around here?

  8. This is the gift that just keeps on giving.

  9. If only Putin and/or China were the world hegemon. Those two countries support civil liberties and have the best interests of the people at heart. And no corporations and free healthcare and a sufficient social safety with living wages, free education (as supposed to our moron Religious Right infested education system) democratic media controls, green energy and no insane racist gun culture.

    Not to mention it was too bad that Nazi Germany and the USSR fell. Those two, whatever their faults, opposed the US hegemon and knew the key libertarian insight of opposing US imperialism and aggression. They were certainly better on that than Rand Paul who voted to filibuster Obama’s Defense Secretary. What kind of neocon stooge doesn’t immediately support the head of the US War Machine?

    1. Meh …. C-. Try again. Or not.

      1. Grade inflation. Also, finally, some (20+ year old) news about your home area you can be proud of.

        1. Grade inflation? Is that what we’re calling it these days?

    2. If only Putin and/or China were the world hegemon.

      Why does the world need a hegemon at all?

      That stupid argument that “others would be worse”, while true, suffers from the fatal flaw that there is no need for the US to do it either.

      1. And why is it always about the hegemon? What about a she-gemon? Huh, ya sexist?

        1. Well at least Europe doesn’t have the outrageous sexism that the US has. We need to end war and the patriarchy. That includes free day care, maternity leave, equal pay, shorter hours and free schooling from 3 to 33.

      2. The World needs a hegemon that will engage in humanitarian interventionism and spread the glorious people’s revolution. The US is too reactionary and stupid to engage in this behavior.

        1. Please just go away.

    3. If only Putin and/or China were the world hegemon.

      False choice. F-.

      1. Also, Putin isn’t a country, he’s a person. So add an F- for Geography too.

        1. Or for parallelism. Which is, like, worse.

    4. I think this is supposed to be a parody of something, but I can’t tell what.

  10. Quick survey for fellow Reasonoids- When bringing up the Snowden leak in polite conversation, have you found that most people support the program or are up in arms against it?

    Sadly my experience has been that most think “if this is what we need to do to stop the terrorists, then so be it.”

    1. When it has come up, everyone I know has opposed it.

    2. I haven’t even been getting that. No one I know seems to care particularly about whether “we” are or are not stopping “the terrorists.” They all just say, “Meh, I figured my government was spying on me; why is this news?” Which, to be honest, I’m finding worse.

      1. Yeah, I get a lot of that too. I think folks are becoming immune to the “scandals” and just assume -accurately- that the whole thing is just a diseased elephant plagued by greedy power hungry freaks.

        The problem is that they won’t take the next step and embrace a philosophy that attempts to reverse the disease.

        1. Yeah, exactly. To a friend that asked if he should be surprised, my only response was, well, there are reasons I’m an anarchist…

          1. The people I’ve met who are not surprised and also not worried about thi, are the same people who would lose their shit if it turned out Walmart was collecting this data instead of the NSA. I cannot fathom why it’s no big deal when it’s a government with the power to ruin your life, but a huge deal when it’s a corporation with no power over you at all.

            1. That’s reminds me o the conversations I have with people about End User License Agreements for things like Facebook and Gmail. People will bitch about their “privacy” being violated and then I remind them that when they clicked on the EULA they basically agreed that anything they post on their is now the property of Facebook.

              Then they do the whole “that’s not fair!”!!!

              I am beginning to hate people.

              1. Just biginning?

            2. ^^ THIS!

              Remember a couple of years ago when it was discovered that your iPhone kept a rolling list of recently accessed cell towers? That info was stored on the phone and backed up to your computer, but was unencrypted and could be read by someone with access to your phone or computer.

              There was a HUGE outcry about Apple “tracking users” and privacy yada yada. This information was only used locally and employed for legitimate application (for both diagnostics and connection help) but you would have thought it was the end of the world.

              However, the government grabbing far more information in secret for anything they want? “Meh.”

      2. That’s basically what I’ve been saying. Joe Six Pack doesn’t care about this stuff so long as he still has his six pack. Technology has made our lives so good now that our government can basically do whatever it wants to our privacy.

      3. Most people think this is a problem for someone else.

      4. The only “I’m not outraged” response I’ve gotten was essentially that this didn’t feel right and she didn’t believe the NSA was competent enough to get this much data.

        1. I have to wonder a bit about the format of the data. Did Verizon turn it over on a 4-CD set? Did they print out the phone records of every subscriber they have for the past 6 months and ship the NSA a few trucks of file folders? Or can the NSA simply query their database for direct import to their systems?

          If it’s the later, the NSA is plenty competent to vacuum it all up.

        2. Anyone who feels that way should take a trip to the Dulles corridor outside Washington DC. It’s like Silicon Valley, but populated entirely by government contractors building the surveillance state.

    3. The problem isn’t the spying, it’s that the wrong Top. Men. are in charge (or something like that).

      No, seriously.

      1. My mom flat out admitted she does trust Obama with this program but didn’t with Bush. She’s an extreme liberal so I wasn’t surprised, but she represents the NYT crowd.

        1. She does realize that Obama won’t be in power forever, right?

          1. Yeah, still doesn’t matter. She the kind of liberal that thinks the IRS scandal is no big deal and Benghazi wasn’t an issue either.

            We don’t discuss politics very often.

          2. That’s easy. If it’s a Democrat, all the same stuff is good. Republican? Bad!

        2. I saw a quote to that effect on a lefty gay blog I follow. I’m not sure with things like this if they’re soft-selling it to make it ok for hard partisans to get angry, or if the author is legitimately not concerned with Obama being evil.

          The government’s intelligence gathering program — called PRISM — is ostensibly trying to achieve the worthy goal of preventing terror attacks. But the Kafka-esque bureaucracy it’s creating could turn dangerous in the wrong hands. We’ve seen it before, during red scares that targeted Jews, blacks, gays, intellectuals, and other liberals; so let’s not fall into the abyss of complacency by passing off the NSA’s behavior as just something that makes us feel safer.

          Bonus libertarian shout-out/jibe quote:

          You don’t have to be a libertarian to get angry at the jaw-dropping revelations that the American intelligence apparatus has been mining data from various U.S. Internet companies.

      2. Well, that’s the GOP argument. The Dem argument is that we don’t have to worry because the right Top. Men. are in charge.

        Now don’t you go and vote them out of office because then you’d be in some shit.

      3. Those top men being Justin Trudeau, Putin, Chavez, Castro, Hollande, Mossadegh, Allende and Tsipras. Since they oppose yanquis imperialism they are indeed the proper top men for libertarians to surrender to in the name of stopping the US hegemon.

        1. What new manner of unfunny troll is this?

          1. The unfunny troll manner of unfunny troll?

            1. And everytime I go to grylliade I’m promised free beer. Where the fuck is my free beer?

          2. I think it’s someone trying parody the anti-war writers on Lew Rockwell’s personal site.

            1. Then maybe they should go do that at Lew Rockwell’s site. You know, since this isn’t Lew Rockwell’s site? Then again no one ever said the trolls around here were smart.

          3. I suspect Mary Stack is off her meds again. Or it’s “American” off his/ her/ its meds.

            1. You’ll know its that if the comments mysteriously disappear in the next hour or so.

    4. People get very angry when you ask why it didn’t catch the Tsarnov brothers.

      1. Then that’s the question we need to start hammering them with.

        1. Next on Hoarders, meet the government agency that collects piles of data on every single person in the country, but does nothing with them. See six years worth of comprehensive phone records stacked on a server, just in case…

      2. I’m still kind of amazed that we don’t get more things like the marathon bombing. Which leads me to believe that it isn’t much of a threat. I have little confidence in the ability of the government to stop small scale terrorist plots.

    5. Most are in favor in my small sample. I like to bring up the difference in reaction to Snowden compared to the IRS officials involved with the tea party targeting operation, that usually gets some support. Everyone is calling to crucify this guy, they call him a traitor, etc., but where are the calls for these IRS officials. The damage the IRS did was real as opposed to a hypothetical reduction in security.

  11. OT: Woman kills boyfriend with stilletto heel


    1. He’s 15 years her senior and she reported the death herself. Crazy or self-defense?

    2. Jessica Alba did it first in Machete.

    3. Women in Houston… Do not cheat on them. They do shit like this. Or park their mercedes on your head with your daughter in the car.

  12. Why does anyone even need a private Swiss bank account?

    It’s not like it’s alt-text.

    1. Apparently, you’ve never had a Swiss miss.

      1. +1 ISIS assignment

  13. I’m surprised the international angle to this hasn’t been discussed more. If I understand things correctly, the NSA was collecting info on all calls from and to the US. It doesn’t just trample on the liberties of American citizens.

    1. The key would be if they are collecting info on calls entirely within the US, ie those where both the caller and the called are within US territory.

      1. I thought this was the whole flap – Bush started the illegal and unconstitutional monitoring of phone and internet traffic to and from the US, laws were passed which retroactively okayed the monitoring and granted immunity from lawsuits to the telcos involved and now it turns out that they expanded the monitoring from international phone and internet traffic to entirely domestic traffic without actually expanding the law which forbade them from intentionally targeting solely domestic traffic.

        Am I wrong here?

        1. I like to think that the ideals expressed by the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights are ideals of human rights, not merely American citizens’ rights, but I get that national sovereignty means there is a difference between what is acceptable inside and outside the borders of the United States.

          Monitoring international traffic I can see where you might have an argument that it’s legal or acceptable even if I don’t think it is right; but monitoring all the domestic traffic? I don’t even wanna hear whatever bullshit excuses or justifications you might come up with.

  14. So it was all about SWISS BANKSZ!!!11!! That ought to bring any wavering proggies firmly back onto the reservation. There’s nothing prog-tards hate more than EVUL SWISS BANKSZ!!!!!1!!!!11!!

    Meanwhile, back in reality, the government’s use of the Bill of Rights as toilet paper will continue unabated.

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