NSA

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

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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