The US Mission in Geneva is under investigation by the Swiss Justice and Police Department (FDJP) and the Swiss Foreign Affairs Department for spying, despite being refused permission by Bern in 2007 to do so. Headlines around the world, based on one AFP story, say Swiss lawmakers are calling for diplomats to be expelled, but there is little evidence of this in Switzerland. NZZ, the Zurich newspaper, broke the story Sunday and Le Temps in Geneva Monday noted without confirmation that the US Mission is suspected of having 25-30 people involved in surveillance. The FDJP has refused to comment on the type of surveillance involved, electronic or humans spying or both, nor are details available about who was spied on, although WikiLeaks makes reference to a Muslim couple spied on in 2005.
The Swiss were alerted by Sweden and Norway in the autumn of 2010 of “indications” the US was running an espionage program in Geneva, after WikiLeaks turned up evidence of similar surveillance operations there. The government in Bern “immediately approached the US Mission in this matter, reminding the US authorities of the legal force of the Federal Council’s decision of 2007 and demanding suspension of any possible surveillance activities”, according to a statement issued Monday 17 January by the FDJP.
The US mission in Geneva and embassy in Bern in 2006 and 2007 requested the right to establish what are known as Surveillance Detection Programs. These require “official authorization if they go beyond the range of the immediate vicinity of an embassy,” the Swiss FDJP say in its statement, because they “constitute operations for a foreign state”. A spokesperson in Bern told GenevaLunch that the definition of vicinity is not a question of metres but involves evaluating the “characteristics” of the surveillance and its location.
The Federal Council turned down the requests in August 2007 “for want of a legal or contractual basis” the statement says, and the US embassy was informed about the decision. The situation at the US Mission in Geneva “is under review” says Bern, since it informed the US any such activities must stop.
The US Mission has not commented on the matter, although AP reports US authorities as saying they won’t comment on a security matter. Monday is a public holiday in the US, with government offices closed for Martin Luther King day in remembrance of the civil rights leader.
….Here we go again with the U.S. ignoring international law yet again and doing as it pleases.