Switzerland Launches Criminal Probe Into NSA Surveillance

It sounds like the Swiss authorities want to put the American spies in prison

The Swiss Federal Prosecutor’s Office has launched a criminal investigation into mass surveillance conducted by the US intelligence agencies.

According to the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation, the National Security Agency (NSA) could have violated article 271 of the penal code, which lists “unlawful activities on behalf of a foreign state”.

Swiss cloud companies have previously used the NSA scandal to advertise their services to businesses concerned over the security of their data, basing their campaigns on the country’s long tradition of data protection and respect towards privacy.

The Swiss approach

The Snowden saga began in Switzerland: former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden was working in Geneva when he first realised the extent of NSA spying programmes. He was appalled at the practices employed by the US intelligence agencies, later describing how CIA operatives recruited a local banker by getting him drunk, putting him behind the wheel, and helping him when he was arrested.

AVM_FRITZBox_6840_LTE_freigestellt Stop Watching Us rally (c) Rena Schild, Shutterstock 2013“Much of what I saw in Geneva really disillusioned me about how my government functions and what its impact is in the world,” Snowden told the Guardian. “I realised that I was part of something that was doing far more harm than good.”

In October, Der Spiegel reported that the US embassy in Geneva housed a powerful electronic surveillance station – something that went against reassurances by the US government that it had always respected Swiss laws.

In November, the Swiss government, which had always denied cooperation with the US spies, launched new inquiries into the NSA surveillance practices, among an increasing number of programmes revealed by Snowden that that seemed to go against the local law.

Separate investigations were initiated by the justice, foreign and finance ministries, aiming to result in “definite measures”.

Snowden had reportedly met representatives of the Swiss government while living in Russia.

According to the article 271 of the Swiss penal code, “any person who carries out activities on behalf of a foreign state on Swiss territory without lawful authority” could be liable to a monetary penalty, and up to three years in prison.

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