• Switzerland's news in English
 
app_header_v3

American security leaker worked in Geneva for CIA

Malcolm Curtis · 10 Jun 2013, 16:03

Published: 10 Jun 2013 16:03 GMT+02:00

Whistleblower Edward Snowden, 29, recently released documents showing that the NSA collected nearly three billion pieces of intelligence from US computer networks through a process of “data mining” over a 30-day period ending in March.

Billions of other pieces of information were reportedly obtained by the agency elsewhere in the world.

Snowden, an employee of defence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton who was working for the NSA, leaked the information to The Guardian newspaper in the UK last week and went public about his identity on Sunday.

"Much of what I saw in Geneva really disillusioned me about how my government functions and what its impact is in the world," he told the newspaper in an interview published online on Monday.

"I realized that I was part of something that was doing far more harm than good."

The CIA in 2007 stationed Snowden as a technical assistant in Geneva, where the US has a mission to the United Nations.

The Guardian reported that he was responsible for maintaining computer network security and had clearance to access a “wide array of classified documents”.

Snowden’s access to the documents led him to “begin seriously questioning the rightness of what he saw.”

The Guardian said Snowden described a “formative” incident in which he claimed CIA operatives were attempting to recruit a Swiss banker to obtain secret banking information.

The operatives purposely got the banker drunk and encouraged him to drive home in his car, he told the newspaper.

When the banker was arrested for drunk driving, an undercover agent offered to help “and a bond was formed that led to successful recruitment”.

Snowden told The Guardian that it was during his stint with the CIA in Geneva that he thought for the first time about exposing American government secrets.

He chose not do so because most of the secrets the CIA has are “about people, not machines and systems, so I didn’t feel comfortable with disclosures that I thought could endanger anyone.”

The second reason was that the presidential election of Barack Obama in 2008 gave him hope that there would be real reforms, making disclosures unnecessary.

He left the CIA in 2009 and began working for a contractor for the NSA, where he “watched as Obama advanced the very policies that I thought would be reined in”.

On Saturday, President Obama defended US surveillance programs as necessary for the security of the country.

Admitting that he initially had a healthy scepticism about such programs, he said his administration had added “additional oversight” and he now believes “they help us prevent terrorist attacks.”

The US president said that in defending against terrorism you can’t have “100 percent privacy and zero inconvenience”.

People might complain about “Big Brother” or a “program run amok” but “when you actually look at the details, I think we’ve struck the right balance.”  

Malcolm Curtis (news@thelocal.ch)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
No blanket IOC doping ban for Russian athletes
The IOC ruled that 800m runner Yuliya Stepanova, who turned whistleblower on doping in Russian athletics, could not go to Rio even as a neutral. Photo: AFP

At a meeting in Lausanne on Sunday, the International Olympic Committee on Sunday ordered individual sports federations to decide whether Russian competitors should take part in the Rio Games after failing to agree on a complete ban over Russia's state-run doping.

Van Gogh, Monet paintings seized in Malaysia graft probe
The works were seized following a request from the United States, one of several countries probing alleged massive fraud at the Malaysian state fund 1MDB. Photo: AFP

Switzerland has seized a painting by Vincent Van Gogh and two others by Claude Monet as part of the global investigation into Malaysia's scandal-tainted sovereign wealth fund, an official said on Friday.

IOC reports more doping failures pre-Rio
President Thomas Bach said the retesting showed the IOC's commitment to fight doping. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP

The International Olympic Committee reports 45 new doping failures from Beijing 2008 and London 2012.

Swiss pilots: don’t hunt Pokémon from the air
Pokemon hunting has become a world-wide craze. Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP

The Swiss civil aviation office hears reports of people playing the popular new game from helicopters.

‘Nelson’ the black swan found dead in Montreux
File photo: Noel Reynolds

The non-native swan caused a media storm earlier this month.

Zurich school threatened over links to Erdogan opponent
File photo: Aris Messini/AFP

School targeted over claims it is associated with Fethullah Gulen.

Violent storms hit Switzerland as planet heats up (again)
File photo: Benjamin Benson

Globally, June 2016 was the hottest month on record.

Swiss sports court upholds ban on Russian athletes
Russia's Yelena Isinbayeva (centre) is among the athletes affected. Photo: Kirill Kudryavtsev/Wang Zhao/Greg Baker/AFP

The decision by Lausanne's Court of Arbitration for Sport is a "funeral for athletics" said one Russian athlete.

Swiss Post moves to accept debit cards – sometimes
Photo: Swiss Post

By December customers will be able to pay for products (but not their bills) by debit card.

Study: a fifth of Swiss spy on neighbours
22 percent admit to watching their neighbours. File photo: Chase Elliott Clark

And 40 percent of Swiss feel watched in their homes.

Sponsored Article
Avoid hidden fees when sending money overseas
Photo: Grand Tours Project
Features
Why you should get on your bike in Switzerland
Photo: The Local
Society
Swiss village tells landlords: don’t rent homes to refugees
Photo: Rolf Krahl/Christophe G
International
Survey: world willing to pay more for ‘Swissness’
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Photo: The Local
International
Chaos in Como after Swiss send back refugees
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Photo: AFP/The Local
Lifestyle
Nine top celebrity hotspots in Switzerland
Photo: Graubunden police
National
World-class Swiss climber Norbert Joos dies on ‘home mountain’
Photo: Kathleen Waters
Society
Italian ‘ignored’ by Swiss schools in language wars
Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
Photo: Whitepod
Features
The quirkiest places to stay in Switzerland
Sponsored Article
Why Swiss hospitality graduates are in demand
International
Migrant busted trying to sneak into Switzerland in a suitcase
Photo: Jonathan Kos-Read
National
Basel suffers wettest six months for 150 years
Photo: Georges Gobet/AFP
Technology
Why Swiss science could suffer badly from Brexit fallout
Sponsored Article
Avoid hidden fees when sending money overseas
Photo: Robert Valencia
International
Swiss couple in Nicaragua told to give back adopted daughter
Photo: Zurich cantonal police
National
Police hunt prisoner on the run in Zurich murder case
Photo: Christoph G
Politics
Switzerland sets out law on expelling foreign criminals
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Photo: Bernacqua
Lifestyle
Drone shocks nudists at Swiss waterpark
Photo: Basel Justice and Security Dept
Lifestyle
New signs lay down law and order for Basel prostitutes
Sponsored Article
Why Swiss hospitality graduates are in demand
Photo: Daniel Orth
Education
Muslim school kids denied passport for refusing swimming lessons
Photo: Emmanuel Dunand/AFP
Politics
Swiss-EU talks ‘must’ resume this summer, says President
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
File photo: Kochtopf
National
Anger as Swiss council plans non-pork school lunches
File photo: Jen/Flickr
Society
Geneva could get 'café fellatio' by end of year
Features
How Switzerland's scenery inspired some of the world's greatest authors
4,611
jobs available