• 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
Foreigners in Switzerland surpass 2 million mark
International flags outside the UN in Geneva. Photo: Martial Trezzini/AFP

For the first time, there are now more than two million foreigners living in Switzerland.

Geneva runs out of permits for non-EU workers
File photo: The Local

Canton complains to the federal government after it reduced the number of permits available to third state workers.

Scorchio! Late August heat breaks record in Geneva
Lake Geneva on Thursday. Photo: The Local

The mercury in Geneva hit 33.3 degrees, a record for the final week in August.

US and Russia meet in Geneva for Syria talks
John Kerry with UN special envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP

US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Geneva on Thursday for a meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.

Expert predicts major quake for Switzerland by 2040
A fireman stands in the Italian village of Amatrice, which was badly hit by this week's earthquake. Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

The canton of Valais is particularly at risk.

Aggressive deer put down after attacking four in Geneva
File photo: Michal Kosacky

The buck attacked four people in the same area over the course of 48 hours.

Navigation error ends badly for Basel driver

A man accidentally drove his car down a flight of steps after his passenger directed him the wrong way.

Blatter 'confident' as he faces Swiss sports court
Sepp Blatter. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP

Former Fifa boss Sepp Blatter is back in court on Thursday as he seeks to overturn a six-year ban from football.

Federer teams up with Nadal for new tennis tournament
Federer and Nadal at the Laver Cup launch with Rod Laver, Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe. Photo: Alex Goodlett/Getty Images North America/AFP

The duo will play doubles together in a new competition pitting Europe against the rest of the world in a tennis team event.

Geneva advises teachers on religion in school
File photo: C Carlstead

The secular canton of Geneva has issued guidelines for teachers on how to deal with religious issues in the classroom.

Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Photo: Starship
Technology
Swiss Post trials robot parcel deliveries in Bern
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Photo: AFP
Politics
Survey: Swiss optimistic about Brexit effect
Photo: Neil Heritage/Endeavour Fund
Features
Amputee's Matterhorn trek 'makes it more possible' for others
Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
Photo: EPFL
International
Switzerland tops global innovation table – again
Sponsored Article
Jordan: where history meets adventure
Photo: Vasily Cotovanu
National
Asylum centre plans shelved after Swiss village protests
Photo: The Local
Politics
Neuchâtel looks to boost rights for foreigners
Photo: AFP
Sport
In pictures: final day success takes Swiss to seven medals
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Photo: AFP
National
Experts debate rail security following Swiss train attack
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
File photo: AFP
Sport
Two basejumpers die in Lauterbrunnen accidents
Photo: AFP
International
Amnesty fears for child migrants at Italian border
Sponsored Article
Jordan Pass: your ticket to the experience of a lifetime
Photo: AXA Winterthur
National
Report: Geneva is Swiss capital of car theft
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
Photo: Dani Pozo/AFP
National
Top tips for watching the meteor shower in Switzerland
File photo: Andrew Turner
Technology
Swiss start-up to offer drone service to farmers
Photo: Beat Strasser
National
British quadruple amputee summits Matterhorn
Photo: Judit Klein
National
Switzerland sees rise in child victims of forced marriage
Photo: Michael Schlick/OS Muhr
National
Swiss hiker in Austria rescued after sending SOS to America
Photo: Chris Murphy
Features
14 mistakes foreigners make on moving to Switzerland
Photo: AFP
Lifestyle
Swiss resort unveils huge ‘natural’ fresco on mountain
Photo: C Sonderegger/Swiss Tourism
National
Five great Swiss traditions all expats should try
Photo: AFP
National
Confirmed cases of Zika virus soar in Switzerland
Photo: eGuide Travel
National
Prison for woman who faked Swiss airport bomb threat
Photo: AFP
Technology
Swiss solar plane completes epic round-the-world trip
4,610
jobs available