Arstechnica.com revealed on Wednesday a string of comments that it alleged Snowden left on the website’s “Internet Relay Chat” once he arrived in Geneva in 2007, where he worked as a spy with diplomatic cover.
The remarks, made under an online username “TheTrueHOOHA”, are initially critical about how expensive Switzerland is, make references to how “racist” the Swiss are, but also refer to the mountain country as “pretty cool”.
Snowden, an IT systems expert, was 23 when he arrived in Switzerland as a CIA spy before he moved on to work for a private contractor hired by the National Security Agency (NSA).
Now reportedly at Moscow’s international airport, the 30-year-old is wanted by US law enforcement officials in connection with leaking NSA documents that reveal a massive global internet and telephone “data-mining” surveillance program.
Snowden is being regarded as a traitor to his country by American politicians and a hero by others for lifting the lid on allegedly invasive practices by US intelligence services.
He began secretly leaking the documents to The Washington Post and Britain’s Guardian newspapers in early June before revealing himself as the whistleblower on June 9th.
The comments made by TheTrueHOOHA to Arstechnica suggest that Snowden was unfamiliar with Switzerland when he first arrived.
On the chat site he appears to be conversing with Americans in the US about Swiss life and how it contrasts with life back home.
“You guys wouldn’t believe how expensive shit is here,” he says in one entry.
“You can’t get tap water in restaurants . . . they make you buy it in bottles, glass bottles. 5 bucks a pop.”
He complains of hamburgers costing $15 that tasted like “greasy cardboard”.
“Jesus christ are the swiss rich,” he wrote, adding, with the use of an obscenity, that McDonald’s workers were paid more than he was.
“They make like $50,000 a year.”
Several months later Snowden apparently warmed to life in Geneva.
“It’s pretty cool,” he wrote, according to Arstechnica.com.
“The girls are gorgeous, too. Oh, and prostitution is legal.”
He said it’s “like living in a post card” but also “nightmarishly expensive and horrifically classist.”
The comment that has drawn most attention in the Swiss press, however, is one referring to the Swiss as racists.
“I have never EVER seen a people more racist than the swiss jesus god they look down on EVERYONE,” he wrote, according to Arstechnica.
“Even each other.”
The website says TheTrueHOOHA made nearly 800 posts to its forums, “including biographical information and photos that match Snowden.”
Reuters earlier this month reported that Snowden used the pseudonym for online postings.
The fugitive caused a stir in Switzerland when he revealed that the CIA got a banker drunk in Geneva in order to recruit him as an informant about tax evasion by Americans stashing money in Switzerland.
Swiss Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter said on Thursday that American officials have provided only a “very diplomatic” response to questions from Bern about this allegation.
"They have answered that they have respected Swiss law and that they have never done anything of any sort that is problematic," Burkhalter was quoted as saying by the ATS news agency.
"We have decided to continue the discussions with the Americans about this pending question," he said.
For Washington, he said, “it is obvious that there wasn't a problem."
Click here to check the Arstechnica.com site, which also alleges that Snowden said in an online posting in 2009 that leakers "should be shot".
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