The Swiss government says it has widened its investigation into alleged US spying activities in Switzerland revealed by former National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden.
The cabinet announced on Wednesday that it had given special mandates to the justice, foreign and finance ministries to seek further clarifications about possible NSA snooping on Swiss soil with a view to “adopting definite measures”.
The controversy has alarmed certain parliamentarians. The Swiss government is facing calls for political measures and the parliamentary committee that oversees the Swiss intelligence services wants information about possible collaboration with the NSA. It announced on Tuesday that it had requested additional documentation.
Meanwhile, the Green Party wants to organise a special debate on the issue during the next parliamentary session, while the Social Democrats are calling for a parliamentary enquiry.
In June Snowden told The Guardian newspaper that he had worked for the CIA in Geneva in 2007 under the guise of a diplomat. It was here, he said, that he first encountered the scale of the snooping operation. He also described how the CIA recruited a Geneva banker by purposely getting him drunk and then helping him after he was arrested whilst driving.
The Swiss government immediately sought explanations from Washington and was told the US had respected Swiss laws. In September it announced it had ordered the defence ministry to continue an investigation into possible US spying.
In October the German Der Spiegel magazine claimed, based on a 2010 document provided by Snowden, that the US embassy in Geneva houses a powerful joint NSA-CIA electronic monitoring station.
Defence Minister Ueli Maurer told reporters the Swiss government had never had any contact with the NSA and denied speculation that Switzerland had exchanged data with the agency. However, he said Switzerland was cooperating with the US in the fight against terrorism.
However, Spain's El Mundo newspaper in October published new documents based on Snowden leaks showing Switzerland as one of 19 countries participating in "Focused Cooperation" with the NSA.
The government on Wednesday again condemned any sort of intelligence activities by a foreign service in Switzerland.
It recalled that alongside Germany, Austria and Liechtenstein it had submitted an initiative to the United Nations Human Rights Council to protect individual privacy. Switzerland also supports a similar resolution presented by Germany and Brazil to the UN General Assembly.