US ambassador: Swiss are at start of terrorism debate

US ambassador Suzi LeVine says Switzerland needs to debate how to balance security and privacy Keystone

This content was published on October 5, 2014 - 14:04

Recent newspaper reports that members of the Islamic State terrorist organisation were being held in Switzerland have raised general awareness of the threat, according to Suzi LeVine, the United States ambassador to Switzerland. 

“In a certain respect it’s a good thing that the danger is now visible in Switzerland,” she said in an interview with the Schweiz am Sonntag

Last month it was reported that three Iraqi nationals had been detained in Switzerland “since the spring” under suspicion of membership and support of the Islamic State. In addition, the Swiss Federal Prosecutor’s Office said it was investigating some 20 cases involving radical jihadist terrorism, including four cases connected to Syria. 

LeVine said there was now talk of 30-40 people “who have been recognised as potential threats”. She added that the security services of Switzerland and the US were working together. 

“Given that around the world there are some 14,000 foreign Islamic State fighters, it’s statistically highly likely that there are also some in Switzerland,” she said. 

Balancing act 

On Friday, the Islamic State released a new video showing the beheading of British aid worker Alan Henning. The video was released after nearly two straight weeks of daily airstrikes against the group’s fighters. 

For LeVine, who has been US ambassador since July 1, the question is how to track down the terrorists and thwart their plans but at the same time take into account citizens’ right to privacy. 

“In my opinion, Switzerland is still at the early stages of this necessary debate on which measures are needed in the fight against terrorist dangers and guaranteeing the private sphere,” she said. 

“You can’t have 100% security and 100% privacy.”

Suzi LeVine

LeVine describes herself on the professional social networking site LinkedIn as a “citizen, volunteer and mom”. She previously worked for Microsoft in Redmond, Washington, from 2009-2012. She also worked for the Expedia travel group. She studied English and engineering.
As a member of the Obama campaign’s national finance committee, LeVine helped raise at least $1.3 million (CHF1.15 million) for the current US president since 2007.

It is not unusual for US ambassadorial posts to go to non-career diplomats, in return for 'services rendered'.

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