The Swiss government has formally asked the U.S. for "clarification" on a claim from alleged NSA leaker Edward Snowden that CIA agents in Geneva pushed a banker to drink and drive as part of a dangerous recruitment ploy.
Snowden, the man who claims to have given top secret documents on the National Security Agency's vast surveillance programs to two major newspapers, briefly discusses the scheme in an interview with the U.K. newspaper The Guardian, saying it was a "formative" moment that led him to question the "rightness" of U.S. intelligence.
In an attempt to learn secret financial information, Snowden alleged that undercover CIA agents would get the banker drunk and "encourage" him to drive home in his car. When the banker was eventually arrested for drunk driving, the CIA operatives offered to help him out of the jam, paving the way for recruitment as a source.
"Much of what I saw in Geneva really disillusioned me about how my government functions and what its impact is in the world," Snowden told The Guardian. "I realized that I was part of something that was doing far more harm than good."
A spokesperson for Switzerland's Federal Department of Foreign Affairs told ABC News the department had "taken note" of Snowden's claims and has sent a "diplomatic note" to the U.S. Embassy in Bern asking "for clarification of the matter."
"In accordance with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, Switzerland expects the members of the diplomatic missions in Bern and the members of the permanent mission in Geneva to comply with the laws and rules of the country of residence," a statement from the foreign ministry read.
At the time of the alleged incident, Snowden said he was working undercover for the CIA in Geneva maintaining computer network security. The CIA has declined to comment on Snowden's case, but the Swiss foreign ministry confirmed that he publicly held the position of "an attaché" with the permanent U.S. mission to the United Nations in Geneva from March 2007 to February 2009. A spokesperson for the U.S. State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment for this report.
NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has told a Hong Kong newspaper that the U.S. government has been hacking Hong Kong and Chinese networks for at least four years.
The comments were made as part of the South China Morning Post's exclusive interview with Snowden — his first since revealing himself on Sunday.
Snowden reportedly showed reporter Lana Lam documents that showed the NSA had been hacking computers in Hong Kong and on the mainland since 2009. He estimated there were hundreds of targets in Hong Kong and mainland China, including the Chinese University of Hong Kong. None of the documents revealed any information about Chinese military systems, Snowden said.
“We hack network backbones – like huge internet routers, basically – that give us access to the communications of hundreds of thousands of computers without having to hack every single one,” Snowden told Lam.
China's own online espionage efforts were put in the spotlight earlier this year after a report from U.S. security firm Mandiant that accused military-linked groups of hacking major U.S. companies. After that story, China hit back saying Washington was the "real hacking empire."
For latest updates on this see: http://www.guardian....ition1:sublinks