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Swiss neutrality tarnished by spy scandal, critics warn

AFP  |  Geneva 

Outraged commentators warned Wednesday that revelations the CIA and Germany's intelligence service had for decades used a Swiss encryption company for spying had seriously damaged Switzerland's cherished reputation for neutrality.

Critics voiced particular concern that Bern may have been at least tacitly complicit in the secret operation.

Switzerland, which takes pride in its neutral and non-aligned status, "was hosting a quasi ally intelligence agency," the Tribune de Geneve daily said in an editorial. Swiss officials "very likely" knew what was going on but "closed their eyes" in the name of neutrality, it added.

Home to the United Nations European headquarters and the International Committee of the Red Cross, Switzerland is recognised worldwide for its standing as an honest broker.

But media revelations Tuesday told how for decades the US and West German intelligence services raked in the top-secret communications of governments around the world.

The Trojan horse they used was their hidden control of Swiss encryption company Crypto AG.

The company supplied devices for encoded communications to some 120 countries from after World War II to the beginning of this century, including Iran, South American governments, and India and Pakistan.

Unknown to those governments, Crypto was secretly acquired in 1970 by the US Central Intelligence Agency together with the then West Germany's BND Federal Intelligence Service.

The Swiss government said Tuesday it had named a retired federal judge to look into the matter, with his findings due out in June.

But Carolina Bohren, a Swiss defence ministry spokeswoman, stressed the difficulties ahead. "The events in question began in 1945 and are difficult to reconstruct and interpret today," she said.

Bern also announced it had suspended export licenses for Crypto's successor companies, until the situation has been "clarified".

But a number of political parties, insisting that far more needed to be done, on Wednesday called for a full-blown investigation.

The Swiss Socialist Party wondered in a tweet whether the country's own intelligence service was a "victim or an accomplice", demanding "clarifications and a full investigation".

The Greens and Christian Democrats also suggested a parliamentary commission might be called for.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Wed, February 12 2020. 20:44 IST
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