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Swiss Find Evidence of CIA Spy Attempt

Newsday | October 27, 2006

BERN, Switzerland -- Swiss authorities have found enough evidence to seek a full investigation into allegations the CIA was trying to obtain personal details of about 500 labor union members, most of them Arabs, officials said Friday.

Espionage by foreign agents in Switzerland is illegal and often results in expulsion of the suspects.

The investigations began Sept. 12, the same day the daily tabloid Blick first reported that an unidentified CIA agent based at the U.S. Embassy in Bern had paid a Swiss informant in an attempt to obtain information about Arabs in Switzerland suspected of involvement in terrorist financing.

Jeanette Balmer, spokeswoman of the Federal Prosecutor's Office, said intensive investigations have confirmed those suspicions.

"Moreover, the people in question in the case could be identified," she said.

Balmer told The Associated Press authorities had been investigating illegal activity by a foreign state and espionage. She said the prosecutor's office would now seek a warrant from the governing Cabinet which is required for authorities to continue their investigation in cases classed as "political crimes."

Blick said authorities on Thursday interrogated an alleged Swiss informant, who the newspaper said admitted receiving payment from the CIA agent for banking details of an alleged Syrian terror suspect.

The newspaper said the CIA agent also wanted personal details on about 500 members of the Syna labor union, the second largest union in Switzerland with 65,000 members.

Syna issued a statement deploring the alleged attempt to obtain data, and said no membership data had found its way into unauthorized hands.



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