Swiss find signs of illegal US surveillance: ministry

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Bern has found signs that the US embassy in Geneva has been conducting illegal surveillance on Swiss territory, the justice ministry told AFP Sunday, confirming local press reports.

The Swiss government had in 2007 rejected requests made by the US missions in Bern and Geneva to protect their buildings through a surveillance programme "due to a lack of legal basis and bilateral accords on this domain," the ministry said in a statement.

However, it emerged late last year that US embassies in Norway and Denmark had been conducting similar programmes.

Following the disclosures in Scandinavia, "Swiss authorities have found, during last autumn, indications showing that such a programme is ongoing at the US mission in Geneva."

Swiss authorities have sought the immediate suspension of the programme and are "now proceeding with an in-depth examination of the situation in Geneva," added the ministry.

Since news broke in Scandinavia of the programme, Washington has acknowledged conducting surveillance through its embassies, but has insisted it is aimed solely at protecting its missions against attack and is carried out within the laws of the host countries.

© 2011 AFP

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