Monday, May 25, 2009

"Nazis, dictators and shady businessmen"

Following up on my recent post, CIA and the Nuclear Black Market, Mark Hosenball has a curious little two-paragraph piece at Newsweek, The Swiss Say Get Out And Stay Out.

The set-up is in the first paragraph:
For decades Switzerland's banks have provided a haven for the ill-gotten wealth of Nazis, dictators and shady businessmen. But after 9/11, as U.S. investigators hunted for terrorist assets, the Swiss government promised to cooperate. For the first time, they opened some of their books. But that good will was fleeting. Swiss bankers and politicians have come to resent what they see as a squeeze on their most vital industry.
The second paragraph:
The strain is starting to show. This month, NEWSWEEK has learned, Swiss authorities threatened to throw a top U.S. congressional aide in jail as a spy if he tried to enter the country on official business. Douglas Frantz, chief investigator of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, contacted the Swiss Embassy to set up meetings regarding a family facing trial for alleged nuke smuggling. As it turned out, the CIA had secretly recruited members of the family as informants, infuriating the Swiss. According to a U.S. official familiar with the matter who asked for anonymity when discussing a sensitive issue, Switzerland's police chief warned Frantz in an e-mail that he'd face arrest on espionage charges. Frantz, who declined to comment, canceled his trip. A Swiss spokesman said Frantz was turned away due to "ongoing" investigations, but that U.S.-Swiss relations remain "excellent."
(hat-tip to Kingfisher)

I shouldn't really complain too much that Newsweek has actually reported on this story, given that I complained in my previous piece about the silence in the US media about this story, but... What.The.Heck?

Why did Hosenball give this 'U.S. official familiar with the matter' anonymity to tell us what has already been reported in Switzerland? Presumably it was this same anonymous source who gave Hosenball the spin that this was somehow related Swiss politicians' love of "Nazis, dictators and shady businessmen."

And, no, the Swiss were not infuriated that the CIA turned Urs Tinner as far as I can tell. As far as I can tell, the Swiss Justice Dept is infuriated that the US government somehow exported their famous 'unitary executive' concept to Switzerland and somehow convinced/bribed/blackmailed the Swiss president to destroy all the evidence in the case (even though that apparently failed.)

Also note Hosenball's use of scare quotes around "ongoing" investigations. The investigation is clearly ongoing, although the investigation suffered an incredible setback thanks to the US demand request to destroy all the evidence.

If Hosenball actually believes in the thesis of his own article, he will soon write an article highlighting how Obama's crackdown on money laundering centers is threatening world peace because it blocks investigations into Iran's nuclear weapons program and Israel will therefore be wiped off the face of the Earth. Or something. But Hosenball won't write that, because he doesn't believe it. But he will write snippy pieces about the Nazi-loving Swiss politicians if they suit the purposes of his anonymous US government sources.

Let's hope we see more reporting on this.

Update: Here is a new AP story on the matter. There's no mention of Swiss banking laws!

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