Wed, Januari 12, 2011 | WikiLeaks | Edited by Crethi Plethi
WikiLeaks: Switzerland and Counter-Terrorism
A released WikiLeaks cable reveals that Switzerland believes Islamist groups could use the country as a transit point, logistics center, or haven for terrorist finances.
Swiss officials maintain that there are few Islamic extremists in the country, but a small number of arrests in the past two years suggests there may be more under the surface.
The Swiss media and individual members of Parliament have placed a greater focus on alleged USG wrongdoings in the War on Terror than on the terrorist threat itself.
Switzerland and Liechtenstein have frozen Taliban/Al-Qaeda assets under UN resolutions connected with international terrorism or its financing.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 BERN 000141
STATE FOR S/CT, EB, EUR/AGS
FBI FOR OFFICE OF INTERNATIONAL OPERATIONS
TREASURY FOR OFAC
E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/20/2016
TAGS: PTER, PARM, ETTC, SZ
SUBJECT: SWISS COUNTERTERRORISM OVERVIEW – SCENESETTER FOR FBI DIRECTOR MUELLER
REF: A. BERN 100
B. BERN 10
C. 2005 BERN 1865
Classified By: Pol/Econ Counselor Eric Sandberg, Reasons 1.4 b/d
1.(C) Summary: Switzerland and Liechtenstein are considered low-threat target for terrorist attacks, but Bern acknowledges that Islamist groups could use the country as a transit point, logistics center, or haven for terrorist finances. While violent crime in both countries is relatively low, officials remain concerned about international organized criminal groups and extreme right-wing and left-wing political elements who occasionally mobilize for demonstrations surrounding major events, such as the annual World Economic Forum in Davos. Swiss officials maintain that there are few Islamic extremists in the country, but a small number of arrests in the past two years suggests there may be more under the surface. Bilateral law enforcement and intelligence cooperation is improving, but at a gradual pace; Swiss leaders insist that they can address the threat with little outside assistance. The Swiss media and individual members of Parliament have placed a greater focus on alleged USG wrongdoings in the War on Terror than on the terrorist threat itself. As for Liechtenstein, officials work very cooperatively with USG counterparts, as they seek to ameliorate their reputation as a money-laundering center. End Summary.
2.(U) Switzerland implemented UN sanctions even prior to becoming a full member in 2002. Along with UN lists, the Swiss Economic and Finance ministries have drawn up their own list of around 44 individuals and entities connected with international terrorism (Al-Qaeda) or its financing. Swiss authorities have thus far blocked about 82 accounts totaling $28 million (SFr 34 million) from individuals or companies linked to Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda under UN resolutions. The Swiss Federal Prosecutor also froze separately 41 accounts representing about $28 million (SFr 34 millions) on the ground they were related to terrorist financing. Swiss officials estimate significant overlap between the US and UN lists. Switzerland signed and ratified all of the 12 UN anti-terrorism conventions as of September 2003.
3.(U) For its part, Liechtenstein has frozen about $145 thousand in Taliban/Al-Qaeda assets under UNSC Resolution 1267. The principality has taken notable strides to combat money laundering and other illegal activity since 1999; it joined the Egmont Group in 2001, signed a mutual legal assistance treaty with the United States in 2003, and was FATF certified that same year. Liechtenstein has also ratified all of the relevant UN conventions.
4.(C) Following 9/11, the Swiss agreed to sign an operative working agreement (OWA) with the USG permitting intensified information sharing on Al-Qaeda and allowing an FBI agent to sit in the Federal Criminal Police Counterterrorism Unit. We are in the final stages of negotiating a broadened OWA to allow joint investigations on counterterrorism matters. As forthcoming as some contacts are, the Swiss law enforcement community in general remain reluctant to open up to the United States. The sentiment was expressed best by Justice Minister Blocher to the Ambassador. Blocher said that Switzerland shared America’s counterterrorism goals; Switzerland will worry about Switzerland, and the U.S. can worry about the rest of the world. The least cooperative Swiss agency (with us and with other Swiss agencies) is the Federal Service for Analysis and Prevention (DAP) — the internal intelligence service. The external service, under the Swiss Department of Defense, is more cooperative.
5.(C) In many ways, Liechtenstein officials are a model of what we wish the Swiss would become. Shocked by the international notoriety it earned in the 1990s, officials in the tiny principality decided to join FATF and cooperate with partners. The MLAT it signed with the United States in 2003 BERN 00000141 002 OF 004 was the first of its kind for Liechtenstein. They make as much use of it as do our law enforcement agencies.
Significant counterterrorism investigations
6.(C) Swiss prosecutors have launched several investigations of suspected Al-Qaeda operatives in Switzerland. XXXXXXXXXXXX
Muslims in Switzerland ———————-
7.(U) The Muslim population in Switzerland has grown rapidly BERN 00000141 003.2 OF 004 in the last two decades, now reaching around 310,000, or 4.3 percenQ the Swiss population. The majority of these, roughly 200,000, come from former Yugoslavia and tend to be moderate or secular in their views. Another 70,000 are of Turkish background, have long been in Switzerland, and are also moderate. Only the North African population, largely from Morocco, are seen as a possible source of Islamic extremism. There are no Islamic political parties in Switzerland; the Muslim population is divided along ethnic lines. There are only two mosque buildings in SwitzerlandQn Zurich aQeneva), but over a hundred makeshift Islamic centers operate.
8.(SBU) While Swiss authorities recognize that the Muslim population could contain extremists, they rate the threat from right-wing Neo-nazis and left-wing Swiss political extremists as being much higher. Swiss authorities believe that those Islamists present consider the country a “refuge” rather than a “place to carry out operations.” A Special Report on Extremism issued late last year maintains that almost all radical groups represented in Switzerland are Sunni organizations whose primary goals are the establishment of Islamic governments in their homelands. The principal groups in this category are En Nahdha, the Tunisian Islamic Front, the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS), the Armed Islamic Group (GIA), the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), Hamas, Hizbollah and Al-Takfir wal-Hijra.
9.(C) The best known Islamists in Switzerland are the Ramadans, Tariq and Hani, of the Islamic Center in Geneva. Tariq Ramadan, formerly a professor of philosophy and grandson of Muslim Brotherhood found Hassan al-Bana, is well-known throughout Europe. He is sometimes hailed as a moderate, at other times attacked as a wolf in sheep’s clothing, putting a palatable front to fundamentalist activities. Offered a teaching position at Notre Dame University in 2004, his visa was revoked by DHS, and he withdrew a subsequent application. The UK Government has included Ramadan in an advisory body to assist in their outreach efforts with its Muslim minority.
10.(U) Hani Ramadan was suspended from his duties as a public school teacher in the fall of 2002, following the publication of an article in the French newspaper “Le Monde,” in which he spoke out in favor of the stoning of adulterers. He was dismissed in 2003, following an administrative investigation, but he successfully appealed the decision. However, following a second investigation, the Geneva Cantonal Government confirmed Ramadan’s dismissal and removed him from the cantonal payroll in December 2004. In October 2005, the Swiss Justice Ministry denied a work permit to a Turkish Imam invited to work at the Islamic Center in Geneva, due to the Imam’s extremist views.
Swiss Media Push-back on the War on Terrorism
11.(C) Since the Washington Post claimed in early November 2005 that the United States was operating hidden prisons in Europe, the Swiss media has gone full bore in identifying USG sins, real and imagined. Any news on Guantanamo or Abu Ghraib is guaranteed front-page treatment, whereas Al-Qaeda attacks are relegated to the back pages. Of particular concern is the issue of overflights by alleged CIA charter planes. Italian prosecutors allege that a U.S. military jet traversed Swiss airspace on the day Milan cleric Abu Omar was kidnapped. The Swiss government has repeatedly asked the USG to explain the flight and four charter plane landings at Geneva Airport. Washington has yet to respond.
12.(C) Recently, a Swiss tabloid published a leaked Swiss intelligence report of an intercept of an Egyptian government fax. The Swiss Federal Council has condemned the leak and its subsequent publication, and the government has launched administrative and criminal investigations into the matter. The intercepted Egyptian fax claimed that the Egyptian government knew of 23 Iraqi and Afghani prisoners transferred by the USG to prisons in Romania and other Eastern European countries. Swiss officials apologized to Ambassador Willeford for the leak and for the press’s overreaction to it. The Ambassador cautioned officials that Switzerland’s
BERN 00000141 004 OF 004
obsession with the prisons/overflight matter — driven in significant measure by Swiss Senator Dick Marty — risked overwhelming Washington’s perceptions of Switzerland. Marty, acting in his capacity as head of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly’s Justice Commission and not in any official Swiss government capacity, greeted the information cautiously, but criticized the Swiss and other European governments for not disclosing information on the prisoner issue.
13.(C) Comment: Despite being somewhat shaken by attacks in London and Madrid, the Swiss internal security service continues to assess that Switzerland is relatively safe and that there is no evidence yet of any activity beyond logistical support for Islamic extremists. Swiss opinion leaders among the Parliament and media exhibit little evident concern about the terrorist threat to Switzerland, perhaps contributing to their tendency to focus their criticism on the USG reaction, rather than the initial threat itself. Embassy engagement with Swiss counterparts, reinforced by senior-level visits by USG officials, are helping to move the Swiss to be more forthcoming on information sharing and joint investigations. Absent a direct attack on Swiss interests, however, the process is liable to move very gradually. End comment. Willeford