Scope and Breadth of Cooperation
On September 4 2002 the US Treasury Department announced the signing of an "operative working arrangement" between the US and Swiss law enforcement agencies.(1) Co-signed by US Attorney General John Ashcroft and US Treasury Deputy Secretary for Anti-terrorism Kenneth Dam, and their Swiss counterpart Federal Attorney General Valentin Roschacher, the arrangement allows for the exchange of law enforcement agents in the two capitals in pursuit of Al Qaeda and related terrorist activities.
Stationed in Berne at the Swiss Task Force Office in a special office called Terror USA, two American agents from the US Treasury's Operation Green Quest and the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) Terrorist Financial Review Group will work alongside their Swiss counterparts. Their efforts will be joined by the FBI legal attaché in Berne and the customs attaché in Vienna now accredited under the arrangement to the Swiss Task Force. In return, four investigators from the Swiss Task Force of the Swiss Federal Office of Police will be seconded as liaison officers to the Terrorist Financial Review Group and Operation Green Quest in Washington DC (District of Columbia).
The goals as stated by the two parties to this ground-breaking arrangement of limited duration are as follows:
- The arrangement allows agents from both countries to share terrorist-related information on a real-time basis;
- It permits hands-on interaction and joint investigation into Al Qaeda and related terrorist entities, in order to increase opportunities to identify related targets and terrorist networks and to pursue them in a coordinated way internationally;
- It highlights the growing interdependence of law enforcement agencies as regards combating terrorism internationally, and provides a model for other countries that have related ongoing investigations; and
- It provides for agreement and cooperation between different law enforcement jurisdictions to find non-traditional ways of sharing terrorist-related information - especially in jurisdictions that are key international financial centres.
Scope and Breadth of Cooperation
Since the terrorist attacks of September 11 2001, Swiss investigators have assembled more than 1,000 terrorist-related pieces of information under the auspices of the Swiss federal attorney general. Moreover, on September 11 2002 Swiss Federal Counsellor Ruth Metzler, head of the Swiss Ministry of Justice, pleaded for rapid Swiss ratification of the two United Nations conventions aimed at combating terrorist financing. On June 27 2002 Metzler had introduced a package of proposed legal measures before the Swiss Parliament designed to reinforce Swiss internal security against acts of terrorism. While there is broad Swiss acceptance for the case made against terrorism and terrorist financing, criticism of these particular draft laws has focused on the perceived roll-back of individual liberties protected under the Swiss Constitution and legislation in favour of state-supported security procedures proposed to be implemented, in certain cases without even an ongoing criminal investigation.
It was by Swiss initiative that the operative working arrangement, intended to complement the existing Swiss-US Treaty on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters, came into being and was finalized. Immediately after the terrorist attacks of September 11 2001, Swiss law enforcement authorities complained that US requests for information under the treaty, and in particular US requests for unlimited access to the Swiss database of digital imprints, exceeded the limits of exchange of information permitted by Swiss law. In addition, at the time the United States was not responding to repeated Swiss requests for mutual assistance. After several face-to-face meetings between Ruth Metzler and John Ashcroft related to these matters, and how better to coordinate efforts in the fight against terrorist financing at international level, representatives of the law enforcement agencies of the two countries met in May 2002 at Washington DC to discuss the initial outlines of enhanced law enforcement cooperation. The initial Swiss proposals were made at this time, with follow-up meetings held in Berne in June 2002. Several months of negotiations were necessary in order to finalize the arrangement, which deals primarily with the conditions for the reciprocal exchange of investigators by the two countries' law enforcement agencies.
As yet, the exact scope, conditions and language of the arrangement are not commonly known. A US Treasury press release of September 4 2002 states that the express purpose of the operative working arrangement is to enhance US and Swiss efforts under existing bilateral treaties to identify and attack the financial underpinnings of Al Qaeda and related terrorist entities and networks following the terrorist attacks of September 11 2001.
While the stated objectives of the operative working arrangement signed between Switzerland and the United States on September 4 2002 are laudable, time and experience alone will tell the extent to which this declared model arrangement for international law enforcement cooperation is successful in combating international terrorism and terrorist financing, while at the same time safeguarding the constitutionally protected individual liberties of innocent parties in the jurisdictions concerned.
For further information on this topic please contact David Forbes-Jaeger or John McBrayer at Secretan Troyanov by telephone (+41 22 789 70 00) or by fax (+41 22 789 70 70) or by email ([email protected] or [email protected]). The Secretan Troyanov website can be accessed at www.secretantroyanov.com.