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Explosion in the trade of secrets: Switzerland does not want to be a haven for spies

Explosion in the trade of secrets: Switzerland does not want to be a haven for spies

Tags: Switzerland, Intelligence, Special Services, Banks

Representatives of the Federal Intelligence Service of Switzerland (NDB - Nachrichtendienst des Bundes, Service de rémentignement de la Confédération) stated that the recently adopted new laws "will help change the image of the country as one of the most active intelligence centers in Europe." Throughout the last century, due to its neutral status, a small alpine country has turned into a crossroads and a site for special services from all over the world. Switzerland has become a convenient place for contacts of foreign intelligence personnel with their agents from third countries. We explain, for example, a CIA employee from the US goes to Switzerland to meet with his agent from Tunisia. The agent at a meeting in Switzerland gives his curator from the CIA documents and receives a monetary reward, which he immediately places on his account in a Swiss bank. In the terminology of the Swiss special services, this practice, directly affecting Switzerland, is called a "meeting place". Until recently, in the overwhelming majority of cases, the NDB observed at home for activity around "venues", not stopping it. Now this situation is going to change.

The actions of the Swiss counterintelligence against foreign special services have precedents. So, for example, in July 2000 in Switzerland there was a loud lawsuit against the Israeli spy, the Mossad, who had been caught red-handed Isaac Bentala. Bental received one year in prison on probation for participating in political espionage against third countries and using fake documents. Bental became the first confirmed agent of the Mossad, who was convicted outside Israel. Apparently, the Swiss special services then broke the terrorist attack of the Israelis against the local representative of the Lebanese Hezbollah. The Swiss found that Bental "violated Switzerland's sovereignty in an impudent and intolerant manner," and that the Mossad had to inform the Swiss intelligence agency of its suspicions about the Arab. Switzerland agreed to release Bental after Israel apologized and paid a pledge of 1,5 million Swiss francs. Apparently, this case was also complicated by the actual political moment. The Israelis accused Switzerland of accumulating assets at the expense of the victims of the Holocaust. The Swiss responded to a similar demarche by the Bental case. Usually, in Switzerland only charges of military espionage have consequences in the form of prosecutions. Swiss judicial statistics show that even when espionage cases reached the court, the accusations remained unproven and the perpetrators escaped punishment. Until recently, "venues", in addition to those relating to Swiss interests, were not prohibited, although much could be undesirable for the Swiss.

In different periods there were various reasons for turning Switzerland into a platform for the operational work of foreign special services. This was especially significant during the World Wars due to the geographical location of Switzerland at the junction of the belligerent powers. In 1942, the US OSS created its main European intelligence center in Bern, headed by Alain Dulles. From Switzerland against Germany, one of the residences of the Soviet military intelligence of the "Red Chapel" operated with Shandor Rado at the head.

In the post-war years, Switzerland's reputation as an "international hub" for espionage was reinforced again and again. Currently, the following advantages of Switzerland are seen as the center of international espionage. The country is located in the heart of Europe and is a member of the Schengen agreement of the European Union. This means a reduced control at the entrance to Switzerland from the neighboring countries of the European Union and departure from it. The presence in Switzerland of a large number of tourists and business travelers means that members of the intelligence community can go unnoticed. In Switzerland there is no visible presence of strict police control and special services. Familiar with Swiss realities fugitive contractor of the CIA Edward Snowden in 2015 reported that American spies operate in Switzerland, without fear of being exposed, because Swiss intelligence, although well-informed and very professional, poses no threat to them. According to Snowden, the Swiss special services are of small importance to Americans. "Representatives of the US government, even when they violate the Swiss laws, have a certain level of comfort, knowing that there will be no consequences," Snowden said.

Switzerland has a modern transport and telecommunications infrastructure. Its stable political system ensures predictability and security. The Swiss have learned not to ask questions to visitors who go to them to entrust their money to the Swiss banking sector.

Geneva is the unofficial capital of international espionage in Switzerland. Here are the international headquarters of the UN, WTO, WHO, the ICRC. There are representations of foreign governments, embassies, international organizations, numerous NGOs. Zurich is interesting for international espionage by its banks. Bern - international trade organizations.

In August 2017, it became known that the personnel of the Swiss intelligence services were monitoring the financial inspectors of the German tax authorities, trying to get to the accounts of German citizens sheltered by Swiss banks. The German prosecutor's office opened a probe against three Swiss intelligence officers on suspicion of espionage for German authorities. It turned out that Swiss intelligence was trying to determine how information about the accounts in Swiss banks came to Germany. Secrecy is the cornerstone of the Swiss banking industry, and, as it turned out, the Swiss security services are protecting it. In fact, it turned out that Swiss intelligence protects the security of its offshore companies. The matter caused serious tensions between Germany and Switzerland and reached the highest political level.

Another important area is the non-proliferation of WMD. Through Switzerland, there are operations of countries that violate the nuclear non-proliferation regime. Switzerland has a high-precision industry and machine-tool construction. It is known that the "Islamic bomb" for Pakistan was created with the help of Swiss engineers. The CIA managed to intercept Swiss contractors working for the nuclear programs of Islamic countries and redirect them against the employers themselves from Iran and Libya. Under the supervision of the CIA, Swiss engineers from 2001 for several years supplied the Iranians and Libyans with false information, unsuitable materials and equipment to sabotage their nuclear programs. These operations on Swiss territory were conducted with the knowledge and under the control of the Swiss special services. Because of the situation of the spy and criminal offshore crossroads of Switzerland in Europe and the world, its Federal Intelligence Service maintains regular contacts with more than 100 intelligence, police and security services around the world.

The external weakness of the Swiss intelligence agencies, in their case, in fact, professionalism in relation to the actions of foreign special services, the Swiss themselves explain the peculiarities of their legislation. Previously, the NDB could not prevent such activities on Swiss land in connection with local legislation on the protection of private property and privacy. The NDB annual report for 2014 recognized that Switzerland's tools for investigating and combating foreign espionage were more "limited than in other countries". "In this regard, Switzerland offers foreign services a more effective framework than some other countries in which criminal sanctions and political consequences are more stringent or more difficult to predict," the report said.

But 25 September 2016, Swiss voters in a referendum passed a new law on the Intelligence Service (NDB), approving the extension of its powers with the result of more than 65% of the vote. The new law on NDB (LAIN) came into effect from 1 September 2017. Legal innovations relate to the intelligence service itself, the system for collecting information and storing it, as well as controlling intelligence activities. The law again formulated the mandate for a comprehensive assessment of the situation of the NDB in favor of the beneficiaries of its services. This helps protect other important strategic interests of the country, such as critical infrastructure, financial and economic space.

The law allows NDB to enter homes and hotels, hack into computers, listen to telephone conversations and monitor people suspected of participating in espionage in the interests of foreign countries. NDB has gained great opportunities for maneuver in the field of electronic espionage.

Thanks to this law, the Swiss Federal Intelligence Service (NDB) is going to reduce the rampant activity of foreign special services on its territory. This was reported by the press secretary of NDB Isabelle Graber in an interview with the Sunday Swiss edition of NZZ am Sonntag. According to her, the NDB is well aware that Switzerland has become a "meeting place" between scouts from third countries. In the last few years, the number of such meetings has continued to grow. The reason for the growth was that "the trade in secrets has exploded." This trend, according to Graber, led to a corresponding increase in meetings aimed at exchanging information for money. She noted that many such meetings are held throughout the country. They "violate the sovereignty of Switzerland and can lead to operations against the interests of the country." A spokeswoman for the agency also said that the NDB works with "partner agencies" in foreign countries to prevent such meetings, provided that the interests of Switzerland and such partners are "mutual".

Armed with new legislation, the NDB now "makes every effort to observe the meetings of third countries in order to prevent them or at least violate them." According to the spokesman, this year NDB provided information on "meetings of third countries" to the judiciary several times.

Thus, Switzerland has introduced a more stringent legal framework to counter international espionage on its land. Proceeding from the statement from the NDB, we can expect the initiation in the courts of any espionage cases in Switzerland, not directly related to espionage against this country. Apparently, the Swiss authorities intend to intimidate the international espionage that is too unfolded and freely felt on its territory. Such an initiative by the Swiss, whose goal is an external confirmation of neutrality, is becoming a clear sign of growing international tension.

Now, in fact, about the Federal Intelligence Service of Switzerland and its history. Now, under the roof of the NDB, the functions of external intelligence, internal counterintelligence and internal secret police are combined. But it was not always so. Before the creation of the NDB in 2010, the functions of reconnaissance and counterintelligence were traditionally divided and were in the competence of various departments - the military ministry and the police.

Swiss military intelligence was established long ago - in 1891, that is, at about the same time as in neighboring countries. The Intelligence Section or the Intelligence Service acted for a long time as a division of the Swiss General Staff. It should be understood that Switzerland, despite its size, thanks to the militia system, had a large and well-equipped army. True, the military intelligence service of Switzerland, even in the period between the world wars, was not particularly impressed with the scope of its activities. In particular, then she used military attaché attachments only in three key countries for Switzerland: Germany, France and Italy.

The main purpose of the work of intelligence and counterintelligence in Switzerland during the world wars was to protect the sovereignty and neutrality of the country. During the Second World War, the Swiss government, in addition to the intelligence of the General Staff, also had a private intelligence structure - the so-called. "Bureau Ha", named so by the name of its leader Hans Hausumana (1915-1964).

During the Second World War, thanks to the work of local intelligence and counterintelligence, about 900 Swiss citizens were convicted in Switzerland for espionage in favor of foreign powers. With respect to the military, then the norms of wartime operated. Between 1942 and 1945 years, 17 soldiers and officers of the Swiss army were executed for espionage.

In the ensuing period of the Cold War, the most famous convict for espionage in Switzerland was the brigadier (military rank) Jean-Louis Jeanneier(1910-1992). In 1977, he was sentenced to 18 years in prison for espionage in favor of the USSR.

The functions of counterintelligence in Switzerland for a long time were in the competence of the police, which was subordinated to the Prosecutor General's Office. The secret political police of Switzerland operated since 1848 year as a unit of the general police. The revolutionary year clearly points to the goals of its primary activity - the fight against the social revolution. One of the targets of the secret police in this direction in the second half of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth century was the struggle against the strike movement and control over the trade unions.

During the First World War in Switzerland, police oversight activities were intensified. In 1917, the Federal Police Department established an immigration police department that registered every foreigner who lived in Switzerland. Over the preceding decades, Switzerland has become a safe haven for all kinds of international revolutionaries. For example, Russian revolutionaries in Switzerland are well known in modern Russia, and Indian ones in India. The domestic welfare of the country plus Swiss neutrality and non-interference in the affairs of revolutionary activists have made the country still an attractive place of refuge for them.

In 1935, the police service as part of the General Prosecutor's Office was reformed. The Swiss Federal Police was divided into police, which dealt with "preventive protection" of the state, and "judicial" police, which carried out repressive protection of the state. The function of the secret police passed to the police, engaged in "preventive protection". She monitored left and right extremists, separatists of the canton of Jura, counterintelligence and fought against terrorism, counteracted drug trafficking, weapons and human trafficking.

In 1989, Switzerland was shocked by the scandal. The public learned that during the years of the Cold War, the federal police, for the purpose of "tracking the state of Switzerland", created a state security fund with files on hundreds of thousands of Swiss citizens and many organizations. This event was a test of state confidence. The Federal Assembly at the same time appointed a parliamentary commission to investigate the activities of the Federal Department of Justice and Police and, among other things, the collection of personal data by the Office of the Prosecutor General's Office.

The 1989 scandal was the main reason for the subsequent fundamental reorganization of the Swiss state security organs. The Swiss system of special services was reformed and subjected to more strict control by the parliament. In 1999, the federal police forces were merged into the Federal Police Department. In 2001, the tasks of the judicial police were assigned to the Federal Criminal Police (FCP). The Analysis and Prevention Service (SAP), created in 2004, was responsible within the police for preventive police measures of state security. But in 2010, SAP was connected with the Strategic Intelligence Service to form the current Federal Intelligence Service (NDB).

In 2000, intelligence was separated from the General Staff and transformed into a civilian unit of the Federal Ministry of Defense, Civil Defense and Sports (DDPS). Thus, the Strategic Intelligence Service (SIS) was created. Simultaneously, with DDPS, there is also a purely military Military Intelligence Service (MIS). MIS was established in 2001 as the successor to the Military Intelligence Service (AIS). AIS, in turn, was the successor to the Military Intelligence Service (TIS) (1961-1970). Electronic espionage in Switzerland is handled by the Postal Service for Monitoring and Communication under special requests of the Federal Department of Justice and Police. In turn, NDB is the operator of its own radio electronic intelligence system - Onyx.

Thus, since 2010, the Federal Intelligence Service (NDB) is the main tool among the active security services in Switzerland's security policy, which has a legally defined mandate. The preventive activities of the NDB are clearly separated from the repressive activities of law enforcement agencies. In this sense, the NDB is not a law enforcement agency. Its main tasks are to prevent, assess the situation and policy-makers. The Intelligence Service performs the task of obtaining and evaluating information from open sources and using secret means and methods. State security is associated with protecting the country from espionage by foreign intelligence services, protection from terrorism, extremism and other illegal activities. At the federal level, the NDB primarily informs the Federal Council, ministries (departments) and military leaders. It also supports the cantons in ensuring internal security and law enforcement at the federal level. The NDB works closely with various federal and cantonal authorities and offices, with military intelligence MIS, the Federal Police Office (fedpol), the Swiss Attorney General's Office.

The collection of information on Swiss nationals is carried out by the NDB at triple resolution: from the Federal Administrative Court, the Security Committee of the Federal Council and the General Directorate of the Federal Ministry of Defense, Civil Defense and Sports (DDPS). According to the latest law, NDB supervision is significantly strengthened. All NDB actions are subject to continuous monitoring. NDB is controlled immediately by four instances: the parliament, the Federal Council, the Federal Administration and its own ministry. The Director of the NDB directly reports to the Minister - Head of the Ministry of Defense, Civil Defense and Sports (DDPS)

NDB is a small but effective intelligence service. According to the latest media reports, NDB employs 300 employees. When the 23 temporary workplace was created in the Swiss intelligence after the terrorist attack in Paris, then, according to NDB director Marcus Silera, they received more than 1200 applications from those wishing to join the organization. Russia and its special services are considered in the NDB as unfriendly. In 2016, the Swiss media reported that the director of the NDB fired one of his employees for a liaison with a Russian citizen while he was on a business trip in Moscow.

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