According to the Federal Intelligence Service (NDB), right-wing and left-wing extremists are increasingly active in Switzerland. The FIS therefore wants to be given more precise instruments to monitor them. Defense Minister Viola Amherd (59) announced to the media on Thursday that the Federal Council had opened the consultation on the revision of the Intelligence Service Act.
Three years ago, the FIS status report stated that the development of violent extremism was extremely worrying. At the time, Federal Councilor Amherd considered wiretapping potentially violent extremists. A consultation draft was originally planned for summer 2020.
Two years delay
Now the state government is acting two years later. It is planning stricter instruments to combat violent extremism. It is about additional measures for early detection and prevention, as stated in a statement on Thursday.
In response to a question from journalists, the new head of the NDB, Christian Dussey, was unable to say which terrorists can be monitored as they are today and which people can be spied on with the new revision.
The draft for consultation simply speaks of “organizations and individuals that reject the democratic and rule of law foundations and advocate, promote or commit acts of violence in order to achieve their goals”.
PCs and phones
The intelligence service has only been allowed to tap into telephone conversations and break into computers since September 2017. Today, however, he is not allowed to use these measures, which require approval, in the area of violent extremism.
The fact that the possibilities of the intelligence service in the case of extremism are limited today is a consequence of the Fichen scandal that shook Switzerland at the end of the 1980s. At that time it became known that the intelligence service was monitoring hundreds of thousands because of their political views.
Another innovation relates to the clarification of financial transactions, for example in the financing of terrorism or espionage networks. Today, the FIS has no way of obtaining information from financial intermediaries about the financing of security-related individuals or groups.
See you in September
The planned revision of the Intelligence Service Act also included demands from the supervisory authorities regarding the FIS data collections. Among other things, the supervisory authority for the federal intelligence service (AB-ND) identified potential for improvement in data processing in its second activity report in March 2020. Today, sometimes too much data is kept for too long or reports are written carelessly. The FIS must be able to explain transparently what information about people is collected and used in its databases and why. That is rarely the case today.
The consultation will last until September 9, 2022. Parliament and possibly the people will later have to decide on the changes to the law. (sda/pt)