Seventy-fourth edition of the N&O column / Spooks newsletter

(Date: Sat, 03 Jul 2004 20:51:47 +0000)

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Intelligence profile: Switzerland


Switzerland's independence and neutrality have long been honoured by the major European powers, and Switzerland was not involved in either of the two World Wars. The political and economic integration of Europe over the past half century, as well as Switzerland's role in many UN and international organizations, has strengthened Switzerland's ties with its neighbours. However, the country did not officially become a UN member until 2002. Switzerland remains active in many UN and international organizations, but retains a strong commitment to neutrality.


Country name : Swiss Confederation / Switzerland
Local name : Schweizerische Eidgenossenschaft / Schweiz (German),
Confédération Suisse / Suisse (French),
Confederazione Svizzera / Svizzera (Italian)
Capital : Bern
Administrative divisions : 26 cantons; Aargau, Appenzell Ausser-Rhoden, Appenzell Inner-Rhoden, Basel-Landschaft, Basel-Stadt, Bern, Fribourg, Geneve, Glarus, Graubunden, Jura, Luzern, Neuchatel, Nidwalden, Obwalden, Sankt Gallen, Schaffhausen, Schwyz, Solothurn, Thurgau, Ticino, Uri, Valais, Vaud, Zug, Zurich


Military branches

Army, Air Force, Frontier Guards, Fortification Guards


- Introduction

This is a compilation of facts open to the public and personal experiences. The VBS (DDPS) and SND have homepages, but don't try the link for a detailed description of the SND - it does not (and presumably never will) open. The best sources are the archives of the parliament.

Swiss intelligence services (SIS)

For a long time after WW II Switzerland kept its behaviour of a hedgehog and the Secret Services didn't make an exception; they were in charge at will. Before their reorganisation the services were rather a threat than a protection for the country. This remark excludes the exceptionally good job performed during WW II.

The so-called "Fichenaffäre" (surveillance scandal) 1989 however turned the country upside down. Without any political control many thousand of citizens had been filed - up to a quantity of 700.000(!) individual files. The Swiss were shocked. Finally, examination for everybody was granted - the author included. For years he had been frisked at the airport, photos were taken. They obviously did not digest my STRATCOMINT task in a time when I had negotiations for my employer in the GDR about the sale of scientific equipment for research on toxics in Rügen. A tiny ballpoint mark in my passport made customs watchful. Later on, when I could not enter a certain Islamic country with my passport stamped in Israel, I got a new one - and never again have been frisked. This is just one example, how amateurish Swiss Home Intelligence acted. As a result of the political earthquake following the "Fichenaffäre", all relevant services became re-organised, the parliamentary control functions became enhanced and nowadays are rather effective.

- Connections of SIS with other organisations

As it is usual SIS too is looking for informations to trade in. Since 1971 SIS is member of the Berne Club. Intelligence office heads of 17 European countries meet annually. According to the Dutch Security Service BVD the 2000 agenda for example covered the subject of European integration.

Another organisation, which exchanges data on international political violence, is the Kilowatt Group, founded in 1977. Members are EU countries, Canada, Norway, Switzerland, CIA and FBI, South Africa and Israel with Mossad and Shin Beth. The group is dominated by Israel because of its strong position in the information exchange on Arab based terror group in Europe and the Middle East.

SIS is not mentioned as a member of the Trevi Group.

In 1990 it became clear Italy has had a secret stay-behind army named "Gladio". Founded in 1959 by the Italian Secret Service SIFAR and supported by NATO and CIA it had to be dissolved by the Italian Senate amid public protests.

However, others of those secret armies existed elsewhere:

Support to these organisation was given by ACC (Allied Clandestine Committee), linked to SHAPE (NATO Supreme HQ Europe). The Belgian Secret Service SGR organised the last meeting in October 1990.

Swiss P-26 was completed with P-27 for Secret Communications. The crew consisted of 400 people - a number of 1000 was the target. Weapons, explosives and up-to-date equipment for nearly every possible "case" were stored in several places. No doubt the Swiss Intelligence Service was aware - or part - of the story. The question remains, how the relationship was between NATO and P-26 in a neutral country. P-26 and P-27 have been smashed 1991 by a parliamentary commission.

- SIS' structure

The Federal Department for Defence, Civil Protection and Sports (DDPS) operates the

The Federal Department of the Interior operates the


The Directorate for Strategic Intelligence (SND) is responsible for the procurement of information from foreign countries for all Federal Departments. This includes OSINT, HUMINT and COMINT. 9 out of 10 information are of economic nature. Main target areas are the Balkans, Central Asia, India, Pakistan, Middle East and Northern Africa. The SND also collects data on the proliferation on mass destruction weapons supporting the agreement of Helsinki and others.


The Military Intelligence Service (MND) provides COMINT and SIGINT in the interior and exterior. Some of its bases are used in parallel by the DAP. The MND will scan, locate and analyse sources of electromagnetic waves. If necessary it is prepared to use ECM (Electromagnetic Counter Measures).

Training post for the "Funkaufklärer" (COMINT) soldiers is PE-19, the barracks in Jassbach. After basic schooling the specialists are transferred to the EKF Bat 51 to 53 (Electronic Warfare Batalions).

Candidates for STRATCOMINT must have attended trainig before recruitment. A privatly operated school (ILT) is in charge for the Morse training. Training post is PE-20, the barracks of Heimenschwand. Once trained soldiers are transferred to EKF Bat 46. The third, important, base is located in Zimmerwald (PE-Z). The MND here works together with civil specialists from SWISSCOM and - I assume - DAP and SND.

Zimmerwald is packed with all kind of stuff:

There is a series of other, temporarily used, sites, the MND may use. Especially for COMINT on VHF there are those funny "field days" for recruits somewhere in the mountains for exercises in DF and UHF links. Locations of the stations for strategic DF are confidential and are therefore not disclosed here.


The Air Force Intelligence Service (LWND) seems to be a small unit, its task being the tactical reconnaissance for the Air Force itself. I didn't find any sources dealing with LWND.


The Federal Office of Police (BAP) will prosecute criminals as far as it is not a task for the cantonal polices (for example if explosives have been used or the trail leads to a foreign country). Informations for the BAP are procured by the DAP and - on demand and permission - by the SND. The service works closely together with SWISSCOM and the BAKOM (Swiss Authorities on Telecommunications) in all cases where criminals use cellular networks or unlicensed communication equipment. Although the DAP must apply for informations gained for example from SATCOMS, its role of course is delicate, as usual for services of MOI. The privatizing of companies like SWISSCOM adds some problems. SWISSCOM Broadcast runs all transmitters for the SRG (Swiss Radio and TV Company) - and does it also in wartimes for the emergency transmitters. SWISSCOM Broadcast staff doing their "normal" job is annually on duty on these stations.

Obviously there are many links between the services and some facilities are "double manned" giving rise for rumours. As an example one should mention the "Hoher Kasten", a mountain at the border in the Rhine valley, facing Austria. A huge antenna tower is visible. Declared as "SWISSCOM multi purpose facility", it houses VHF broadcast transmitters to serve the most western parts of Austria with their own programs, transmitters for REGA, the Swiss Rescue Airline and tracking receivers for Constant Volume Balloons (CVB) from Switzerland and Italy. Believing some sources, it was the intention of SIS to erect an impressive center for COMINT/ SIGINT on that place. To my knowledge it never has been realised, but my enquiry at the BAKOM only produced the answer that they "unfortunately do not file technical details of the stations".


In 1997 the Federal Council decided to complete the classical COMINT by interception of SATCOM within the borders. Switzerland has not participated in NSA's ECHELON project, although this was an option for a certain time. It has been decided to develop a tailormade system which was called SATOS 3. The system is now in operation for a testing period and is called ONYX. In 2006 ONYX will be in full use for the SND.

ONYX has entirely been developed for COMINT/SIGINT, not for ELINT (RADAR, weapon guiding systems, etc). Switzerland is one of the believed 30 countries (in 2002) using such systems. The USA (NSA), with ECHELON (stations in US, UKUSA countries and affiliated), Great Britain GCHQ (stations in Gibraltar, Cyprus, Belize, Oman, Turkey and Australia) and France (DGSE) (stations in Dome, Kouru, Mayotte, Emirates and others) do possess global systems. Russias and Chinas possibilities are unknown.

ONYX is located in Leuk, Heimenschwand and Zimmerwald. It is operated by the SND. There are no antennas outside Switzerland. The size of the antennas is between 18 m and 4 m. How many there will be is not known, but "the number has to be doubled" (Parliamentary Commissions paper).

The SATCOM station Leuk was erected by SWISSCOM, could be accessed for guided tours and never was "secret". Since 2001 SWISSCOM abandoned the SATCOM business and sold the facilities to a US company (!).

Given the fact, that globally acting criminal organisations more and more use shortwaves (HF e-mail, etc), systems like ONYX mainly are used for the protection of economic interests.

The information for this profile was compiled by one of our Central European monitors. THANX!


You may want to visit the official websites of SND and BAP:

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