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Switzerland, Intelligence and Security

Switzerland, Intelligence and Security

Switzerland has a long tradition of neutrality, abstaining from active participation in World Wars I and II. This policy of neutrality extended to abstaining from membership in international organizations and prohibiting the sharing of some intelligence information with foreign nations. On September 10, 2002, the Swiss Confederation joined the United Nations as a member nation, ending a fifty-five year span as an observer mission. Although Switzerland has cooperated with humanitarian, economic, legal, and intelligence operations with neighboring foreign nations and the United States, it is not a member of the European Union or the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Swiss government agencies, financial institutions, and military branches of service recognize three national languages, German, French, and Italian. Some canton governments use a fourth national language, Romansh. The varied linguistic ethnicities in the country require national services to operate equally in all of its official languages. The multi-lingual nature of the Swiss Confederation and its citizens adds a unique dimension to Swiss intelligence and security forces.

Switzerland's intelligence services effectively dissolved intelligence community distinctions between internal and domestic security and intelligence operations. The recent creation of the Swiss National Security Council, part of the Swiss Federal Department of Defense, Civil Protection, and Sports, facilitated communication and cooperation among various agencies in the intelligence community, giving each independent agency equal access to information and resources. The National Security Council has jurisdiction over civilian and military intelligence and security issues, further uniting various branches of the intelligence community.

The Strategic Intelligence Service is charged with directing and conducting foreign intelligence operations. Its charge is the protection of Swiss banking, economic, political, technological, and military interests abroad. Data collected by the agency is reported to the political and military leadership of the Swiss Confederation via the National Security Council. The Strategic Intelligence Service traditionally works in conjunction with other Swiss agencies, but has increasingly cooperated with adjacent nations in the European Union.

The Armed Forces Intelligence Service trains most Swiss intelligence agents. The agency provides military intelligence units should the army be needed in domestic affairs or called to active duty. Within the armed forces, political and security information is gathered by the Air Force Intelligence Section which conducts internal surveillance of the Swiss intelligence community.

Switzerland's most populous agency in the intelligence community is the Federal Office of Police. The Federal Police are Switzerland's main counterintelligence force, conducting both internal and external surveillance. The Federal Office of Police works closely with other agencies to ensure domestic security.

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