Swiss Referendum Approves New Surveillance Law
A new referendum in Switzerland has approved a law on new surveillance powers for the intelligence agencies.
The law would allow the authorities to tap phones, snoop on email and deploy hidden cameras and bugs.
According to supporters, the new law would help Switzerland catch up with other countries.
Opponents have feared it could erode civil liberties and put Swiss neutrality at risk by requiring closer co-operation with foreign intelligence agencies.
Some 65.5% of voters agreed to accept the proposal. The new law will allow the Federal Intelligence Service and other agencies to put suspects under electronic surveillance if authorized by a court, the defense ministry and the cabinet.
The Swiss government says the powers would be used about once a month to monitor the highest-risk suspects.
The new law was not comparable to the spying capabilities of the US or other major powers, which “go well beyond what is desired in terms of individual liberty and security for our citizens”, Defense Minister Guy Parmelin said earlier this year.
According to a government website, Swiss law currently prevents authorities from relying on anything more than publicly available information or tips from foreign officials when monitoring domestic threats.
The new surveillance law was passed last year but has not yet been enacted after opponents collected enough signatures to force a referendum under Switzerland’s system of direct democracy.
On September 25, Swiss voters also rejected a proposal to boost state pensions by 10% – an initiative supported by the left but considered too costly by opponents. Voters also rejected another initiative to reduce Switzerland’s ecological footprint.