Political police and state security in Switzerland

In 1989, the Secret Files Scandal shocked Switzerland to the core. At that time, it became known that the federal police had created state security files on hundreds of thousands of people and organisations during the years of the cold war. This shook the trust many had placed in the state with which they had identified themselves: the term "snooping state of Switzerland" was often heard.

State security documents 1848-1930

Dossiers on the subject of state security and the political police during the period from 1848 to 1930 can be found mainly in the fonds of the Police Authority. They represent a compilation of documents on issues of state security retrieved from various authorities. For example:

During the First World War, the Confederation intensified its surveillance activities and in 1917 established an Immigration Police Office (1909-1998) as a part of the Federal Police Division (1841-1991) that registered every foreigner in Switzerland.

Creation of the Attorney General's police service in 1935

A police service was created within the Office of the Attorney General in 1935: the federal police was subdivided into a political police force (preventive protection of the state) and a judicial police force (repressive protection of the state).

The documents of the Attorney General's police service from the periods 1931-1959 and 1960-1999 are located mainly in the fonds of the Office of the Attorney General: police service. Each archive plan indicates which organisations, groups of persons and activities the Office of the Attorney General had under surveillance: left-wing and right-wing extremists, counterespionage and terrorist activities, Jura separatists and members of the 1968 movement, trafficking drugs, weapons and human beings, etc.

Some supplementary documents on the business of the Office of the Attorney General can be found in the fonds of the Department Secretariat (1853-1980) and the General Secretariat (1945-1998) of the Federal Department of Justice and Police.

State security files

The Office of the Attorney General maintained the so-called secret files from 1930 until the end of the 1980s to provide a better overview. These files are in the form of index cards. They can be found under the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland: files, index cards and collections. The main index contains "green files" on persons, organisations, companies, publications and events. There are also "red files" organised, for instance, by country, as well as special indices, including the Jura Index.

The Secret Files Scandal

During the late 1980s, these state security files successively became known to a broad public. In 1989, the Federal Assembly appointed a Parliamentary Investigation Commission of the Federal Department of Justice and Police to investigate, among others, the data gathering activities of the Office of the Attorney General.

More than 300,000 people requested to view state security documents on account of the Secret Files Scandal. A special representative compiled documents from various dossiers in cases where person-related files did not yet exist to create a "fictitious" person-related file for the applicant in question. Today, these files are kept in the fonds of the special representative for state security files (1989-1999).

Reorganisation of state security in the 1990s

The Secret Files Scandal was a decisive factor for the reorganisation of state security agencies during the 1990s. In 1999, the federal police force was integrated in the Federal Office of Police (fedpol) (1900-2006), the successor authority to the Federal Office of the Police Authority (1816-1999). As of 2001, the tasks of the judicial police were assigned to the Federal Criminal Police (FCP), whilst the Service for Analysis and Prevention (SAP) (2004) was responsible for the preventive police measures of state security. Then, in 2010, the SAP merged with the Strategic Intelligence Service to form the Federal Intelligence Service (FIS) (2010-).

Last modification 04.11.2019

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