Intelligence services: scandals and an unspectacular daily routine

Intelligence services are surrounded by secrecy. Their daily routine, however, is less spectacular and has absolutely nothing in common with James Bond films: it consists primarily of gathering and analysing information unavailable in the public domain using the means and methods of the intelligence service. But there have always been affairs and scandals.

Intelligence service and counterespionage up to the Second World War

The work of the intelligence services can pursue military, political or economic objectives. Hence, not one but two departments already took care of counterespionage during the two World Wars: the Department of Justice and Police and the Military Department.

The military intelligence service was only very modestly equipped prior to the Second World War. Developing the procurement of political and military intelligence did not begin until the appointment of Roger Masson as head of the intelligence section in 1936 and the subsequent posting of military attachés to Berlin, Rome and Paris.

With regard to the intelligence service and counterespionage during the two World Wars, the fonds of the National Defence (1600-1960) contain information on the organisation of the Intelligence Section and the Intelligence Service of the General Staff set up by the General Staff Division in 1891. There are also documents with reports and bulletins of the intelligence services, personal files of agents, texts relating to military attachés and files on counterespionage and countersabotage.

Additional information on intelligence service activities during the Second World War can be found in the fonds of the personal staff of General Guisan (1916-1960) and the General Staff Division (1914-1968). Furthermore, the Swiss Federal Archives also possess a copy of the private archive of Hans Hausamann (1915-1964), whose "Bureau Ha" operated its own intelligence service during the Second World War and cooperated with the army.

Traitors to the nation during the Second World War

During the Second Word War, more than 900 Swiss citizens were sentenced on counts of espionage. Soldiers and officers accused of espionage were sentenced under military penal law that punished high treason with the death penalty. Between 1942 and 1945, 17 traitors to the nation were executed. The dossiers of the soldiers and officers accused and sentenced as traitors to the nation can be found as individual files in the fonds of the Military Attorney General: individual cases (1969-1991).

Intelligence services after the Second World War

In 1969, the intelligence section was replaced by the subgroup Intelligence Service and Defence (UNA) that was assigned to the General Staff. Documents on the intelligence section post 1945 and on the UNA can be found in the sub-fonds of the UNA (1969-1991), the General Staff Division (1944-1966) and the Group Staff for General Staff Services (1892-1999). The sub-fonds of the Directorate of Federal Military Administration between 1950 and 1958 and between 1959 and 1989 and the Group Staff for General Staff Services between 1961-1970 contain reports on the politico-military situation. The political and military reports submitted by Switzerland's foreign representations during the periods 1848 to 1965 and 1966 to 1978 can be found in the sub-fonds of the Federal Political Department. The Swiss Federal Archives also provide access to the private archives of intelligence service officer Hermann Junker (1914-2001) and the archives of the Association of Swiss Intelligence Service Officers (1943-2000).

In 1976, the intelligence service exposed the former brigadier Jean-Louis Jeanmaire as a spy for the eastern powers. Documents relating to the "Case Jeanmaire" can be found in the fonds of the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland (1932-1997) and the Control Committee (1923-1997).

The project of a secret intelligence service under the code name of P-27 was revealed during the course of the so-called Secret Files Scandal at the end of the 1980s. The Parliamentary Investigation Commission of the Federal Military Department (1967-1991) established in March 1990 criticised the lack of any legal basis and political control. P-27 was subsequently dissolved.

Reorganisation of the intelligence services after 1990

The Swiss intelligence service was reorganised during the 1990s and 2000s and subject to stricter parliamentary supervision. It was detached from the General Staff in 2000 and converted into a civilian unit of the Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sport (DDPS) named the Strategic Intelligence Service (SIS). This reorganisation was triggered not least by the affairs involving Dino Bellasi and his superior, intelligence service chief Peter Regli. Documents relating to the Dino Bellasi affair can be found in the fonds of the General Staff: Legal Service (1962-2004) and the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland: business dossiers and process files (1912-2008). The documents relating to the Peter Regli affair, on the other hand, are held in the fonds of the Intelligence Service and Defence Subgroup (1969-1991) and the Federal Assembly: Control Committees (1993-2005).

Today, the DDPS is supported by the Military Intelligence Service (MIS) that is assigned to the "Army Executive Staff" as an area of activity as opposed to a corps in its own right. The MIS was established in 2001 as the successor to the Army Intelligence Service (AIS). The AIS had its roots in the Tactical Military Troops Intelligence Service (TIS) (1961-1970). The Air Force Intelligence Service (AFIS) formerly assigned to the Operations Staff was integrated into the DDPS in 2007 and is no longer an independent service.

The Federal Intelligence Service (FIS) has incorporated the Service for Analysis and Prevention (SAP), formerly responsible for domestic affairs, and the SIS that was responsible for the procurement of foreign intelligence. The FIS cooperates closely with various federal and cantonal authorities and offices, for instance the MIS, the Federal Office of Police (fedpol), the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland and many foreign partner services and cantonal police authorities.

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Last modification 26.09.2023

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