Federal Act on the Intelligence Service (Intelligence Service Act, ISA)

The key issues in brief

The Federal Intelligence Service (FIS) helps to make Switzerland a safer and more secure place. Its task is to identify threats,
such as those from terrorist organisations, at an early stage and to prevent related attacks on Switzerland. The intelligence that the FIS gathers allows political decision-makers to take suitable countermeasures swiftly when our security is under threat.

Why is new legislation needed?

The level of threat has risen as a result of technological advances, closer global integration and new forms of terrorism. The legislation governing the FIS no longer takes account of the current risks. The new federal act provides the FIS with up-to-date means for gathering information, for example by monitoring telephone conversations and internet activity. However, the FIS may only use these methods if it complies with strict conditions. At the same time, the new act strengthens control over the intelligence service.

Why is a referendum being held?

A referendum on the issue of the Intelligence Service Act has been successfully requested. The main criticism is that the FIS will have the right to monitor, record and analyse private communications. It is argued that this permits blanket surveillance and allows the FIS to invade the privacy of ordinary citizens without any risk of prosecution.

Opinion of the Federal Council and Parliament

The new act provides the FIS with the modern resources it needs to fulfil its task of safeguarding the security of our country. At the same time, it protects citizens’ freedoms by requiring strict authorisation procedures for the use of certain instruments, strengthening supervision of the FIS and allowing citizens to appeal against surveillance measures and demand information about stored data. For these reasons, the Federal Council and Parliament recommend that the Intelligence Service Act be approved.

Last modification 25.09.2016

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https://www.admin.ch/content/gov/en/start/documentation/votes/20160925/legge-federale-sulle-attivita-informative.html