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Spooked


Foreign firms frozen out of IT contracts


The US mission in Geneva is suspected of being a major NSA-CIA monitoring centre (Keystone)

The US mission in Geneva is suspected of being a major NSA-CIA monitoring centre

(Keystone)

The Swiss cabinet has decided that foreign firms will no longer be able to bid for important government computer and communication tenders, reacting to allegations that foreign intelligence services have been carrying out illegal activities in Switzerland.

Invoking state security, cabinet said that service contracts for “vital” central infrastructure would only be awarded when possible to Swiss-based companies with a majority of local shareholders and providing those services from Switzerland.

The new rules cover contracts with the army as well as for mobile phones and computers. The decision is the result of talks within the cabinet about potential risks to government infrastructure, announced by the finance ministry on Wednesday.

The decision comes after the Federal Prosecutor's Office launched in November a full-blown investigation on the basis of a “genuine suspicion” of surveillance by foreign secret services.

There had already been preliminary investigations into alleged US spying activities in Switzerland revealed by former National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden in June. Special mandates were given to the justice, foreign and finance ministries to seek further clarifications about possible NSA snooping on Swiss soil with a view to “adopting definite measures”.

Snowden had allegedly worked for the CIA in Geneva in 2007 under the guise of a diplomat. It was here, he said, that he first encountered the scale of the snooping operation. Washington told Switzerland after the revelations that the US respected Swiss laws.

However, in October the German magazine Der Spiegel claimed, based on a 2010 document provided by Snowden, that the US embassy in Geneva houses a powerful joint NSA-CIA electronic monitoring station.

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