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Report says Swiss secret services are breaking law

The internal secret service holds files on thousands of people in violation of the law, says a report published on Wednesday.

The delegation of the control commissions of the two houses of parliament investigated allegations of secret files after it was discovered in 2008 that files were being kept on two members of the Basel city council who were of Kurdish origin.

This case turned out to be “the tip of the iceberg”, the document says. It further claims that the correct legal procedures have not been observed in the majority of the files kept.

In a first reaction, Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf said the cabinet was taking seriously the criticism expressed. She pledged a formal government response by October.

The storing of secret information has been a sensitive issue in Switzerland since a major scandal in the early 1990s when it was found that during the course of the century hundreds of thousands of people had been put under surveillance.

The public outcry at that time led to a reorganisation of the prosecutor’s office and the federal police and the introduction of stricter controls.

But the new report says the legal requirements have not been satisfied “in any way” in the registering of data.

Data is supposed to be checked to see whether the information has been correctly assessed, and irrelevant data deleted.

The only data regarded as relevant is that connected with the fight against terrorism, espionage, violent extremism or forbidden technology transfer.

The report, which has harsh words for the head of the service, says quantity has been given priority over quality.

“The collection, processing and conservation of incorrect and useless data makes it difficult for the internal security service to work efficiently, “ the report says.

swissinfo.ch and agencies

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