Swiss voters back new surveillance powers

Sep 26, 2016, 6:01 AM EDT
(Source: Kecko/flickr)
(Source: Kecko/flickr)

At a time when most of the Western powers remain wary of a mounting threat from extremist groups, Swiss voters have given a strong approval for a new bill that significantly enhances surveillance powers for the country’s intelligence agencies. The new law, which allows the authorities to tap phones, snoop on email and deploy hidden cameras and bugs, was endorsed by some 65 percent voters.

Some critics have greeted the new law with skepticism, saying that the legislation could restrict civil liberties, reports the BBC. Opponents believe that the law would compromise Swiss neutrality, as it requires closer co-operation with foreign intelligence agencies.

The new surveillance bill, which was passed last year, could not be enacted yet as the opposition collected the required number of signatures to force a referendum under Switzerland's system of direct democracy.

Swiss Defense Minister, Guy Parmelin, described the development as “leaving the basement and coming up to the ground floor by international standards,” writes The Guardian. Parmelin said that the new legislation cannot be compared to surveillance laws in the U.S. and other major states, where spying capabilities breach desired levels of individual liberty and security.