Political opinion, sexuality: surveillance of federal personnel too intrusive – rts.ch

Security controls imposed on federal officials and the military can go a long way when those people have access to sensitive information. According to information from RTS’s Investigative Department, the control is sometimes wrong. A new legal framework should be prepared next year.

In the greater interest of the country, the Confederation conducts security checks at the time of recruitment and on a regular basis for personnel who have access to classified or classified information. This is to prevent the risk of information leakage from employees, which creates the risk of blackmail, corruption or unfair actions in favor of foreign countries.

About 5,000 civil servants and as many officials in Confederate-affiliated companies are concerned each year. At the Army level, 60,000 recruits and soldiers with weapons undergo a basic or more advanced background check, depending on their level of access to defense secrets.

Privacy reviewed

This oversight of federal personnel has been regularly controversial in recent years, either because it is ineffective and too slow, or because it goes too far. In 2014, the legal reform was decided and is being finalized. The decree and its additions were discussed until the end of last week. Surprisingly, the new legal framework is more intrusive than ever.

Political, religious, philosophical, trade union views, family and friendships, sexuality, physical and mental disabilities, alcohol and drug use or places of recreation: some examples taken from the four pages of Schedule 7 of the order, which lists “information”. can be processed at all levels of control”. It is expected to handle security checks on people (CSP) from next summer.

Concerned expressions

This official list is a major innovation and has some informed observers worried. “This is written evidence of what has been done for years and contradicts the respect for constitutional rights in the private sphere,” says a witness of the RTS Investigative Department. He himself passed the security check that checked his political activity. Another witness explained that her separation from her partner became known to federal investigators before she spoke to colleagues, no doubt due to a change in the residents’ police records.

Sometimes these statements and other cases submitted to the Federal Administrative Court (the only remedy) call into question the strict adherence to the principle of proportionality and transparency that is normally applied to the persons subjected to these checks.

The domestic worker’s winning application

The most symbolic case brought to the courts is related to the cleaning lady. He was declared a person at risk because he was in debt and therefore appeared to be vulnerable to blackmail or bribery. In a 2014 ruling, the Federal Administrative Court responded that his access to sensitive information had not been demonstrated — he was in fact cleaning Confederate buildings during business hours and in full view.

Another case caught people’s minds, but for the opposite reasons. Roland Nef, the former head of the army, lasted just a few months in 2008 and was fired in exchange for 275,000 francs in compensation. Information leaked to the media revealed that a criminal case had been opened against him for raping his ex-girlfriend. In this case, the security check was criticized for being done after the appointment and not being thorough enough.

Check too much

Another problem: the number of checks has increased (70,000 per year), especially due to the proliferation of functions classified as sensitive. It is enough to put pressure on the CSP Service, about sixty specialists, especially psychologists, former police officers and lawyers. They mainly depend on the Ministry of Defense (DDPS). A small chamber attached to the Federal Chancellor carries out the most delicate checks, the highest-ranking heads of the administration.

Dragging controls, slippages, legal bases are too vague: many reasons for starting the reform. It was launched in 2014 with a dual goal: to better target sensitive data to reduce the number of inspections, and to create a clearer legal framework.

According to the Ministry of Defense, a misunderstanding

It is at this last point that reform is difficult. As the Federal Department of Defense confirmed to RTS, the consultation procedure raises certain fears. The key question is whether the invasion of privacy is going too far. For DDPS, this is primarily a misunderstanding that can be corrected by better specifying in the ordinance what safeguards are available in the new law on information security.

According to DDPS, the long list of data is published mainly as an assurance of transparency. And above all, the most sensitive issues should be addressed only in a very small number of cases. “All these questions are asked only to a limited number of people who perform special sensitive functions. Therefore, they do not apply to, for example, recruits,” La Matinale explained on Gionata Carmine’s microphone.

Informed consent

The head of the department also requires the informed consent to be given by that person. And it guarantees that no undercover investigation can take place. “We are not going to track people. We have no possibility and no legal basis to do so. All the information transmitted to us is either transmitted as part of the hearing or has already been registered in various courts. The registers we have, such as the criminal record, “said Gionata Carmine. It may even require access to bank accounts.

It remains to be seen how the most delicate part of the hearings and investigations take place and how they are justified when it comes to the intimate sphere. The insider sums up the concern: “If you admit you surf porn, you look like a pervert to watch. If you say you don’t, you look like a liar.”

Check whether sexual orientation is acceptable

Gionata Carmine acknowledges that questions of sexuality are delicate, but she confirms that they generally do not pose a problem if they are well explained and framed. “It’s not about making judgments about a person’s sexual orientation for our service, it’s about ruling out that a person can be pressured by the threat of blackmail because of their sexual orientation. his orientation or sexual experiences are not a person who represents a risk,” the official explains.

Parliament’s Security Committees will have the final say before the new legal framework comes into force next summer. Elected officials from both the right and the left have told us they want to demand very clear boundaries. Probably, it will be necessary to specify and further justify the cases in which interventions in the private sphere are allowed for the protection of the country’s supreme interests.

Ludovic Rocchi, RTS Investigation Unit

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