Switzerland publishes redacted report on top secret Cold War army

George Mills
George Mills - [email protected]
Switzerland publishes redacted report on top secret Cold War army
Members of Switzerland's P26 were trained in sabotage techniques by the UK secret service. File photo: AFP

In a surprise move it said was aimed at greater transparency, the Swiss Federal Council late on Wednesday published a 1991 report on the so-called P26 – an anti-communist paramilitary group which operated outside of government control


There have long been calls for the so-called Cornu report to be made public but anyone hoping for the definitive story on the secretive Cold War organisation and extent to which Swiss neutrality may have been compromised by its existence during that period will be only partly satisfied.

The version just published by the Swiss government is almost the same heavily redacted “for public consumption” document that was originally slated for release by the executive back in 1991 before it got cold feet and swapped it out for a 17-page summary.

Indeed, while the Swiss government this week said there were no longer any obstacles to publishing the redacted report, there are actually even more black pen marks than before, with the names of many people responsible removed by the defence department, ostensibly to protect the right to personal privacy of people still living.

The newly-published 126-page document was the result of an administrative enquiry launched after the existence of the P26, estimated to have had 800 members at its peak and 400 when it was closed down, was made public in 1990.

While the basic conclusions of the report were already known through the 1991 summary, the report does reveal new details of the operations of P26 and its predecessors, as Swiss daily the Tages Anzeiger reported.

Cornu was charged with determining whether the group had links with other secret “stay-behind” armies in Europe or was even part of a broader network, thus calling into question Switzerland’s neutrality during the Cold War. In his report, the judge said this was almost certainly not the case. He argued secret organizations from NATO nations had formed international committees but Switzerland had not participated.

But Cornu also found the P26 had “a special relationship of trust” with the British secret service from 1967 on, with members of the Swiss secret army travelling to the UK, sometime with false papers, to learn sabotage tactics, including how to blow up oil refineries.

One such course should have involved participants jumping from a moving helicopter to a surfaced submarine although P26 members reportedly chose not to perform this manoeuvre.

However, the Swiss government was only partially informed of these training activities while the parliament was not informed at all.

The new version of the report also shows the organisation that later became the P26 began to stash supplies in the UK and Ireland in preparation for a possible base in exile. But despite the strong UK-connection, Cornu concluded the P26 was an independent organization.

The full Cornu report is set to remain under wraps until 2041.

The P26 sprang back into national headlines in February after it emerged some 27 associated files and dossiers on the Cornu investigation had gone missing. Some experts now fear they may have been destroyed because they contain sensitive information.

In the report just published, Cornu refers to documents he consulted: they are the same ones reported as missing earlier this year, Swiss newspaper NZZ reported.


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