Ahead of a Swiss referendum on the country’s plan to buy 22 fighter jets from Sweden, a report raised concerns Sunday that a US-made communication system onboard could be used for spying.
According to a report in Swiss weekly Le Matin Dimanche, Swedish defense firm Saab last year brought in US company Rockwell Collins to replace Roschi Rohde & Schwartz of Switzerland, which had originally been contracted to build the communications system.
While the Swiss would still be making their own encryption keys, the physical box and the software inside would be American made, according to the report.
Several experts quoted by the paper cautioned that the US company could potentially build a “backdoor” into the system, making it possible for US intelligence to see the information gathered during reconnaissance flights.
In case you’re wondering, the Swiss Air Force currently flies (between 9am and 5pm on weekdays) Boeing F/A-18 Hornets, and Northrop F-5E Tiger IIs.
But more broadly, this is the kind of unpredictable second order effect that happens when national security establishments are allowed to expand their activities without sufficient forethought and monitoring by civilians and diplomats. It’s dumb that NSA spying concerns might convince some Swiss citizens to vote against buying a Swedish fighter with American components to replace their American fighter with American components. But it’s not exactly surprising that people around the world will resent the perception that US intelligence agencies are collecting massive amounts of data about their lives, and act (even in small ways) upon that resentment.