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Sweden's spy laws need updating: Säpo

Sweden's spy laws need updating: Säpo

Published: 24 May 2011 12:25 GMT+02:00
Updated: 24 May 2011 12:25 GMT+02:00

Swedish Security Service (Säpo) thinks that Swedish laws on espionage are outdated and the government called for an inquiry last year following the discovery of under-cover investigations in Sweden.

Säpo have expressed the opinion that the scope of current espionage and intelligence operations has widened and changed in focus,” Thomas Kaevergard, secretary for a government commission of enquiry formed last year, told The Local.

Säpo discovered in 2009 that two Americans were conducting illegal, under-cover investigations in Sweden, the Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) daily reported on Monday.

Since the discovery, Säpo has expressed the opinion that the existing legislation is outdated.

According to Säpo, foreign intelligence gatherers in Sweden are today less interested in military bases or airfields and more turned to political or research espionage.

There’s also an increased number of illicit espionage operations carried out by foreign agents in Sweden, spying on another nations or on its own citizens who are living on Swedish soil.

“It could be someone fooling fellow countrymen to give details about themselves, in order to map out activities of that country’s citizens in Sweden, “Kaevergaard said.

One such case was when a Chinese national was charged with unlawful intelligence gathering in 2009 against refugees of the Chinese Uyghur minority living in Sweden.

Earlier this year, the US embassy's Surveillance Detection Unit (SDU) was the focus of an investigation by Sweden's top prosecutor after reports surfaced in the media suggesting that the unit may have engaged in unlawful intelligence gathering.

However, in that case the prosecutor dropped the probe in early April because he was unable to gather sufficient evidence to substantiate the allegations.

According to Kaevergaard, the laws surrounding illicit espionage operations came about during WWII when Sweden realised that there were foreign agents operating on Swedish soil carrying out espionage operations against other nations.

“But the origins of these laws are really old, they stem from the late 1800’s and have been updated a number of times during the first world war, the interwar period and the second world war,” Kaevergaard told The Local.

If Sweden can’t intervene in these cases the consequences could be detrimental to Sweden internationally, according to Kaevergaard.

“And while these agents are existing in Sweden, their activities could be turned against the country as well at any time,” he said.

Kaevergaard was not able to comment on any individual case but said that any instance where existing laws are tried and applied gives the enquiry more practical information on what, if anything, needs to be amended.

“In which case did it work and which didn’t? How was it applied, did it go to prosecution, what was the follow up? These are all questions that will help us assess how it is working today,” Kaevergaard told The Local.

TT/Rebecca Martin (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

14:00 May 24, 2011 by apelsin000
It is nothing but Säpo's incapabe of action to prevent terrorism.
14:22 May 24, 2011 by truthworthy
Yes let us give the Americans a permission to spy and punish the Chinese for doing the same. This hypocrisy is appalling. Sweden needs to lift is internationally accepted neutral position and stop bowing to American bullying.
14:44 May 24, 2011 by apelsin000
Terrorism by nature is an international issue. Think about the terrorist attack happened in Stockholm this year, it could be much more deadly, but Säpo did nothing in advance... To my impression, they are bureaucratic. This bureaucracy harms not only other countries but Sweden.
16:13 May 24, 2011 by J. L. Belmar
Säpo needs the updating, no the spy laws.
18:00 May 24, 2011 by Kaethar
And the Sweden-haters arrive...

Säpo are of course 100% correct in this. The laws need to be updated so they can actually prosecute these spies properly.
14:50 May 28, 2011 by thegeorgespyman
A man helping me subdue a prowler in my house doesn't need to conceal his identity. A man aiding and abetting a prowler does. Interested in catching prowlers? http://www.conspiracy-cafe.com/
06:42 October 14, 2011 by Bob Jacobson
As an American often working in Sweden, I am in favor of Säpo or whatever agency is appropriate being capable of catching spies.

I never thought that in Sweden I might be considered a spy, but it's a sobering realization that people might not be comfortable confiding in me (although I have no access to sensitive data in my work, consulting on innovations in the workplace.). The CIA and private espionage agencies have cast average Americans overseas in a bad light.

Other nationals have similar problems due to their nations' spook agencies antics. Swedes have the same problem overseas, especially since they travel widely.

I don't hold with spies of any type. Catch them, remove suspicion, enable honest people to work together honestly. You have my blessings.
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