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Swedish justice minister confirms US surveillance

AFP/The Local · 7 Nov 2010, 09:00

Published: 06 Nov 2010 14:13 GMT+01:00
Updated: 07 Nov 2010 09:00 GMT+01:00

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"After contacts between the US embassy and Säpo (Swedish Security Service, Säkerhetspolisen), it is confirmed that the American embassy took suveillance precautions of the same kind as those recently discovered in Norway," Ask said at a press conference on Saturday.

"The information we have at our disposal is that this programme mainly concerned search activities aimed to protect the embassy," Ask added.

She said she was not aware of the breadth of the information subsequently gathered beyond the fact it included photos and personal data.

Late on Saturday, the US embassy in Stockholm admitted that it, like other US embassies, has a programme to detect suspicious activities around its facilities as part of normal security precautions to ensure the safety of staff and guests, but challenged the initial claims made in Norway.

"We regret that inflammatory and inaccurate press reporting which began in Norway about this program has caused unease and concern among some of our friends. The embassy's Surveillance Detection Unit (SDU) is exactly what its title states: a programme designed to detect surveillance against US posts overseas," the embassy wrote in a statement.

"It is not a secret program, nor is it an intelligence program. It emerged from the lessons of such horrific terrorist attacks as the Nairobi and Dar es Salaam embassy bombings in 1998, in which our missions had been under hostile surveillance by the terrorists for some time before the attacks. Unfortunately, this surveillance was not detected," it continued.

"As we have learned from recent events throughout Europe, including Scandinavia, no nation is immune from terrorist threats," it added.

The embassy added that it fully respects Swedish law and welcomes Ask's remarks at her press conference, emphasising that it stands ready to answer any questions the Swedish government may have about the programme.

On Wednesday, Norway's TV2 reported that the US embassy in Oslo had conducted illegal surveillance on hundreds of Norwegian residents over the past decade. Similar allegations were aired a day later by a Danish commercial broadcaster.

In Norway, US embassy spokesman Timothy Moore told the country's NTB news agency that the embassy's SDU "was not directed against the host country or its inhabitants" and that "its objective is to discover possible suspect activities in the area surrounding the embassy."

However, Norwegian officials said they had not been informed of the embassy's programme.

"There are rules for the kind of personal information one can collect...and the manner they are recorded and the length of the recording," said Bjørn Erik Thon, director of Norway's data protection body, suggesting that in this case, such rules were not applied.

In Denmark, Justice Minister Lars Barfoed insisted in an email to the Politiken daily that he "had no knowledge whatsoever of the United States carrying out illegal activities from the US embassy in this country."

Barfoed has been summoned for a closed parliamentary hearing on the matter within the next two weeks.

Story continues below…

In Sweden, "this activity has taken place for a long time, since 2000, and neither the justice ministry, nor the foreign ministry, nor Säpo, nor the Stockholm police appear to have been informed," Ask said.

On Saturday, the Swedish foreign ministry questioned US Ambassador Matthew Barzun on the subject, TT news agency reported. No details were immediately disclosed about the talks.

Ask was not able to say whether the surveillance was illegal in Sweden.

"The public prosecutor is trying to evaluate if this practise conforms with Swedish law. We understand that countries under high threat take measures to reduce the risk of attacks, but these measures must fall within the framework of Swedish law" and Swedish authorities must be informed, Ask said.

AFP/The Local (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

15:38 November 6, 2010 by roaringchicken92
Any and all internet activity, including that conducted within "secure" websites, is fodder for any person to be put under some kind of surveillance. The same goes for any phone activity: if you are transmitting and receiving information other than in face-to-face conversations (though camera phones and the like negate this somewhat) or written correspondence, you can be monitored. It's a fact of life. But it's not a concern for those not planning to overthrow the world -- you know who you are :-)
15:45 November 6, 2010 by Rick Methven
I wonder what would happen if The Swedish Embassy in Washington was caught keeping surveillance of US citizens

Would the US government say No problem keep spying?
15:55 November 6, 2010 by Roy E
Welcome to the age of terrorism.

When terrorists are holding western passports all the goodwill and trust that had traditionally existed betwen between native peoples is out the window. That's a shame.

The US has the same problem within its own borders. They too have imported terrorists.

Isn't multiculturalism grand?
15:58 November 6, 2010 by xenyasai
@roaringchicken92: I guess you blindly believe that 'if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to worry about'?

@Rick Methven: They would probably be sentenced to death for treason or something, if Sweden would be lucky. Worst case scenario would be US going to war with Sweden.
16:09 November 6, 2010 by swedeb
Every country in the world does this. Surveillance isn't happening to the normal person, only to those who pose serious threats. It's naive to think the US is the only country that does this.
16:34 November 6, 2010 by Rick Methven

"Surveillance isn't happening to the normal person, only to those who pose serious threats"

How can you be sure?

Extraordinary rendition by the CIA picked up a lot of innocent 'normal' people.
17:04 November 6, 2010 by Sam1
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
17:13 November 6, 2010 by boby
This is what happens when Sweden has taken in so many terrorists and granted them citizenship.

Anyhow, why does this matter? I do not care if the US or any other embassy collects information on me. I have nothing to hide.
17:20 November 6, 2010 by ChomskyReader
It really has nothing to do with having something to hide. Terrorism and immigration have been going on long before men could, fly in planes or drive cars. White men, who conalised the world, went around, raping, stealing and piliging long before you and I were around, all what is happening today is a case of chickens coming home to roost!

I would suggest a history lesson, looking at the white mans attempt to de-stabilise south america, carving up africa and enslaving people to the current day, the fabricated of evidence to start a war in the already volatile middle east. Although not all white men are monsters, those that control are.
18:01 November 6, 2010 by Carnitas
Personally, I see this as a good thing. If you are not a terrorist then you have nothing to worry about. Surely, the Islamic community is going to be up in arms about this. However, they have created this problem for themselves. The world is a safer place because of activities like this.
18:51 November 6, 2010 by truthworthy
Oh yeah no problem. this is bullshit. why on earth is Sweden okey with the spying of their citizens. I am tired of big brother bullying every small country.

those who think this is a solution for terrorism, in fact its recruiting tool for terrorists. and those idiots who think every Muslim is a terrorist and should be monitored. you are arrogant.
19:14 November 6, 2010 by Bumblebeetuna
Only a fraction of white people, at the time, took part in the slave trade. White people are not to blame for everything in. Though, they didn't do much to stop it did they.

The reason why it's wrong to spy on "innocent" civilians is because it pushes certain groups of people down, first of all. BTW I think they call it bias, racism, prejudice, etc. Second of all regardless of race creed or religion we have the right not to be spied on especially not by a foreign country. I think it's wrong and I am born in america.

My only feeling is that many countries seem to sit idly by why others have to do the hard work for security and freedom. Which I think is why Americans would feel like defending these actions.

My 2 cents.
19:19 November 6, 2010 by HYBRED
Why is this news? Just go back a fews years and remember the photo's and stories about the CIA flying "suspects" out of Bromma. Even the Wiki Leaks guy being refused permanent residence in Sweden smells CIA. Sweden is actually a NATO country, it is just not official yet.
20:07 November 6, 2010 by sendia
I used to feel the same as many of you said here, I don't have nothing to hide so do all the surveillance you want.

tho' I am more concerned now, we are leaving finger prints and retina scans all over the place. what if some rogue official decided to use this to cover a mistake or something. How can you ensure this doesn't happen.

At the same time I am relieved when they have tight checks so that I can reach home safely. I am not making a point here, am I. yeah I dunno what is ok and what is not.
20:12 November 6, 2010 by Frobobbles
USA can has shitlist! Oh my god who would have imagined!
22:17 November 6, 2010 by benchamrk
Why a sovereign country such as Sweden has giving up his citizen protection to paranoia US intelligence services....without reacting and defending her human fundamentals priciples - Poor and Coward.
22:50 November 6, 2010 by PonceDeLeon
This explains all those people urinating in public..
23:07 November 6, 2010 by Rebel
If Sweden is unable to do the job of keeping a tab on terrorists then don't gripe at the USA for having to fill in.
00:01 November 7, 2010 by Swedesmith
I'm a white guy and I don't feel guilty about anything...well except for the time I took a leak on old lady Millgullicuddy's prize rose bush and killed it.
01:11 November 7, 2010 by Emmaboda
You Swedes love the Obama Administration, just like the rest of EU, so what is the problem?
02:15 November 7, 2010 by rymagnusson
Why is the US given so much freedom to police the world like this?

You'd think their economy collapsing and the Reagan era transforming it into a 'banana republic' would have made it financially more difficult to pull this kind of stunt.

But then again, since they don't have social safety nets and let the poor die of preventable illnesses, they obviously don't seem to spend the money they do have in the right places.
03:44 November 7, 2010 by ericrufinosiah
Peace loving,Swedish nationals who have no-intentions of threatening the security

of Sweden shouldn't fear of surveillance by whoever infect the Swedish Government should co-operate so that Sweden is rid of terrorists.Those who

opposed the surveillance are of course,you know what is in their mind or being

influenced by ' this situation came about because of unchecked immigrants and

refugees by previous Swedish Government though it is still not to late to find a solution.
04:29 November 7, 2010 by banuazizi
Roy E: do you mean the guys responsible for Oklahoma city bombing or the Unabomber were "foreigners who were foreigners naturalized in USA and attacked the west after receiving western passports" ?

Educate yourself, stop being closed minded. Surveilance cannot help make a country more secure. In most cases it can lead investigators find out what went on "after" an attack is made. How many of those hundreds of "suspicious individuals" do you think were "foreigners who held norwegian passports", and how many of those do you think wanted to attack US interests in Norway ?

US Surveilance has nothing to do with security, its a different agenda.
08:27 November 7, 2010 by xenyasai
All of you who are fine with USA sending spies to a foreign country should really ask yourself what if the tables were turned. You really think USA would find that behaviour acceptable? They would send them straight to GITMO.

And while you're at it, saying surveillance is ok. Why not ask a German what he/she thinks about Stasi?
09:12 November 7, 2010 by Prat
We might assume the Swedish government has confronted the US Embassy, remembering the 'mistaken identity' murder in Lillehammer, Norway of waiter Ahmed Bouchiki by Israel's Mossad.

Of course, Sweden can demand examination of all American materials collected surreptitiously, and that such surveillance be halted. They can threaten to arrest or expel CIA Stockholm station's top five (or ten or twenty) operatives. But the Yanks will dependably continue intrigue, espionage & worldwide military domination...
11:32 November 7, 2010 by marianne667
USA has the right to protecct their perimeter. Who the heck hangs around the embassy anyway. I give it a wide berth in Stockholm. Sometimes I worry about the direct shot somebody could get from Skansen but of course this is not my problem and am sure they have thought about this.
13:00 November 7, 2010 by visitorfromnowhere
Tough to say who is most ignorant: The government of US, the government of Sweden, the people of US, the people of Sweden. The first has the most sinister ideas about world leadership, the second cowardly follows, the third has been anesthesized, the fourth thinks it is informed, but is seriously mistaken. Monkies led by monkies. If you are not getting your information from 100 sources, you are ignorant. A light has gone out in the West.
14:39 November 7, 2010 by PaulTheOctopus
very interesting video to watch type in youtube , How Zionists Divide and Conquer
15:43 November 7, 2010 by Swedesmith
Does it work best if I put the tin-foil up on the inside of my house, or the outside?
19:27 November 7, 2010 by vb74
Of course the U.S. has to do surveilance in Sweden. The Swedes let the scum of the planet in, support them, and give them Swedish passports. It's the perfect scenario to set up terrorist networks. And as fond of the Swedes as I am, lets face the facts. The Swedes can't even seem to protect their own people or simply put their safety second to this ultra liberal driven nonsense/ obsession for multiculturalism. So yes I'm sure the U.S. will continue to spy on "Swedish citizens" a.k.a. muslim immigrants until Sweden starts putting the safety of her own citizens and the citizens of the West over people who clearly do not have any of our best interests at heart.
19:51 November 7, 2010 by Rick Methven

As an American, can you answer a question on behalf of your government?

If it is OK for you to spy on us, ist it OK for us to spy on you?
19:54 November 7, 2010 by swedeb
@RyMagnusson: I've read/heard comments like that a lot (US right to police the world type..), but then when things go bad, who is called first to help with the situation. The US. I'm not saying the US is good or bad for their policing, but I think it's crazy that they are criticized when they do and at the same time criticized when they don't, or don't do the amount people think they should.

@Xenyasai: It's known that other countries diplomats in Washington DC do surveillance. It's known that when diplomats go to other countries, the host country conducts surveillance on the diplomats. The whole world does this.

@Rick Methven: Nothing is 100% in this world of course, but this stuff costs money. No one is going to conduct surveillance on normal citizens, too much money. Now, surveillance may be conducted on innocent people. BUT that's not to say that those innocent people have not had contact with guilty people, either knowingly or not to them. So surveillance may be conducted on those innocent people just to ensure they aren't part of some terrorist activity or criminal gang or whatever.
21:46 November 7, 2010 by vb74
@Rick Methven

I can only answer that question on my behalf. I don't see the world as us and everyone else who isn't American. I believe your nation to be like mine, an important component of Western culture. And the concept of the West being multiple countries that are still united is a concept that I hold dear. We may speak different languages and have our own national identities but fundamentaly and in a broader sense we are still very similair. And I can say with complete honesty that I would have no problem with the Swedish goverment putting surveilance on an American if it was believed they posed a threat to yours, ours or any of our allies. To be honest, I would actually be glad to see the Swedish goverment being a little more proactive.
00:42 November 8, 2010 by rumcajs
I don't wanna attack any USA ambassy, but I really would not like any MF listening to my phone conversations and s**ts. In THAT CASE, I might actually change my mind and it would be ONLY because they are sneaking into my things. .......... the same as if it was the mechanic around the corner, the guy from the shop next door or any body else.
01:38 November 8, 2010 by nimshubur
This is a lot of furor over cameras at the embassy itself making video recordings of people who appear to be watching the embassy. And I strongly suspect that any "personal information" collected is limited to what can be determined by facial recognition software and retrieved from pre-existing databases. And I would not be surprised if Säpo provides some of this information. But then, what do I know? I'm just a retired counter-espionage and counter-terrorism educator. I taught people how to tell when a spy was trying to get information, the kinds of information they wanted, what terrorists do, how they do it, and how to avoid them.
13:13 November 8, 2010 by Michael84
I think the same kind of activity by the US embassy led to the embassy occupation in Iran back in 1981.
11:55 November 9, 2010 by cowboykodp
@Paul the octapus (re; How Zionists Divde And Conquor)

Do you even know who David Duke is? He is a KKK member and the biggest Anti-semite in the US. He is in fact the architect of concealing neo-nazi and racist ideology in order to advance his political non sense.

Reminds one of SD and PPV and all the other racist organizations in Europe today. But what is sad is all the people on this forum who are using these same methods against Muslims. And they somehow feel good about themselves. Laughable.
19:31 November 9, 2010 by GefleFrequentFlyer
Don't see the problem here. Sweden is the unbridled passageway for terrorism. The US knows it, and takes measures to protect it's interests. This is no different than activities during the cold war.
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