• Sweden's news in English

Sweden to probe US embassy surveillance

TT/AFP/The Local · 8 Nov 2010, 17:39

Published: 08 Nov 2010 16:20 GMT+01:00
Updated: 08 Nov 2010 17:39 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Sweden's chief prosecutor on security issues, Tomas Lindstrand, "has decided to launch a preliminary investigation of illegal intelligence activities. The probe regards American actions to protect the US mission in Stockholm and American personnel," his office said in a statement.

The announcement came two days after Swedish Justice Minister Beatrice Ask announced that the US embassy in Stockholm had secretly spied on Swedish residents in the capital since 2000.

“It’s my responsibility to launch a preliminary investigation into whether there is reason to believe a crime has been committed,” Lindstrand told the TT news agency.

“It’s appropriate to investigate whether a crime was committed and in this one has to be thorough.”

Lindstrand refused to comment on how long his investigation may take, saying simply that he aims to determine "on one hand, if a crime has been committed, and on the other who has committed the crime, if it has been committed," Monday's statement said.

Lindstrand will conduct the probe with the assistance of Swedish security service Säpo, his office said, adding that the case was classified and no further

information would be released for the time being.

According to Gothenburg University law professor Dennis Töllborg, the crime most likely to be the subject of the investigation is that of conducting unauthorised intelligence activities.

“Unauthorised intelligence activities is likely to be what we’re talking about here. That’s if someone, in secret or though ‘deceptive measures’, collects information about someone else’s personal situation for a foreign power,” he told TT.

A spokesperson for the US embassy in Stockholm welcomed the Lindstrand's decision to open a probe into the programme.

"The embassy is very open about this programme and we’re very willing to cooperate with the prosecutor’s office in any way we can," US embassy deputy press attaché Ryan Koch told The Local following the prosecutor's announcement.

"We understand Swedish concerns and are trying to be as open as we can so we can clear up any misunderstandings."

On Sunday, both Säpo and the Swedish government refused to comment on whether they knew about the surveillance activities carried out by the US embassy's Surveillance Detection Unit (SBU), which came to light on Saturday.

However, a centrally placed person who worked in the Swedish Government Offices (Regeringskansliet) during a large part of the the last decade told the Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) newspaper on Sunday that Säpo are likely to know about the US surveillance activities "because Säpo keeps track of all the embassies, including the American one."

"I am not particularly surprised that this happens," the source told SvD.

Anders Thornberg, head of Säpo's department for security measures, added is too early to say whether the surveillance carried out by the US embassy is illegal.

"What Säpo currently knows is that above all else, the investigations were conducted with the aim of protecting the US embassy and other places in Stockholm where the embassy carries out activities. The information has since been collected and sent on to the US," Säpo wrote in a statement on Monday.

According to Säpo, the US embassy did not inform the justice or foreign affairs ministries about the information gathering activities.

Neither did it inform Säpo or the police about the activities carried out under the programme, which has been in place since 2000.

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.

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.

Talking earlier in the day with TT, the US embassy's Koch claimed on Monday that the programme was carried out in cooperation with domestic agencies.

“When the Surveillance Detection Unit programme started at the end of the 1990s, we were instructed to cooperate with local authories. We’ve done so, we’re doing so, and we’ll continue to do so in the future,” he said.

When asked about claims that the Swedish justice ministry and Säpo didn’t know about the programme, Koch hinted at a possible communication breakdown within the Swedish bureaucracy.

“We’ve always cooperated with local authorities and the cooperation was worked very well. But I don’t know how they report onwards up the chain,” he said.

Koch regretted the confusion generated around the programme which he claimed does exactly what its name describes – identify people who are watching the US embassy in order to reduce possible threats.

Story continues below…

“We know that there are those in Sweden who monitor us who have bad intentions. Sweden isn’t immune to threats,” he said.

However, Koch refused to answer questions about where the embassy’s SDU activities take place.

“I can’t comment on the details of how the activities are carried out. But it’s sort of like the neighbourhood watch programmes that exist in both Sweden and the United States – you keep an eye on people who aren’t usually in the neighbourhood,” Koch told TT.

Nor would he reveal details about specific methods used in the programme.

“I can’t comment other than to say that we take all threats against the embassy seriously,” he said, deferring other questions to the US State Department in Washington.

Left Party leader Lars Ohly also reported the government to the Riksdag’s constitutional committee, citing the United States’ collecting and registering information about Swedish citizens.

“We have to get to the bottom of this. If there has been cooperation between Swedish and foreign agencies to carry out surveillance without having been sanctioned by the government, it’s a crime against our basic rights and freedoms,” Ohly said in a statement.

He wants the Riksdag’s constitutional committee (Konstitutionsutskott – KU) to look into whether Swedish agencies helped with the surveillance and data registration. He also wants to know if any government representatives gave their consent to the activities.

TT/AFP/The Local (news@thelocal.se)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

13:28 November 8, 2010 by Nemesis
If SÅPO did not know, they they should be fired.

Also if SÅPO is not spying on the US, then they should be fired.

Just because a country is not an enemy, does not mean they don't spy.

It is there job to spy.
14:38 November 8, 2010 by Syftfel
Since Swedish law enforcement is sporadic at best, and rather toothless and driven mostly by political correctness, Säpo and Sweden should appreciate any assistance provided by the U.S.
14:42 November 8, 2010 by Decoster
welcome to the club Sweden, nobody is protected in this world, the U.S. is over the all....
15:19 November 8, 2010 by Juan Gutierrez
All the fuzz for nothing. The program is called surveillance DETECTION. A big difference from what the press is making it out to be.
15:51 November 8, 2010 by voice of credibility
US rules the world so it is meaningless to lament over US surveillance.
16:09 November 8, 2010 by TomJones27
No, the USA is no longer #1 anymore. It's becoming a banana republic. The US is a dying empire of debt and it's influence will be counter balanced by the rise of the Eastern countries who own our debt. (China, etc.) If the US can't finance it's military machine, then it will be hard to flex it's atrophying muscles on other countries.
16:22 November 8, 2010 by Syftfel
@TomJones27: Hence perhaps we will all realize that the quicker we can get to 2012, and unload that useless, marxist, temporary occupant in the White House, the better it will be for the U.S and for the world. We need our country back.
16:54 November 8, 2010 by Swedesmith
I'd add my comment here, but I think someone is monitoring my emails.
17:00 November 8, 2010 by just a question
we should write letters instead and used dove mail like in the old times
17:19 November 8, 2010 by MC7669
This is primitives.... do you really think that the Embassies are spying!? so the Swedish Embassies in the world are not spying around!? they are just counting the birds flying over their heads!?

Ladys and Gentlemens, if a country need to spy they won't do it via their Embassies thats will be the last a country like US will do. If you ask me what 47 Diplomats are doing in Sweden I can say to you t they are spying over the Iranians former citizen and collecting information about these immigrents Then their famillies located in Teheran are in trouble if they just open their mouth against the Iranians dictatorial regime.....That is what I would suggest Sweden to check on it soil! How about the Russian, Turkish, Chinness and all Embassies are they also monitoring the Swidish citizens crossing by with their dogs....STUPID COWS
18:15 November 8, 2010 by misssh


i will never bow to your demands even if it kills me
18:38 November 8, 2010 by calebian22
and your father smelt of elderberries!
19:06 November 8, 2010 by Swedesmith
i just got a whiff and I don't think it's elderberries.
19:13 November 8, 2010 by unforgiven
We are all being spied in someway, this is what I believe! If I am told now that my email, phone line, cell phone and even my current location is being monitored by an agency I will not get surprised! This is the way it evolved since our safety was terrorized. Never try to test this, it will be a big problem for you!

'RobinHood' says that:

"In Sweden there is a presumption of innocence before conviction."

I doubt it somehow! We are all suspects (maybe immigrants more!) of criminal activity unless our innocence is proved. Technology has changed everything nowadays.
19:31 November 8, 2010 by sporado
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
20:45 November 8, 2010 by diegoveggie
the swedish state has nothing better to do, right?
20:58 November 8, 2010 by Tdye
@ TomJones27

as an American i must say that is the dumbest thing i have ever heard

@ misssh

what exactly has America demanded of you? lol...oh dont eat any American owned food chain,grocery item,drive American cars,motorcycle, dont use a computer that has Mac or Windows as the OS and the other million things that is american made you surely use in your daily life.. be a rebel my friend revolt against the US lol hahahah..revolution is you name!!! FOOL

@ sporado

Jewmerica?...really?...you expect people to take you seriously about America doing this and that when you are clearly a racist calling the US Jewmerica?

how about Iretard?..maybe "Iracqed a total score of 14 in my IQ test" (all one word no doubt)...and if you would learn how to read.. if it wasnt for the likes of "Jewmerica" and the "Jewmericans" you would all be speaking German and/or allallaabaaad or what ever that crap is you speak.

bottom line country's spy on country's all the time.. nothing new.. and America is a bit smarted to cover it up than "Sweden's chief prosecutor on security issues" gives the US credit for..here is a hint... nothing
22:38 November 8, 2010 by maxbrando
Do not understand what the outrage is about. Are they not permitted to surveil from inside their Embassy grounds? It is their soverign territory - as the same principle applies to all other countries' embassies around the world. If, not why do the Swedes allow them to have windows?
23:02 November 8, 2010 by Bumblebeetuna
Let me get this straight. The US has a task force to monitor a threat level at the embassy. If needed they check information on Swedish citizens. We don't know exactly what information. I would think that this would be quite normal for all embassies to do. I'm sure that the Swedish consulate in NY has demands put on who comes up in the skyscraper. It's been years since I was there but it was in a high building. I'm sure Säpo would or is monitoring the safety of Swedish personnel. Don't you think it's normal that Denmark had monitors in Turkey or any other country after the Mohammed cartoons. As of now, with the little information I know, it sounds like the media is jazzing it up to get ratings.

Anyone who hopes China should be the world leader over the US is Nuts. Way too far left for me. "Jewmerica" makes you sound like a racist teen. Why can't you guys come up with witty sarcasm like Swedesmith? Or have a constructive conversation?
03:27 November 9, 2010 by repat_xpat
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
04:54 November 9, 2010 by rymagnusson
Are most of you people Americans? Why on earth do you feel the need to comment on whackjob theories that the current US president is a Marxist? It looks like he's been an economically center-right president.
05:02 November 9, 2010 by jbat
Yes we can! Yes we can! as Obama said...
08:22 November 9, 2010 by rufus.t.firefly
When do defensive measures become illegal spying? I don't know. Which country doesn't spy, even on its friends?

A few years ago, a Swedish Foreign Minister acknowledged that there were active terrorist cells in Sweden, but wasn't worried because they were not planning attacks within Sweden. That must have given a lot of confidence to other countries which are potential targets.
08:52 November 9, 2010 by jbat
yes.. soon let US put their own spy device at T Centralen so they can protect US citizen walking around there... YES USA CAN!
10:28 November 10, 2010 by Ekorrmaskin
@jbat - Bob the builder, also
17:38 November 10, 2010 by mjennin2
Hide yo' kids, hide yo' wife...and hide yo' husbands cuz we surveilling er'body out there!!*

*(Antoine Dodson reference, in case you haven't heard the Bed Intruder song...) :D
12:54 November 11, 2010 by swedeb
The crazy thing is it's going to make Sweden look bad when those Swedish agencies who know about all of this have to tell those who don't that this is an agreement that has been in affect for 10 years.

@Mjennin2: HAHA! That was the funniest.
14:53 November 12, 2010 by Icarusty
Not much change then, Sweden, like Britain, has been bending over backwards for America for decades now.
Today's headlines
Löfven: 'Sweden will double its number of troops in Iraq'
Stefan Löfven and Haider al-Abadi during the visit on Monday. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven has promised to double his country's number of troops in Iraq following a meeting with Iraqi counterpart Haider al-Abadi on Monday.

Will Swedes soon be looking for fairtrade porn?
Should Swedes think fairtrade with porn? Photo: Karin Malmhav/SvD/TT

A fairtrade attitude to pornography would be beneficial, Sweden's health minister told The Local.

Presented by Stockholm University
Nordic fashion in focus at Stockholm University
Simon Paulin/imagebank.sweden.se

Nordic fashion took centre stage in the Swedish capital last week as Stockholm University hosted the “first-ever” academic conference looking at luxury and sustainability in the fashion industry.

Referee, coach and parents in Swedish youth football fight
File photo of a referee holding a red card not related to the story. Photo: Stefan Jerrevång/TT

A football dad broke his leg in the brawl in front of 11-year-old kids after a Hammarby youth football game.

Illicit abattoir kept more than 100 bulls' penises
A couple of young bulls not related to the story. Photo: Jonas Ekströmer/TT

Dried cattle genitalia, goats' heads and hundreds of litres of lard were just a few of the many strange finds discovered when police raided a property in Sweden.

This is officially Sweden's most beautiful beard
The most beautiful beard in Sweden. Photo: Memo Göcek

According to a jury of barbers and 'well known bearded profiles', that is.

Presented by Invest Stockholm
One expat's strategy for making friends in Stockholm

You might think it’s hard to make friends in a new city. But if at first you don’t succeed – try something else!

Injured Swedish photographer protected by 'guardian angel'
Swedish photographer Paul Hansen on another occasion. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

Photographer Paul Hansen thanked his lucky stars for surviving sniper fire while covering the battle for the Isis-held city of Mosul in Iraq.

How Sweden is trying to smooth relations with Saudis
Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven meeting Saudi Arabia's Trade Minister Majid bin Abdullah Al Qasabi. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

Sweden's Prime Minister Stefan Löfven has visited Saudi Arabia a year and a half after relations turned frosty in a major diplomatic row.

My Swedish Career
'Swedish people love it, but they find it quite odd'
Scottish entrepreneur William Macdonald. Photo: Michael Campanella

Meet the web developer and entrepreneur using traditional Scottish ceilidh dancing to break the ice with Swedes.

Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
People-watching: October 21st-23rd
Sponsored Article
This is Malmö: Football capital of Sweden
Fury at plans that 'threaten the IB's survival' in Sweden
Analysis & Opinion
Are we just going to let half the country die?
Blog updates

6 October

10 useful hjälpverb (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hej! I think the so-called “hjalpverb” (auxiliary verbs in English) are a good way to get…" READ »


8 July

Editor’s blog, July 8th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hej readers, It has, as always, been a bizarre, serious and hilarious week in Sweden. You…" READ »

Sponsored Article
Where is the Swedish music industry heading?
Angry elk chases Swede up a lamp post
Sponsored Article
Why you should 'grab a chair' on Stockholm's tech scene
The Local Voices
'Alienation in Sweden feels better: I find myself a stranger among scores of aliens'
People-watching: October 20th
The Local Voices
A layover at Qatar airport brought this Swedish-Kenyan couple together - now they're heading for marriage
Sponsored Article
Stockholm: creating solutions to global challenges
Swede punches clown that scared his grandmother
Sponsored Article
Swedish for programmers: 'It changed my life'
Fans throw flares and enter pitch in Swedish football riot
Could Swedish blood test solve 'Making a Murderer'?
Sponsored Article
Top 7 tips to help you learn Swedish
Property of the week: Linnéstaden, Gothenburg
Sponsored Article
‘Extremism can't be defeated on the battlefield alone’
Swedish school to build gender neutral changing room
People-watching: October 14th-16th
Sponsored Article
Stockholm: creating solutions to global challenges
Man in Sweden assaulted by clowns with broken bottle
Sponsored Article
Why you should 'grab a chair' on Stockholm's tech scene
Nobel Prize 2016: Literature
Sponsored Article
Where is the Swedish music industry heading?
Watch the man who discovered Bob Dylan react to his Nobel Prize win
Sponsored Article
One expat's strategy for making friends in Stockholm
Record numbers emigrating from Sweden
Sponsored Article
Nordic fashion in focus at Stockholm University
People-watching: October 12th
The Local Voices
'Swedish startups should embrace newcomers' talents - there's nothing to fear'
How far right are the Sweden Democrats?
Property of the week: Triangeln, Malmö
Sweden unveils Europe's first elk hut
People-watching: October 7th-9th
The Local Voices
Syria's White Helmets: The Nobel Peace Prize would have meant a lot, but pulling a child from rubble is the greatest reward
Missing rune stone turns up in Sweden
Nobel Prize 2016: Chemistry
jobs available