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US seeks to allay tension over embassy 'spying'

AFP/The Local · 9 Nov 2010, 07:07

Published: 09 Nov 2010 07:07 GMT+01:00

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State Department spokesman Philip Crowley traced the origins of the surveillance programme to the 1998 bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, arguing that the it had become customary procedure.

"We have acknowledged that we have a programme around the world where we are alert for people who may be surveilling our embassies because we recognize that they are potential targets of terrorism," he told reporters.

"We will be happy to answer any questions that any government has about the nature of the security measures to protect our embassies."

He spoke shortly after a top Swedish prosecutor announced he had opened a probe to determine whether the surveillance was illegal. Swedish Justice Minister Beatrice Ask earlier indicated the US embassy in Stockholm had secretly spied on Swedish residents in the capital since 2000.

Similar allegations surfaced in Oslo and Copenhagen last week, and in all three countries, national officials insisted they had not been informed of the surveillance activities, which extended to monitoring demonstrations and storing personal information about protesters.

If surveillance was carried out without authorization from the host countries, experts in the region insist it constitutes a violation of national laws.

But Crowley said "governments are fairly large, and there may be some instances where some agency of government has information and the other agency of government does not."

Story continues below…

Norway's chief prosecutor has also asked police there to investigate the embassy's actions.

The US missions in Sweden and Norway have issued statements insisting their actions are part of common protection procedures.

AFP/The Local (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

08:21 November 9, 2010 by RobinHood
All embassies of all countries operate some sort of low-level surveillance to protect and further their own interests. Usually it's done with the cooperation and connivance of the host country's own secret service, and blind eyes are turned when necessary. When SÄPO needs similar cooperation within the USA, it will receive it. Surveillance is absolutely not unique to the USA. Some countries occasionally overstep the mark and go beyond low-level surveillance, if that had happened here, we haven't heard about it yet.

The only surprise about this story is how few people know what embassies, of all nationalities, including their own, actually do. I strongly advise you against trying to find out.
08:46 November 9, 2010 by Juan Gutierrez
TheSDU's do not work with the CIA. You need to stop your James Bond fantasies.

The SDU's are made up of local nationals and they report to the RSO. This is not a secret program, and it's run by subcontractors at certain embassies. Do you really think that local employees are given access to the identity of resident CIA personnel????
10:00 November 9, 2010 by byke
If any surveillance is done from within the embassy then isnt that considered to be on foreign ground? (and thus not under the jurisdiction of local laws).
10:01 November 9, 2010 by ericrufinosiah
The Prosecutor had opened a fail on it's legality so just wait

for the investigation to come out before jumping here and there for publicity as both countries enjoyed good and strong

10:30 November 9, 2010 by Rishonim
It seems that so many people are unaware (blind crow) that most cases of espionage are conducted by embassies, NGO's Military attaché, exchange students, researchers, visiting lecturers and the list grows long.
10:48 November 9, 2010 by marianne667
Rena Rama Grönköping!!!
12:31 November 9, 2010 by Syftfel
If the US spying is limited to the threat of terrorism, I for one would feel comfortable in the knowledge that Sweden gets assistance, since Swedish law enforcement leaves to be desired . My fear though is that the 'spying' gets into areas that has nothing to do with safety and delves into political thought and other 'periferal' areas that ought not be of concern to a foreign nation. Who had an illegal abortion? Who was arrested for shoplifting? Who promotes child pornography? (disgusting as though it is). Who smokes pot in Sundsvall? As long as the focus is on safety and terrorism, I say let them spy!
12:48 November 9, 2010 by Rick Methven
It is one thing to monitor the Embassy perimeter with cameras to spot suspicious activity, (as long as a sign saying that surveillance cameras are in use is prominently displayed), it is entirely another matter to surreptitiously gather information on Swedish citizens and store that information.

As it is illegal for Swedish government agencies to monitor Swedish citizens without due cause, it is certainly a breach of the law for any other country to engage in such acts.

The question still remains to be answered, what would be the reaction of the US authorities if another countries Embassy was carrying out surveillence on US citizens?

To say that it is OK would make spying legal: Lol
12:51 November 9, 2010 by Prat
The USA has a long history of destabilizing other societies & governments. Starting with American Indian nations & the Hawaiian Kingdom, continuing with Imperial entitlement in the Philippines, Cuba, Nicaragua, Panama, Honduras, Guatemala, etc., and onward to Iran, Vietnam, Chile, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan; elsewhere and everywhere... the mighty USA subdues savages.

Just yesterday in US District Court (D.C.) the US government was criticized for targeted killings - government claims they require no judicial review:


Can Swedish leaders resist US bullying? Doubtful. No Swedish politicians or major media seek justice for US Southeast Asian transgressions (Vietnam War) or more recent illegal wars & torturing. Silence is collusion.
19:22 November 9, 2010 by jbat
Very well said Prat!

Agree 1000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000%!!!
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