• Sweden's news in English

Sweden knew of US surveillance: report

TT/David Landes · 19 Nov 2010, 10:19

Published: 19 Nov 2010 07:30 GMT+01:00
Updated: 19 Nov 2010 10:19 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Top secret documents from the Swedish foreign ministry show that government officials have known of the US embassy’s Surveillance Detection Unit (SDU) for years, the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper reports.

Sources within the government offices tell the newspaper that the foreign ministry received information about the programme when Anna Lindh was foreign minister.

Two weeks ago Norwegian media revealed the existence of an SDU programme run out of the US embassy in Oslo.

Within days of the reports from Norway, Swedish justice minister Beatrice Ask confirmed that the US embassy in Stockholm had operated a similar programme since 2000 and that “neither (Swedish security service) Säpo or anyone in the ministry has previously received any information about it”.

Spokespeople for the US embassy in Stockholm and the US State Department in Washington have maintained that the programme was not secret, but was a security measure meant to protect US embassies around the world.

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 at a press briefing last week.

Nevertheless, Sweden's chief prosecutor on security issues, Tomas Lindstrand, launched “a preliminary investigation of illegal intelligence activities” in order to assess whether the US embassy’s programme may have violated Swedish law in its efforts to “protect the US mission in Stockholm and American personnel”.

US embassy spokesperson Ryan Koch said he 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," he told The Local.

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

Earlier this week, the security services in both Norway and Denmark admitted they knew about the US embassy programmes in their respective countries prior to recent media reports.

The Social Democrats’ current foreign policy spokesperson Urban Ahlin on Friday demanded that the government call a meeting of Sweden’s foreign policy council and explain the contents of the secret documents cited in DN’s report.

“Despite my requests that the opposition be informed about what every agency new regarding the surveillance, the government has instead leaked a document to a morning newspaper in which anonymous sources claim this and that,” Ahlin told TT.

Story continues below…

He pointed out that he had repeatedly expressed his disbelief that no Swedish government agency knew about a US embassy programme which had apparently been in place for so many years.

“In the Riksdag’s justice committee Beatrice Ask explained that no Swedish authorities know about this. You’d think that the justice minister should have checked with the foreign ministry before she said that,” said Ahlin.

However, Ahlin had no comment on the fact that the documents ended up at the foreign ministry under a Social Demcrat-led government.

“I don’t know what the documents are about of if there was any reason for those who were responsible to act,” he said.

TT/David Landes (news@thelocal.se)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

08:48 November 19, 2010 by bolababu
hahahahaha, ..first they all claimed not to know which sounded more like the truth but uncle Sam gets pissed and they all chorus "Yes we knew"!

How i love America, they sure know how to break balls and put cowards in their place.
11:33 November 19, 2010 by marianne667
Right you are bolababu
13:46 November 19, 2010 by swedeb
@Ford: From what has been stated, the SBUs have nothing to do with any activities in your post. Funny how you seem to be all in the know about USA's covert operations. :)

@bolababu: Need to know. If everyone in a govt knew everything that was going on, it would be chaos. And unfortunately in this incident, someone who wasn't "in the know" spoke out of turn, the newspapers ran with it and added stuff to make their story look more interesting than other newspapers, and the truth was forced out by those in the Swedish govt that they, along with other countries, agreed to it.

Also funny how everyone was all up in arms when this story first came out "AMERICANS ARE SPYING!" with 100s of posts as soon as the story was written, and now there are 4 posts when it comes out that US wasn't doing anything that the Swedish govt didn't know about and allow.
14:46 November 19, 2010 by tadchem
Wake up, people! ALL 'diplomats' are in the surveillance business. They always have been. Surveillance is simply gathering information. The military philosopher Sun Tzu advised "Know your enemy and know yourself and you can fight a hundred battles without disaster." Surveillance is how we learn about everyone else.

"Surveillance Detection Unit" is simply the answer to the ancient question "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?" ("Who is watching the watchers?" - Juvenal, 2nd century)
15:19 November 19, 2010 by Swedesmith
Speaking of surveillance, who was peeping through my bedroom window this morning....and laughing?
18:36 November 19, 2010 by greekgod
All of you make me laugh with your rampant conspiracy theories. SDU units are in place at every U.S. Embassy. They blend in with their surroundings and are Swedish citizens working for the United States.

They only observe the surrounding Embassy properties to avert potential surveillance and planning for any attack on U.S. property.

These are facts and not innuendo
19:33 November 19, 2010 by asrosie
But the yanks are great at spying, they spied on us in Australia, here in Britain, it goes with their 'circle the wagons' foreign policy because 'everyone hates us.' In Scotland they had covert cameras installed at a whiskey distillery just to make sure we weren't making bombs or something like that. Paranoia just breeds more paranoia and it becomes a vicious circle.
19:34 November 19, 2010 by calebian22

The fact is that tinfoil hats block the mind probe rays from the CIA satellites. Additionally, the truth can only be found on obscure blogs written from a parent's basement. The facts are out there. You just have to know in which basement to look. ;-)
22:00 November 19, 2010 by Alf Garnett
So they were taking photo's of people going past the embassy, big deal, probably got one of me going to renew my passport.

Hope they put it on you tube I looked quite good that day :-))
02:54 November 20, 2010 by greekgod
My hat is made of Reynold's Wrap which is American made to ensure reception...how did you know I was in Mom and Dad's basement. They only take pictures of people who are acting suspiciously (casing the place or out of place, i.e., long winter coat on a beautiful day). Nothing surreptitious just keeping everyone safe. Alf you did look good but gotta do something with that hair:)
12:31 November 20, 2010 by HowSwedeitis
You have nothing to fear but fear itself. :-)

16:55 March 3, 2011 by philster61
anybody still think that the extradition of Julian Assange isn't US motivated. I predict Asange will end up in the US sentenced to death.
Today's headlines
Gothenburg 'one of Europe's most segregated cities'
An Isis flag in Kirkuk, Iraq. Photo: Uncredited/AP

One in ten school students in Gothenburg's north-eastern suburbs sympathize with religious extremist organizations, according to a survey.

Julian Assange
Sweden won't suspend Assange warrant for funeral
Assange has been in the Ecuadorian embassy in London since 2012. Photo: Alastair Grant/AP

The WikiLeaks founder has requested a temporary suspension of an arrest warrant so he could leave the Ecuadorian embassy in London for the funeral of his mentor.

Swedish football diehard who went viral doesn't get the fuss
Possibly the most dedicated fan in the world. Photo: Patric Söderström/TT

A picture of Gefle IF celebrating with the only fan to make a 1164km round trip to see them has gone viral. The Local spoke to the diehard in question.

'I want to see women priests in the Catholic Church'
Archbishop Antje Jackelén meeting Pope Francis earlier in 2016. Photo: L'Osservatore Romano/AP

'I told the pope last year during a speech it is time to no longer speak for women about women, but to speak with women,' Sweden's Archbishop says.

Sweden one of world's easiest places to do business: report
A meeting at a Stockholm office. Photo: Simon Paulin/imagebank.sweden.se

It is easier to do business in Sweden now than it was last year, according to a World Bank report.

This Swede has built a procrastinator's dream
Anders Åberg has built a website that allows you to hear what’s going on above the Earth. Photo: Personal & NASA

Ever wondered what's going on in the sky above the earth and in space? Now you can hear for yourself.

Presented by Malmö Tourism
Seven reasons why Malmö is the football capital of Sweden
Players from FC Rosengård, Sweden's most successful women's football team. Photo: Hangsna

It’s official, and anyone who tells you otherwise is wrong.

Fake police car driver seized after confronting real police
File photo of a police car. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Three men in a fake police car were left red-faced after they tried to stop a man in southern Sweden who turned out to be an off-duty officer.

This tiny bird can fly for ten months straight: scientists
The common swift while not in flight. Photo: Madis Veskimeister/Wikimedia

Swedish scientists have found that this bird stays in the air for almost a year without landing.

Why the Pope is visiting Sweden next week
Pope Francis in the Vatican. Photo: AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino

Pope to nail reconciliation agenda to Lutherans' door in southern Sweden.

Sponsored Article
Top 7 tips to help you learn Swedish
The Local Voices
Antonio, 19, is a Syrian refugee and porn actor hoping to change perceptions of refugees
Sponsored Article
‘Extremism can't be defeated on the battlefield alone’
People-watching: October 26th
Sweden cuts 2016 refugee forecast
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
One expat's strategy for making friends in Stockholm
Is Game of Thrones coming to Sweden?
Sponsored Article
Nordic fashion in focus at Stockholm University
Property of the week: Kungsholmen, Stockholm
Will Swedes soon be looking for fairtrade porn?
The Local Voices
'I simply don’t believe in nationality'
Sponsored Article
Stockholm: creating solutions to global challenges
Why we're convinced Game of Thrones is based on Sweden
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
People-watching: October 21st-23rd
Fury at plans that 'threaten the IB's survival' in Sweden
Sponsored Article
This is Malmö: Football capital of Sweden
Analysis & Opinion
Are we just going to let half the country die?
Sponsored Article
Where is the Swedish music industry heading?
Angry elk chases Swede up a lamp post
The Local Voices
'Alienation in Sweden feels better: I find myself a stranger among scores of aliens'
Sponsored Article
Why you should 'grab a chair' on Stockholm's tech scene
People-watching: October 20th
Sponsored Article
Swedish for programmers: 'It changed my life'
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
Why you should 'grab a chair' on Stockholm's tech scene
Fans throw flares and enter pitch in Swedish football riot
Sponsored Article
Where is the Swedish music industry heading?
Could Swedish blood test solve 'Making a Murderer'?
Sponsored Article
One expat's strategy for making friends in Stockholm
Swedish school to build gender neutral changing room
Sponsored Article
Nordic fashion in focus at Stockholm University
People-watching: October 14th-16th
Man in Sweden assaulted by clowns with broken bottle
Nobel Prize 2016: Literature
Watch the man who discovered Bob Dylan react to his Nobel Prize win
Record numbers emigrating from Sweden
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?
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
jobs available