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Riksdag to probe US embassy surveillance

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Riksdag to probe US embassy surveillance
15:58 CET+01:00
The Swedish Riksdag's constitutional committee has announced that it will look into what current and former cabinet ministers knew about the US embassy in Stockholm's surveillance of people in Sweden.

According to Green Party spokesman Peter Eriksson, who also serves as chairman of the Riksdag's constitutional committee (Konstitutionsutskottet - KU), the Swedish Armed Forces (Försvarsmakten), and the Ministry of Defense would have known about the surveillance.

Both the ministries of justice and defence could be called to the KU to testify.

"We will conduct a review now," said Eriksson.

The KU will conduct its review in the spring even though there is an ongoing preliminary investigation into the matter, referring to the news on November 8th that chief prosecutor on security issues, Tomas Lindstrand, had decided to launch a preliminary investigation into illegal intelligence activities.

"We will not wait for other investigations. I expect that we will complete our investigation in the spring," Eriksson told news agency TT on Tuesday.

Both former and present defence and justice ministers from over the last 10 years may be called to testify, Eriksson said.

Former Social Democratic defence minister Leni Björklund has said that she was not aware of the Ministry of Defence having any knowledge about US surveillance in Sweden while she served as minister.

"I have not heard anything about this or received any presentation of reports on it," she told TT.

Current justice minister, Beatrice Ask, has said that she was not aware of the US surveillance. Earlier this month, she confirmed that the US embassy in Sweden has undertaken similar secret surveillance measures since 2000 that have also occurred in Norway and Denmark.

In response, 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.

Norway's TV2 originally 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.

The US has always maintained that it informed the Swedish authorities about its activities.

According to newspaper Dagens Nyheter, the Social Democratic government had received information as early as 2002 on the US embassy's Surveillance Detection Unit (SDU), which the embassy described as "a programme designed to detect surveillance against US posts overseas."

This was clear from classified documents from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, according to the newspaper.

Foreign Minister Carl Bildt has declined to comment on the document on the grounds of the ongoing preliminary investigation.

Eriksson's claims that both the Swedish Armed Forces and the Ministry of Defence were aware of the surveillance were denied by Sofia Krigsman, a political expert for Minister of Defence Sten Tolgfors.

"The Ministry of Defence had no knowledge of any such activities," she said.

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