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Bildt defends Sweden surveillance

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Bildt defends Sweden surveillance
NSA whistle blower Edward Snowden; Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt tweeting in his office. Photo: AP; Tomas Oneborg/SvD
09:11 CET+01:00
Sweden's Foreign Minister Carl Bildt has defended surveillance practices and the cooperation with UK intelligence agency GCHQ arguing that "we face a world of more diverse risks. Constant knowledge of these is important for security".

Sweden's Foreign Minister Carl Bildt has defended much-criticised surveillance practices and stated that the Swedish police and Security Service operates within the Swedish law and in line with Swedish interests.

"Today, we face a world of more diverse risks, challenges and threats. Constant knowledge of these important for security of the nation," Carl Bildt said via Twitter on Saturday.

Sweden has been criticised for staying relatively quiet on the issue of mass surveillance of European citizens and political leaders. Further details of which were released in The Guardian newspaper on Friday based on documents provided by the US whistle blower Edward Snowden.

The latest revelations prompted Bildt to defend Sweden and its cooperation with foreign intelligence services in the face of revelations which he dismissed on Friday as "hardly sensational".

"Our operations are conducted from a Swedish point of view, in our interests, and according to Swedish law. Naturally, there is cooperation," he tweeted on Friday evening.

The Guardian reported on Friday that Swedish, German, French and Spanish intelligence services have conducted a close cooperation with the UK intelligence agency GCHQ over the past five years, developing methods for the mass surveillance of data and telecom networks.

GCHQ is reported to be have been delighted when Sweden's Riksdag in 2008 clubbed through the law that gives the National Defence Radio Establishment (FRA ) the right to monitor traffic in fibre optic cables.

Bildt defended the FRA law and argued that there is sufficient transparency and oversight of its methods.

"Yes. We have one of the clearest, most law-abiding and probably best systems in this regard. I would think that other countries see us as a role model," Bildt said in a blog post on Sunday.

Bildt's comments and the new wave of Guardian revelations have received a critical response across the Swedish media and prominent lawyers over the weekend. 

Dagens Nyheter editor-in-chief Peter Wolodarski dedicated his Sunday column to a defence of The Guardian's right to publish the documents, criticizing Sweden's relatively muted response to the revelations and pointed out the risks of collecting masses of information.

Bildt is however dismissive of the criticism, appearing to defend the mass surveillance of private citizens.

"If the police watch all the traffic on a road in order to take action against offenders which they have the right to look for - is this wrong?" Bldt pondered.

Bildt furthermore cited operations during the Cold War and WWII to defend current intelligence practices.

"During (the) Cold War our detailed assessment of Soviet military capabilities and activities was key to management of our security policy," he tweeted. "During WW2 Sweden was able to listen to German military and diplomatic cables and break the codes. It was of supreme importance to us."

Stockholm police have meanwhile assured the TT news agency that cameras set up to enforce the congestion charge system around the city are not permitted for surveillance purposes or crime prevention.

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