Several terrorist attacks in Europe, a hardened climate in political debates, and a tense security situation in our part of the world are what characterised the year 2016, in the perspective of the Swedish Security Service.
“As the size and complexity of our task is unprecedented, working with others, both within the country and our partners abroad, is crucial”, says the Security Service Director General Anders Thornberg.
The yearbook contains a description of what occurred in the five major operational areas of the Security Service in the year 2016.
The nature of the threat to Sweden and Swedish interests has undergone a significant change in the past few years. This has prompted the Swedish government to reinstate the Total Defence Strategy, and the Security Service plays an important role in this respect. A high level of protective security must be in place for numerous key societal functions, and the Service has already seen inherent challenges facing the societal functions and government agencies concerned. We will therefore be investing more resources into supporting and advising these functions and agencies, as part of our remit to protect Swedish society from threats to the democratic system.
The most significant risk to society and national security is posed by inadequate information security and IT security. Several cases of state-sponsored electronic attacks on government agencies and companies of importance to national security were investigated in 2016. Digitalisation raises vulnerability and as the threat increases, so does the protection deficit
The Security Service believes that any terrorist attack in Sweden in the coming year would probably be carried out by a lone perpetrator. A driving force behind such an attack could be a violent political or religious extremist ideology but what exactly drives such perpetrators to carry out attacks varies. No particular personality profile has been defined in this regard.
The number of foreign terrorist fighters decreased in 2016 and the Security Service assesses that one of the reasons for this was the loss of territory by the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria. Despite the fact that travelling to the conflict zone is decreasing, the number of returnees to Europe could increase as IS is pressed to retreat and this, in turn, could increase the threat to Sweden and other countries concerned.
World events and the current situation in Sweden have fed into a conception that the world is divided into good and evil, and this has been taken advantage of by the white power movement in particular. In 2016, a number of actions and rallies were held in protest of Sweden’s reception of refugees. Counter-demonstrations also caused public disturbances. The autonomous movement systematically carried out criminal acts against individuals perceived to belong to the white power movement in attempts to intimidate them from engaging in activities or to coerce them into leaving the movement.
Sweden received a number of major international visits in 2016 where the Security Service was responsible for the security arrangements. Such occasions, which appear festive to most people, are resource intensive and require several months of preparations on the part of the Security Service. Staff across the entire Service is involved in this work, e.g. close protection officers (bodyguards), intelligence officers, translators and logistics experts.
Security arrangements in connection with such visits are carried out in close cooperation with the Swedish Police, who are responsible for police escorts, access control, and crowd control. During the Papal visit to Skåne in October, Security Service and Swedish Police staff shared premises in order to maximise cooperation, a working method that is useful in situations where quick decisions are necessary, which was the case several times during the Pope’s visit.