Counter-espionage

The Swedish Security Service, as part of its counter-espionage efforts, actively gathers intelligence for the purpose of analysing and countering foreign espionage and security-threatening activities.

Espionage is illegal, and has to be concealed from the host country’s security service. Other countries therefore use a variety of clandestine methods. Clandestine actions, for instance using false names or cover positions, are inherent in carrying out espionage and serve to project a false image of what is actually going on.

Several countries engage in various forms of intelligence activities against Sweden, e.g. espionage or unlawful intelligence activities targeting refugees. Intelligence activities are carried out in order to attain a country’s security policy objectives and strengthen its power and information advantage.

Counter-espionage is included in the Swedish Security Service’s remit. Therefore, the Service actively gathers information for the purpose of analysing and countering foreign espionage and security-threatening activities. Some information may lead us to carry out surveillance or talk to informants and, from there, take various measures to counter security-threatening activities carried out by foreign powers. The information may also cause us to open a criminal investigation into suspected offences against Sweden’s security.

Offences against Sweden’s security

The Swedish Security Service investigates all indications that individuals have been tasked by another country to engage in espionage against Sweden. Chapter 19 of the Swedish Criminal Code lists offences against Sweden's security, including espionage with a penalty of imprisonment from two years and up to lifetime in cases of gross espionage.

  • A Swedish citizen who, without authorisation by the Government or whoever is empowered by the Government, allows themselves to be used as an agent of a foreign power in a diplomatic matter concerning the country, and any person who, on pretext of being an authorised agent, enters into discussions on such a matter with someone representing the interests of a foreign power, is guilty of unauthorised negotiations with a foreign power. (The Swedish Criminal Code, Chapter 19, Section 4)
  • A person who, in order to benefit a foreign power, without authorisation obtains, transmits, gives or divulges information, whose revelation to a foreign power could result in detriment to Sweden’s security is guilty of espionage. (The Swedish Criminal Code, Chapter 19, Section 5) This also applies if the information is not confidential, or if the information is incorrect.
  • A person who, without any aim to benefit a foreign power, without authorisation obtains, transmits, gives or divulges information of a secret nature is guilty of unauthorised handling of secret information. (The Swedish Criminal Code, Chapter 19, Section 7)
  • A person who through gross negligence transmits, gives or divulges secret information or handles such information in such a way that unauthorised persons may gain access to it, is guilty of negligence with secret information. (The Swedish Criminal Code, Chapter 19, Section 9)
  • A person who, in order to benefit a foreign power, secretly or using fraudulent means, conducts activities to obtain information whose revelation to a foreign power could result in detriment to Sweden’s security, or is an accomplice to such activities, is guilty of unlawful intelligence activities against Sweden. (The Swedish Criminal Code, Chapter 19, Section 10)
  • A person who, with intent to benefit a foreign power, in this country, secretly or using fraudulent or improper means, conducts activities whose purpose is to obtain information about the personal circumstances of another person, or is an accomplice to such activities, is guilty of unlawful intelligence activities against an individual. (The Swedish Criminal Code, Chapter 19, Section 10b)

Preventing offences

The Swedish Security Service is tasked with preventing and countering offences against Sweden’s security. This work is carried out around the clock, through for instance information gathering and surveillance.

Facts: Persona non grata

Persona non grata is latin and means “unacceptable person”.

This is the tool available to countries that need to expel a diplomat. Diplomats have immunity and cannot be prosecuted or punished in the host country. The host country may, however, declare the diplomat persona non grata, which means that the country sending the person is urged to recall them. This generally means that the person must leave the country and will not be allowed to return in the future.

The Service may also share information with other public agencies who take measures to reduce the threat. For instance, a foreign intelligence officer working under diplomatic cover in Sweden could be declared persona non grata by the Government. Foreign diplomats have immunity from prosecution in Sweden. Another example concerns electronic attacks when the owner of the targeted unit or network can protect their information and interrupt the espionage.

The Service also takes measures to enhance security by reducing vulnerabilities in critical assets. This is done by identifying any such assets in Sweden that could be of interest to other countries’ intelligence services. Providing information and lectures on the intelligence threat, recruitment attempts and electronic security to people working in such environments boosts Sweden’s protective security.

More information on protective security.