Foreign intelligence services’ modus operandi

Sweden and Swedish interests are targets of ongoing, long-term and
systematic intelligence activities. Other countries have intelligence
officers posted here. Some of them are declared as such; they conduct
lawful intelligence activities and we cooperate with them. However, other intelligence officers are in Sweden under false pretences.

People walking in a street

They conduct unlawful intelligence activities; in other words, they try to obtain classified information that could harm national security or damage Sweden in contexts such as international negotiations. These officers often work undercover – masquerading as diplomats, journalists or businessmen.

Intelligence officers frequently use other people, i.e. agents, to obtain classified information from public agencies or companies. Those attempting to obtain classified information in order to hand it over to foreign powers are guilty of espionage, and tend to be commonly referred to as spies. Intelligence officers recruit agents that have or can gain access to confidential information of interest. Such an agent could be an employee or consultant involved in a security-sensitive activity in a Swedish company, a researcher at a Swedish university, or an employee in the Swedish Police or Armed Forces.

Lawful versus unlawful intelligence gathering

Lawful. Intelligence activities involve the gathering and processing of information with a view to using that information for a specific purpose. Intelligence activities are not unlawful per se.
Unlawful. Intelligence activities become unlawful when someone, acting on behalf of a foreign power, gathers information which could harm another state’s security if this information were to be disclosed. Intelligence activities also become unlawful when someone, on behalf of a foreign power, gathers information about the personal circumstances of others. For such intelligence activities, foreign powers may recruit individuals who already have, or may gain, access to information deemed to be of value.
Espionage is seeking to obtain sensitive or classified information of vital importance to national security with the aim of passing this information on to a foreign power.