US surveilled Swedes, minister says

2010-11-06 20:24

Stockholm -The US embassy in Stockholm has secretly conducted surveillance of Swedes in the city since 2000 in the same way it did in Norway, Sweden's justice minister said on Saturday, following similar allegations from Oslo and also Copenhagen.

"After contacts between the US embassy and Sapo (Swedish security police), it is confirmed that the American embassy took suveillance precautions of the same kind as those recently discovered in Norway," the minister, Beatrice Ask, said at a press conference.

"The information we have at our disposal is that this programme mainly concerned search activities aimed to protect the embassy," Ask added.

She said she was not aware of the breadth of the information subsequently gathered beyond the fact it included photos and personal data.

The US embassy was not immediately available for comment.

On Wednesday, Norwegian media reported the US embassy in Oslo had conducted illegal surveillance of hundreds of Norwegian residents over the past decade.

Similar allegations were aired a day later by a Danish commercial broadcaster.

In Sweden, "this activity has taken place for a long time, since 2000, and neither the justice ministry, nor the foreign ministry, nor Sapo, nor the Stockholm police appear to have been informed", Ask said.

On Saturday, the Swedish foreign ministry questioned US Ambassador Matthew Barzun on the subject, Sweden's TT news agency reported.

No details were immediately disclosed about the talks.

Ask was not able to say whether the surveillance was illegal in Sweden as appears to be the case in Norway and Denmark, where authorities say they were not informed by Washingon about such activities.

"The public prosecutor is trying to evaluate if this practise conforms with Swedish law," she said.

"We understand that countries under high threat take measures to reduce the risk of attacks, but these measures must fall within the framework of Swedish law" and Swedish authorities must be informed, Ask said.