Sweden's intelligence agency has not only spied on Russian leadership, sharing intelligence with the NSA, but also apparently engaged in industrial espionage against business targets such as Russia’s energy companies, Sveriges Television reports.
According to a wire, obtained by Swedish TV program ‘Mission: Investigate’, Sweden's National Defense Radio Establishment (FRA) shared intelligence on Russia with Washington.
“Thank Sweden for its continued work on the Russian target, and underscore the primary role that FRA plays as a leading partner to work the Russian Target, including Russian leadership, ENERGY, … and … counterintelligence,” NSA wire said, as cited by SVT.
The earlier omitted part of the quote reveals that Sweden was tapping on civilian targets as well. One source told the documentary there was “a very obvious interest in looking at the Russian companies” confirming it was “a part of the mission.”
When asked if FRA spied on such companies as the Russian energy giant Gazprom, the source said “Gazprom is one possible” adding that there are “many other, smaller players.”
In an interview with SVT, journalist Glenn Greenwald said “the NSA seems impressed by how much money and how much technological sophistication the Swedish have been able to assemble when building their own surveillance system.”
Commenting for the documentary on the intelligence gathering cooperation between the US and Sweden, Greenwald said they “work together when they perceive that their interests are mutually aligned and share information readily about a whole variety of topics, again having nothing to do with national security, including the energy sector in Russia.”
The latest leak has nothing to do with national security and is “very conclusive about the fact that part of what they are doing is spying on energy companies, obviously for economic advantage,” Greenwald added.
The West is very hypocritical about industrial espionage, in particular constantly accusing China of breaking the international laws by spying on Western companies, Greenwald told SVT.
“And yet here you find the United States and its closest allies in the espionage world, including Sweden, doing exactly that which they have long vehemently accused China of doing and have rigorously condemned over and over,” Greenwald said.
So far there have been no further details on the spying apart from the documents provided by Edward Snowden, Nils Hanson, chief editor of “Mission: Investigate,” told RT.
“The documents mention ‘unique’ intelligence, ‘classic’ intelligence and cables,” Hanson said.
A spokesman for the FRA said, “We cannot comment on these kinds of allegations,” but he nevertheless confirmed that the FRA is a “leading partner” of the NSA, adding that this was a “flattering” characterization.
Investigative journalist Duncan Campbell, who brought to light the close relationship between Sweden’s FRA and the NSA, told RT that with Sweden's strategic location in the Baltic, the country has always been the envy of America's intelligence services.
“Sweden always had a rather covert intelligence relationship with the west, during the years of the Cold War. They’ve been tempted secretly to the club of the ‘big spies,’ in which they offered goodies to the [Swedish] Prime Minister in return for betraying the privacy and security of all of their neighbors and many of their own citizens,” Campbell said.
“Sweden was their largest collaborator in Europe with the internet tapping program run by the Five Eyes group of English-speaking countries, and it does so because of the direct access to cables in the Baltic. It is no surprise that GCHQ and the NSA would want that, as well as everything else that they can take from Sweden,” he said.
Originally, the scandal hit the news on Thursday when Swedish television aired the program, revealing that Sweden spied on Russian officials, through the information obtained from Glenn Greenwald, the journalist responsible for Snowden’s leaks.
Earlier in the week, Sweden's defense minister, Karin Enstrom, told TT news agency that Sweden needs to protect its national security.
“We need to conduct intelligence operations to protect Sweden against external threats,” said Enstrom, Sv riges Radio reported. “We have an operation that takes place within the framework of the FRA, with clear legislation, strict control and parliamentary oversight. But how it is done, and with whom Sweden cooperates, is not public information.”
In September, Metro’s daily investigative journalist Duncan Campbell disclosed information about Sweden’s ties to the NSA during a hearing of a committee in the European Parliament. Campbell revealed that the Swedish National Defence FRA provided the NSA and Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) access to Baltic underwater cables. He added that Sweden was the third major partner in surveillance cooperation.
Last month Brazil and Germany introduced a draft resolution to the UN General Assembly calling for the creation of internationally recognized rights to privacy in the wake of the snowballing NSA spying scandal. Since Snowden’s leaks surfaced in June, protests demanding more privacy protection have engulfed countries around the globe.