The Swedish military intelligence and security service is known under the abbreviation MUST. The full extent of its operations is known only to a small group of politicians and the uppermost reaches of the military hierarchy.
Their assignment is, however, not secret:
To protect Sweden, the Armed Forces, other public agencies and authorities, such as the Defence Materiel Administration and the National Defence Radio Establishment, parts of the defence industry and plants of importance to Sweden’s military security from those who show an all together too close an interest in their operations. Naturally, there is also a Swedish intelligence gathering operation, working in the other direction.
"Signals intelligence activity directed at Sweden is happening right now, as we sit at this table. This is something that we know about and with which we have to learn to live. On the other hand, our aim is to limit, or preferably prevent entirely, the flow of that sort of confidential information in which foreign powers are primarily interested".
"That which we consider to be worth protecting. Examples, of a more short-lived nature, are missile tests and trials of new radar equipment and communications systems".
Confidential information obtained
How can communications interception be prevented or made more difficult?
"When a foreign intelligence platform is within listening range the exercise or trial is either suspended or simply brought to an end. The platform can be an aeroplane or a ship, and we detect those".
Nonetheless, an incident occurred last year that seems to be highly confidential.
"A Swedish operation was the object of signals intelligence gathering by a foreign power. The operation was not called to a halt in time. We do not know the full extent of the damage done, but the foreign power was able to acquire information that should never have been allowed to leave the country".
An aeroplane or a ship?
"I’m not answering that. A similar incident occurred in 2006. On that occasion there was a failure in the reporting of a protected activity. The protected activity in the latest incident was correctly reported, but we lost track of the intelligence platform for a few days. Regrettably".
John Daniels is head of the Office of Military Security at MUST. The annual report of the Military Intelligence and Security Service (MUST) for 2007 has recently been published. This is a public document, but it still contains a great many interesting facts – and makes some interesting claims. Among which can be read:
"A problem seems to be the unsuspecting naivety shown by Swedish soldiers and officers… Threats to security do not seem to be taken with the appropriate degree of seriousness".
Do you mean what is said here – that Swedish military personnel are, to put it bluntly, naive regarding obvious threats to security?
"Unfortunately, yes. It’s no secret that there is now a section of the Swedish command in Mazar-e-Sharif devoted to counter intelligence".
The report contains information regarding occurrences in 2007 of attacks on Swedish patrols in the provincial areas, using improvised explosives, so called Improved Explosive Devices (IED).
The report identifies locally hired personnel, employed at Swedish bases, as a clear security risk. The report goes on to observe that Swedish military personnel attached to the expedition are replaced every six months, in sharp contrast to the locally recruited personnel: cleaners, kitchen hands, road and building maintenance workers.
"Locally recruited employees remain in place over a longer period of time, which means that they have a better idea of conditions and routines inside the bases, the so called camps, than the Swedish contingent does".
The report notes that the leaking of information by local recruits to outsiders has necessitated both transferral and dismissal of personnel. Such incidents have occurred in both Afghanistan and Kosovo.
"It is all too easy to forget about security concerns when inside your own base, to be led to believe that danger lies only on the other side of the security fence".
"Sometimes, I think, it is difficult to comprehend one’s own role, to see the connections and inter-connections which lead back to oneself as the source of a leak of information. All’s well in the camp, but then an IED explodes on the road or Swedish soldiers come under fire".
"Who then makes the connection to the local employee who was standing just outside the guard post talking into a telephone…?"
Do you mean that attacks on Swedish, and other, soldiers can be linked directly to the local population working inside the camps?
"Unfortunately, yes. How could anyone know that we were going to travel down a particular road at a particular time? It’s important to understand that no-one plants a home-made explosive device and spends the next three weeks waiting in hope of an ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) vehicle passing by. It’s a different story for factory made mines that can have really quite sophisticated release mechanisms".
"Another method of protection is to alter routines frequently, changing departure times and routes. But, once again, the most important thing is to make sure that no-body close by leaks information".
Back to Sweden. The impression is gained, reading between the lines of the report, that Sweden is the object of espionage of a more traditional variety.
"The spy was never decommissioned. The gathering and acquisition of person based information, via agents, is back to the sort of levels we experienced during the Cold War".
Are traditional spies really necessary when so much information can be obtained from electronic transmissions, radar systems, computerised communications centres, or, quite simply, from mobile phones?
"Perhaps more than ever. The individual recruit searches for the particular information desired by the recruiting agency. He sifts, sorts and selects the required information. Analysing signals intelligence occupies enormous amounts of time and resources".
Are there individuals at work in Sweden today, whom you would describe as spies?
"Yes, definitely. The term in the criminal code for this sort of activity is crime of espionage".
The report also makes mention of officers and others attached to the Armed Forces being contacted by those, foreign powers as we are given to believe, intending to "seek protected information that is valuable from a Swedish perspective".
"Often we’re talking about intelligence agents working under a diplomatic passport, who work officially for us and the security police but who also have the job of recruiting informants, that is … spies".
What reasons do we have to recruit spies at a time when we are discussing a general reduction in military tensions in our part of the world?
"Generally speaking, there is a surprisingly large intelligence threat to Sweden. The arctic region and northern Europe have acquired a new strategic importance. Increasing economic interest in the region poses new challenges…"
Industrial espionage aimed at Sweden and Swedish businesses, okay; but, military espionage, late in the first decade of the new century?
"We can only note the facts. The level of espionage is about the same as during the Cold War years. As regards signals intelligence, the interception of electronic transmissions by sea vessels and aeroplanes outside Swedish territory, we can even detect an increase in activity".