Documents: Sweden Wiretapping Russia's International Traffic For The NSA

Earlier documents put in context with recent revelations show that Sweden has been systematically wiretapping Russia on behalf of the United States. This is clear after putting a number of previous questionable agreements and developments in context today. The question that remains is what Sweden gets in return.

The story begins with a reporter’s feature in 2005 about the secretive Swedish intelligence agency FRA, Försvarets Radioanstalt, translated loosely to National Defense Radio Establishment. The story of Echelon had just broke, and the reporter Martin Jönsson dug far below the dirty surface. One thing that comes across in this new context is this passage:

The NSA is the largest intelligence organization of the United States of America and of the world. […] The NSA is the center of the wiretapping network, where the FRA is also plays a part. The NSA is considerably larger than the CIA, and is targeted at signals intelligence. It operates planet-wide through wiretapping stations on the ground, on aircraft, on ships, and on satellites. Through an agreement from early Cold War days, there are close ties to the UK, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia. One of the common computer systems, Echelon, has erroneously come to be used synonymously with the entire surveillance network.

It’s also important to note just how deep the rabbit hole goes in the cooperation between the Swedish FRA and the U.S. NSA, and how questionable the real allegiance of the FRA is. A former Navy captain recalls when he had had FRA troops on board (part of the story):

“They had important information they didn’t share with the Swedish Defense. We were developing countermeasures against Soviet missiles to protect our ships. At that point, the FRA had detailed information about the missiles in question; information they had received from the Americans. They didn’t give it to the Navy, and that was to protect their source, the NSA. It was more important to protect the cooperation with the NSA than it was to protect Swedish lives and interests.”

We know since the Echelon debate that the key players in the NSA wiretapping network are known to be five countries – the U.S., UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Early 2007, reports surfaced in media that Sweden would get access to U.S. information and security research through an “exclusive agreement”, where Sweden would be “the sixth country”. This was a very conspicuous wording, but makes sense in context. According to the media reports, the agreement between Sweden and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security would be signed “late March”.

At the same time, a horrible piece of legislation had appeared in Sweden. Known as the FRA law, it allowed and mandated wiretapping of everything if it happened to cross Sweden’s borders at some point – web surfing, phone calls, mail, video conferences, the works. It was a violation of constitutionally and conventionally guaranteed privacy rights on every conceivable level. It changed the standard from “you have a right to expectation of privacy” to “for all intents and purposes, you are always wiretapped”.

There were huge protests against the wiretapping law at the time, in no small amount coordinated by myself and other pirate activists. With the administration having a very narrow parliamentary majority, the media drama logic was perfect. Unfortunately, the administration won, and the law passed – but I’ve learned since that the protests outside Parliament on that day really shook the administration to the core. To no avail, unfortunately.

“If we’re coordinating, it’s a rally, and we would need a permit, which we won’t get since it’s on the steps of Parliament. I’m going there as a private individual, completely unorganized. And then, perhaps a couple thousand other people are doing the same thing, how would I know?”

Back to the Sweden-U.S. security agreement:

April 13, 2007. Swedish Minister of Defense, Odenberg (right), signs an agreement with the head of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Chertoff (left). Put in context, the effect of the agreement is to wiretap all of Russia's international traffic and share it with the NSA. What did Sweden get in return?
April 13, 2007. Swedish Minister of Defense, Odenberg (right), signs an agreement with the head of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Chertoff (left). Put in context, the effect of the agreement is to wiretap all of Russia's international traffic and share it with the NSA. What did Sweden get in return?

As the Minister of Defense Odenberg signed the security cooperation agreement with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the debate intensified in Sweden, to the point where the U.S. Embassy took an interest in the FRA law (according to the WikiLeaks cables).

Media reacted to this, and asked pertinent and important questions at the time, none of which got a response. In a piece titled “A deal with Washington is not a tea party“, one of Sweden’s largest dailies were sharply critical. Other newspapers, and the entire cadre of bloggers, echoed that sentiment.

Some time later, the actual agreement leaked through an unknown mechanism. It states that the U.S. and Sweden are basically to share surveillance and wiretapping data for security purposes, and much more. (Do note that the metadata of the document says it’s an agreement between Australia and the U.S., suggesting that there is a similar agreement in place between those countries, and that the metadata remained after the U.S. re-edited the agreement for Sweden.)

“The objective of this Agreement is to establish a framework to encourage, develop and facilitate bilateral Cooperative Activity in science and technology that contributes to the homeland security capabilities of both Parties in: a) the prevention and detection of, response to, and forensics and attribution applied to, terrorist or other homeland security threats and/or indicators […] The Parties shall seek to achieve the objectives […] by means which may include, but are not limited to: a) facilitating a systematic exchange of technologies, personnel, and information derived from or applied to similar and complementary operational Research, Development, Testing and Evaluation; b) collaborating to develop technologies and prototype systems that assist in countering present and anticipated terrorist actions in their respective territories and other homeland threats that satisfy their common strategic interests and requirements” [etc]

Back to the FRA law. The concept of wiretapping everybody warrantlessly all the time was hugely controversial (rightly so), and the administration tried to justify it with every trick in the book. Among the less credible attempts was the statement that the wiretapping was necessary to protect our troops in Afghanistan against insurgents there. The obvious counterquestion – why on this green Earth insurgents in Afghanistan would use e-mail and phonecalls over Swedish servers – was met with a telling silence.

Then, Swedish media broke the story of what the FRA law was for: wiretapping Russia. 80% of all international Russian internet traffic passes through Sweden, making it an ideal wiretapping point if you want to keep tabs on an adversary. It made perfect sense. It was still a violation of fundamental privacy rights, but at least it made sense, especially in combination with the high-profile data-sharing agreement.

“TeliaSonera has one of the world’s biggest global fiberoptic cable networks. The company maps show that the cabling is routed so all traffic to and from Russia goes through Sweden. All Russian mail and phonecalls abroad go through Stockholm, regardless of where the recipients are located.”

The administration protested loudly against those media breaks at the time, stating that the reports “hurt Swedish security”. That language is familiar by now.

Putting it all together, Sweden is wiretapping Russia for the NSA, and has been doing so since the FRA law took effect in Sweden. The FRA agency is continuously wiretapping Russia based on the agreement signed in April, 2007, and sharing the data with the NSA.

In this context, it is no coincidence that Sweden and the UK, as the only two European countries, recently chose to block EU investigations into U.S. wiretapping of European officials and industries.

Rick Falkvinge

Rick is the founder of the first Pirate Party and a low-altitude motorcycle pilot. He lives on Alexanderplatz in Berlin, Germany, roasts his own coffee, and as of right now (2019-2020) is taking a little break.


  1. Anonymous

    Wow, Julian Assange could not be in a worse place right now: fighting extradition to Sweden, from the UK.

    1. Björn Persson

      I think he could. He could be in Guantanamo for example.

      1. Joakim

        It is always possible to find something worse…

      2. Emma Goldstein

        U.S. Representative Steven King (Republican, Iowa), speaking of the National Defense Authorization Act, said

        “It’s a sticky constitutional question how we would deal with American citizens, but not…with someone like Julian Assange.

        An Australian…could be moved to a place offshore outside of the jurisdiction of civilian Federal courts and (tried by) a military tribunal.”

        Congressional Record, November 30, 2010.

    2. Christofer Olsson

      Well, he could also serve jail time, should his embassy farce come to an end and he was found guilty of his accusations.

      1. Glenn

        Well, If the Swedish prosecutors just wants to question him, would it not be easier to just take a flight to UK and do it at the Ecuadorian embassy?
        As he is wanted by interpol for questioning!?!?

        If I were Julian, I would never ever trust the Swedish government, or the UK one.

      2. Rick Falkvinge

        No, he would not spend one single day in a Swedish prison. The reason for this is that the time in detention in the UK would be deducted from any sentence, and that time is already far above any practical maximum sentence with the charges on the table.

        That piece of fact is important as it helps understand motivations. The guy does not fear prison and has no reason to.


  2. mijj

    government agreements with the US on anything at all seem to result in treason by the government. And there seems to be no way to counter government treason.

    1. Uncle Bob

      I don’t know Brazil,Bulgaria,Portugal,Turkey,and now Egypt found a way.

  3. Anonymous

    considering how Sweden has been seen to do anything and everything that the USA wants, this is no surprise to me! that was shown in the way the Pirate bay 4 were totally stitched up at trial! the Swedish people now need to show how they feel about these goings on! then they need to get something done about the way Sweden is bending over at every demand from the USA! the really ridiculous thing about all this spying crap is where it originates! every fucking instance has the USA involved somehow! there doesn’t need to be any terrorist activity, any terrorist attacks, the USA is doing just as much damage (without perhaps actually killing people, yet) without them taking part! what a mess they have turned the world into. and the even sadder thing is, the world is not only letting them, it’s actually helping them! how pathetic is that??

    1. Sin Trenton

      “the Swedish people now need to show how they feel about these goings on! then they need to get something done about the way Sweden is bending over at every demand from the USA!”

      I’m very sorry, but your “Swedish people” will never show what they feel.. basically because they feel very little. Unless you use simple, black and white demagogics like “Mass immigration!!1!one1!”

      Prime minister “Benito Bendover”, Carl “Me” Bildt and the conservatives, as well as the social democrats have long known that people prefer not to bother.

      I can’t remember IN which article I read it, but George Orwell wrote once something like “fascism may be instigated and ushered in by those in black shirts, parading the streets, but it will be upheld by the spectating crowd, quietly watching and agreeing.”

    2. Björn Persson

      The USA is killing and terrorizing people. Search for “drones”.

  4. Fritz

    One question crossed my mind after reading this text. The Constitution and the laws normally forbid the privacy breach regarding individuals under their jurisdiction unless such deeds are done in accordance with the law and because it is in the interest of the society (for example: on judges order, due to a criminal activity of some individual). The Constitution and the laws of one sovereign country have no effect outside its borders so the intelligence services customary break the laws of other countries by gathering all data on their activity and the activity of their citizens.

    Now, is there anything in legislation that forbids the intelligence services to bypass the restrictions set by Constitution and the laws by spying on each others citizens and then exchanging these vast amounts of data? Can the FRA spy on every single citizen of Sweden using NSA as the proxy? Can all the other countries do so?

    1. Anonymous

      That’s a very good question.
      I think there would have to be a rule against it on an international treaty signed by all countries to make it appliable but I don’t know.
      It would be worth investigating.

    2. Anonymous

      Some countries have laws which rule that evidence gathered illegally is inadmissible as evidence in court and doesn’t count as a basis for police suspicion (in the USA, that doctrine is known as the fruit of the poisoned tree), but that usually only applies to police and civil and criminal courts, not to revenue or customs officers, border guards, military police, intelligence services, and the like, and it doesn’t (in practice) prevent confidential tip-offs based on illegal evidence being used to “discover” legal evidence.

  5. Anonymous

    Everybody is wiretapping everybody, it has been so since it was invented.

    What baffles me is that the citizens (of any country) seem to have been so naive that they didn’t think that the state (or their agencies) would snoop on THEM.

    If you want security online, use encryption, it is as simple as that.

    What bothers me is how the state (or it’s agencies) spy on the behalf of companies, to give “local” companies an edge in the competition.

    1. Björn Persson

      Yes, use encryption, but also vote for politicians who can be relied on to not legislate that you have to give out your crypto keys to the authorities. (Britain for example already has such a law.)

      1. harveyed

        Yes the situation in GB is terrible. If you refuse to give a key to claimed encrypted disk/file you could be put in jail.

        How would they even know that the file / disk is in fact encrypted? Could well be just random nonsense. Is the burden of proof of encryption on the police or on the suspect?

    2. Anonymous

      Encryption is a must because it will make your communication private but it is just a temporary bonus. Encryption can and will be all broken over time so it is not a real solution if everyone is wiretapping everything you say and storing it.

  6. robotnr7312

    The Swedish government is completely out of touch with its body, jeopardizing its people and sovereignty…in a game far beyond good and evil.
    Just a small selection…

    “the node pole
 – Facebook unveils giant server hall in Sweden” (Facebook received over SEK 100 million in Swedish state financial support to build the data centre.)

    “Not only has the debt of households, firms and governments increased as a
share of GDP in most countries since 2007, but debt-service ratios are
now higher in most rich countries than the 1995-2007 average—despite low
interest rates. The country with the highest debt ratio is Sweden.”

    -To not Understand ones Size: Dog eats dog: Geopolitical megalomania: Backfire: Portrait: Carl Bildt: “A Medium-Sized Dog with Big Dog Attitude.”
    -Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt “Private share capital” /Wikipedia

    “After having left his political position as leader of the Moderate Party in 1999, apart from being engaged on international issues, Bildt took up a number of private sector positions as well as with international think-tanks.
In the later category, he served as the first non-US member ever of the Board of Trustees of the RAND Corporation (Santa Monica) and on the Advisory Board of the Centre for European Reform (London). He was also a member of the board of the European Policy Center (Brussels) as well as the International Institute for Strategic Studies (London) and the International Advisory Board of the Council on Foreign Affairs (New York).
In the corporate sector in the US, he served as non-executive director of the Baltimore-based US assets management company Legg Mason, Inc.
Among Swedish-dominated companies, he served as Chairman of the Board of Teleopti as well as of the public affairs consultancy Kreab AB, and Board member of the IT consultancy HiQ AB. He was also Chairman of Nordic Venture Network, bringing Nordic high-tech VC firms together in an informal network.
In 2002 Bildt joined the board of directors of Vostok Nafta, a financial company primarily with holdings in Gazprom. Bildt was also a member of the board of oil company Lundin Petroleum.
    -Introduction: Carl Bildt, C-Span, anno 1992 – “The new world order is a possibility”

    -Carl Bildt & the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq (CLI)

    -Carl Bildt & “Former Director – The RAND Corporation”

    -Carl Bildt & Club Madrid
    -Swedish FM, Carl Bildt, photoshopped out of Lundin petroleum company board

    -Sweden’s dirty oil war in the Sudan overseen by current Foreign Minister, Carl Bildt
(full report, PDF)

    -Board Members Affiliated With L. Brooks Entwistle * GOLDMANSACHS
GROUP INC: Carl Bildt (Akin Gump Global Solutions)

    -Trilateral Commission Complete Membership List May 2010
    Transatlantic Trends and Global Issues: Country profile: Sweden

    Big dog mythology & “A place to look for ideas” : “Sweden – The New Model” – The Economist:

    How to please a medium size dog w a God-complex: “FT ranking of EU finance ministers 2011″:

    Inside the world’s oldest central bank: “At the Riksbank, Deputy Governor Lars E.O. Svensson, who once taught economics alongside Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke at Princeton University in New Jersey…


    “Booming Sweden’s Free-Market Solution”

    …in where “swedish boom” is a boom in child poverty, unemployment, credit expansion, private debt, neofeudalism, sale of state companies(to family & friends), pollution, corruption, nihilism, racism, pension theft, agressione, mistreatment of Infidels, massive decline on OECD bildung-list, widening income-gap, middle class bribes, JP Morgan Stockjugend, youth-unemployment, selective inflation, housing bubble, lower wages, informal exercise of power, day to day labour market, right-wing media monopolies, megalomania, human degradation, narcissism, ignorance, bad taste & brain drain.
Private debt is at 300% GDP(stockholm 600%)…and rising. Add to calculus public debt(rising), hidden inflation, all industry indexes pointing down to the ground + the JP-Morgan consulted sale of the cows that gave milk to the children…and you end up with slave mentality, kleptomania, dollar dependence & new born feudalism.
In other words…Long live the King! …Because democracy in Sweden is being flushed down the toilet. Or…in simple words: Sweden has lost its sovereignty.

    …“Åslund (author, bloomberg article above) was an advocate of and advisor in the controversial “shock therapy”


    Brad de Long: Why Oh Why Can’t We Have Better European
Finance Minister? Sweden’s Andreas Borg Does Not Seem to Understand the 
Situation Edition /

    -Size of financial sector comp. to GDP : Sweden- Concluding Statement of the 2012 Article IV Consultation Mission.

    -Karl Rove & the Moderate party of Sweden
    J.P. Morgan Appointed Global Custodian by Första AP-Fonden (“1:st pension fund”), SEK 218.8 billion net assets)

    -“Public pension funds from Arkansas, Ohio, Oregon and Sweden (7:th AP-fund) will be lead plaintiffs in a group lawsuit against JPMorgan Chase…”

    -Swedish PM Fredrik Reinfeldts brother – Executive Director at J.P. Morgan

    -Reports shows that Sweden’s Arms exports have more than quadrupled over the past decade

    -“Sweden’s biggest Cultural export since ABBA”

    -Vested interest in the government’s “Welfare Development Council”–beslut/Interpellationsdebatter1/Debatt/%3Fdid%3DGZ10279%26doctype%3Dip

    -Who is David Cameron’s political role model?

  7. ВВП


  8. Anonymous

    FIrst of all, this does not sound surprising at all.

    Information is power after all. And the the internet is the ultimte conduit of inromation now.
    The US has always fought to control critical locations, like spots on the middle east or europe.
    And they have always done their real work undercover while they give some made up show to the media.
    Seeking to possess all information through a critical location seems like the logical extension of their long running international policies, doign it all in secret of course.

    So yeah, a very predictable thing.
    But still unjustified. Stull unfair. Still not cool.
    Just like it would never have been cool if there was a program where the government checked every letter without anyone knowing it but suddenly one day people found about it. “Oh you knew we must have been doing it!” Yeah but it is still wrong, it is still illegal, a crime is being commited why is no one stopping it?

    Is this the future of the internet?
    Every country wiretapping all the information going through it, politics become a game of getting deals with other well positioned countries to get their wiretapped data as well?
    Eventually one huge international database, the death of private communication over the internet and a permanent schilling effect worldwide?

  9. Nomad of Norad

    Dern, screwed up the anti-spambot answer and it ATE my message. oO Gonna try this again.

    Maybe it’s time for all the Internet services in rest of the EU to beef up their own infrastructure, in a way that bypasses Sweden — that is, make themselves the NEW main juncture for EU Internet — and set things up so only things bound for someone IN Sweden get routed to Sweden.

  10. deceived citizen

    The puzzle is being laid:

    * April 2007: agreement with Homeland Security to cooperate with intelligence forces. – Check.
    * Jun 2008: FRA law passing. – Check.
    * Dec 2010: leak that FRA are sending data to NSA. – Check.
    * March 2012: NSA receiving overseas listening posts. – Check.
    * Jun 2013: Edward Snowden leaking about the PRISM program. – Check.

    Isn’t this high treason passing data about your own citizen to a foreign power in secret? –ögförräderi

    1. Werner

      High treason usually includes the requirement of “illegally”.

    2. Scary Devil Monastery

      “Isn’t this high treason passing data about your own citizen to a foreign power in secret?”

      No it’s not. By definition the state itself can not be treasonous.

      There’s a better definition which could apply to the players involved.

      For those who don’t speak swedish – there’s a clause called “Breach of faith in negotiation with foreign power”.

  11. rjms

    in return swedisch authorities receive clean info on oppositions inside sweden, that is tosay the new opposition and those not in bed with the= amis

  12. zunky

    Still thinking about granting asylum to Snowden?

  13. Max Pont

    Answer: Sweden will not get anything in return from the US. The silly little country that always kiss the boots of the strongest super-power around. First it was nazi Germany, then Stalin’s Soviet, and now the US. The trusting naivety of Sweden is just laughable. Sweden believe in the goodness of others and that the words of an arrogant superpower can be trusted. The silly blond trusting blue-eyed naivety (“godtrogenhet”) is just laughable.

    Sweden as a nation will get nothing in return. But foreign minster Carl Bildt will get a star in his file in Washington for selling out his own country, once again. And little Bildt will once again get his naive hope up about being accepted by the Big Boys and maybe maybe maybe get that coveted international top job that he has hoped for all his life. Pathetic.

    1. harveyed

      Individuals in Sweden sure get cake from the US for serving. There is swedish police officer Jim Keyser who the day after finished investigation was offered a well paid 6 month Hollywood job. Other people involved in the pirate bay trial could probably expect similar “encouragements”.

      The US can do this and get away with it not because of swedes naiveness towards US as a nation, but our naiveness towards our own bureaucrats tendencies to be corrupted and even more important: vår förbannade flathet när de väl avslöjas.

  14. Ano Nymous

    Not in Sweden, no. But if he would go to Sweden, he would be extradited to the USA in the blink of an eye, and there the prison sentence would be much longer. Lifetime, most likely, if he’s not executed.

  15. rainlsd

    I hope Russia crushes/nukes Sweden wich is my homeland, also going for us. To level us to the ground would give peace in this world. That’s my belief

  16. freedom with violence is better than peacefull slavory

    Well i think EU needs to get a backbone on this, sweden and Uk shame! USA tut tut all ill say, might get deported from uk for being actually british and speaking out, maybe things will change with the east catching up on the west GOOD for them :)))

  17. Ukuli

    So this is why Sweden is sucking the USA all the time.

  18. Anonymous

    Ok, “this Sweden wiretapped Russia on behalf of the US” thing is an explanation why Russia is giving asylum to Edward Snowden. Russia has good reason to be angry with the US.

  19. Jens Stomber

    I do not really get it, why the actual agreement between USA and sweden regarding the research cooperation for homeland security matters is something like top secret and leaked through an unknown mechanism???

    AFAIK these docs can be found on the internet in a library for free download:

  20. geoffrey de Galles

    Has it escaped the attention of Swedes that Carl Bildt, a former Member of the Board of Trustees of the CIA’s Rand Corporation, is the Senior International Advisor and a Board Member of a US data-capture company, Akin Gump Global Solutions, and Senior International Advisor and a Board Member of the US company Booz Allen Hamilton Holdings — one of the major contractors of the NSA and Edward Snowden’s former employer? Of course, Bildt’s suck-up relationships with Karl Rove and Condoleeza Rice are notorious. But, as a foreigner, I am simply astounded to learn that Sweden’s Minister for Foreign Affairs manifest conflicts of interest have apparently been tolerated in the nation — also to think that, as a de facto US agent, Bildt is likely the spiritus rector in Sweden’s persecution of Assange. Will Bildt now greet and suck up to Obama?

  21. Kipka

    Being Russian, I wonder, why so much of Russian internet traffic (80%) comes via Sweden? Russia has the longest land border but much of the traffic comes through the small Baltic “window”.

    Why Russian backbone networks usually look like this?

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  23. […] his actions say the opposite: He has been negotiating spy deals with the United States at the same […]

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