The Security Service's intelligence work in focus

2018-11-26

The Security Service is tasked with preventing and detecting offences against Sweden and Swedish democracy. Intelligence work is carried out around the clock and year round, often under extreme time pressure. National as well as international cooperation is very important to these efforts.

Johan Olsson, Head of Operations at the Security Service, replies to questions about intelligence work:

How does the Security Service work with intelligence?

The Swedish Security Service is tasked with protecting Sweden and our democracy. This includes detecting and preventing serious crimes like espionage and terrorism by, for example, processing information and intelligence. Our Service’s intelligence work involves cooperating with others both nationally and internationally. In this respect, our main national partners are the Swedish Police Authority, the Military Intelligence and Security Service (MUST), and the National Defence Radio Establishment (FRA).

How much intelligence does the Security Service handle?

Our Service works around the clock and year round to assess information and reports we have received, on for example planned terrorist attacks. We handle approximately 6 000 pieces of terrorism-related intelligence each year and on average one tangible threat to Sweden every second day. We take the measures necessary to avert these threats.

How is the intelligence work carried out?

Intelligence work is carried out by following the steps of the intelligence cycle: direction, collection, processing, analysis and dissemination of information. Intelligence is collected via surveillance, personal sources, interrogations, contacts with other government agencies and organisations, etc. This intelligence is analysed, and our Service and other relevant government agencies and organisations then decide what measures to implement.

What sort of information does the Service handle?

Our Service protects Sweden in various ways but we cannot discuss our operational methods as this could jeopardize our work and hinder our efforts to prevent potential perpetrators from acting. We must quickly assess the credibility of a tip-off indicating that an individual is in the process of making a bomb and planning to use it against a target in Sweden, or suspicions that an individual is carrying out espionage on behalf of a foreign power. In the stream of intelligence we receive, our Service constantly identifies tangible and serious threats that we have to work intensely to assess and prevent.

Where does the information come from?

Our Service receives information from various sources, including security services in other countries, with whom we share relevant information and cooperate in order to prevent international terrorism. We cannot reveal exactly what information we have as this could jeopardize our efforts and increase the risk to Sweden and our democracy. Our Service takes the measures needed to avert threats and protect the lives and well-being of people in our country.

Is there a risk that a terrorist attack will occur in Sweden?

The terrorist threat level in Sweden remains elevated, which is level three on the five-level threat scale. Within this elevated threat level, it is considered possible that a terrorist attack could occur. Sweden has had an elevated terrorist threat level since the autumn of 2010, with the exception of the period November 2015 – March 2016, when the level was raised to high, i.e. level four on a five-level scale. During the elevated terrorist threat level, Sweden experienced a full-fledged terrorist attack in central Stockholm on 7 April 2017 and a bomb attack in central Stockholm on 11 December 2010. One of our Service’s tasks is to detect and prevent attacks, and our work to do so is constant and around the clock.

What does an elevated threat level mean in concrete terms?

An elevated threat level means that a terrorist attack could occur. Our Service has been communicating this for several years to the public as well as to other government agencies and organisations in Sweden to enable them to take the necessary counter-measures. Because of this elevated threat level, a higher level of protective measures has been implemented. Our advice to the public in this matter is:
• Be vigilant!
• Follow the recommendations issued by the police!
The Swedish Policeexternal link
• Be sceptical of unconfirmed information or rumours, for example in the social media, and do not share or spread these!
The National Centre for Terrorist Threat Assessment (NCT)