The headquarters of Sweden's National Defence Radio Establishment outside of Stockholm. File photo: Scanpix
FRA visit

Inside one of Sweden's most secretive buildings

"We need to have strict secrecy here"
5:17 min

The public rarely gets a glimpse into Sweden's foreign intelligence operations. But Radio Sweden recently got a peek inside of the National Defence Radio Establishment's highly protected compound.

Signals intelligence is a secretive business. And finding the place where Sweden carries it out, the FRA, is not easy.

Fredrik Wallin, a top staff member at the FRA, cannot tell us his position at the agency. He says, however, that the FRA had intelligence prior to the invasion of Iraq that suggested that Saddam Hussein's regime was not developing nuclear weapons.

Asked why such information is not made public, Fredrik Wallin says that the FRA cannot risk exposing its methods and intelligence capacity.

"The intelligence we provide to the government enables a neutral country like Sweden to maintain an independent foreign policy," Wallin says.

Since 2009, the FRA has been able to intercept all internet traffic between Sweden and other countries. As a single email thread can span dozens of countries, that means heaps of unrelated information is also within its scope.

Ingvar Åkesson, the FRA's director general, says that the fact that the FRA needs court approval to carry out such surveillance should calm people's concerns about individual privacy.

"We are only interested in our targets' professional or military roles, not in their personal lives. We've always had to make that distinction; it's nothing new," says Åkesson.

Our journalism is based on credibility and impartiality. Swedish Radio is independent and not affiliated to any political, religious, financial, public or private interests.
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