Swedish Security Service
Säkerhetspolisen (SÄPO)
Coat of arms of Säkerhetspolisen
Agency overview
Formed1 October 1989 (1989-10-01)
Preceding agency
  • National Police Board's Department of Security
HeadquartersBolstomtavägen 2, Solna, Sweden
59°21′09.5″N 18°00′38.3″E / 59.352639°N 18.010639°E / 59.352639; 18.010639
EmployeesApproximately 1,400 (2020)[1]
Annual budgetSEK 1.56 billion (2019)[2]
Minister responsible
Agency executive
Parent agencyMinistry of Justice

The Swedish Security Service (Swedish: Säkerhetspolisen [ˈsɛ̂ːkɛrheːtspʊˌliːsɛn],[Nb 1] abbreviated SÄPO [ˈsɛ̌ːpʊ] ; until 1989 Rikspolisstyrelsens säkerhetsavdelning, abbreviated RPS/Säk[3]) is a Swedish government agency organized under the Ministry of Justice. It operates as a security agency responsible for counter-espionage, counter-terrorism, as well as the protection of dignitaries and the constitution. The Swedish Security Service is also tasked with investigating crimes against national security and terrorist crimes.[4][5][6] Its main mission, however, is to prevent crimes, not to investigate them. Crime prevention is to a large extent based on information acquired via contacts with the regular police force, other authorities and organisations, foreign intelligence and security services, and with the use of various intelligence gathering activities, including interrogations, telephone tapping, covert listening devices, and hidden surveillance cameras.[7][8]

The Service was, in its present form, founded in 1989, as part of the National Police Board and became an autonomous police agency on 1 January 2015.[9][10] National headquarters are located at Bolstomtavägen[11] in south-east Solna since 2014, drawing together personnel from five different locations into a single 30,000 m2 (320,000 sq ft) HQ facility.[12][13]


Lt Col Adlercreutz, credited with the formation of the General Security Service in 1938

The origins of the Swedish Security Service is often linked to the establishment of a special police bureau (Polisbyrån) during the First World War in 1914, which reported directly to the General Staff, predecessor of the Office for the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces.[14][15] The bureau's main mission was protecting national security (e.g. counter-espionage), and its first chief was Captain Erik af Edholm.[15] Operations shut down after the end of the war in 1918, although some intelligence activities carried on at the Stockholm police, managed by a small group of approximately ten police officers led by Chief Superintendent Eric Hallgren, who later was to become the first chief of the General Security Service (Allmänna säkerhetstjänsten).[14][16] Operations were mainly focused on monitoring communists from the start of the war until the early 1930s when the service also began to focus on Nazis.[17]

In 1932, operations were transferred to the newly formed State Police (statspolisen).[14] The group of officers working at the State Police did not have the means to monitor phone calls or to intercept and open mail. This, and the general lack of staff and financial resources worried the chief of Sweden's military intelligence, Lieutenant-Colonel Carlos Adlercreutz, who felt the country needed a more powerful security agency if Europe once again ended up in war. Thus, in 1938 the General Security Service was formed, following an initiative by Adlercreutz and Ernst Leche at the Ministry of Justice, among others.[18] The entire organisation and its activities were top-secret. During the Second World War the agency monitored about 25,000 phone calls and intercepted over 200,000 letters every week.[19] In 1946, following a post-war parliamentary evaluation, operations were significantly reduced and once again organized under the State Police, mainly tasked with counter-espionage.[14][20] In 1965, the Swedish police was nationalized, and all work was organized under the National Police Board in the Department of Security (Rikspolisstyrelsens säkerhetsavdelning, abbreviated RPS/SÄK).[21][22]

Stig Wennerström, convicted Soviet spy, c. 1960

The period between 1939 and 1945 was marked by extensive foreign intelligence activity in Sweden, resulting in the arrest of numerous spies and enemy agents. Some of the most notorious post-war spies are Fritiof Enbom, Hilding Andersson, Stig Wennerström and Stig Bergling. In all of these cases the spying was done on behalf of the Soviet Union and the spies were convicted to life in prison.[14]

In the early 1970s, Sweden was rocked by a number of terrorist acts perpetrated by Croatian separatists. Some of the most significant cases were the 1971 Yugoslavian embassy attack in Stockholm and the hijacking of Scandinavian Airlines System Flight 130 a year later.[23] The inception of the first Terrorist Act in 1973 was an immediate policy upshot of this, which among other things gave the police the right to deport people affiliated with terrorist organizations without delay. These incidents also led to internal changes within the Department of Security, which received more resources.[24][25] On 28 February 1986, Prime Minister Olof Palme was assassinated by an unknown gunman. The Department was not widely criticized, partly because Palme himself had declined protection on the night of the murder.[26] It nevertheless sparked the resignation of the National Police Commissioner Nils Erik Åhmansson and the head of the Department, Sune Sandström, following the revelation of the Ebbe Carlsson affair in 1988.[27]

The Swedish Security Service was established on 1 October 1989, on the recommendations put forward by a Government committee tasked with evaluating the Department of Security following the assassination of Palme.[28] The new agency was—although still formally a part of the National Police Board—more independent, with its own Director-General and political oversight also increased.[29][30][31] Furthermore, the Service took over the formal responsibility for all close protection tasks, which was previously shared with the National Police Board and the Stockholm County Police.[30][32] On 10 September 2003, Minister for Foreign Affairs Anna Lindh was assassinated by Mijailo Mijailović, who was arrested two weeks later. The Government reviewed its procedures in the wake of the Lindh killing,[33] which led to the doubling of the number of close-protection officers.[34] On 1 January 2015, the police reorganized again into a unified agency, with the Swedish Security Service becoming a fully independent agency.[35]

Areas of responsibility

Spending 2014[36]

  Dignitary protection (44%)
  Counter-terrorism (30%)
  Counter-espionage (12%)
  Counter-subversion (10%)
  Protective security (4%)

The Swedish Security Service's main tasks and responsibilities are:[6][14]


The Swedish Security Service became a separate agency 1 January 2015, and is directly organized under the Ministry of Justice. Similar to other government agencies in Sweden, it is essentially autonomous. Under the 1974 Instrument of Government, neither the Government nor individual ministers have the right to influence how an agency decide in a particular case or on the application of legislation. This also applies to the Security Service, which instead is governed by general policy instruments.[38][a] What sets the Security Service apart from other agencies is that most directives guiding the Service are classified on the grounds of national security, along with the bulk of the reports it produces.[29] The Service is led by a Director-General, who is titled Head of the Swedish Security Service. Operations are led by a Chief Operating Officer, reporting directly the Head of the Security Service. He is in turn assisted by a Deputy Chief Operating Officer and an Office for Operations. The Service is organized into four departments and a secretariat, each led by a Head of Department.[39]

Swedish Security Service organisational chart[b]
Director-General & Deputy Director
Financial Management
Human Resources
Internal Security & Risk Management
Secretariat for Management SupportStrategic Management Support
Public Affairs & Communications
Legal Affairs
Operational Control
Chief Operating Officer & Deputy Chief Operating OfficerDepartment of Intelligence CollectionDepartment of Security IntelligenceDepartment of Security MeasuresDepartment for Central Support Functions
Office for OperationsCoordinationDeskInformation SecurityProcurement
Counter-espionageHUMINT*ProcessingRisk ReductionFacilities & Services
Counter-terrorismSurveillanceAnalysisInvestigationTechnical Support
Counter-subversionTechnical IntelligenceClose Protection
SecurityProject Teams

*Includes regional units

Säpo close protection officers surrounding the Minister for Finance Magdalena Andersson in 2014.
Department for Central Support Functions
Provides all support processes needed for day-to-day operations.[39]
Department of Intelligence Collection
In charge of intelligence gathering through the use of secret surveillance, informants or other interpersonal contacts, and by use of information technology (e.g. signals intelligence). Included in the department are the regional units, which primarily conduct human intelligence (HUMINT) operations and offer local knowledge and support to HQ.[39]
Department of Security Intelligence
Responsible for security intelligence work, primarily aimed at providing the Service with data for decisions regarding security measures.[39]
Department of Security Measures
Deals with threat mitigation and risk reduction measures. Areas of responsibility include close protection, investigations, information security, physical security and background checks.[39]
Secretariat for Management Support
Tasked with providing support to management.[39]


The Service has a regional presence and operates from several locations; from its headquarters in Solna and from six regional units with offices in Umeå, Uppsala, Örebro, Norrköping, Gothenburg and Malmö. The Service has approximately 1,100 employees, of which about 10 percent are stationed at the regional offices. The regional units are based on the geographic boundaries of several counties:[40][41]

   Central – Uppsala, Västmanland and Gävleborg
   Bergslagen – Värmland, Örebro and Dalarna
   West – Halland and Västra Götaland
   South – Kronoberg, Kalmar, Blekinge and Skåne
   Stockholm – Stockholm and Gotland

Head of the Swedish Security Service

List of current and past executive officers:[42]

In popular culture

The Security Service's role in Cold War counterintelligence is referred to in the second and third novels of the best-selling Millennium series by Swedish writer Stieg Larsson.[citation needed]

"Swedish intelligence" was frequently referenced on the American Cold War spy drama television show The Americans. The male lead character on the show, Philip Jennings, had an alias who worked for Swedish intelligence.[43]

See also


  1. ^ See also the article on Ministerstyre and the official translation of the constitution at the Riksdag website: 1974 Instrument of Government, Chapter 12, Art. 2
  2. ^ Based on an organisational chart and translation published by SÄPO in 2015


  1. ^ The name translates literally to The security-police


  1. ^ Swedish Security Service 2020, p. 68.
  2. ^ "Regleringsbrev för budgetåret 2019 avseende Säkerhetspolisen" [Regulation letter for fiscal year 2019 regarding the Swedish Security Service]. Swedish Financial Management Authority. 20 December 2018.
  3. ^ Rikets säkerhet och den personliga integriteten. De svenska säkerhetstjänsternas författningsskyddade verksamhet sedan år 1945. (SOU 2002:87), p. 15.
  4. ^ Swedish Security Service 2013, p. 8.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Swedish Security Service 2015, 'Yearbook', p. 9.
  6. ^ a b SFS 1984:387, § 3.
  7. ^ SOU 2012:44, pp. 114, 118–123.
  8. ^ 2014/15:JuU2.
  9. ^ Swedish Security Service 2015, 'History'.
  10. ^ 2013/14:JuU1.
  11. ^ "Kontakta oss - Säkerhetspolisen". Sakerhetspolisen.se. Retrieved 15 October 2018.
  12. ^ Törnmalm 2010.
  13. ^ Skanska 2015.
  14. ^ a b c d e f Nationalencyklopedin 1989.
  15. ^ a b Swedish Security Service 2014, pp. 7, 9.
  16. ^ Swedish Security Service 2014, pp. 7, 10, 15.
  17. ^ Swedish Security Service 2014, pp. 9–12.
  18. ^ Swedish Security Service 2014, pp. 15–16.
  19. ^ Swedish Security Service 2014, pp. 16–18.
  20. ^ Swedish Security Service 2014, pp. 7, 19.
  21. ^ Swedish Security Service 2014, p. 5.
  22. ^ Grahn 2013.
  23. ^ Forsberg 2003, Bilaga 1.
  24. ^ Swedish Security Service 2014, pp. 5, 35, 40.
  25. ^ Hansén 2007, pp. 47–48, 175, 178.
  26. ^ Hansén 2007, p. 163.
  27. ^ Isaksson 2007.
  28. ^ Forsberg 2003, p. 18.
  29. ^ a b Swedish Security Service 2013, p. 12.
  30. ^ a b Swedish Security Service 2014, p. 47.
  31. ^ Hansén 2007, pp. 89–90, 178.
  32. ^ Hansén 2007, p. 87.
  33. ^ SOU 2004:108.
  34. ^ Swedish Security Service 2015, 'Livvakter'.
  35. ^ Swedish Ministry of Justice 2015.
  36. ^ Swedish Security Service 2015, 'Yearbook', p. 10.
  37. ^ SFS 2014:1103, § 4.
  38. ^ Beckman, Olsson & Wockelberg 2003, pp. 19–20.
  39. ^ a b c d e f Swedish Security Service 2015, 'Organisation'.
  40. ^ Swedish Security Service 2015, 'Yearbook'.
  41. ^ Swedish Security Service 2015, 'Regional Units'.
  42. ^ Swedish Security Service 2014.
  43. ^ Zuckerman, Esther (1 May 2014). "'The Americans' Wig of the Week: Elizabeth's Blonde Tresses". The Atlantic. Retrieved 9 February 2022.