Let’s play: “Spot the Terrorist”

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Late Tuesday night, November 19, a 22 year old was arrested in Boliden, northern Sweden, by heavily armed security forces from Swedish Security Police (SÄPO) and placed under arrest, accused of plotting terrorist activity. Hours later his name and picture had been released to the press. On Sunday, he was released, cleared of all charges.

The arrest took place after a dramatic two day man hunt, despite the fact that the man lived at the address where he was arrested, with his name on the door, as well as being listed there in the Swedish migration services (Migrationsverket), and posting his whereabouts, name and personal information publicly online. The sources of the information, leading up to the arrest has not been revealed. On questions on why such prompt action was taken, press communications responsible Sirpa Franzén responded SÄPO has to act early on any suspicion of terrorism or other criminality with potentially significant consequences. Some criticism will likely befall SÄPO in the aftermath of this event. Let’s just hope they are equally critical to their own sources of information.

The reasoning makes sense from a security perspective, but still does not explain why full information was released to media. In an official press release, November 22, SÄPO informs that the threat level against Sweden after the Paris attacks remains high, and concludes:

“Given the unstable situation, it is likely that Europe will have to adapt to this type of incident.”

One may expect that this, in concrete terms, means more resources to intelligence and surveillance, and a less restrictive approach to guarding personal integrity. In other words, expect Big Brother to watch you more closely. The defence to this kind of reasoning is usually: “If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear”. Of course we are all grateful that the Police released an innocent man without further delay. However, one may wonder if he would not prefer for the events to take place out of reach of the spotlight. Not everyone enjoys running a public gauntlet – even among those who have nothing to hide.

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