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Carl Bildt Does a Sarah Palin
Or a Marianne Ny. A reminder that naïvety runs strong in the duckpond.
DUCKBURG (Rixstep) — Sweden's minister for foreign affairs Carl Bildt was once hailed as the first politician in the country who 'got' the Internet. Critics are now wondering what it is he 'got'. Recent revelations show him doing the old 'governor of Alaska' thing and risking national security.
According to a story by Aftonbladet today, Bildt is encouraging his ambassadors and ministry staff to use his private Gmail address for official communications.
'What an idiot', says IT expert Joakim von Braun. 'Trumpeting out state secrets in public.' Others within the foreign ministry tell Aftonbladet they've reacted the same way.
Questionable Methods Used for Years
According to Aftonbladet sources, Sweden's minister for foreign affairs has encouraged high-ranking ministry staff to use his Gmail address instead of his official address at the ministry. This method is now widespread in the Swedish foreign service.
'Gmail is not secure', says IT expert Joakim von Braun. 'The data is stored on servers in foreign countries. And it's held by a US company who wouldn't hesitate to share the data with their own intelligence services.'
Coming off the scandal with the US foreign service cables released by WikiLeaks, this represents astounding thinking (or lack thereof) by Bildt.
The foreign ministry's media representative Anders Jörle tries to explain it away for Bildt. 'It's because we can't reach the ministry's mail system as easily when we're abroad.'
Carl Bildt confirmed for Aftonbladet that he's used Gmail for this purpose for several years already.
'We use Gmail for flash reports, such as when embassies do something fast in a foreign country - monitoring the formation of new governments, election results, stuff that happens fast. We use Gmail for that, to distribute information to ministry staff.'
The Artful Bildt
But all official correspondence must be registered according to Swedish law. All correspondence must be available upon freedom of information requests. Assange nemesis Marianne Ny was previously found dodging the system in her correspondence with the UK court system. What about the foreign ministry correspondence, Bildt was asked by Aftonbladet.
Bildt was evasive, would not give a straight answer, and offered instead two contradictory answers.
Bildt first assured Aftonbladet that all mail - sent through Gmail or otherwise - was duly registered. Then he said the following.
'Yes it's registered in the same way all the mail that passes through the official system. So in other words, it's official mail. We're not being evasive. It's available for anyone who wants access.'
But later in the same interview, returning to the same topic:
'Well the mail isn't registered. But it's publicly available.'
Bildt still uses his official ministry account, albeit sparingly. He backs up his media representative in pointing out deficiencies in the current ministry mail system.
'We use the official system for confidential information. It's a bit safer [sic] but it's also slower. Sometimes using complicated things like encryption just takes too long.'
And Bildt and his savvy friends also make the classic 'AOL grannie' mistake of exposing addresses in the 'To' and 'Cc' fields - another unforgivable security blunder.
'Business Cards with Holes'
Bildt once surprised former PM Göran Persson before a televised debate by giving him his new business card on a small CD. Persson gawked at the CD and famously quipped 'I've never seen a business card with a hole in it before'. Bildt was also early leaving his countrymen behind and abandoning Windows for a Mac and Apple's much more secure OS X.
Yet inspecting his mailing list makes one wonder.
- Veronika Wand-Danielsson - Sweden's ambassador to NATO
- Harald Fries - minister at the Permanent Mission of Sweden to the UN
- Anna-Karin Eneström - sits on the Committee for Foreign Relations and National Security
- Anders Hagelberg - formerly head of the Africa Dept, currently ambassador to South Africa
As for prevarication for the media and the public, Bildt has a track record there too. This past summer he told Jennifer Robinson (and the world) that interrogating Julian Assange in London was 'against the Swedish constitution'. And when Robinson called his bluff, he walked away.
Threat to National Security
Several IT security experts hastened to point out that what Bildt is doing - and encouraging his embassies to do - poses a grave security risk for 'Country of Sweden'.
'What an idiot', says IT expert Joakim von Braun. 'Trumpeting out state secrets in the public arena. Bildt is supposed to know better than others what's at stake, and this only makes it worse.'
'Oh but please. They don't know what they're talking about. They're talking nonsense. We don't send confidential correspondence through Gmail - only public information.'
But staff at the ministry aren't pleased either. Aftonbladet secured two sources within the ministry to corroborate that ministry staff are upset about the use of Gmail for official correspondence.
Yet Carl Bildt doesn't want to know about it.
'There are no objections to use of Gmail what I've heard! Who are your sources? Tell them what I told you.'
David Petraeus was recently forced to resign once the FBI hacked his Gmail account. And as for the other aspect of the system, Flashback's trenterx has the following to say.
'We've previously seen that Marianne Ny uses a private address for official correspondence. This means that public insight into the machinations of government becomes much more difficult. Free access to information is thwarted. Yet ironically it becomes easier for foreign powers to access the information - Gmail security is awful.'
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