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Sweden passes divisive wiretapping law

Sweden passes divisive wiretapping law

Published: 14 Oct 2009 17:38 GMT+02:00
Updated: 14 Oct 2009 17:38 GMT+02:00

An amended version of Sweden's controversial new signals intelligence law was passed in the Riksdag on Wednesday, with 158 members voting in favour and 153 against.

Liberal Party member of parliament Camilla Lindberg abstained, making her the only MP from the governing centre-right coalition not to vote in favour of the law.

But the opposition was quick to announce that the last word had not yet been spoken on the issue. Anders Karlsson, chairman of the Social Democrats' parliamentary defence committee, said his party would rip up the law if voted into power at next year's election.

"We'll rip it up, redo it, and do it right," he said.

The law had been the focus of the autumn season's first parliamentary debate earlier in the day, as politicians once again argued over the amended bill.

"Are we really, in a democratic country, going to implement a system which entails wire tapping the masses?" the Left Party's Alice Åström asked her colleagues in the Riksdag, according to the Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) newspaper

The controversial law gives sweeping surveillance powers to Sweden’s National Defence Radio Establishment (Försvarets radioanstalt – FRA).

Despite extensive criticism from the public and the opposition parties, as well as a slew of internal challenges from prominent politicians in the centre-right Alliance government, the bill – referred to as the FRA-law – initially passed in June of last year.

An additional round of negotiations last September resulted in a number of amendments, including one calling for the creation of a special court which would rule on exactly what sort of cable-bound communications traffic FRA would be able to monitor.

While the changes were meant to assuage the FRA-law’s many critics, the government’s efforts to update the bill haven’t swayed everyone, including longstanding opponent and Riksdag member Camilla Lindberg of the Liberal Party (Folkpartiet).

“I’m all alone in my party and as far as I know there are no other centre-right parliamentarians who aren’t going to vote yes” to approve the amendments, Lindberg told the TT news agency ahead of Wednesday’s debate.

According to Anders Karlsson, the government isn’t interested in creating a just law, and has made no attempt to reach across party lines to develop a compromise that would satisfy political opponents.

“Personal privacy has been trampled in the name of political prestige,” he said.

The Green Party’s Peter Rådberg claimed the FRA-law was “one of the most important questions of our time”.

“The state is going to get unlimited power to monitor citizens' data traffic,” he warned.

Karin Enström of the Moderate Party countered that the opposition is trying to spread horrifying rumours about the government and the centre-right parties behind the proposal.

She said the opposition’s demand to appoint another commission to investigate the issue is simply a delay tactic meant to “bury the issue for several years”.

The law, which went into effect in January 2009, gives FRA -- a civilian agency despite its name -- the right to tap all cross-border internet and telephone communication.

Human rights organisations, politicians, the media and even the former head of the Swedish intelligence agency Säpo have vehemently criticised the legislation in both its original and amended form, citing fears of civil liberties violations and the creation of a "big brother" state.

Among other things, the amendment specifies that only the government and the military can ask FRA to carry out surveillance, that a special court must grant an authorisation for each case of monitoring, and that all raw material must be destroyed after one year.

It also limits eavesdropping to cases defined as "external military threats", "peacemaking or humanitarian efforts abroad", "international terrorism", and "development and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction", among others.

It also bars FRA from monitoring emails where both the senders and recipients are in Sweden, after critics pointed out that even emails sent between two people in Sweden can cross the border to be transmitted by servers located abroad.

Those who have been monitored must also be informed.

TT/AFP/The Local (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

16:59 October 14, 2009 by eZee.se
Strange, no mention of the Pirate Party's demonstrations against the FRA law all over Sweden... from Gutenberg to Stockholm they have been very vocal in opposing this "all our citizens are criminals so lets monitor them" or "daddy knows best" FRA law.
17:59 October 14, 2009 by Rap43
The Local's politics are so far right I am surprised they mentioned any opposition at all.
18:29 October 14, 2009 by Gwrhyr
The Alliance-parties are killing themselves with this. With the opposition saying that it will tear up the law if elected next year, next year's election will become, in part, a referendum on the FRA-law (which should have been put up to a referendum in the first place since it has such far-reaching implications for everyone).

It's kind of ironic that it's the right-wing parties behind this law and the left-wing ones against, considering how the righties are always complaining about the intrusive state.
06:02 October 15, 2009 by RoyceD
Actually Gwrhyr in a Capitalist society like ours where the state holds less assets than H&M it is far more beneficial for the right to approve of a wire tapping law such as this. Essentially the state ends up selling its tapping services off to the private sector, who are the only ones who would want to buy this information, at relatively no cost. The information is used to protect and further enforce corporation domination. All thanks to our elected representatives :(
08:12 October 15, 2009 by bubbagump
@RoyceD and Rap43 Have either of you ever been outside of Sweden? The Local as far right and Sweden as a capitalistic juggernaut. Wow.

Anyway, it would be nice if The Local would provide a link to the actual amendments so that we don't have to hear it in spin terms from different politicians, but can read it in black and white. I'm against the patriot act in the US and am in principle against this. However, the last few paragraphs of this article makes it sound like all monitoring is based on specific warrants. That's no different than what the US and most western country's have had since the dawn of the telephone. I thought by the way this article started that this was a case of warrant-less wiretapping, indiscriminately on all communication (i.e. the patriot act). Again, can we get a link, too lazy to goole this morning.
11:32 October 15, 2009 by ShaneW
Nothing to hide, nothing to worry about , simple as that. We all want to be protected and this is an weapon against terrorism.

If this prevents even one terrorist murder of an innocent then its worth the law.

As for the Left Party opposing it, what a joke, their heroes from the Soviet Union listened to everything!

As for it being part of the election campaign, I cant see it, more people are concerned about jobs and the economy and rightly so!
11:33 October 15, 2009 by Rick Methven
Basically, the law allows the state surveillance of all cross-border electronic communications

http://www.riksdagen.se/templates/R_PageExtended____16402.aspx
09:36 October 16, 2009 by mysticbumwipe
Dear ShaneW, I wonder how you would define "terrorist murder of an innocent".

I can't help feeling this kind of blanket generalisation of some kind of global threat tyo our security is exactly the mindset that Bush's paradoxically named 'War on Terror' was designed to inspire. Actually many, many more people have been killed worldwide by America, Britain, Russia and Israel in the so-called 'war on terror' than have been killed by what we in the west dubiously describe as 'terrorists'.

So which 'innocents' are really under the most threat

of being killed by 'terrorists'?

I would say it is NOT us in Europe or America.

It's the poor blighters in Chechnya, Pakistan, Palestine, Afghanistand, Lebanon and Iraq (in all cases predominantly moslems) who are being killed by us the western superpower 'state terrorists'.
17:06 October 16, 2009 by ShaneW
I would define that as any innoncent civilian being killed because of someone elses political or religious beliefs.

There are enough whackos and cranks out there that make this law necessary to protect us.

I have lived most of my life in a country that has been bombed by militants, if a law like this can prevent another Omagh atrocity then it has to be worth it.

If this law had no merit then why would the Alliance Government introduce it? Hardly a vote winner is it?

Shane
12:10 October 17, 2009 by Lucys word
What a joke: "Social Democrats' parliamentary defence committee, said his party would rip up the law if voted into power at next year's election"

When they (the Socialists) were in charge they initialized that law - as far as I recall - and former left "winged Sweden" had very intense contacts with STASI the former secret service of Sovjet Germany (DDR).

I recommend the DVD "Life of the other" (original: Das Leben Der Anderen), what is a soft drama about the former German Democratic Republic where there was no right for individual, personal integrity.

Sweden is on the way to become a "DDR light" by this new law, I think.

Cheers, Lucy
11:42 October 20, 2009 by Bob Jacobson
I would guess (as an American guest in Sweden) that the FRA law came up in the first place and was subsequently passed to resemble US warrantless wiretapping laws was under pressure from the American National Security Agency (NSA), which eavesdrops globally on everyone, everyday, laws against it notwithstanding.

I can imagine that the NSA offered Sweden a "deal": eavesdrop and share your information with us, or we won't share our information with you.

Given that the US information is global and more complete, and thus perhaps more "useful" in curtailing potential violence, I surmise that the Swedish state cut the best terms it could in order to retain access to American intelligence while withstanding domestic criticism. Of course, the Government probably got no guarantees from the NSA and bought a large amount of domestic criticism. You might say, lose-lose..

Which begs the question: what exactly is any of this intended to accomplish? Billions spent on surveillance hasn't stopped terrorism, has resulted in untold incursions on legal communications, and makes everyone around the world that much more paranoid about potential techno-totalitarianism. It's a rotten business.
15:20 October 21, 2009 by SikoSoft
ShaneW: "Nothing to hide, nothing to worry about , simple as that. We all want to be protected and this is an weapon against terrorism."

Maybe it's just that I am American and view this a bit differently living here in Sweden than others, but I think it was said best by one of America's founding fathers:

"They that can give up essential liberty for a little safety deserve neither safety or liberty." - Benjamin Franklin

It's a matter of freedom. It's a matter of privacy. Every little instance we decide to allow government to control us, is one more step closer to living in an Orwellian world.

Believe me, I value my freedom a lot more than I value my livelihood, because life isn't worth living to me if it means I am not free. I doubt I am the only one who passionately feels the same way about freedom as do I.

It's like that saying: it's better to die on your feet, than live on your knees.

I'll take my dignity, my privacy and my freedom, thank you.
01:50 October 22, 2009 by Monty Clift
The real question is, why does a country like Sweden even need a law permitting wire tapping? Do they have native subversives who want to damage or take over the country? Of course not. This wiretapping is to watch the Muslims within the country. Like fools you allowed them into your country believing you were liberal tolerant people. Now look what you have!
07:35 November 22, 2009 by dato
Comment: i just wanna say .... what did russians wanted from us georgianns when they came on our teritory and said that georgians were killing russians wat was russian people doINg on ourr land eHH if any russian can answerr that questionn than you guys can hate on fukenn saaakashvilii who nobodyy! likess not even me! and i am georgian!!!! and there is noo differencee between putin and hitler... putin does same thing its jus slowly firts there was CHECHYA ??? wow wat happened to CHECHNYA eh anyone rememberrss?? oh guess what russians made them look like terrorists and whole world doesnt cares about them and now theyt actually are being terrorists as they hate russians and thats the only wayy for them to kill russian people! and now theyy triedd to takee georgia its just they knew that some of the countries would have helped georgia if they have come into tbilisi with their army! and they dnt have that strong army to take on whole world !
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