Eavesdropping restrictions could be lifted

Police and secret service agents in Sweden will be allowed to make more use of electronic surveillance if new proposals are adopted by the government.

On June 1st public prosecutor Solveig Riberdahl delivered his proposals to justice minister Thomas Bodström. The aim of the new rules is to prevent more serious crimes, such as terrorism, by increasing surveillance.

Bodström admitted that the new rules have important ethical implications:

“We ought to remember that [suspects’] personal integrity is threatened [by the new procedures]”, he told Swedish Radio.

“But I am prepared to sacrifice their integrity in light of what they are prepared to in the form of attacks against society and democracy.”

Under the new proposals, surveillance could be used if a person from a well-known terrorist group were to come to Sweden without motive, and where one can make the assumption that an attack is planned. The methods could also be used in cases of espionage and crimes that threaten the country’s security.

The methods that the police could now be able to use include phone bugging, video surveillance, postal search, and search and seizure.

The new rules will come into force in January 2007 if Riberdahl’s proposals are accepted in full. Courts will have to approve the use of surveillance measures, as at present. The regular police will play a very small role in enforcement, as this serious crime would only be at the high end of their crime range, while the security police (Säpo) would have a much larger enforcement role.

The current rules mean that bugging is strictly regulated. Only investigations into crimes that are punishable by at least two years in jail can use electronic surveillance. In addition, eavesdropping is only allowed in cases where it can be proven that a crime is being planned or has been committed.

Sharon Tomcko

Sources: Dagens Nyheter, Sveriges Radio