Sweden edges closer to bugging

Sweden's Legislative Council has given its qualified approval to the government's proposal to allow the monitoring of telephone and e-mail traffic in and out of the country.

Legal experts have however called for some additions and amendments to the planned legislation.

Defence minister Mikael Odenberg interprets the council’s stance as an opportunity to forge ahead with plans to present a draft bill to the Swedish parliament.

“I am now going to continue preparing a proposal. The first thing I will do is to contact the Social Democrats and consult with them as to how best to apply the Legislative Council’s constructive suggestions,” said Odenberg in a statement.

The minister’s proposal would greatly extend the remit of Sweden’s National Defence Radio Establishment (F√∂rsvarets Radioanstalt – FRA), giving it the power to monitor all computer traffic and mobile phone calls between Sweden and the rest of the world.

The government has defended the proposal on the grounds that it will help in the fight against terrorism and international organised crime.

But the opposition, government agencies and a host of organisations have all accused the proposed legislation of being unconstitutional and a threat to individual freedoms.

While the four parties in the centre-right government have pledged their support for the proposal, sections within all four parties have expressed their misgivings and have appealed to Mikael Odenberg to withdraw his proposal.

The Legislative Council has called for clarification with regard to FRA and how it is to be monitored. Consequently the council has asked for three changes to be made to the proposed legislation.

As it currently stands, the government’s proposal states that FRA must obtain permission from a government agency before it begings monitoring computer and telephone traffic.

But the Legislative Council has taken issue with the single exception to this rule, whereby the government would be authorised to commission FRA without first gaining authorisation from an agency.