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SURVEILLANCE

New tools needed to ‘preempt national security threats’

The Centre Party's Staffan Danielsson, who sits on the Riksdag's Committee on Defence, explains why he supports Sweden's controversial new surveillance legislation.

New tools needed to 'preempt national security threats'

Sweden’s new surveillance legislation has garnered its fair share critics, but I for one will be voting in favour when the bill is put to the vote in parliament next week.

The proposed law entails using automated search terms to gather information that will be used to preempt serious national security threats. The introduction of the law is a necessary measure if Sweden is to avoid becoming a safe haven for terrorists and other organized criminal networks.

The tapping of telephone calls and email correspondence does of course raise a number of issues from a civil liberties standpoint. But personal integrity concerns need also to be weighed against our duty to protect the country’s security.

All this constitutes a very difficult balancing act. As we in the Centre Party are committed to protecting civil liberties, we have taken steps to ensure that the rights of the individual are given pride of place in the proposal.

We have come a long way towards improving the proposal since it was first tabled several years ago by the previous Social Democratic government. For example, we have ensured that the law will be subject to an official review in 2011, when we will evaluate its success and establish whether any changes need to be made.

I have received many comments to the effect that the surveillance law represents a threat to democracy in Sweden. To this I reply that Sweden has a very fine tradition of democracy, which will continue to prevail once the law is passed.

Surveillance systems are needed if we are to protect ourselves against the threats posed by terrorism and organized crime. Similar systems exists in a number of countries around the world. Unlikely many other countries, however, Sweden has been very open about the development of an effective surveillance system.

A number of visitors to my blog have suggested that Google and a range of other major international companies will sever their ties with Sweden as a direct consequence of our signal surveillance law. But to this I respond with another question: Where will Google and these other companies go? And isn’t Google’s head office in the United states?

A number of people have also suggested that the legislative proposal runs counter to Swedish law. But the Council on Legislation (Lagrådet) has approved the law and their suggestions have become part of the bill that will pass though parliament next week. What’s more, a broad majority of parliamentarians agree that we require a regulated signal surveillance system of this kind.

This is, I repeat, a very difficult issue. But a series of opinion polls have shown that the Swedish people share our analysis that more surveillance is necessary if we are to keep external threats at bay.

Staffan Danielsson

GRIPEN

Spying fears plague Swiss fighter deal: report

Ahead of a Swiss referendum on the country's plan to buy 22 fighter jets from Sweden, a report raised concerns on Sunday that a US-made communication system onboard could be used for spying.

Spying fears plague Swiss fighter deal: report

According to a report in Swiss weekly Le Matin Dimanche, Swedish defence firm Saab last year brought in US company Rockwell Collins to replace Roschi Rohde & Schwartz of Switzerland, which had originally been contracted to build the communications system.

While the Swiss would still be making their own encryption keys, the physical box and the software inside would be American made, according to the report.

Several experts quoted by the paper cautioned that the US company could potentially build a "backdoor" into the system, making it possible for US intelligence to see the information gathered during reconnaissance flights.

Following the trove of disclosures by former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden of Washington's widespread spying efforts, the American firm's reported role raised eyebrows.

"With the Americans, it would be surprising if there were no back doors," Richard Morva, head of the Swiss Crows association that deals with electronic warfare, told the paper.

Christophe Darbellay, who heads Switzerland's Christian Democratic Party and who favours the fighter deal, said he wanted an explanation from Defence Minister Ueli Maurer.

"In the context of the Snowden revelations… I think this is a mistake. I will always have more faith in a (company from) Bern than in Uncle Sam," he told the paper.

When contacted by Le Matin Dimanche, both Saab and the Swiss defence ministry stressed that the deal had "never excluded the use of non-European components".

The most recent polls show that a majority of Swiss voters oppose the plan to buy the Swedish Gripen fighters, which would cost the Alpine country 3.1 billion Swiss francs ($3.5 billion, €2.6 billion).

Voters are set to cast their ballots on the issue on May 18th.

Supporters of the Gripen deal underline that in exchange for the sale, Saab and its engine supplier are contractually bound to sign business deals with Swiss firms worth 2.5 billion francs over the next decade.

On Friday for instance, Swiss aircraft maker Pilatus said it had signed a lucrative preliminary deal with Saab to deliver 20 of its training planes to Sweden and to create a joint software development centre in Switzerland if the Gripen deal goes through.

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