‘Orwellian law must be stopped’

Despite some cosmetic changes, Sweden's proposed surveillance law is still a monster, writes Pär Ström from the independent New Welfare Foundation.

'Orwellian law must be stopped'
Photo: Faisal Enayat Khan

“The critics won”, is the messgage from certain media outlets after it emerged that the FRA (Försvarets Radioanstalt – Swedish National Defence Radio Establishment) surveillance bill would be sent back to the parliamentary defence committee to enable the inclusion of certain “privacy guarantees”.

But in fact nobody has won. We have instead witnessed politicians hoodwinking their citizens.

A monster with make-up is still a monster and “Swechelon”, or Sweden’s Echelon, must be stopped.

It is not yet certain how exactly the amendments to “Lex Orwell” will look. But the primary changes seem to be that: the Swedish Data Inspection Board will be tasked with monitoring FRA’s surveillance; a parliamentary committee will also be appointed to watch the watchers; and FRA will be give a somewhat more limited remit regarding what it may and may not monitor. Mention has also been made of two new agencies: one to authorize surveillance and another to check on FRA’s activities.

But on the whole these are no more than marginal adjustments. The basic idea remains unchanged.

FRA will still be able to conduct mass surveillance of law-abiding citizens’ communications without need for a court order. It will be able to read people’s emails and text messages, listen to their conversations, see which websites they are visiting, create “sociograms” that map out the friends people have. And so on.

It’s just as absurd as it was before. It still runs counter to Article 12 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It’s still going to create a society characterized by self-censorship and concern. It’s still going to make people fearful of contacting journalists to report abuses of power. Et cetera.

The government’s idea now is to push the revised proposal through at breakneck speed. Somewhat like what they tried to do with the original draft bill. The Riksdag could vote the bill into law as early as this evening or tomorrow before people have come to the realization that the changes are a decoy. It bears repeating: “Swechelon” must be stopped!


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.