Liberals demand snoop law retreat

Liberals demand snoop law retreat
Photo: Jonas Ekströmer/Scanpix
Former leaders of the Liberal Party have called on the government to back down over the controversial snoop law which was narrowly passed by the Swedish parliament last month.

Maria Leissner, Ola Ullsten and Bengt Westerberg, all former leaders of the Liberal Party (Folkpartiet), have joined forces with four current MPs to write a debate article in Dagens Nyheter arguing that the FRA law is contrary to liberal values, that the government should listen to broad public criticism and “open up for a new and unbiased discussion.”

“The underlying problem with the FRA law is that even those not suspected of any offence will have their telephone calls, e-mail and text messages analyzed by an authority whose operations are not subject to scrutiny,” the seven write.

They call attention to the fact that the criteria on which communication is subject to analysis is to be kept confidential “and without public scrutiny.”

“It is a serious mistake to call the angry public debate an expression of ignorance and misunderstanding. Do not either believe that the criticism comes from isolated groups.”

“The public outcry is primarily about the relationship between the state and its citizens, something which responsible politicians must take seriously.”

Talking to news agency TT on Monday, Westerberg argued that “everyone is in agreement that Sweden needs surveillance and that it should be regulated. But it is important that it doesn’t create unease among the public; it is therefore paramount that political support is as broad as possible.”

“If this would lead to a delay, then that is better than the process being rushed through,” Westerberg said.

Liberal Party spokesperson Erik Ullenhag has defended the party’s position over the FRA law.

“A major issue in the debate and which is important to underline is that this concerns external threats. It is forbidden to read the mail or conduct surveillance against people that communicate with each other in Sweden. This is an issue which we need to clarify,” Ullenhag said.

Ullsten and Westerberg have previously been part of right-wing coalition governments – Ullsten has served as foreign secretary and vice-prime minister, while Westerberg has served as vice-prime minister.

Leissner, Ullsten and Westerberg have written the debate article together with Camilla Lindberg, Maria Lundqvist-Brömster, Birgitta Ohlsson and Cecilia Wikström.

Lindberg was the only member of the Liberal party to vote against the FRA law which was passed by parliament on June 18th. Her party colleague Ohlsson abstained.

The controversial law is set to take effect next year and will enable the National Defence Radio Establishment (FRA) – a civilian agency despite its name – to tap all cross-border Internet and telephone communication.