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SURVEILLANCE

Agencies slam FRA-law revisions

Changes to Sweden’s wiretapping law have been met with stinging criticism in a new round of comments by two government agencies.

Agencies slam FRA-law revisions

Last week the appeals court for Skåne and Blekinge in southern Sweden criticized the measure, and on Monday Sweden’s Customs Agency (Tullverket) and the Data Inspection Board (Datainspektionen) voiced their displeasure with the current version of the legislation.

The controversial law gives sweeping surveillance powers to Sweden’s National Defence Radio Establishment (Försvarets radioanstalt – FRA) and presented a major political challenge for the government last year.

Not only did the law face criticism from the public and the opposition parties, but several prominent politicians in the centre-right Alliance government also came out against the measure.

An extra round of negotiations in September led to an amendment that called for a special court to be created which would rule on exactly what sort of cable-bound communications traffic FRA would be able to monitor.

But now the Customs Agency has criticized the changes to the signal intelligence law, claiming the alterations prevent the agency from directly access information from FRA, according to the Riksdag & Departement newspaper.

In order to get information from FRA, the Customs Agency must now to go through the government, the prime minister’s office or the Armed Forces.

According to the agency, the extra steps hurt its ability to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction.

The Data Inspection Board also doubts that the revisions do enough to protect the privacy of individuals.

It criticizes the special court due to be implemented as a part of the FRA-law compromise because it will only be staffed by regular judges.

The court will rule on whom FRA may target for intelligence gathering, and the Data Inspection Board questions whether the court can be a truly independent court, a charge echoing criticism in comments on the law from other agonies.

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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