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Social Democrats u-turn on Säpo surveillance

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Social Democrats u-turn on Säpo surveillance
13:28 CET+01:00
A leading Social Democrat has proposed restoring the ability of Swedish security service Säpo to request signals intelligence in order to make it easier to follow terrorist groups.

Morgan Johansson, Social Democratic chair of the Riksdag's standing committee on the administration of justice, says his party should now support the government on the issue of allowing Säpo access to information from the National Defence Radio Establishment (Försvarets radioanstalt, FRA), newspaper Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) reported on Tuesday.

Previously, the Social Democrats have been against allowing Säpo to request intelligence from FRA, which--despite its name--is a civilian agency supporting the defence ministry that specialises in signals intelligence and offers support to government authorities and state-owned companies regarding IT security

In addition, Johansson wants his party to abandon an election promise to scrap a controversial wiretapping law that gave FRA sweeping surveillance powers.

The measure, known as the FRA law, was first approved by the Riksdag in 2008, only to be sent back for revision following complaints by privacy activists.

A revised person of the bill was approved in October 2009 which gives FRA -- a civilian agency despite its name -- the right to tap all cross-border internet and telephone communication.

"I urge the government to present a proposal that also facilitates allowing Säpo to get information from FRA," Johansson told the newspaper.

Citing the terror attack in central Stockholm on Saturday, Johansson is seeking an agreement in the issue that crosses party lines.

The ruling centre-right government coalition parties have long agreed that Säpo should be able to order signals intelligence from FRA, but whether such decisions should be up to FRA or an independent body to manage it is a matter currently under investigation.

The proposal will be presented to Justice Minister Beatrice Ask in March.

Before the election, the Social Democrats and Green and Left Parties pledged to rescind the criticised FRA law. However, Johansson now said that he sees no sense in "starting over at square one."

"The mistake was that Säpo was not allowed to take part and that can be corrected," he said.

Since December of last year, Säpo has no longer been able to order surveillance from FRA. However, Säpo has still been able to receive information from FRA, and had the latter received information about a planned terrorist attack in Stockholm, Säpo would have also had access to the information.

The question many are asking, however, is whether or not the limitations for Säpo included in the FRA-law may have contributed to Saturday's suicide bomber being completely unknown to Säpo prior to the attack.

"We need signals intelligence. But we don't know it would have helped in this case, it would only be speculation," Säpo spokeswoman Sofia Oliv told TT.

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