ENDitorial: Wiretapping - the Swedish way
(Dieser Artikel ist auch in deutscher Sprache verfügbar)
The Swedish Parliament, Riksdagen, adopted 18 June 2008 a law which obliges all telecom and Internet providers to transfer all communication that passes the Swedish border to Försvarets radioanstalt (FRA), or the National Defence Radio Establishment as it is officially called in English. It is the Swedish national authority for signals intelligence.
Even though domestic Internet communication is between two persons residing Sweden, the same information may cross national borders through Germany, Denmark and USA. That is how the Internet works. This means that all Swedes as well as people residing outside of Sweden may be subject to the surveillance of FRA. FRA may transfer information to other countries and the Guardian has recently reported (7 August 2008) of a Secret EU security draft which would give USA "Wholesale exchange of (personal) data". It is within a greater international perspective one should view the Swedish legislation.
It is possible that Sweden has the most valuable information. 80 % of the Russian telecom and internet communication passes through Sweden. Thus, it is not an accident that FRA has one of the most powerful computers in the world, together with some computers in the USA and one computer in the UK which operates computations on nuclear weapons. There is an ongoing debate over the true motive for the adoption of the law. This is only one of the theories. Many countries and companies, including Finland, Norway, Google and TeliaSonera, use the Swedish cables and are very critical of the FRA wiretapping law.
The FRA wiretapping law adopted in June 2008 consists of four statutes, including a newly adopted statute on signals intelligence and changes in three other statutes.
The law will enter into force by 1 January 2009 and the actual operations will start later in the year. FRA has a mandate to search for "external threats", which involves everything from military threats, terrorism, IT-security, supply problems, ecological imbalances, ethnic and religious conflicts, migration to economic challenges in the form of currency and interest speculation. This very broad mandate has attracted a lot of criticism. There is no requirement that the FRA should have a reason to suspect crime or a court order before a Swedish citizen is to be under surveillance. This must be seen against the background that the police may ask FRA for support in its efforts of crime control.
In contrast to what the law actually says, the Government denies that the police may use the FRA and say that FRA will only monitor "phenomena" and not individuals. The critics ask how it is possible to monitor phenomena without monitoring individuals.
As one of the critics, I have accused the Government of "doublethink" and "newspeak" in their defence of the law. The Governments statements are full of contradictions, which they ignore. The main Government Party in a coalition of four parties even deny the core of the law, which obligates all telecom and Internet providers to transfer all communication that passes the Swedish border to FRA.
In the eve of the vote of 18 June 2008 there were strong indications that more than the necessary four parliamentarians of the centre-right coalition would shift side and thus deny the adoption of the statutes. There was intense pressure on these parliamentarians and on the day before the vote, Fredrick Federley, a critic in the centre party, struck a deal with the Minister of Defence, Sten Tolgfors, which involved that additional protection would be added in the interest of privacy at a later point in time. This made the resistance in the coalition parties to crumble.
In the end, only one parliamentarian shifted sides, Camilla Lindberg, of the liberal party who became a national hero while Fredrick Federley, in the eyes of many, lost a lot of credibility as a civil rights promoter. Another member of the liberal group, Birgitta Ohlsson, abstained. The two members of the liberal group had concerns that the additional protection would not change the fact that the law obliges all telecom and Internet providers to transfer all communication that passes the Swedish border to FRA.
This did not quiet the critics. By 14 July 2008 the resistance in the liberal party had regrouped and they published an op-editorial in the daily Dagens Nyheter signed by the necessary four parliamentarians and three previous party leaders representing 25 years of leadership in the liberal party, all demanding the Government should recall the law. Later, two liberal parliamentarians joined the other four and stated live on TV that they were willing to support a motion to recall the law. The Government is making serious efforts to divide the group and make one or several of them return to the Government side.
As of this date, the Government has not been successful. The six liberal parliamentarians must team up with the social democrats, the green party and the left before the end of September 2008. After that, it is impossible to table motions from the opposition which will enter into force during 2009 and recall the law.
To conclude, the showdown for Swedish wiretapping by FRA is in September 2008.
Government Proposal on Defence Intelligence (only in Swedish, 8.03.2007)
Secret EU security draft risks uproar with call to pool policing
and give US personal data (7.08.2008)
EDRi-gram: ENDitorial: Sweden is listening to all internet and phone
EDRi-gram: ENDitorial: A new "NSA FRAnchise" set up in Sweden? (4.06.2008)
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(contribution by Mark Klamberg - Doctoral candidate, Stockholm University - Department of Law)