Demonstrators in Gothenburg

Parliament to Vote on FRA Law

A specific court of law to grant permission for signal intelligence and an authority for citizens who have unlawfully been bugged to turn to for investigation -these are two or the new safe guards in the government’s proposal for the protection of the citizens’ integrity, when Parliament votes the new so called FRA law on Wednesday.

The law, which is part on the legislation against terrorism, enables the Swedish government agency National Defence Radio Establishment (Försvarets Radio Anstalt) to carry out signals intelligence in Sweden. After being widely debated the law was passed in 2008 and came into effect in January this year. Now the government has presented their addendum, which will be voted on today. The majority of the right wing MP’s in the Committee on Defence are in favour of the proposal.

Among the Opposition the situation is reversed and the Social Democrats have publicly promised to scrap it if they win the election in 2010. The Swedish Newspaper Publishers’ Association is critical of the law, which they say compromises the protection of sources.

“By tapping phone lines they breach the protection of sources and we see this as a breach of the Swedish constitution,” said Anna Serner, CEO of the Newspaper Publishers’ Association to Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet.

Both the Swedish Medical association and the Swedish Association of Psychologists are also concerned that the law will compromise their professional capacity. But at the Department for Defence, they disagree.

“Any data which is protected by the constitution, will be destroyed, whether or not it contains information that is of interest to the protection of the realm,” says Sofia Krigman, Political Adviser at the Department.

Another concern on the day of the vote is the complexity of the law and that the Parliament which is to vote on it is perhaps not as briefed as they should be. When Svenska Dagbladet asked the members of the Defence Committee,   five questions regarding the new proposal, only four out of seventeen members were able to answer them all correctly. Seven of the members only had one or two correct answers. Among the questions were; who can order signal intelligence to be carried out, in which cases this intelligence gathering can be justified, and who will be granting the permission.

The Swedish Police Security Service, SÄPO, is also critical of the law, as it  excludes them from be able to order signal intelligence to be carried out. SÄPO maintains that the information they would gain from such intellligence is vital to their crime solving capabilities.

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