Demonstrators in Gothenburg against the law

Security Police - Wiretapping Again?

Swedes have only lived with the newest incarnation of its hugely controversial wiretapping law for three months now, but the government is already looking into changing it again. This time, it wants the Swedish security service to be allowed to take part in the surveillance.

When the so-called FRA law was first introduced, its critics swiftly labeled it an invasion of civil liberties. It would give the Swedish National Defense Radio Establishment, or FRA, the right to monitor all cross-border email and telephone traffic. But the government maintained that it would only monitor international traffic, not domestic communication, and the law was eventually voted through in June 2008 despite the controversy.

It has undergone a number of makeovers since then, though, and the current watered-down version only allows the government and the military to access the wiretapping information. But now the government wants to broaden the law so that the police can order surveillance as well.

Beatrice Ask, Sweden's minister for justice, told Swedish Radio News on Wednesday that the security police, Säpo, needs the wiretapping information to protect Sweden against terrorist attacks. But it would by no means entail some sort of gigantic operation, she said.

"There are things that happen abroad that they need to get information about, but we're not talking about an enormous operation."

The security police have been vocal in their criticism of the current law, which blocks them from accessing information gleamed from wiretapping. An investigation into whether Säpo could be included in the FRA law has already been done, but the minister for justice wants more details.

And so the government is now launching a new investigation into the matter, which will look at whether Säpo's surveillance would best occur in an independent agency or as a part of the existing FRA apparatus.

Social Democrat and former justice minister Thomas Bodström agrees with current minister Beatrice Ask when she says that the police should be allowed to wiretap cross-border telephone and internet traffic. But he doesn't think that simply ordering a new investigation is the best way to reach that goal.

He told Swedish Radio News that "the only way to handle this whole situation is to tear up the law, research thoroughly, and legislate in the right way" instead.

Bodström also added that the timing of the justice minister's announcement was purely political, saying that "it's a pure election tactic" to set up an investigation that will be done after people go to the polls.

He thinks that Beatrice Ask decided to announce the measure now so that she could avoid any negative publicity that might come out of a public debate about the investigation's results, saying that "she could have started it up a year ago."

Our journalism is based on credibility and impartiality. Swedish Radio is independent and not affiliated to any political, religious, financial, public or private interests.
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