Tag Archives: surveillance law

Is Sweden’s Surveilllance Law Violating EU Rules?

In the hysteria concerning fear of terrorism that has swept many democratic societies there is a tendency on the part of government bodies to excuse abandoning basic democratic values in the name of “dealing with terrorism.” A lawyer, Robin Loof, at the European University in Florence is charging Sweden with being in violation of basic European laws. He insists the law which allows the National Defense Radio Establishment(FRA) to intercept all calls, emails and phone text messages crossing Swedish borders is a clear breach of fundamental rights governing movement of goods and services in the European Union. He pointed out if a lawyer who was in another country was hired by a Swedish client there communications would no longer be private but could be read by government officials.

Last week a group of Moderate Party politicians demanded a review of the surveillance law due to the number of comments they are receiving from Swedish citizens who are concerned about the threat to their right of privacy. They are arguing bugging is out of line with the principles governing a constitutional state.

One can only wonder if Swedish politicians considered the threat to client-lawyer privacy when drawing up this law.

Refugees Express Sadness At Swedish Surveillance Law

Bangladeshi refugee and writer Tasneem Khalil expressed his sadness at recent actions of the Swedish legislature to pass a bill allowing government officials to spy on citizens. “On a personal level,” says Khalil, “I find it ironic that on June 18, 2008, exactly one year after my family and I were granted political asylum in Sweden, the Riksdag(parliament) passed a draconian surveillance law…I dout that the 143 Riksdag members who voted in favor of the bill will ever be able to understand how I feel. Swedes do not have to watch their back while walking the streets, or invent coded langauge for talking to their wives over telephone or use cryptic sentences in their emails… Back in Bangladesh, I was under constant surveillance for months. I was followed by operatives, my phones were tapped and my office computer was bugged. I was arrested in my home after midnight, blindfolded and tortured at the hands of the Bangladesh military intelligence. One of the most unnerving aspects of these interrogation sessions was to have to sit on a torture bench with my eyes covered while someone described very private details of my life…”

Many refugees in Sweden are disappointed that a nation which offered them freedom lacked the belief in its own democracy and moved into the mode of surveillance against its own citizens. As Khalil notes: “if a democratically eleced parliament empowers an agency to carry out mass-surveillance, that is an even greater disaster.”

Swedish Military Defends Surveillance Law

The head of Sweden’s armed forces entered the debate dealing with passage of a new law which allows the National Defense Radio Establishment to monitor all incoming and out going calls entering or leaving Sweden. Supreme Commander Haken Syren was upset at comments made in parliament during debate over the law and termed them “unfortunate” He admitted there was a gap between the need for intelligence and the rights of privacy and, naturally, came out on the side of the military. “When we face an opponent we ned to know its capabilities and capacity. Intercepting communications is one means for us to ensure we can take reasonable risks.”

We certainly would not advocate weakening of the Swedish military against its “opponents” but are somewhat confused since, as far as we know, Sweden hasn’t been at war in over a hundred years. Exactly, who are those “opponents” the Supreme Leader wants to know about? Who is planning what in Sweden? Perhaps, the Supreme Commander might get his officers together to figure out exactly who is the opponent they are fighting.