The FRA law (FRA-lagen in Swedish) is a Swedish legislative package that authorizes the Swedish Defence Radio Authority to warrantlessly wiretap all telephone and Internet traffic that crosses Sweden's borders. It was passed by the Parliament of Sweden on June 18, 2008, by a vote of 143 to 138 (with one delegate abstaining and 67 delegates not present) and took effect on January 1, 2009.
In more detail, "FRA-law" is the common name for a new law as well as several modifications to existing laws, formally called Government proposal 2006/07:63 – Changes to defence intelligence activities (Swedish proposition 2006/07:63 – En anpassad försvarsunderrättelseverksamhet). It was introduced as anti-terrorism legislation, and gives the government agency Swedish National Defence Radio Establishment (FRA, Swedish Försvarets radioanstalt) the right to conduct signals intelligence, to intercept traffic that crosses Swedish borders according to search terms approved by SIUN (Statens inspektion av försvarsunderrättelseverksamheten), though experts argue both that it is impossible to differentiate between international traffic and traffic between Swedes and that the oversight by SIUN is not effective enough.
News reports from Sweden's state broadcast network and other sources report that FRA have in fact been conducting eavesdropping on Swedish citizens for a decade. According to the Swedish National Defence Radio Establishment's Director-General, Ingvar Åkesson, they destroy the data collected after eighteen months, but they confirm that they have, in fact, been collecting information not just on foreigners but also on Swedes as the presence of Swedish search terms used on the data would indicate.
- 1 Protests and criticism
- 2 See also
- 3 References
Protests and criticism
The law has met protests and opposition all across the Swedish political landscape, with even the youth organisations of the parties in the ruling government coalition being against it. Practically all major newspapers have spoken out against the law, along with lobbying organisations such as the Swedish Union of Journalists and the Swedish Bar Association. Telecom and internet companies such as Google, Bahnhof and TeliaSonera shun the law, and there is concern that the law may repel foreign investment in Sweden. The law may result in Sweden being tried by European Court of Human Rights. Protests and rallies are regularly held in the capital Stockholm and in other major cities. The Danish National Church have stated they are worried about the law, and a politician of the Danish Socialist People's Party wants the Danish government to send an official protest to Fredrik Reinfeldt, prime minister of Sweden. The Finnish government has already done so.
On August 8, 2008 Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet reported that a recent poll suggests 51% of the Swedes are opposed to the law, as compared to 47% in June 2008. It also claims that the trust in Sweden's prime minister, Fredrik Reinfeldt, might be in danger.
Although the Swedish Social Democratic Party voted against the proposition, their opposition was merely on technical grounds as they put forth the original proposition in 2007. All four parties in the ruling government coalition Alliance for Sweden (the Moderate Party, the Centre Party, the Liberal People's Party and the Christian Democrats) voted in favor of the proposition. Only two parties in the Riksdag, the Left Party and the Green Party, outright rejected the proposition.
However, the youth organizations of all seven riksdag parties, including those of the ruling coalition parties, have spoken out against the proposal. Their responses are below. There have been more or less organized resistance internally in all of the four parties voting for the law, both informal and organized through organizations as CenterUppropet and Borgerligt Nej.
On June 13, 2008, the Centre Party Youth (CUF) published a news item on their website stating that "CUF wants more integrity, not less", and that they are sorry the law passed. Their chairman, Magnus Andersson, is quoted as saying "We still wish the law had not passed, nothing else is okay from our perspective."
The Liberal Youth of Sweden (LUF) posted several news releases about the FRA law, the earliest dating June 10, 2008 and titled "FRA is the threat". In it, chairperson Frida Johansson Metso states that LUF demands that all Liberal People's Party MPs vote against the proposition, citing a party program stating that states that "liberals have, throughout history, always struggled against those who have wanted to restrict the sanctity of the individual", asking the rhetorical question, "do the current MPs want to rewrite history?". Johansson Metso declares that she is "sick of Orwellian newspeak" and goes on to say that by "safety for the individual" the government means "security for the state" and makes other similar comparisons. The press release also reveals the opening of a new campaign website, "your border", highlighting the privacy and personal freedom issues raised by the FRA law.
The next news release, from June 18, 2008, primarily focuses on criticizing the Centre Party MPs Fredrick Federley and Annie Johansson, stating that while their action might be perceived to be supportive of the opposition to the FRA law, in reality they only splintered the opposition and effectively made sure the proposition would pass. Another news release from the same day repeats that Federley and Johansson gave away the FRA law, and calls for Liberal People's Party MPs to vote against the proposition. As of June 24, 2008, the latest press release related to the FRA law was posted on June 19, 2008 - one day after the law has passed - praising the Liberal People's Party MP Camilla Lindberg, the only MP from the Alliance for Sweden to vote against the proposal, and announcing Lindberg's receiving of the Bertil Ohlin medal, the highest distinction awarded by the LUF. In the press release, Lindberg is compared to Zlatan Ibrahimović, a Swedish footballer. Birgitta Ohlsson, a Liberal People's Party MP who abstained from voting (but not voting against) is thanked, along with the three opposition parties: the Social Democrats, the Left Party, and the Green Party.
On June 12, 2008, the Moderate Youth League demanded that Moderate Party MPs voted in with the support of the youth league - Anna König Jerlmyr, Tomas Tobé, Oskar Öholm, Fredrik Schulte, Patrik Forslund, Anna Bergkvist, Lars Hjälmered and Karl Sigfrid - vote against the proposition, calling it the "greatest violation of personal right to privacy in the history of Sweden". Chairman Niklas Wykman was quoted as saying "claiming that one has to follow the party line is just an excuse to avoid personal responsibility", and that the proposition would create system where everyone would be under constant surveillance. Wykman further claimed that historically, all systems break and fault eventually, and asked if the MPs were willing to face the consequences when this system did.
On June 17, 2008, after the law was rereferred, the Moderate Youth League claimed that they were convinced that the "mass surveillance proposition" would fall. Wykman was quoted as saying he believed it would be seen as the bluff it was, and that as long as the FRA would be able to read e-mail without any form of suspicion of crime, the proposition should not be approved in any form. It is then stated that MUF has worked against the law ever since it was first brought forth in its original form by Thomas Bodström of the previous Social Democrat administration, and that they will continue to do so. When the law finally passed with only minor modifications, the Moderate Youth League took part in the demonstrations outside the Riksdag building.
Niklas Wykman has on his blog stated that he cannot be a member of a party that supports the idea of wiretapping the communication of all Swedes, but that all hope is not lost. His post does however end on a rather somber note, stating that "by next spring, you may be dancing around a radio tower" (instead of dancing around a maypole).
On June 16, 2008, the Young Christian Democrats (KDU) posted a news release to their website, declaring that the so-called FRA law threatens personal privacy and individual freedom, and their intent to supply all Christian Democrat MPs with a copy of George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four to make them "wake up". It was stated that the chairman of KDU, Charlie Weimers, would personally go to the Riksdag to hand out the books. Weimers is cited as stating that "The proposition is not only a threat to privacy, but in the end also something that can put the principles of the free society at stake."
On June 9, 2008, the Young Greens (whose mother party the Green Party is part of the parliament opposition), arranged a manifestation against the proposition (dubbing it "Lex Orwell") together with the Centre Party Youth, Young Christian Democrats, Liberal Youth and the Social Democratic Youth League. Maria Ferm, one of the two spokespersons of the Young Greens, held a speech at the rally.
On June 16, 2008, an opinion piece was published at SVT Opinion, which called for four "heroes", right-wing MPs that would vote against the proposition in parliament. The opinion piece was signed by Maria Ferm, together with Niklas Wykman (chairman of the Moderate Youth League), Frida Johansson Metso (chairperson of Liberal Youth), Magnus Andersson (chairman of the Centre Party Youth), and Jytte Guteland (chairperson of the Social Democratic Youth League). On the same day, Ferm compared the law to the American USA PATRIOT Act, repeated her hope that four right-wing MPs would vote no, and noted the power bloggers and the internet had exerted on the campaign against the proposition in her newsletter.
After the proposition was rereffered on June 18, 2008, the Young Greens published a news release comparing the effects of the proposed legislation to setting up a surveillance society similar to that of Burma or China. Both Jakop Dalunde (one of the two spokespersons of the Young Greens) and Maria Ferm was quoted criticizing the Alliance for Sweden for not listening to their own youth wings, all of which opposed the proposition. Ferm was also quoted as stating that "The Greens are now the only liberals left in Swedish politics."
The day after the proposition was finally passed, the Young Greens published another news release declaring that June 18, 2008 was a historic day for both Russia and Sweden: Russia passed group play in the UEFA European Football Championship for the first time since the breakup of the Soviet Union, something that Sweden usually is quite good at; and Sweden became world-leading in mass surveillance, something that Russia is usually better at. Ferm also expressed her astonishment over Swedish liberals voting in favor of the proposition, "giving Sweden surveillance mechanisms that would have made Stalin envious". On the same day, yet another news release was published, calling for the Liberal Youth to change their party affiliation from the Liberal People's Party to the Green Party. "The latest vote in parliament shows the mile-wide distances between youth wing and mother party. LUF stands considerably closer to us Greens on issues of freedom and liberty", Jakop Dalunde (spokesperson of the Young Greens) was quoted as saying.
The Pirate Party has protested against the law since it was first shown to the public. The party has by itself and together with other political youth organisations and non-political speakers spread the word about the proposition since when it was first introduced. It was only in the second quarter of 2008 that things started to gain momentum and the proposition got attention after the party leader Rickard Falkvinge at a rally in Stockholm publicly revealed a secret tape-recording with a former manager of the FRA who said that this type of signals interception was not subject to existing Swedish law, hence the need for legislation.
Green League (Finland)
The large majority of Finland's international telecommunication goes through Sweden. Green League requests that the Finnish government expresses its deep concerns to the Swedish government that the FRA law unreasonably threatens the privacy and information security of Finnish citizens and companies. The party also stated that Finnish citizens and companies need to be warned about the risks involving telecommunication and Sweden. Jyrki Kasvi stated that telecommunication that goes through Sweden should be encrypted, and raised the question whether Finland needs to set up new systems and completely bypass Sweden.
The Swedish telephone company and ISP Phonera has announced that it plans to develop and release a "wiretapping-proof" encryption service before the end of 2008.  The FRA law mandates making cross-border phone calls and data traffic available for interception, but not revealing customers' traffic.
In 2012 no information, regarding any development or release of a "wiretapping-proof" service, is found in the Phonera Website.
Telephone companies in Finland have expressed their worry about the law, as it will make it illegal for them to deliver international telephone conversations via the Swedish networks. Due to this, Swedish-Finnish TeliaSonera has, as of June 5, 2008, moved their Sonera (Finnish) e-mail servers out of Sweden, as Finnish law requires communication to be confidential. They have also transferred Swedish customers from Finnish to Swedish servers, to prevent Sweden-to-Sweden e-mail from crossing the border.
Juha-Pekka Weckström, Senior Vice President of TeliaSonera Broadband Services Finland stated:
|“||We decided to move Sonera's e-mail services back to Finland in order to protect the privacy of our Finnish customers. After the migration, e-mails sent from one Finnish Sonera user to another will not cross Finland's borders at any stage.||”|
The Pirate Bay
Electronic Frontier Foundation
|“||Sweden is a part of the European Union: a community of states which places a strong emphasis on the values of privacy, proportionality, and the mutual defence of those values by its members. But even as the EU aspires to being a closer, borderless community, it seems Sweden is determined to set its spies on every entry and exit to Sweden. When the citizens of the EU talk to their Swedish colleagues, what happens to their private communications then?||”|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to FRA.|
- Swedish National Defence Radio Establishment
- Titan traffic database
- SIGINT intercept database
- Onyx (interception system), the Swiss "Echelon" equivalent
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