The effects of the new FRA Act are difficult to predict

The Swedish Parliament has adopted the much discussed and generally criticised FRA Act. However, the question is whether there is anyone who entirely understands what it is they have decided. The proposal, which first saw the light of day in 2006 has been revised several times, postponed, investigated further, adopted and revised again.

Today’s decision covers several changes to the Act and its application, primarily from an integrity perspective. In the main, the government has tried to specify and legislate for signal intelligence: Only the Government, the Government Offices and the Military Authorities may order signal intelligence, a special court is to be established to effect permits for signal intelligence, the search words are restricted, it is made clear in law that FRA may not monitor traffic where both the sender and the recipient are in Sweden, a duty to inform the individual who is the object for surveillance is introduced, a control agency is established and there will be some form of evaluation in 2011, to check whether the operations are run in an genuinely ethical manner.

In exactly the same way as for other proposed bills on secret surveillance, the government has chosen a type of patchwork technique to rectify the deficiencies in the protection against abuse and for the personal integrity.

“It can only be regretted that Parliament has now adopted a proposal that is so muddled that it is not possible to predict what effects the changes will have in reality,” says Robert Hårdh, Executive Director for Civil Rights Defenders.

The proposed bill came in for hard criticism from bodies such as the Chancellor of Justice, legal institutions and human rights organisations during the official period for submitting comments. However, criticism also comes from the Swedish Security Service (Säpo) and FRA. Säpo is particularly displeased that they will no longer be able to order signal intelligence.

“Parliament has now adopted a law which really does not satisfy anyone. It would have been reasonable to have taken a comprehensive approach from the start and to have properly investigated both the need for signal intelligence in cables and the integrity aspects, instead of cutting and pasting ideas from other laws, as has happened now.”

However, the security service’s need for signal intelligence is to be investigated. According to the government, the fact that Säpo has been denied the possibility of signal intelligence in the Act as it has now been adopted is a consequence of the prevailing political climate.

“There will probably be a new bill soon, where Säpo will be once again given the right to order signal intelligence. The law enforcement agencies’ needs are often taken for granted and they are prioritised before aspects such as effectiveness, proportionality and integrity”, observes Hårdh.

Categories: News.
Tags: FRA Act and Secret Surveillance.
Regions: Sweden.