The FRA Law

Today the Swedish Parliament came back from their extensive vacations, all sun-burned and shaking sand from their sandals, and got directly down to business. First order of duty: how to effectively spy on their own population.

You see, dear people, a new law comes into force on January 1, 2009, which gives the Swedish National Defence Radio Establishment (the FRA) the right to intercept all electronic communications crossing Sweden’s borders. This includes your email and my mobile traffic and pretty much everything else sent as a stream of bits.

However, this is not as novel as it seems. It turns out that the Swedish state has been already doing this for years. The data is destroyed after 18 months but in the meantime any and all private exchanges passing the borders have been fair game for data trawling. So this law is simply “legalising” a practice already in place, and giving the FRA strict guidelines about how to carry out the government’s wishes.

This doesn’t cut it with the Swedes and the new law has risen quite a storm, especially since the Liberal alliance currently in change of Sweden are, as Liberals, supposed to be against exactly this kind of state interference in the private sphere. And despite essentially all of the youth sections of the main parties both sides being against this law, it nevertheless passed muster on June 18 this year with 143 votes to 138, one delegate abstaining, and 67 delegates not bothering to show up at all.

Fears are rife that this law will lead to less investment in Sweden and eventually undermine the government, as well as making the Swedish tradition of openness, integrity and dialogue a bit of an international joke.

And the best part is that any REAL terrorists using email will of course use data encryption (now freely available) or their own private codes. The only people the state will successfully spy on with this are its own citizens.

And of course on Russia, which sends a lot of electronic traffic via Sweden and is making this part of the world understandably jumpy lately with its tanks and guns and all.

And even though this law is being used by the opposition to damage the present government, it was in fact the previous Social Democratic led government who put forth the original proposition in 2007. Which makes it all the more amusing that the opposition leader Mona Sahlin has promised to tear up the new law if they come into power in 2 years from now. I guess politicians have short memories. Or scriptwriters with a developed sense of irony.

So watch what you say on the phone if you happen to call Sweden next year. And just remember to send all future correspondence to me on paper. Or maybe by smoke signal.

/ paddy


16 thoughts on “The FRA Law

  1. ….or alternatively, we could send you many cryptic emails about blowing shit up, and wait for the Swedish Secret Police to kick you door down!!

    (You didn’t know about the swedish secret police, did you – that’s how secret they are!)

  2. Dear Swedish Secret police, and any other intelligence agencies who might be monitoring this website
    I would like to categorically state that PaddyK is not currently, nor has he he ever been, a member of an organisation that likes to blow shit up (although he did once steal a Stop sign from the end of a road somewhere between Listowel and Ballylongford about 18 years ago – but I’m sure he doesn’t do that sort of thing anymore and you should definitely not let this effect your decision on whether he should be granted entrance/egress to/from your country, and yes all Irish passports do look like that)

  3. Yeah, people do have a short memory. What about the social democrats and the IB-affair? Or when the Left Party (previously the Communists) were spying on members returning from the Soviet Union in order to stop their “lies about the workers paradise”? All this despite their family members having being exterminated in Stalin’s concentration camps?

    What about those left people who have no problem voting for the Communists, wearing a cool DDR-training jacket and then demonstrating against FRA? Those people also set fire to posters with right-wing candidates during elections in the name of democracy.

    We need a big debate about democracy in Sweden! We also need a big debate about Communism and its victims, as we did about Fascism and its victims, because we have to prepare the population against mass psychosis in order to save our democracy. People must vote or question things and make their own statments, not just because it’s cool or because they belong to a certain ideology.

    What are we voting for/against and why? Many people don’t know what the FRA is – all they know is that it’s scary and against democracy. But do they know why, or that methods like this have been used by almost all governments? And especially by Communist ones?

  4. H: It’s true that communism and its abuses has not yet been properly discussed in the parts of the world that haven’t directly suffered it (like Sweden). And it needs to be de-glorified in the same way as other fundamentalist ideologies.

    But the right and centre can abuse power as much as the left can. People on the right, for example, have a tendency to always back the US in whatever they do, even though the US regularly abuse its own power hugely. Such as when it always vetoes any UN resolution condemning Israel, or anybody else it is currently “supporting”, even brutal and undemocratic regimes.

    Too much power, when given to left or right, tends to lead to the same ends. And not everybody on the left supports communism, just as not everybody on the right supports the US.

  5. How’s that going for you?

    (and remember, you’re meant to obey the signs, not appropriate them, that’s one of the differences between the Swedish and the Irish systems)

  6. Scriptwriters need their overdeveloped sense of irony in order to be scriptwriters in the first place and withstand the assaults of customers and production team members alike….

    Er… now – what has this got to do with the FRA? Right – most parties eventually tear up laws or regulations that they proposed last time they were in power. That’s the irony of politics.

  7. DrDan: It’s going forward, but I have to shortly shell out for real lessons to make progress. Scarily expensive.

    LadyFi: We’re off on a slight tangent. But that’s the fun of it.

    Chris: Pretty good puffing.

  8. Yeah, I know, but it is OK to blame the US, Israel and fascism for everything and glorify Communism by claiming that the Soviet Union wasn’t really Communism, according to Marx. But what we have to deal with no matter what ideology we have is to raise our common sense of democracy.

    I am not scared of low educated skinheads in small villages – they won’t ever be able to rule the country anyway. The real huge power group that can destroy our democracy today are young educated left-wing people who try to force their lifestyle on others in the name of democracy – human rights, animals rights, and so on. And it more likely they will succeed than an uneducated fast-food eating pink shaved pig claiming that he belongs to a superior race.

    FRA is scary but all of us should read what it actually contains and what is good about it too. Most of these people quoting “1984” haven’t actually read it, and maybe they should before they open their mouths.

  9. What I find most amusing about this whole mess is that people never bothered to think about this stuff before, when FRA were pretty much free to do whatever they wanted.

    I need to read “lex Orwell” itself though, before I have any more opinions than that.

  10. Reading Orwell makes you more scared about FRA, but most people think the concept “Big Brother” refers to a realityshow than the novel by Orwell. Its both scary but the realityshow is more humiliating than dangerous for the democracy.

  11. beardonaut: I know. People only seem to get all excited about things that the media tell them they should be getting all excited about. People are, basically, sheep. And not even cute sheep.

    H: I suspect that these kinds of shows may actually damage democracy by making people think that voting is something you can only do via SMS. And that the person with most friends always wins.

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