Sweden passes ‘Big Brother bill’

sweden.jpgPress TV | Swedish lawmakers vote in favor of a controversial bill allowing all emails and phone calls to be monitored over ‘security issues’. Lawmakers voted late on Wednesday on one of the most divisive subjects in Sweden in recent years.

The bill was narrowly passed after a few revisions were made with 143 votes in favor, 138 opposed and one parliamentarian abstaining.

Critics of the bill have slammed the proposal as an attack on civil liberties that would create a “Big brother” state, while supporters say it is necessary to protect the country from foreign threats.

Meanwhile, the new law is due to take effect on January 1, 2009 and will allow the National Defense Radio Establishment (FRA) – a civilian agency despite its name – to tap all cross-border Internet and telephone communication, AFP reported.

However, even though the government has said that only cross-border communications would be monitored, all communications risk getting caught in the net since some internet servers are located abroad and FRA would need to check all emails to establish whether they have crossed the border.

At the moment, FRA is only allowed to check military radio communications but with the new law, they will be able to listen in to all cross-border telephone calls, as well as reading people’s emails and text messages.

The Defense Ministry has meanwhile defended the new law by insisting that the new legislation is necessary in today’s changed world, where communications are increasingly transmitted through fiber-optic cables.

Critics of the new law, including human rights activists, journalists, lawyers and even the former head of the Swedish intelligence agency Saepo, had prior to Wednesday’s revision argued that it didn’t go far enough in protecting individual rights.

However the government for its part insists that it has addressed all concerns by its last minute amendments of the law that adds more independent and parliamentary controls to FRA’s work.