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SURVEILLANCE

New tools needed to ‘preempt national security threats’

The Centre Party's Staffan Danielsson, who sits on the Riksdag's Committee on Defence, explains why he supports Sweden's controversial new surveillance legislation.

New tools needed to 'preempt national security threats'

Sweden’s new surveillance legislation has garnered its fair share critics, but I for one will be voting in favour when the bill is put to the vote in parliament next week.

The proposed law entails using automated search terms to gather information that will be used to preempt serious national security threats. The introduction of the law is a necessary measure if Sweden is to avoid becoming a safe haven for terrorists and other organized criminal networks.

The tapping of telephone calls and email correspondence does of course raise a number of issues from a civil liberties standpoint. But personal integrity concerns need also to be weighed against our duty to protect the country’s security.

All this constitutes a very difficult balancing act. As we in the Centre Party are committed to protecting civil liberties, we have taken steps to ensure that the rights of the individual are given pride of place in the proposal.

We have come a long way towards improving the proposal since it was first tabled several years ago by the previous Social Democratic government. For example, we have ensured that the law will be subject to an official review in 2011, when we will evaluate its success and establish whether any changes need to be made.

I have received many comments to the effect that the surveillance law represents a threat to democracy in Sweden. To this I reply that Sweden has a very fine tradition of democracy, which will continue to prevail once the law is passed.

Surveillance systems are needed if we are to protect ourselves against the threats posed by terrorism and organized crime. Similar systems exists in a number of countries around the world. Unlikely many other countries, however, Sweden has been very open about the development of an effective surveillance system.

A number of visitors to my blog have suggested that Google and a range of other major international companies will sever their ties with Sweden as a direct consequence of our signal surveillance law. But to this I respond with another question: Where will Google and these other companies go? And isn’t Google’s head office in the United states?

A number of people have also suggested that the legislative proposal runs counter to Swedish law. But the Council on Legislation (Lagr├ądet) has approved the law and their suggestions have become part of the bill that will pass though parliament next week. What’s more, a broad majority of parliamentarians agree that we require a regulated signal surveillance system of this kind.

This is, I repeat, a very difficult issue. But a series of opinion polls have shown that the Swedish people share our analysis that more surveillance is necessary if we are to keep external threats at bay.

Staffan Danielsson

SURVEILLANCE

Germany’s far-right AfD ‘placed under surveillance’

Germany has placed the far-right AfD under surveillance for posing a threat to democracy, local media reported Wednesday, dealing a blow to the anti-immigration party in a big election year.

Germany's far-right AfD 'placed under surveillance'
Alexander Gauland, leader of the AfD parliamentary group in the Bundestag on March 2nd. Photo: DPA

Germany has placed the far-right AfD under surveillance for posing a threat to democracy, local media reported Wednesday, dealing a blow to the anti-immigration party in a big election year.

The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV) has classified the Alternative for Germany as a “suspected case” of having ties to right-wing extremism, Der Spiegel magazine said.

The decision, reportedly made late last week, will allow intelligence agents to shadow the party, tap its communications and possibly use undercover informants.

It follows a two-year investigation and a report containing over 1,000 pages of evidence, including several hundred speeches and statements by AfD members at all party levels, Der Spiegel said.

READ ALSO: Germany’s AfD investigated over extremist ties

The anti-Islam, hard-right AfD has often courted controversy by calling for Germany to stop atoning for its World War II crimes. Senior figure Alexander Gauland once described the Nazi era as just “a speck of bird poo” on German history.

While it is the largest opposition party in parliament, it has seen its popularity fall as the pandemic has kept the spotlight firmly on Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling coalition parties.

It faces six regional elections this year and a general election on September 26th, the first in over 15 years that will not feature Merkel, who is retiring from politics.

The BfV had already placed a radical fringe of the party known as The Wing under surveillance last year over associations with known neo-Nazis and suspicions of violating the constitution.

The faction, led by firebrand Bjoern Hoecke, dissolved itself last March but many of its 7,000 members remain active in the AfD.

The Wing’s continued influence in the party was one of the reasons for the BfV decision, according to Der Spiegel, along with links to various other right-wing extremist organisations.

The AfD’s regional branches in Thuringia, Brandenburg, Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt have also been designated as “suspected cases” of right-wing extremism.

The BfV has not yet begun tracking the party and is unable to announce the decision officially because of an ongoing legal dispute, Der Spiegel reported.

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