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 (Lagrådet) 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.