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There has been a lot of noise among Swedish bloggers, and recently in Swedish media, about a new law that will allow the intelligence agency FRA (Försvarets Radio-Anstalt, the National Defence Radio Establishment) to search through all internet and phone traffic in cables that cross the national border, and force ISPs and phone network operators to install tap points in their networks. They would only be allowed to search for traffic that was related to foreign affairs and immediately destroy any internal Swedish communication that crossed the border by accident (or by design, considering the international nature of the internet).
Many of the critics have been pointing out that it is impossible to differentiate ”internal” and ”external” traffic, but the FRA and proponents of the new law have been assuring everyone that they are not interested in Swedish traffic. It looks like they are probably telling the truth about that.
The law explicitly allows FRA to use any gathered intelligence in trade with other intelligence agencies (probably primarily USA, since an agreement was signed between the two countries last spring about enhanced intelligence cooperation). So what’s in Swedish internet traffic that would be interesting to
USA? Russian internet traffic, it turns out.
Because of Sweden’s high quality net infrastructure lots of traffic from Russia (and other eastern European countries) is routed through networks in Sweden operated by Teliasonera International Carrier. Some say that as much as 80 percent of the internet traffic from Russia passes through Sweden (most of the rest takes an alternate route through Austria). See this article in the Swedish technology paper Computer Sweden (translated by Google, sorry – I’ll add a new link if some English language paper in Sweden writes about it (are you listening, thelocal.se?)):
The government has been pushing hard for this new law – it was first proposed to the parliament a year ago, but was tabled by the opposition using a special procedure for laws that can be considered to infringe on basic constitutional rights. The idea is that the year that the law is tabled should be used for deepened debate and refinement of the proposal, but the government has participated in no such debate and the parliament voted on the exact same proposal today. Due to some government party MPs being doubtful about the proposal, as well as being pressured by their voters and their local party organisations to reject it, there was a long session in the parliament yesterday which culminated in a carefully planned debate between one of the doubtful MPs and the minister of defence. The end result was that the proposal would be resent to the defense committee for some express adjustments, allowing both the government and the individual MPs to save face. The adjustments will in principle change nothing, and the proposal will once again be presented to the parliament later today or early tomorrow and is expected to pass.
It is probably much too late, but if there are any Russians reading this with any sort of diplomatic clout with the Swedish government, please try to help us stop this law!
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