Friday, June 20, 2008

Reflecting On The Wiretap Vote

In college, I majored in Political Science, but I never enjoyed debating politics with friends, family or colleagues. Following Wednesday's hugely important vote on a wiretapping bill in Swedish Parliament, I feel compelled to express how disappointed I am. Disappointed that Swedish lawmakers, who I've idealized as setting a positive example for the rest of the world to follow in terms of respecting liberties, would approve a wiretapping law that Google calls the "most far-reaching eavesdropping plan in Europe."

The new law will take effect January 1st. It will allow the FRA (Sweden's National Defense Radio Establishment), to monitor all Internet and telephone communication that crosses Swedish borders without a warrant. Swedish lawmakers approved the bill in a 143-138 vote, in the name of national security, despite much uproar from opponents about privacy rights being violated, despite many references to Sweden becoming a "Big Brother" society. Has everyone in Swedish Parliament read the classic George Orwell novel 1984??? It offers a perfect example of what can happen to a society when you allow the government to take control of all communication. I went to bed Wednesday night with a heavy heart.

One only needs to look to the Swedish blogosphere and Swedish newspapers to see how upset the majority of Swedish society appears to be over the passage of this bill. Bloggers in Sweden and across the world fought to defeat the measure with a viral campaign. Demonstrators packed the courtyard outside Parliament before and during Wednesday's vote, many hoisting signs reading "1984" and passing out copies of the book.

Some say "the government will only be looking for certain patterns in communication" to thwart terrorist threats. What about protecting society from having its civil liberties violated? If you haven't read 1984 or haven't read it for many years, I strongly urge you to read (or re-read) it.

Sweden is well known for fostering a culture of peace through diplomatic discussions, setting political examples for the world to follow. What happened in Swedish Parliament this week will go down as a dark day in the history of Swedish politics.

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