Here is the video and a transcript in English of the interview with me on FRA (the Swedish equivalent of the NSA) in the currents events program "SVT Agenda".
Anders Holmberg (AH): Mark Klamberg is with us, lecturer in public international law at Uppsala University. You have been critical against the law on signals intelligence since the debate in 2008, welcome to our show.
Mark Klamberg (MK): Thank you.
AH: What is your opinion, does the Norwegian Government have any basis for their worries?
MK: The legislation permits surveillance towards Norwegian communication. I dont know if and to what extent such surveillance is carried out.
AH: What kind of guarantees could the Norwegian Government get?
MK: I think it would be difficult to issue such guarantees because Denmark and Finland are also worried, if Sweden would issue guarantees to all countries surrounding Sweden, there would not be any communication left to have surveillance on.
AH: Because it is only communications crossing Swedish borders that may be subjected to FRA surveillance?
MK: That is correct.
AH: In the introduction we heard top US officials explain that European intelligence agencies has collected the date and shared it with the US, has the FRA done the same?
MK: Such practice is consistent with my understanding of how the FRA operates, it was disclosed in 2008 by SVT (TV public broadcasting) that the FRA collects and stores huge amounts of metadata and there was a subsequent disclosure that the FRA transferred such data in bulk to the US. Thus it (the FRA modus operandi) is consistent with the current disclosures.
AH: You are talking about “bulk” and “metadata”, what is that?
MK (holding an envelope): Metadata is, if we take the example of a phone call, information on who is making the phone call and who is receiving it, the same applies to e-mails. When talking about an e-mail message one can choose either to read the content of the message or - if we look at an envelope - we can identify the receiver and the sender. One can do so in relation to phone communication and e-mails - metadata is envelope information that is stored in huge amounts. That is what has been revealed now in relation to the US and what has previously been revealed in relation to Sweden.
AH: And it is enormous amounts of communication?
MK: In relation to France and Spain it amounts to tens of millions of records per month which are stored and transferred to the US.
AH: If one does not look into the envelope, what use can one have of it?
MK: One could use such data in an efficient manner to chart crime and terrorism, however it can also be abused and derail. Please allow me to make a comparison. It is not an example of FRA operations. There was a recent disclosure of monitoring by the Skåne province police which involved a large database with records of people with Romani ethnicity. They have not been wire-tapped or had their messages read. They have been monitored (charted). Each record on an individual in isolation may appear harmless but when aggregated it is perceived as very invasive. Now, the FRA is not interested what is happening on the Skåne countryside but it is a good example how metadata surveillance may be intrusive.
AH: Now, the FRA has the (legal) right to conduct surveillance and share data with other countries, what is the problem if the FRA is doing the same thing as other European intelligence agencies?
MK: My view is that the problem is that when this legislation was adopted the message was that it was very regulated and that only small amounts if information would be stored. However, when one studies the internal (FRA) documents leaked to SVT, when I study the law and you read the reports of the Swedish Data Inspection Board the opposite picture emerges: the surveillance and storage of data is massive. The problem is that the Government gives one picture, the law and leaks from inside the FRA on how it actually works gives a totally different picture.
AH: But you have heard Minister of Foreign Affairs Carl Bildt say that we have the best legislation in the world, there is no better law in this area than the law on the FRA.
MK: Sweden has legislation but I don’t think it establishes strong limits, the law has many provisions but each prohibitive provision is subject to a (permissive) caveat/exception. I think this legislation is hollow.
AH: But there is special committee that is exercising oversight over the FRA? It is called SIUN.
MK: As long as the law is very permissive, it does not matter what this committee thinks. Further, it is the Government that makes the appointments to the committee and if the committee would find something unsuitable (in the FRA operations) although still legal, it reports to the Government. Moreover, it is also the Government that has the final say on who sits on the court that approves the reporting (sic! it should be “surveillance”) and the Government can ask the FRA to conduct surveillance. Too much power is associated with the Government (of Sweden) and I perceive that as a problem.
AH: Hold on, I need to understand. So you mean that the Government can ask for surveillance and the Government decides which persons are exercising oversight over the FRA?
MK: That is correct.
AH: And that is not, you…
MK: I don’t agree with Carl Bildt that Sweden has the best legislation. In the US they are having congressional hearings where top officials are questioned. That has not happened in the Swedish parliament, I would have liked such hearings in the Swedish parliament.
AH: These are secret activities. Isn’t obvious that we can’t have public hearings, the FRA cannot provide information on who they are targeting, can they?
MK: Yet they are now having (public) hearings in the US. True, it would be inappropriate if the FRA would disclose to the public who they are targeting and which networks are under surveillance. However, I find it reasonable that the people is entitled to information on the scale of the surveillance. We (the people) don’t know that at the moment.
AH: The Government has been very silent with comments on this matter, what is your conclusion (interpretation)?
MK: Sweden has an exchange of data with the US, if the Swedish Government would start to complain against the US it could soon come right back (at the Swedish Government).
AH: This story will not disappear soon. Mark Klamberg, thank you for being with us.
MK: Thank you.