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Sweden approves wiretapping bill immediately following last-minute changes

[JURIST] The Swedish parliament Wednesday passed a controversial warrantless wiretapping law [draft text, in Swedish] that gives the country's National Defence Radio Establishment [official website] broad authority to monitor international telephone and electronic communications passing through the country. The bill, which had been rejected Tuesday [JURIST report], passed by a narrow 143-138 margin after last-minute changes made by lawmakers. The changes included a provision for independent oversight of the program, but critics say the revised bill still does not do enough to protect privacy interests. Opposition party members say the program could also be used to intercept domestic communications [press release, in Swedish], and the International Federation of Journalists argued it could compromise source anonymity [press release]. The new law will take effect in January 2009. AP has more. BBC News has additional coverage.

Warrantless wiretaps have been an increasingly controversial topic, as officials struggle to balance civil liberties with security concerns. In February, a Canadian judge ruled [excerpts] that Section 184.4 of the Canadian Criminal Code [text], which allows law enforcement officers to electronically intercept private communications in "exceptional circumstances" without court authorization, is unconstitutional because it violates "the fundamental freedom to be free from unreasonable search and seizure" protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms [text]. In March, the US House of Representatives narrowly passed a controversial bill to amend the Foreign Intelligence Security Act [JURIST news archive] that would extend government power to eavesdrop on individuals within the US under judicial oversight but not grant retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies that had previously allowed the government to eavesdrop on their lines as part of its warrantless wiretapping program [JURIST news archive].

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