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Lex Blair

Everybody knows how things like this always turn out.

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It's sixty years since Eric Blair aka George Orwell wrote his seminal novel 1984. Blair had been one of the freedom fighters in Spain against Franco; things were going well for a while - until Stalin came in and tried to take over operations. The socialist Blair had a rude awakening.

1984 - written in 1948 - was about the totally controlled society. People had to be taught that if Big Brother said 2 + 2 = 5 then it was true. History was changed after the fact in the spirit of the Ming Dynasty and citizens were monitored everywhere.

1984 is about Winston Smith and his lover Julia. Winston and Julia are a threat to Big Brother. Both are tortured until they renounce each other. Winston is influenced in this decision by Big Brother's people exploiting his extreme fear of rats. He's tortured until he's able to say 'do it to Julia not to me'. Later he and Julia meet in a city square where the latest news of the fictional wars are being displayed on huge marquees; they're both overcome by patriotism and the promise of a victory and they join in with the others to chant 'long live Big Brother'.

Sweden's always been a curious country. The Lena Nyman movies with luminaries such as PM assistant Olof Palme have gone to history as a document of how free and open Swedish society used to be. But times change and it's often technology that changes them.

It's strange not to say curious not to say more than happenstance or coincidence that the old Lex Orwell, first developed under the previous administration, should now be brought back and almost literally shoved through the parliament. PM Reinfeldt, looking like one of his parents might actually be an alien, has had an uncanny luck with his two years at the helm, experiencing nary a setback in all this time. Suddenly he puts forth a proposal guaranteed to incur widespread wrath.

Why did he do this? There's a suspicion he was forced to. The Pirate Bay are still under indictment and their trial is progressing at a snail's pace. The government are hamstrung in conducting their case. And insiders today predict things might end up in a type of 'Al Capone' scenario: prosecutor Roswall won't be able to make the original charges stick but might be able to get TPB on tax evasion.

But who's behind the TPB trial? Certainly not the Swedes. Not to begin with. Swedes aren't particularly concerned about file sharing. They see no purpose in passing laws that make almost everyone in the country a criminal.

But if Swedes aren't against file sharing then who is? Gee who could that be? The MPAA and the RIAA pressured the US government to twist the thumbscrews on the Swedes. Representatives of the then social democrat government were summoned [yes summoned] to Washington and told there'd be severe consequences if they didn't clamp down on TPB and stop the file sharing.

Then minister of justice Thomas Bodström pushed things too far. He interfered in the workings of the prosecutor's office and the Swedish police. Of course he and all the others denied this but it's pretty obvious to all. Roswall sits there with an armada of computers and spends inordinate time trying to find any dirt at all on TPB. Prosecutors don't normally do things like this. They don't waste time. But in this case Roswall outdid himself - and he had to: he'd been told what was expected of him. By the government. Which is illegal - but who cares about legalities anymore when the mighty US threaten with trade sanctions?

It's difficult getting the goods on file sharers if no one's monitoring the traffic. And even if the FRA have been monitoring traffic all along it's not been legal. No one's ever doubted the FRA are doing all the wiretapping they want anyway. And they came out the other day and admitted it. All governments are doing it. And what the FRA do is pea shooter stuff compared to what the US are doing all the time. Often in explicit collaboration with their friends and allies.

But military surveillance doesn't get used in a court of law. If Sweden finds some other country spying on them they don't take the matter to a Swedish court. But if the MPAA and RIAA want to bust file sharers they will in fact have to take the matter to a court. And to do that they need evidence. And data from an illicit surveillance by the FRA is not admissible evidence.

There are those who think Lex Orwell is being forced into law at least in part because the US government demand it. Because the MPAA and the RIAA will then be able to tell the US government to instruct the Swedish government to tell the FRA to keep an eye on file sharers. And once the law's on the books the data the FRA return can be used in a court of law.

There are those who say the MPAA and the RIAA are rubbing their hands with glee. Others might suspect this is all tin foil hat thinking. But after further thought it appears there's good reason to be suspicious and alarmed.

At the end of the day it doesn't matter what good intentions the government have. Or what high ideals the FRA claim to attain to. Such is political naivety at its worst. It's never about what people do with data - it's having the data there in the first place. The transgression of civil rights does not occur first when an authority abuse data at their disposal - the transgression occurs when the data is culled in the first place.

At the end of the 1930s the government of the Netherlands began a census. One of the items on the questionnaire was harshly criticised: ethnic origin.

The Dutch government protested their innocence. Oh no! We would never use that against people!

And they didn't. But a few years later the Nazis rolled into town and they did.

See Also
Radsoft News: To the Vote
Radsoft News: Lex Orwell & Intent
Radsoft News: Lex Orwell - No for Now
Radsoft News: 'I Have To Be Able to Look Myself in the Eyes'

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