On 5 September 2013, the Civil Liberties (LIBE) committee from the European Parliament organised a first inquiry hearing, which included Jacques Follorou from Le Monde, Jacob Applebaum from the Tor and Wikileaks projects, Alan Rusbridger, editor in chief of the Guardian, Carlos Coelho, EPP MEP and former chairman of the Echelon committee and Gerhard Schmid, former socialist MEP and rapporteur of the Echelon report and Duncan Campell, investigative journalist.

Jacques Follorou explained the French interception system. He explained that there exists absolutely no parliamentary control, neither any control organism, this system obeying only to the executive and having its own sharing logic. This results in an “inscrutable deep state behind the official institutions” which endangers national sovereignty.

Appelbaum detailed to the MEPs the functioning of the Prism program me, how the NSA has insiders at Google and most Telcom giants and thus outsources its information collection, commenting that “it might be a bug but maybe it is a feature”. He also pointed out to one NSA program me which specifically targets types of software to sweep up data from people who are not terrorists and to another system which sends NSA agents into urban areas to penetrate people’s home wireless networks. He repeatedly regretted the illegitimate harassment by American security forces due to post 9/11 laws, which resulted in him being searched and arrested without a warrant: “It is better to be an immigrant in Berlin than a citizen in New-York”.

Alan Rusbridger urged for a stronger press freedom protection, including a law that explicitly protects whistleblowers: “Please protect us as journalists”. According to him, article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights is insufficient or insufficiently enforced. He also denounced illegitimate harassment of journalists and their family by British secret security forces. He insisted that “the mass harvesting of information of entire populations, anybody who is using digital equipment is being put under some form of surveillance, and that seems to be something that cannot happen without consent, it cannot happen without the consent of the population, and that consent cannot be given without information.”

Also both MEPS explained their work on Echelon, and reported that there was nothing new under the sun, except for the available techniques of surveillance. It is just the scale that changed, not the purpose.

Another piece of news at the hearing came from Duncan Campbell who said Sweden’s National Defence Radio Establisment (FRA) is partnered with the NSA and the British intelligence service GCHQ. Campbell said Sweden was the biggest collaborating partner, outside the English speaking countries, with the GCHQ.

Video of the entire session

Unreported NSA spy systems revealed (6.09.2013)