Edward Snowden, the former US intelligence agency contractor who has
revealed NSA documents showing mass surveillance programmes like Prism
operated by America’s NSA intelligence agency and Tempora by the UK’s
GCHQ, is to give testimony in front of the European Parliament (EP).
It is not yet known when this will take place and the conditions are
also still unclear as there is concern that a live link would expose
British Liberal MEP Sarah Ludford stated that the inquiry wants to
clarify whether Snowden’s motives for leaking the information went
beyond the public interest and if there were any whistleblowing channels
open that Snowden has not used.
The decision was taken on 9 January 2014, right after the EP civil
liberties committee made public its 52-page draft report on the NSA
inquiry, launched in July 2013 to investigate the electronic mass
surveillance of EU citizens.
The draft report, resulted after five months of investigations and
hearings, strongly condemns the mass surveillance of EU citizens by US
and UK intelligence agencies, reaching the conclusion that intelligence
agencies have far exceeded the limits towards systems of mass and
indiscriminate surveillance, this undermining the privacy rights of
millions of people. The committee condemns the “vast, systemic, blanket
collection of the personal data” (including intimate personal
information) of innocent people and calls on US authorities and EU
member states to “prohibit blanket mass surveillance activities and bulk
processing of personal data.”
The committee severely criticises UK and believes the UK’s legal
framework is outdated and needs an overhaul but it also accuses France,
Germany, Sweden and The Netherlands of running their own mass
surveillance programs, co-operating within the so-called “Five Eyes”
snooping club of English-speaking nations. It blames US as well as
European oversight committees for their incompetence in meeting their
task to hold spy agencies accountable.
It also recommends the suspension of EU-US terrorist financial tracking
programme (TFTP) and the Safe Harbour agreement. The committee says that
American data protection laws “do not provide adequate protection for EU
citizens” and calls on the European Commission to produce a
“comprehensive assessment of the US privacy framework covering
commercial, law enforcement and intelligence activities” by June 2014.
The MEPs call on Member States to “refrain from accepting data from
third states which have been collected unlawfully and from allowing
surveillance activities on their territory by third states’ governments
or agencies which are unlawful under national law”.
It calls on the European Commission to evaluate the possibility of
introducing legal liabilities to punish technology companies for
installing secret backdoors for spying or fixing known vulnerabilities
in their software. It believes the European Parliament should consider
procuring open source software that can be secure and free from
backdoors meant for spying. It also urges EU member states to initiate
investigations into “possible cybercrimes and cyber attacks committed by
governments or private actors in the course of the activities under
In the meantime, in the US, an analysis of 225 terrorism cases occurred
since 11 September 2001 attacks has concluded that the bulk collection
of phone records by the NSA “has had no discernible impact on preventing
acts of terrorism,” traditional law enforcement and investigative
methods having proven to be much more efficient.
“Although we might be safer if the government had ready access to a
massive storehouse of information about every detail of our lives, the
impact of such a program on the quality of life and on individual
freedom would simply be too great,” said the report of the White
House-appointed review group.
Draft Report on the US NSA surveillance programme, surveillance bodies
in various Member States and their impact on EU citizens’ fundamental
rights and on transatlantic cooperation in Justice and Home Affairs
Snowden set for EU parliament video link (10.01.2014)
The EU Parliamentary Inquiry’s Report on Mass Surveillance (11.01.2014)
MEPs release draft report damning blanket Internet surveillance
NSA phone record collection does little to prevent terrorist attacks,
group says (13.01.2014)
Do NSA’s Bulk Surveillance Programs Stop Terrorism?