Prism, Tempora… and ECtHR?
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By revealing documents about Prism US surveillance programme, Snowden,
the former American National Security Agency (NSA) employee, seems to
have opened a Pandora box. Der Spiegel has brought out new revelations
that EU offices in Brussels, New York and Washington were bugged by NSA
under the same Prism programme.
According to Der Spiegel, a series of bogus phone calls to the Justus
Lipsius building, hosting the EU Council, were traced back to NATO
headquarters in Brussels where NSA agents are based, indicating an
attack on the EU communications security.
These revelations have put the trade agreements between the EU and the
USA under serious threats. “We cannot negotiate on a giant transatlantic
market when there is even the slightest suspicion that our partners are
spying the offices of the negotiators,” stated EU justice commissioner
“The Prism revelations have made European parliamentarians more
receptive to stronger measures,” told Joe McNamee from EDRi to New York
Times. “But the reaction has not been as strong as we had hoped for.”
Moreover, the British intelligence service, GCHQ seems to have also been
running a similar, even bigger surveillance programme called Tempora,
in operation for the last 18 months, which taps into transatlantic
fibre-optic cables used for telephone and Internet services. The agency
processes large amounts of sensitive personal information which it is
sharing with NSA.
“It’s not just a US problem. The UK has a huge dog in this fight,. They
(GCHQ) are worse than the US,” stated Snowden for the Guardian.
The Guardian says that GCHQ handles 600 million “telephone events” each
day, having tapped into more than 200 fibre-optic cables.
Unfortunately, neither programmes respect data protection safeguards.
The US FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) Amendment Act
explicitly allows the US authorities to spy on the anyone’s Internet
activities and communications even outside the country, to monitor
political and commercial activities even if these are just vaguely “of
interest” to the government. The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act
(RIPA) allows the UK government to do the same whenever a
“communication” is initiated or ends in the UK.
Douwe Korff explains in The Guardian that GCHQ is clearly in breach the
European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) under which the UK has a duty
to prevent agencies such as NSA from spying on the data and
communications of British and other individuals. Even more, GCHQ is
facilitating NSA access to these data.
In the US, the national branch of Amnesty International took the spying
issue to the domestic courts which dismissed the case considering the
allegations were “too speculative”. Now, in the light of the new
revelations, Amnesty and others civil rights groups should urgently
consider taking a case to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR)
EU-US relations at risk after new bugging scandal (1.07.2013)
EDRi-gram: US agencies have unlimited access to Internet data (19.06.2013)
EDRi-gram: EDRi letter to the US Embassy on PRISM (19.06.2013)
UK spy scheme said to be larger than Prism (24.06.2013)
We can use European law to challenge this spying (23.06.2013)
Attacks from America: NSA Spied on European Union Offices (29.06.2013)
E.U. Reaction to Data Sharing Revelations Grew Slowly (30.06.2013)