As NSA Slammed, EU Panel Wants to Hear Directly from Snowden

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Common Dreams

As NSA Slammed, EU Panel Wants to Hear Directly from Snowden

European Parliament committee invites Snowden to testify via video link as damning report calls US and UK surveillance programs "illegal"

by
Jon Queally, staff writer

A draft investigative report presented to the European Parliament legislative committee charged with investigating the scope and scale of surveillance by the US National Security Agency and the British GCHQ states that the activities of the controversial spy agencies were "illegal" and have "profoundly shaken" the trust between nations on both sides of the Atlantic.

The preliminary version, obtained by the Guardian, shows that the final report by the Justice and Civil Liberties Committee will not likely be friendly towards the U.S. and U.K. governments and the findings seem to further bolster the idea that the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden was justified in being troubled by the nature of the various surveillance programs he leaked to journalists.

As the Guardian reports, the 51-page draft report, was prepared for the committee by Claude Moraes, the rapporteur asked to assess the impact of revelations made Snowden, and includes numerous findings as well as recommendations to the EU legislative body.

Specifically, the report:

  • Calls on the US authorities and EU states to prohibit blanket mass surveillance activities and bulk processing of personal data,
  • Deplores the way intelligence agencies "have declined to co-operate with the inquiry the European parliament has been conducting on behalf of citizens",
  • Insists mass surveillance has potentially severe effects on the freedom of the press, as well as a significant potential for abuse of information gathered against political opponents,
  • Demands that the UK, Germany, France, Sweden and the Netherlands revise laws governing the activities of intelligence services to ensure they are in line with the European convention on human rights, and
  • Calls on the US to revise its own laws to bring them into line with international law, so they "recognise the privacy and other rights of EU citizens."

Though the Moraes report has not been voted on yet and has "no legal force," the Guardian describes it as adding to "the growing body of criticism and outrage at the perceived intelligence abuses" by the NSA and GCHQ.

The report explored many of the clandestine surveillance programs revealed over the past seven months – including Prism, run by the NSA, and Tempora, which is operated by GCHQ. As the Guardian explains:

The former allows the NSA to conduct mass surveillance on EU citizens through the servers of US internet companies. The latter sucks up vast amounts of information from the cables that carry internet traffic in and out of the UK.

Delivering 116 findings and recommendations, the report says western intelligence agencies have been involved in spying on "an unprecedented scale and in an indiscriminate and non-suspicion-based manner". It is "very doubtful" that the collection of so much information is only guided by the fight against terrorism, the draft says, questioning the "legality, necessity and proportionality of the programmes".

Snowden to Testify?

Also on Thursday, with a landslide 36-2 vote, the committee overwhelmingly approved an official invitation to have NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden testify, via video link, to the investigative body that is now looking into surveillance practices by the American spy agency.

Snowden has indicated his willingness to speak with governments about some of what he knows about the NSA, though it is unclear if he will accept this invitation to testify.

As Germany's Deutsche Welle reports:

German EU parliament member Jan Philipp Albrecht expressed doubt at the possibility of Snowden, who currently has temporary asylum in Moscow, giving evidence in the NSA investigation.

Snowden would be worried about the video link pointing US authorities - who are currently seeking his arrest - to his undisclosed location, Albrecht told the news agency AFP, adding that it would be "very unlikely" that Snowden testify.

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