Snowden set for EU parliament video link
Former US intelligence agency contractor and leaker Edward Snowden is set to address a European Parliament inquiry on the NSA scandal.
MEPs in the civil liberties committee, who have spearheaded the NSA inquiry for the past six months, voted on Thursday (9 January) to have Snowden provide testimony.
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Thirty-six MEPs voted in favour and two opposed with one abstention
No date has been set but British Liberal MEP Sarah Ludford said the session is expected to be held in the coming weeks.
MEPs are in contact with Snowden’s lawyers to help set up the link but it is unclear whether the testimony will be delivered live or pre-recorded.
There is concern a live link would expose Snowden’s location. Snowden’s revelations helped expose mass surveillance programmes like Prism, operated by America’s NSA intelligence agency, and Tempora by the UK’s GCHQ.
The 30-year old American has since sought refuge in Russia where he is reportedly working at the country's version of Facebook, VKontakte.
Ludford in a statement said the inquiry wants to fully clarify whether Snowden's motives for leaking the information went beyond the public interest and if there were any whistleblowing channels open that he failed to use.
“He will be asked to supply answers to questions put forward by MEPs,” she said.
The idea to have Snowden testify at the parliament came from the Greens in early December. They want member states to grant the fugitive witness protection.
“In inviting the central witness in the NSA scandal, the European Parliament is sending an important signal to the world,” noted German Green Jan Philipp Albrecht.
But conservative British MEPs oppose giving Snowden any platform, claiming his leaks are unlawful and have endangered the lives of people fighting terrorism.
The vote came on the heels of the committee’s 52-page draft report on the NSA inquiry, led by British centre-left MEP Claude Moraes.
Launched in July last year, the inquiry was tasked to investigate the electronic mass surveillance of EU citizens.
The draft report, presented on Thursday, condemned in the “strongest possible terms” the mass surveillance of EU citizens by US and UK intelligence agencies.
It says an increasing focus on security combined with developments in technology means states know more about their citizens than ever before.
Intelligence agencies have moved away from targeted surveillance towards systems of mass and indiscriminate surveillance, seriously undermining the privacy rights of millions, it notes.
The non-binding report recommends US authorities and member states prohibit blanket mass surveillance activities and the bulk processing of personal data.
It says Germany, France, Sweden and the Netherlands need to revise their national laws after reports suggested their intelligence agencies were co-operating with the so-called “Five Eyes” snooping club of English-speaking nations.
It also recommends the suspending EU-US terrorist financial tracking programme (TFTP) and the Safe Harbour agreement.
TFTP allow US agents from the US treasury department access to data on Europeans’ financial transactions so they can identify terrorist money.
Snowden revelations reported by Globo TV, a Brazilian network, in September said the NSA had broken into system and secretly extracted data.
The European Commission closed an inquiry into the allegations after it received assurances from US authorities that the NSA had not broken into the system.
Safe Harbour, for its part, is supposed to ensure firms follow EU data protection laws when processing the personal data of EU citizens but is riddled with loopholes and is rarely enforced by the US federal trade commission.