11/03/2014 London Green MEP Jean Lambert has called for stronger action from the UK government to end the scandal of mass surveillance of citizens by the US and the UK intelligence services.
Speaking ahead of tomorrow’s (Wed 12th Mar) vote on the findings of the European Parliament Inquiry into Electronic Mass Surveillance of EU citizens, Lambert pointed to evidence from US whistleblower Edward Snowden that the UK’s GCHQ was “intercepting and storing unprecedented quantities of ordinary citizens’ communications on a constant basis” under what they refer to as a “light oversight regime”- working on an even less restricted basis than the US.
Snowden also provided evidence that surveillance information being gathered was regularly used for economic espionage and could not be justified by national security concerns.
Lambert, a member of the Civil Liberties Committee which produced the report, also urged MEPs to back the Green amendments and establish protection for Snowden, a former US Intelligence operative who revealed the extent of mass surveillance.
Lambert said: “Mass surveillance is a violation of our rights, and a threat to liberal democracy. We cannot let governments simply brush aside due process of law and use fear-mongering to justify untargeted spying on innocent citizens.
“There’s been deserved criticism of the US activities, but the UK must get its own house in order. Evidence revealed by Snowden found the UK to be regularly bypassing due democratic, legal and judicial processes in favour of indiscriminate surveillance.
“Far from making us safer, such mass surveillance is ineffective, wasting resources that could be targeted on genuine leads. It damages the very fabric of democracy and takes us down a very dangerous path.
“This report from the European Parliament is a positive first step – it sends a clear message that mass surveillance must end, and the UK must uphold EU law and fundamental rights.
“But it doesn’t go far enough, and we should send an even stronger message – starting with granting Edward Snowden protection in the EU. Instead of blaming the messenger we should look at the system that Snowden exposed. Whistleblowers who reveal serious violations of fundamental rights must be protected, not villified.
“The European Parliament’s inquiry is only the start in bringing this surveillance scandal to an end. It is time for the UK government to get its house in order, and make sure our rights are protected.”
1. Greens/EFA Respect My Privacy campaign: http://www.blamethegame.respect-my-privacy.eu/
2. Snowden’s responses to the civil liberties committee request for evidence are accessed here: http://www.blamethegame.respect-my-privacy.eu/Snowden_answers.pdf
Extracts of Snowden’s evidence relating to the UK:-
“Lawyers from the NSA, as well as the UK’s GCHQ, work very hard to search for loopholes in laws and constitutional protections that they can use to justify indiscriminate, dragnet surveillance operations that were at best unwittingly authorized by lawmakers.”
“These efforts to interpret new powers out of vague laws is an intentional strategy to avoid public opposition and lawmakers’ insistence that legal limits be respected, effects the GC HQ internally described in its own documents as ‘damaging public debate.’ ”
“In the UK, Verizon,British Telecommunications [BT], Vodafone, Global Crossing, Level 3, Viatel, and Interoute all cooperate with the GCHQ, to include cooperation beyond what is legally required.” http://www.theguardian.com/business/2013/aug/02/telecoms-bt-vodafone-cables-gchq
“The UK’s GCHQ is the prime example of this, due to what they refer to as a “light oversight regime,” which is a bureaucratic way of saying their spying activities are less restricted than is proper” (http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2013/jun/21/legal-loopholes-gchq-spy-world ).
“Since that light oversight regime was revealed, we have learned that the GCHQ is intercepting and storing unprecedented quantities of ordinary citizens’ communications on a constant basis”http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2013/jun/21/gchq-cables-secret-world-communications-nsa.
“In the United States, we use a secret, rubber-stamp Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that only hears arguments from the government. Out of approximately 34,000 government requests over 33 years, the secret court rejected only 11. It should raise serious concerns for this committee, and for society, that the GCHQ’s lawyers consider themselves fortunate to avoid the kind of burdensome oversight regime that rejects 11 out of 34,000 requests. If that’s what heavy oversight looks like, what, pray tell, does the GCHQ’s “light oversight” look like?”
4. The European Parliament debate on the report on the inquiry into electronic mass surveillance of EU citizens: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?type=REPORT&reference=A7-2014-0139&language=EN&mode=XML