Address to investigative panel of the European Parliament looking into the nature and scope of U.S. surveillance conducted by the National Security Agency and its partner agencies in Europe. Following the statement are answers to written questions posed by the panel to Mr. Snowden. The original statement is available here as a pdf.
– Introductory Statement:
I would like to thank the European Parliament for the invitation to provide testimony for your inquiry into the Electronic Mass Surveillance of EU Citizens. The suspicionless surveillance programs of the NSA, GCHQ, and so many others that we learned about over the last year endanger a number of basic rights which, in aggregate, constitute the foundation of liberal societies.
The first principle any inquiry must take into account is that despite extraordinary political pressure to do so, no western government has been able to present evidence showing that such programs are necessary. In the United States, the heads of our spying services once claimed that 54 terrorist attacks had been stopped by mass surveillance, but two independent White House reviews with access to the classified evidence on which this claim was founded concluded it was untrue, as did a Federal Court.
Looking at the US government's reports here is valuable. The most recent of these investigations, performed by the White House's Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, determined that the mass surveillance program investigated was not only ineffective – they found it had never stopped even a single imminent terrorist attack – but that it had no basis in law. In less diplomatic language, they discovered the United States was operating an unlawful mass surveillance program, and the greatest success the program had ever produced was discovering a taxi driver in the United States transferring $8,500 dollars to Somalia in 2007.
After noting that even this unimpressive success – uncovering evidence of a single unlawful bank transfer – would have been achieved without bulk collection, the Board recommended that the unlawful mass surveillance program be ended. Unfortunately, we know from press reports that this program is still operating today.
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