Yet another example of an agency completely out of control, without boundaries, limits, or (apparently) any ethical compunctions whatsoever:
The U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) has turned the European Union into a tapping “bazaar” in order to spy on as many EU citizens as possible, NSA leaker Edward Snowden said.The effort is spearheaded by the NSA's Foreign Affairs Division (FAD) working in tandem with member EU governments to exploit loopholes in existing laws so as to allow as much spying on ordinary European citizens as possible. According to Snowden, the NSA's program is designed to avoid public awareness of what is occurring and also to keep its practices from being discovered by lawmakers in those countries. Snowden cites examples of the NSA advising EU member governments such as Sweden and the Netherlands on tactics to "degrade legal protections" governing their countries' communications networks.
The NSA has been working with national security agencies in EU member states to get access to as much data of EU citizens as possible, Snowden said in a testimony sent to Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) published Friday.
Once the NSA has dealt with legal restrictions on mass surveillance in partner states, it pressures them to perform operations to gain access to the bulk communications of all major telecommunications providers in their jurisdictions, Snowden said.After the "legal restrictions" are dispensed with, government agencies are provided with the hardware and technical assistance to begin mass surveillance of designated populations. At this point it is too late for the citizens to protest--or stop it. The process is designed in such a way as to enable the member EU governments to share data with the NSA without "explicitly" having done so, according to Snowden. This is done by setting up "tapping" centers on shared cables which serve to intercept another country's digital traffic, which, in turn, is accessible to the NSA despite fatuous "agreements" between the NSA and "host" countries that their citizens' domestic data will not be "tapped." This allows the NSA, in effect, to dupe countries into accepting their "assistance" without conveying the overarching nature of the surveillance.
It works like this:
The result is a European bazaar, where an EU member state like Denmark may give the NSA access to a tapping center on the (unenforceable) condition that NSA doesn’t search it for Danes, and Germany may give the NSA access to another on the condition that it doesn't search for Germans. Yet the two tapping sites may be two points on the same cable, so the NSA simply captures the communications of the German citizens as they transit Denmark, and the Danish citizens as they transit Germany, all the while considering it entirely in accordance with their agreements,” Snowden said.
Mr Snowden’s written testimony was sent to Brussels ahead of a parliamentary debate next week in Strasbourg where MEPs are due to vote on a report recommending suspension of US-EU agreements allowing for financial and data transfersMr. Snowden's testimony is here. The document is twelve pages long, and includes Snowden's responses to various questions.
As to why he went public:
[Question:] Why did you choose to go public with your information?Snowden also contends he advised no less than ten officials about NSA programs he felt were problematic. No action was taken in response. He was told either not to "rock the boat" or to let the issues be "someone else's problem," according to the testimony.
- Secret laws and secret courts cannot authorize unconstitutional activities by fiat, nor can classification be used to shield an unjustified and embarrassing violation of human rights from democratic accountability. If the mass surveillance of an innocent public is to occur, it should be authorized as the result of an informed debate with the consent of the public, under a framework of laws that the government invites civil society to challenge in open courts.
That our governments are even today unwilling to allow independent review of the secret policies enabling mass surveillance of innocents underlines governments' lack of faith that these programs are lawful, and this provides stronger testimony in favor of the rightfulness of my actions than any words I might write.
From his Introductory Statement:
The right to be free unwarranted intrusion into our private effects -- our lives and possessions, our thoughts and communications -- is a human right. It is not granted by national governments and it cannot be revoked by them out of convenience. Just as we do not allow police officers to enter every home to fish around for evidence of undiscovered crimes, we must not allow spies to rummage through our every communication for indications of disfavored activities.In another era, that could be a quote from the Federalist Papers.