Total NSA Bullshit
- Whistleblower Ed Snowden tells the Council of Europe that the NSA deliberately snooped on groups such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.
- Three current items on the "evil" Human Rights Watch web site are: Rights Abuses Continue in Fiji and Russia: Chechen Activist Leader Arrested, Beaten and China: Investigate Lawyers’ Torture Claims, Close Black Jails .
The US has spied on the staff of prominent human rights organizations, Edward Snowden has told the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, Europe's top human rights body.
Giving evidence via a videolink from Moscow, Snowden said the National Security Agency – for which he worked as a contractor – had deliberately snooped on bodies like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.
He told council members: "The NSA has specifically targeted either leaders or staff members in a number of civil and non-governmental organizations … including domestically within the borders of the United States." Snowden did not reveal which groups the NSA had bugged reports the UK Guardian.
The assembly asked Snowden if the US spied on the "highly sensitive and confidential communications" of major rights bodies such as Amnesty and Human Rights Watch, as well as on similar smaller regional and national groups. He replied: "The answer is, without question, yes. Absolutely."
In live testimony to the Council of Europe, Snowden also gave a forensic account of how the NSA's powerful surveillance programs violate the EU's privacy laws. He said programs such as XKeyscore, revealed by the Guardian last July, use sophisticated data mining techniques to screen "trillions" of private communications.
"This technology represents the most significant new threat to civil liberties in modern times," he declared.
XKeyscore allows analysts to search with no prior authorisation through vast databases containing emails, online chats, and the browsing histories of millions of individuals.
Snowden said on Tuesday that he and other analysts were able to use the tool to select an individual's metadata and content "without judicial approval or prior review".
The XKeyscore program amounted to an egregious form of mass surveillance, Snowden suggested, because it hoovered up data from "entire populations". Anyone using non-encrypted communications might be targeted on the basis of their "religious beliefs, sexual or political affiliations, transactions with certain businesses" and even "gun ownership", he claimed.
Snowden also criticised the British spy agency GCHQ. He cited the agency's Optic Nerve program revealed by the Guardian in February. It was, he said, one of many "abusive" examples of state snooping. Under the program GCHQ bulk collects images from Yahoo webcam chats.
Many of these images were "intensely private" Snowden said, depicting some form of nudity, and often taken from the "bedrooms and private homes" of people not suspected of individualised wrongdoing. "[Optic Nerve] continued even after GCHQ became aware that the vast majority had no intelligence value at all," Snowden said.
Snowden made clear he did believe in legitimate intelligence operations. "I would like to clarify I have no intention to harm the US government or strain [its] bilateral ties," he asserted, adding that he wanted to improve government, not bring it down.
The exiled American spy, however, said the NSA should abandon its electronic surveillance of entire civilian populations. Instead, he said, it should go back to the traditional model of eavesdropping against specific targets, such as "North Korea, terrorists, cyber-actors, or anyone else."