Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Machon & Drake at EU LIBE hearing on mass surveillance

Further essential viewing from the LIBE committee hearings on electronic mass surveillance - MI5 whistleblower Anne Machon on Mon, 30 Sep 2013 15:00 - 18:30. If you're watching via the EPTV site Ms Machon's evidence begins at 17:08:50. YouTube copy of Ms Machon's statement and Q&A with her and Tom Drake, whistleblower and former NSA senior executive:

Ms Machon and Mr Drake got several rare rounds of applause from the assembled MEPs. Ms Machon's recommendations to the committee:
  • Mean­ing­ful par­lia­ment­ary over­sight of intel­li­gence agen­cies, with full powers of invest­ig­a­tion, at both national and European levels.
  • These same demo­cratic bod­ies to provide a legit­im­ate chan­nel for intel­li­gence whis­tleblowers to give their evid­ence of mal­feas­ance, with the clear and real­istic expect­a­tion that a full inquiry will be con­duc­ted, reforms applied and crimes punished.
  • Insti­tute a dis­cus­sion about the legal defin­i­tion of national secur­ity, what the real threats are to the integ­rity of nation states and the EU, and estab­lish agen­cies to work within the law to defend just that. This will halt inter­na­tional intel­li­gence mis­sion creep.
  • EU-wide imple­ment­a­tion of the recom­mend­a­tions in the Ech­elon Report (2001):
  1. to develop and build key infra­struc­ture across Europe that is immune from US gov­ern­mental and cor­por­at­ist sur­veil­lance; and
  2. Ger­many and the United King­dom are called upon to make the author­isa­tion of fur­ther com­mu­nic­a­tions inter­cep­tion oper­a­tions by US intel­li­gence ser­vices on their ter­rit­ory con­di­tional on their com­pli­ance with the ECHR (European Con­ven­tion on Human Rights).”
  • The duty of the European par­lia­ment is to the cit­izens of the EU.  As such it should act­ively pur­sue tech­no­logy policies to pro­tect the pri­vacy and basic rights of the cit­izens from the sur­veil­lance of the NSA and its vas­sals; and if it can­not, it should warn its cit­izens abut this act­ively and edu­cate them to take their own steps to pro­tect their pri­vacy (such as no longer using cer­tain Inter­net ser­vices or learn­ing to use pri­vacy enhan­cing tech­no­lo­gies). Con­cerns such as the trust Europeans have in ‘e-commerce’ or ‘e-government’ as men­tioned by the European Com­mis­sion should be sec­ond­ary to this con­cern at all times.
  • Without free media, where we can all read, write, listen and dis­cuss ideas freely and in pri­vacy, we are all liv­ing in an Orwellian dysto­pia, and we are all poten­tially at risk. These media must be based on tech­no­lo­gies that empower indi­vidual cit­izens, not cor­por­a­tions or for­eign gov­ern­ments. The Free Soft­ware Found­a­tion has been mak­ing these recom­mend­a­tions for over two decades.
  • The cent­ral soci­etal func­tion of pri­vacy is to cre­ate the space for cit­izens to res­ist the viol­a­tion of their rights by gov­ern­ments and cor­por­a­tions. Pri­vacy is the last line of defense his­tor­ic­ally against the most poten­tially dan­ger­ous organ­isa­tion that exists: the nation state. There­fore there is no ‘bal­ance between pri­vacy and secur­ity’ and this false dicho­tomy should not be part of any policy debate.
Ms Machon's point in the Q&A session that she signed the Official Secrets Act to save lives and protect official secrets was particularly well made - she did not agree to protect unofficial secrets and cover up the criminal acts of spies which caused the deaths of innocent people.

The official version of Mr Drake's statement to the committee is at http://www.europarl.europa.eu/document/activities/cont/201310/20131001ATT72162/20131001ATT72162EN.pdf. The video of his statement is available on Youtube and I posted a copy here yesterday. He is a terrifically compelling witness.  Any politician, media commentator or anyone else seeking to excuse mass surveillance and secret illegal, criminal or unethical government behaviour in this context should be compelled to explain themselves under Mr Drake's questioning glare. We could call it the Tom Drake test.

Monday, October 07, 2013

Tom Drake statement to LIBE Committee Mass Surveillance hearings

NSA mass surveillance whistleblower Tom Drake's statement to EU Parliament LIBE Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs committee hearing on mass surveillance on Monday, 30 September, 2013:

The Government Accountability Project has published an almost complete transcript of Mr Drake's statement which will probably be a relief to the interpreters at the committee who were finding it difficult to keep up with Mr Drake's fast talking, intense, potent delivery. The sense of justifiable controlled anger and determination emanating from Mr Drake is palpable, even to an observer in a foreign land viewing through the grace of the internet.

Snowden statement to EU LIBE Committee

Edward Snowden's statement to the EU Parliament LIBE Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs committee on Monday, 30 September, 2013:
"I thank the European Parliament and the LIBE Committee for taking up the challenge of mass surveillance. The surveillance of whole populations, rather than individuals, threatens to be the greatest human rights challenge of our time. The success of economies in developed nations relies increasingly on their creative output, and if that success is to continue, we must remember that creativity is the product of curiosity, which in turn is the product of privacy.
A culture of secrecy has denied our societies the opportunity to determine the appropriate balance between the human right of privacy and the governmental interest in investigation. These are not decisions that should be made for a people, but only by the people after full, informed, and fearless debate. Yet public debate is not possible without public knowledge, and in my country, the cost for one in my position of returning public knowledge to public hands has been persecution and exile. If we are to enjoy such debates in the future, we cannot rely upon individual sacrifice. We must create better channels for people of conscience to inform not only trusted agents of government, but independent representatives of the public outside of government.
When I began my work, it was with the sole intention of making possible the debate we see occurring here in this body and in many other bodies around the world. Today we see legislative bodies forming new committees, calling for investigations, and proposing new solutions for modern problems. We see emboldened courts that are no longer afraid to consider critical questions of national security. We see brave executives remembering that if a public is prevented from knowing how they are being governed, the necessary result is that they are no longer self-governing. And we see the public reclaiming an equal seat at the table of government. The work of a generation is beginning here, with your hearings, and you have the full measure of my gratitude and support."
The statement was read on Snowden's behalf by Jesselyn Radack, the Government Accountability Project's Director of Security and Human Rights and a former ethics adviser to the United States Department of Justice. GAP was an early supporter of Edward Snowden following his revelations of secret US and UK government mass surveillance programs.

Jesselyn Radack's full statement to the LIBE committee is also available on YouTube.

It's powerful stuff and well worth setting aside 15 minutes to pay attention to, from the charge that the Bush administration crossed the rubicon with an attack on whistleblowers, in particular Tom Drake, which amounted to a criminalization of the truth, to the fact that in less than a year the Obama administration indicted more people under the Espionage Act than all previous US presidents combined. She respectfully requests that the committee strengthen laws to protect whistleblowers, laws to protect privacy and laws to protect the rights of publishers in the EU to disseminate revelations like those Snowden has exposed without fear of criminal penalty.