Ms Machon and Mr Drake got several rare rounds of applause from the assembled MEPs. Ms Machon's recommendations to the committee:
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.
- 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):
- to develop and build key infrastructure across Europe that is immune from US governmental and corporatist surveillance; and
- “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.
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.