US ‘spied on human rights workers’

NSA listened in on groups such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, says Snowden

Amnesty International supporters cheer as US whistleblower Edward Snowden is introduced via teleconference during the organisation’s  human rights conference in Chicago at the weekend. Photograph: Reuters/Frank Polich

Amnesty International supporters cheer as US whistleblower Edward Snowden is introduced via teleconference during the organisation’s human rights conference in Chicago at the weekend. Photograph: Reuters/Frank Polich

 

The US has targeted prominent human rights organisations and has spied on their staff, Edward Snowden said yesterday, giving evidence to the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, Europe’s top human rights body.

Speaking via video from Moscow, Mr Snowden said the National Security Agency – for which he worked as a contractor – had deliberately snooped on bodies such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. He told MEPs: “The NSA has targeted leaders and staff members of these sorts of organisations, including domestically within the borders of the United States.” Snowden did not reveal which groups the NSA had bugged.

But in live testimony, Mr Snowden gave a forensic account of how the NSA’s powerful surveillance programmes violate the EU’s privacy laws.

He said programmes such as XKeyscore use sophisticated data mining techniques to track “trillions” of private communications. “This technology offers the most significant new threat to civil liberties in the modern era,” 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.

Mr Snowden said yesterday he and other analysts were able to use the tool to select an individual’s metadata and content “without judicial approval or prior review”.

In practical terms, this meant the agency was targeting citizens not involved in any nefarious activities, he stressed.
– (Guardian service)