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Mass surveillance is counter-productive and ‘endangers human rights’

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has said that the mass surveillance practices disclosed by US whistleblower Edward Snowden “endanger fundamental human rights” and divert resources that might prevent terrorist attacks.

Approving a resolution based on a report by Pieter Omtzigt (Netherlands, EPP/CD), the Assembly said: “Mass surveillance does not appear to have contributed to the prevention of terrorist attacks, contrary to earlier assertions made by senior intelligence officials. Instead, resources that might prevent attacks are diverted to mass surveillance, leaving potentially dangerous persons free to act.”

The parliamentarians also called for:

  • the collection and analysis of personal data (including so-called metadata) without consent only following “a court order granted on the basis of reasonable suspicion”
  • better judicial and parliamentary control of intelligence services
  • an “intelligence codex” defining mutual obligations that secret services could opt into
  • “credible, effective protection” for whistle-blowers exposing unlawful surveillance

The Assembly called on the Secretary General of the Council of Europe to use powers in the European Convention on Human Rights to ask states parties how their surveillance activities comply with the Convention’s human rights standards. It also encouraged parliaments to carry out inquiries into the NSA affair, similar to that set up by the German Bundestag.

The Assembly added that the “harsh treatment” of whistleblower Edward Snowden - who testified to the Assembly for this report by live video-link from Moscow - by the US authorities did not contribute to restoring mutual trust and public confidence.