I managed to listen to all of this session with Edward Snowden (hat tip Deontos) before turning in. It’s long and the pacing may be a bit too leisurely for some due to the formalities of an international gathering, plus the need to speak at a measured pace to facilitate translation.
Snowden’s formal remarks start just after the 7:00 minute mark. There’s then a section where various officials make remarks. That part might seem a bit stilted, but I was struck by the directness and the sense of urgency of some of these remarks. Snowden does a fine job at the end of fielding questions that are often scattered. Snowden’s big messages were familiar: the lack of effective supervision of the US surveillance state, the scope and methods of surveillance, and the ability of citizens to protect themselves if they use strong enough encryption of their data and their communications. I wonder what he would have said about the Heartbleed bug. Note that some sites that used the flawed OpenSSL were able to maintain secure communication by virtue of having additional defenses.
Speaking via Google Hangout from Moscow, Mr Snowden told PACE’s Legal Affairs Committee that such mass surveillance “results in societies that are not only less liberal, but less safe”. He stressed again that his motivation for revealing NSA secrets was to “improve government, not to bring it down”.
Rapporteur Pieter Omtzigt (Netherlands, EPP/CD) said: “Mr Snowden revealed that there is a dedicated programme that specifically targets human rights organisations. He also made it clear that there is a total lack of judicial and political oversight of the NSA. Lastly he said that the countries that co-operate extensively with the NSA – he mentioned the UK, Germany and the Netherlands in particular – have no binding assurances from the US that the exchanged data is not used for illegal operations.”
Other participants included a former head of Germany’s Federal Intelligence Service Hansjorg Geiger, who proposed a “codex” to regulate intelligence activities between friendly states. He also hailed whisteblowing as an effective means of enforcing such a code.
“This is the first clear statement from the (former) head of an intelligence service in support of procedures for whistleblowing in secret services,” said Mr Omtzigt.