As part of a European parliamentary committee’s inquiry into electronic massive surveillance on the citizens of European Union member states, former NSA contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden provided testimony to the committee.
Snowden described to the committee how spy services in the EU cooperate with the NSA to monitor citizens in countries without ever having to admit that this surveillance is happening.
“The nature of the NSA’s “NOFORN,” or NO FOREIGN NATIONALS classification, when combined with the fact that the memorandum agreements between NSA and its foreign partners have a standard disclaimer stating they provide no enforceable rights, provides both the NSA with a means of monitoring its partner’s citizens without informing the partner, and the partner with a means of plausible deniability,” Snowden testified.
According to him, this creates a kind of “European bazaar.” Any EU member state can give NSA access to a “tapping center” on the condition that the NSA does not spy on that state’s citizens.
…[A]n EU member state like Denmark may give the NSA access to a tapping center on the (unenforceable) condition that NSA doesn’t search it for Danes, and Germany may give the NSA access to another on the condition that it doesn’t search for Germans. Yet the two tapping sites may be two points on the same cable, so the NSA simply captures the communications of the German citizens as they transit Denmark, and the Danish citizens as they transit Germany, all the while considering it entirely in accordance with their agreements. Ultimately, each EU national government’s spy services are independently hawking domestic accesses to the NSA, GCHQ, FRA [Swedish National Defence Radio Establishment], and the like without having any awareness of how their individual contribution is enabling the greater patchwork of mass surveillance against ordinary citizens as a whole…
What makes the “patchwork of mass surveillance” possible, Snowden also highlights, is how the NSA’s Foreign Affairs Division pressures or incentivizes EU member states to “change their laws to enable mass surveillance.
“Lawyers from the NSA, as well as the UK’s GCHQ, work very hard to search for loopholes in laws and constitutional protections that they can use to justify indiscriminate, dragnet surveillance operations that were at best unwittingly authorized by lawmakers,” he stated. “These efforts to interpret new powers out of vague laws is an intentional strategy to avoid public opposition and lawmakers’ insistence that legal limits be respected, effects the GCHQ internally described in its own documents as ‘damaging public debate.'”
Specifically, Snowden recounts recent developments: