The U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) has turned the European Union into a tapping "bazaar" in order to spy on as many EU citizens as possible, NSA leaker Edward Snowden said.
The NSA has been working with national security agencies in EU member states to get access to as much data of EU citizens as possible, Snowden said in a testimony sent to Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) published Friday.
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The European Parliament had invited Snowden to provide testimony for an inquiry into the electronic mass surveillance of EU citizens. That surveillance, often instigated by the NSA but carried out with help of EU member states, is quite extensive, he wrote.
The NSA has been pressuring EU member states to change their laws to enable mass surveillance, according to Snowden. This is done through NSA's Foreign Affairs Division (FAD), he said, adding that lawyers from the NSA and 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 said.
The 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, he said.
Recently, the FAD has used such pressuring techniques on Sweden and the Netherlands as well as on New Zealand, according to Snowden. Germany has also been pressured to modify a law on the secrecy of post and telecommunication correspondence to appease the NSA, eroding the rights of German citizens under their constitution in the process, Snowden said.
"Each of these countries received instruction from the NSA, sometimes under the guise of the U.S. Department of Defense and other bodies, on how to degrade the legal protections of their countries' communications," he said. The ultimate result of this NSA guidance is that the right of ordinary citizens to be free from unwarranted interference is degraded, and systems of intrusive mass surveillance are being constructed in secret within otherwise liberal states, he said, adding that this often happens without the full awareness of the public.
Ultimately, each national spy agency is independently hawking domestic access to the NSA and others "without having any awareness of how their individual contribution is enabling the greater patchwork of mass surveillance against ordinary citizens as a whole," according to Snowden.
Once the NSA has dealt with legal restrictions on mass surveillance in partner states, it pressures them to perform operations to gain access to the bulk communications of all major telecommunications providers in their jurisdictions, Snowden said. "Sometimes the NSA provides consultation, technology, or even the physical hardware itself for partners to 'ingest' these massive amounts of data in a manner that allows processing, he added.