Former US intelligence contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden’s latest allegations point to a very real risk that human rights defenders, including Amnesty International staff, have been the targets of mass surveillance by the US and British spy agencies.
Snowden, who is living in exile in Moscow, made the remarks this afternoon via videoconference to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in Strasbourg, France.
When asked if the US National Security Agency (NSA) or its British counterpart Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) were actively spying on human rights organizations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and others, he said: “Without question, yes, absolutely …The NSA has in fact specifically targeted the communications of either leaders or staff members in a number of purely civil or human rights organizations of the kind described”.
“These allegations, if substantiated, would confirm our long-held fears that state intelligence agencies like the NSA and GCHQ have been subjecting human rights organizations to mass surveillance all along,” said Michael Bochenek, Senior Director of International Law and Policy at Amnesty International.
“This raises the very real possibility that our communications with confidential sources have been intercepted. Sharing this information with other governments could put human rights defenders the world over in imminent danger. When these concerns were raised before the US Supreme Court, they were dismissed as being ‘speculative’. Snowden’s latest revelation shows that these concerns are far from theoretical – they are a very real possibility.
“We now need a full and frank disclosure of the extent of these surveillance programmes as well as water-tight legal guarantees against such indiscriminate surveillance in the future.”