European Parliament Wants Snowden, NSA Chief to Testify on Spying

Future Tense
The Citizen's Guide to the Future
July 18 2013 2:31 PM

European Parliament Wants Snowden, NSA Chief to Testify on Spying

171649605
Gen. Keith Alexander,director of the National Security Agency, speaks at the International Cyber Symposium in June 2013

Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

The European Parliament is gearing up to launch an investigation into the recently revealed NSA surveillance programs—and lawmakers are drawing up an interesting list of witnesses who they want to invite to interview about the snooping.

In September, the parliament is set to begin a series of hearings as part of the inquiry, which was established following the exposure of sweeping spy efforts that extend across the world. Now, members of the parliament are putting forward names for individuals they want to call in to answer questions. Among those suggested so far are a series of high-profile figures at the center of the surveillance revelations, including Edward Snowden, the whistle-blower who leaked the secret documents on the spying; NSA chief Gen. Keith Alexander; and Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, who was passed the documents by Snowden and has published several scoops based on them in recent weeks.

In the United States, the reaction to the surveillance leaks has primarily focused on the vast domestic phone records database, first revealed by the Guardian last month. But in Europe, the outrage has been over the PRISM Internet surveillance program, which reportedly enables the NSA to collect data on foreigners from major U.S. companies including Google, Apple, Microsoft, and Yahoo. Politicians across Europe have also responded furiously to allegations that the U.S. government has been bugging European embassies and missions in apparent violation of a 1961 convention on diplomatic relations. And there has been a particularly strong outcry in Germany over reports that the NSA is collecting metadata on half a billion phone calls and emails across the country every month.

Advertisement

Last week, at a meeting about the scope of its inquiry into the NSA’s surveillance, members of the European Parliament’s civil liberties committee agreed that they would invite U.S. authorities, surveillance and privacy experts, data protection authorities, and representatives from parliaments in EU members states to participate in a series of at least 12 public hearings scheduled for before the end of the year. On Thursday, German member of the European Parliament Jan Albrecht published a list of individuals he is requesting be invited. Aside from Snowden and Greenwald, it includes a host of top surveillance experts, plus NSA whistle-blowers Thomas Drake and William Binney, who have both in recent years spoken out publicly about the agency’s growing spying capabilities. Dutch MEP Sophie In ‘t Veld, vice chair of the civil liberties committee, confirmed in an email Thursday that she intends to invite Gen. Alexander. The inquiry’s conclusions will eventually be presented in a report to the parliament and could have implications for data-sharing agreements between Europe and the United States.

Snowden, no doubt, would like the opportunity to appear at one of the hearings. But he remains effectively stranded at a Moscow airport (for now) while he seeks temporary asylum in Russia. He apparently hopes to then move on to one of the Latin American nations that have offered him a safe haven—Venezuela, Bolivia, and Nicaragua. Despite the anger in Europe over the spying Snowden has revealed, governments in the EU have not been rushing to welcome him with open arms. In a bizarre incident earlier this month, France, Spain, Italy, and Portugal allegedly refused to allow Bolivian President Evo Morales’ jet to pass through their airspace after suspicions were raised that Snowden was on board. Bolivian officials blamed U.S. pressure for the debacle, describing it as a “hostile act” that had been orchestrated by the State Department.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Ryan Gallagher is a journalist who reports on surveillance, security, and civil liberties.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

The Irritating Confidante

John Dickerson on Ben Bradlee’s fascinating relationship with John F. Kennedy.

My Father Invented Social Networking at a Girls’ Reform School in the 1930s

Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

The All The President’s Men Scene That Captured Ben Bradlee

Medical Examiner

Is It Better to Be a Hero Like Batman?

Or an altruist like Bruce Wayne?

Technology

Driving in Circles

The autonomous Google car may never actually happen.

The World’s Human Rights Violators Are Signatories to the World’s Human Rights Treaties

How Punctual Are Germans?

  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 22 2014 12:44 AM We Need More Ben Bradlees His relationship with John F. Kennedy shows what’s missing from today’s Washington journalism.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 21 2014 5:57 PM Soda and Fries Have Lost Their Charm for Both Consumers and Investors
  Life
Outward
Oct. 22 2014 9:00 AM Wailing Against the Pansies: Homophobia in Whiplash
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 21 2014 3:03 PM Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real
  Slate Plus
Working
Oct. 22 2014 6:00 AM Why It’s OK to Ask People What They Do David Plotz talks to two junior staffers about the lessons of Working.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 21 2014 9:42 PM The All The President’s Men Scene That Perfectly Captured Ben Bradlee’s Genius
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 22 2014 8:43 AM Thunderstruck: Rock Out With Mother Nature’s Evil Side
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 22 2014 7:30 AM An Illusion That Makes Me Happy and Sad
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.