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Edward Snowden speaks to the Council of Europe


On 8 April 2014, Edward Snowden gave testimony to the Council of Europe’s Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights by video link. As with his previous testimony to the European Parliament, Mr Snowden used his statement to elaborate on topics that had been previously outlined by journalists. Topics covered include data mining, XKeyscore fingerprinting and the surveillance of Amnesty and other human rights organisations. Mr Snowden also confirmed that we can expect to see “more, and more specific” reporting on NSA attempts to change legal regimes overseas.

The Council of Europe is preparing reports on mass surveillance and on the protection of whistleblowers, which will be published before the end of this year. This is the first hearing supporting those reports; a second will be held on 24 June. Legal challenges to GCHQ’s activities have also been lodged in and fast-tracked by, the European Court of Human Rights.

Audio and video records of the event are available and a full transcript follows below. There are several occasions where the video link was interrupted; these are marked in the transcript.

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Edward Snowden delivers testimony to the European Parliament

In January 2014, the Civil Liberties (LIBE) Committee of the European Parliament voted to invite Edward Snowden to testify to its long running inquiry on electronic mass surveillance. Snowden’s testimony has now been published. Unlike Snowden’s previous brief statement to the inquiry, this new evidence includes answers to specific questions posed by members of the LIBE Committee.

In his evidence, Snowden reiterates that he is limiting his comments to topics that have already been reported on. He also repeats hs “willingness to provide testimony to the United States Congress, should they decide to consider the issue of unconstitutional mass surveillance.”

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David Miranda loses legal challenge

The High Court in London has ruled that it is acceptable to detain journalists under terrorism legislation.

David Miranda is the partner of former Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, who first reported on Edward Snowden’s whistleblowing about the NSA’s mass surveillance programs. On 18 August 2013, he was detained at Heathrow airport while changing planes on a trip between Heathrow and Rio de Janeiro. Miranda was questioned for just under the statutory limit of nine hours, was forced to give over passwords, had personal electronic equipment confiscated and not allowed to speak to his solicitor until eight hours had passed.

The UK Government’s attempts to prevent reporting on the Snowden revelations – which include ordering the destruction of the Guardian’s hard drives – have generated sustained international criticism. The World Association of Newspaper and News Publishers launched an unprecedented mission to the UK to investigate press freedom issues just last month.

David Miranda’s lawyers Bindmans have announced that he will be appealing today’s judgment. Miranda was not given an automatic right of appeal, so it is up to the Court of Appeal itself to decide whether to grant a hearing.

Permission to appeal was eventually granted in May 2014.

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EU Inquiry into Electronic Mass Surveillance draws its conclusions

For the past five months the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) has been conducting an investigation into electronic mass surveillance of, and conducted by, EU member states. This inquiry, prompted directly by Edward Snowden’s revelations, held the first of its fifteen hearings on 5 September 2013 and is now making amendments to the draft report prepared by Inquiry rapporteur, MEP Claude Moraes.

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Nominations for Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought

Nominated on 16 September 2013 and 10 September 2015

Edward Snowden has the distinction of being nominated for the European Parliament’s prestigious Sakharov Prize in two separate years.

On 16 September 2013 it was announced that Edward Snowden was one of seven nominees for the 2013 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. The Sakharov Prize is awarded annually by the European Parliament to honour individuals and organisations for their efforts on behalf of human rights and fundamental freedoms. Snowden was nominated by the Greens/EFA group and the GUE/NGL group.

Under the auspices of the European Parliament, the EU Foreign Affairs and Development Committees and the Human Rights Subcommittee another vote was taken on 30 September, to create a shortlist of three of the nominees. Edward Snowden was one of the three shortlisted nominees, along with Malala Yousafzai and Belarusian activists.

Although the prize was eventually given to Malala on 10 October 2013, Snowden received huge support to win the prize, including a letter written on 9 October by 23 European organisations. The open letter stated that these organisations supported the nomination of Snowden due to his revelations having “triggered a necessary and long-overdue public debate in the United States and beyond about the accepted boundaries of surveillance in a democratic state”.

Edward Snowden was nominated for the 2015 Sakharov Prize, alongside fellow whistleblowers Antoine Deltour and Stéphanie Gibould and others on 10 September 2015. Saudi dissident Raif Badawi was announced as the winner of the prize on 29 October.