Snowden: NSA Targeted Human Rights Groups

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Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch concerned about Snowden claims

The US National Security Agency (NSA) spied on a number of human rights bodies, such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (HRW), according to Edward Snowden.

The ex-NSA contractor turned whistleblower told the Council of Europe that staff members “in a number of civil and non-governmental organisations… including domestically within the borders of the United States” were targeted.

Edward Snowden privacy protest NSA US Washington © Rena Schild ShutterstockDelegates asked if highly-sensitive communications of organisations such as Amnesty and HRW had been intercepted, to which Snowden replied: “The answer is, without question, yes. Absolutely.”

Snowden: XKeyscore threat severe

He said the sophisticated data mining tool XKeyscore, software able to ask for metadata on any target without needing approval, posed “the most significant new threat to civil liberties in modern times”.

HRW said if it was true it had been spied on by US agents, it would have gone against what America had stood for in other parts of the world.

“If it’s true that the NSA spied on groups like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, it’s outrageous, and indicative of the overreach that US law allows to security agencies,” said Dinah Pokempner, general counsel at Human Rights Watch.

“Such actions would again show why the US needs to overhaul its system of indiscriminate surveillance.”

Amnesty International senior director of international law and policy Michael Bochenek said that if the allegations were substantiated they would confirm “long-held fears that state intelligence agencies like the NSA and GCHQ have been subjecting human rights organisations to mass surveillance all along”.

“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,” he added.

“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.”

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