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Could Switzerland grant Edward Snowden safe passage?

Switzerland’s Attorney General has raised the possibility that Edward Snowden could testify about NSA surveillance in Switzerland – and apply for asylum there – without fear of onward extradition to the United States.

The written legal opinion, seen by Swiss newspapers le Matin Dimanche and Sonntags Zeitung, states there is no legal impediment to Mr Snowden being granted Swiss asylum but leaves open the possibility of “higher state obligations” taking priority. While those “higher state obligations” are left undefined, this is – on the face of it – a rather more positive response than inquiries seeking Mr Snowden’s participation in person have received elsewhere.

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Edward Snowden speaks to the Council of Europe on improving the protection of whistleblowers

Tuesday 24 June saw Edward Snowden’s second appearance before the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. In April, he spoke to the assembly of Parliamentarians from 47 countries about mass surveillance. The topic of yesterdays’s session was improving protection of whistleblowers; reports on both subjects are being prepared for consideration by the Assembly before the end of the year.

Edward Snowden at the Council of Europe

Video and audio recordings of the session have been made available.

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Edward Snowden speaks to the Council of Europe

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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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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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