Edward Snowden: ‘Mass surveillance is ineffective at preventing terrorism’

US whistleblower Edward Snowden, testifying by video-link to a PACE hearing on “mass surveillance”, has told parliamentarians: “Dragnet mass surveillance is ineffective at preventing terrorism”.

Speaking via Google Hangout from Moscow, Mr Snowden told PACE’s Legal Affairs Committee that such mass surveillance “results in societies that are not only less liberal, but less safe”. He stressed again that his motivation for revealing NSA secrets was to “improve government, not to bring it down”.

Rapporteur Pieter Omtzigt (Netherlands, EPP/CD) said: "Mr Snowden revealed that there is a dedicated programme that specifically targets human rights organisations. He also made it clear that there is a total lack of judicial and political oversight of the NSA. Lastly he said that the countries that co-operate extensively with the NSA - he mentioned the UK, Germany and the Netherlands in particular - have no binding assurances from the US that the exchanged data is not used for illegal operations."

Other participants included a former head of Germany's Federal Intelligence Service Hansjorg Geiger, who proposed a "codex" to regulate intelligence activities between friendly states. He also hailed whisteblowing as an effective means of enforcing such a code.

"This is the first clear statement from the (former) head of an intelligence service in support of procedures for whistleblowing in secret services," said Mr Omtzigt.

London-based law professor Douwe Korff also spelled out some legal aspects of mass surveillance activities.