The US has denied claims that the PRISM spying programme allows the nation unfettered access to data on European and US citizens, in a meeting with a top European Commission official.
The meeting between justice commissioner Viviane Reding and US attorney general Eric Holder focused on a series of key questions posed by Reding to the Holder on the PRISM programme, and took place in Dublin on Friday.
Holder said claims that have circulated that the programme has given the US government unfettered access to firms such as Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Apple are not true and everything is carried out with due legal process.
“The contention it [PRISM] is not subject to any internal or external oversights is simply not correct,” he said. “It’s subject to an extensive oversight regime from executive, legislative and judicial branches and Congress is made aware of these activities. The courts are aware as we need to get a court order.”
Holder also gave some more insights into how and why data is collected, claiming it helps protect citizens in both the US and other nations.
“It facilitates the targeted acquisition of foreign intelligence information concerning foreign targets outside the US. Service providers provide information to the government when lawfully required to do so,” he said.
“We can’t target anyone unless appropriate documented foreign intelligence purpose for the prevention of terrorism or hostile cyber activities.”
Commissioner Reding repeated this, reporting that Holder provided more details about how the PRISM programme works.
“It is about foreign intelligence, targeted at non-US citizens under investigation on terrorism and cyber crime. So it’s not bulk collection but individuals and groups [targeted] and is the basis of a court order and congressional oversight,” she said.
Reding said she hoped the discussions would help set up more dialogue on the issues raised by PRISM, and revealed plans for US and EC intelligence officials to meet and fully establish how the programme works.
“I appreciate the proposal of the attorney general to convey, in the short term, experts of intelligence from the US and Europe in order to clarify together the remaining questions,” she said.
PRISM has dominated the headlines over the last week ever since a former CIA IT contractor revealed documents to the press revealing the existence of the programme. Tech giants such as Google and Apple have denied any involvement with the scheme.
Dan Worth is the news editor for V3 having first joined the site as a reporter in November 2009. He specialises in a raft of areas including fixed and mobile telecoms, data protection, social media and government IT. Before joining V3 Dan covered communications technology, data handling and resilience in the emergency services sector on the BAPCO Journal.