The vice president of the European Commission has written to the UK's foreign secretary William Hague in an effort to uncover the full extent of the alleged ‘Tempora' surveillance programme. The GCHQ-based operation is said to have tapped transatlantic internet cables in order to log hundreds of millions of phone calls and emails.
Viviane Reding, who is also the EU commissioner for justice, said in a speech in Strasbourg that national security does not excuse potential violation of rights of EU citizens:
"The news over the past weeks and days has been deeply disturbing," she said. "The fact that the programmes are said to relate to national security does not mean that anything goes. A balance needs to be struck between the policy objective pursued and the impact on fundamental rights, in particular the right to privacy. It is a question of proportionality."
Reding went on to say that she has written to William Hague in order to clarify the "scope of the programme, its proportionality and the extent of judicial oversight that applies." She also said she has written to the US attorney-general Eric Holder to find out the full extent of the surveillance programme PRISM.
"I raised our concerns regarding the impact of Verizon and PRISM on the fundamental rights of EU citizens," she explained. "And I asked about the conflict companies can find themselves in when they are faced with competing obligations under US and EU law."
The demands from the EC come after Germany also asked the UK government to provide information on the extent of the Tempora spying capabilities.
Yesterday, the European Commission responded to allegations that the NSA had been spying on EU-occupied buildings, with phone calls and emails being tapped. The EC demanded answers, saying "clarity and transparency is what we expect from partners and allies, and this is what we expect from the US".
Meanwhile, the former NSA contractor, Edward Snowden, who leaked the information regarding PRISM and Tempora, is still believed to be trapped airside at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport, having not technically entered the country.
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