A group of European politicians are headed to the US to talk with senior officials about the ongoing revelations from the PRISM spying scandal.
In particular, the civil liberties commission will talk in Washington with US officials about recent news that the phones of numerous world leaders have been tapped, including German chancellor Angela Merkel and many Spanish authority officials too.
Head of the delegation, Claude Moraes, a Labour member of the European Parliament, said the mission was vital to get to the bottom of the extent of the spying the US has been engaging in.
“We will have the opportunity to discuss directly with US counterparts the alleged surveillance activities of US authorities and any impact they have in terms of EU citizens fundamental right to privacy," he said.
“A key priority for this inquiry is to gather all relevant information and evidence from US sources, which is why this fact-finding delegation to Washington is so important.”
The US has recently acknowledged the issue has caused tension among European leaders, with the press secretary for president Obama revealing he has spoken with chancellor Merkel about the issue. However, he defended the need to gather data through covert means for national security interests.
"I know that the president has had discussions with chancellor Merkel about that [the spying claims], including yesterday in their phone call. He’s very understanding of the concerns that have been raised broadly in Germany and elsewhere by these reports," he said.
"There are real threats out there against the American people and against our allies, including Germany, including allies around Europe and around the world. We also need to balance those security needs against the understandable privacy concerns that we all share."
The allegations around phone tapping are just the latest fallout from the PRISM revelations that began in the summer when Edward Snowden revealed the extent of spying by US and UK authorities. The UK is believed to have gathered vasts amounts of web data under its Tempora programme.
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