NSA oversight dismissed as ‘illusory’ as anger intensifies in Europe and beyond

The Guardian reports: The Obama administration’s international surveillance crisis deepened on Monday as representatives from a Latin American human rights panel told US diplomats that oversight of the programs was “illusory”.

Members of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, an arm of the Organization of American States, expressed frustration and dissatisfaction with the National Security Agency’s mass surveillance of foreign nationals – something the agency argues is both central to its existence and necessary to prevent terrorism.

“With a program of this scope, it’s obvious that any form of control becomes illusory when there’s hundreds of millions of communications that become monitored and surveilled,” said Felipe Gonzales, a commissioner and Chilean national.

“This is of concern to us because maybe the Inter-American Committee on Human Rights may become a target as well of surveillance,” said Rodrigo Escobar Gil, a commissioner and Colombian citizen.

Frank La Rue, the United Nations special rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression, told the commission that the right to privacy was “inextricably linked” to free expression.

“What is not permissible from a human rights point of view is that those that hold political power or those that are in security agencies or, even less, those in intelligence agencies decide by themselves, for themselves, what the scope of these surveillance activities are, or who will be targeted, or who will be blanked surveilled,” La Rue said.

While the US sent four representatives to the hearing, they offered no defence, rebuttal or elaboration about bulk surveillance, saying the October government shutdown prevented them from adequate preparation. “We are here to listen,” said deputy permanent representative Lawrence Gumbiner, who pledged to submit written responses within 30 days. [Continue reading…]

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