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The European Parliament is one step closer to its goal of establishing a Digital Habeas Corpus after a meeting in Brussels, yesterday, of its Civil Liberties Committee (LIBE Committee).  On January 8, the committee, headed by Claude Moraes, released its Draft Resolution to report the findings of its investigation into the Electronic Mass Surveillance of EU Citizens and to recommend a Plan of Action.

At yesterday’s meeting there was discussion of the 521 amendments submitted to the Draft Resolution and the LIBE Committee’s deadline to complete its work before the European Parliament elections in May when all 751 seats will be up for reelection.

Jan Albrecht, affiliated with a coalition of Green and Progressive political parties in Germany, gave the most noteworthy statement of the session.  Speaking about the importance of obtaining testimony from Edward Snowden, Albrecht said:

“We should allow the European citizens and also the national parliaments to find a solution for getting the full amount of information which is available."
A video of his statement [in English] is available on the European Parliament website.

A week ago, the LIBE committee confirmed that an invitation for Snowden to provide a statement is still on the table.

Here’s Albrecht’s statement from a Parliament debate on January 15:
"Edward Snowden’s revelations have shown that we need better protection for our personal data. The way in which big data business and our intelligence services are invading our privacy and analyzing our lives today is outrageous. But although millions of citizens and consumers publicly complain about this, not a single EU government is taking action to stop it. Here too I hear no consequences.

Instead, the voice of Google, Eric Schmidt, calls privacy an anomaly and wants us to say goodbye to privacy and data protection. The US Internet companies from Silicon Valley successfully lobbied against any regulation of their data collection activities in Washington DC. Here in Europe they just ignored them. By using the Safe Harbor [Privacy Policy] decision they evade effective enforcement by European authorities.

We are at the point where all of this has to stop, and it is this Parliament which has the power to do so. We have been insisting on the adoption of a single European data protection law for over two years now. Meanwhile, our colleagues in the Council of Ministers just went around in circles and in lengthy debates, without the willingness to determine even their own position on an effective privacy and data protection framework.

And big data business from Silicon Valley says “Thank you," while the European Unions’ citizens and consumers lose their trust in our governments’ ability to protect even the most fundamental rights they have.

If we do not stop the circumvention of European rules by US companies by passing our single data protection regulation and putting pressure on the United States – and also by cancelling the Safe Harbor [Privacy Policy] decision – we will not only lose the sovereignty of the European Union but we will also lose the voters, who will stay at home, as they do not expect us to protect their interests and rights.

The Digital Habeas Corpus proposed by the LIBE Committee would have a broad impact on transatlantic relations and it would seriously inhibit the ability of American enterprises to conduct business in Europe. [Comments in brackets are mine.]

Priority Plan: A European Digital Habeas Corpus

Conclude the EU-US Umbrella Agreement ensuring proper redress mechanisms for EU citizens in the event of data transfers from the EU to the US for law-enforcement purposes; [The Umbrella Agreement is a framework of cooperative treaties that regulate the exchange of data between the EU and US for law enforcement and judicial actions. Its original intent was to establish consistent practices on both sides of the Atlantic for counterterrorism and other criminal activities, such as money laundering.]
Suspend the Terrorist Finance Tracking Program agreement until
(i)    the Umbrella Agreement negotiations have been concluded;
(ii)    a thorough investigation has been concluded on the basis of an EU analysis, and all concerns raised by Parliament in its resolution of 23 October have been properly addressed;
[US officials at the Treasury Dept. refused to respond to certain questions during the LIBE Committee investigation.]
Suspend Safe Harbor until a full review has been conducted and current loopholes are remedied, making sure that transfers of personal data for commercial purposes from the Union to the US can only take place in compliance with highest EU standards;
[Safe Harbor is the EU Privacy Policy that American enterprises conducting business in Europe have agreed to observe.]
Protect the rule of law and the fundamental rights of EU citizens, with a particular focus on threats to the freedom of the press and professional confidentiality (including lawyer-client relations) as well as enhanced protection for whistleblowers;
Develop a European strategy for IT independence (at national and EU level);
Develop the EU as a reference player for a democratic and neutral governance of the internet;

Map of 28 countries of the European Union.
Guide to the European Union

The EU can be a confusing jumble of bureaucracies to Americans and Europeans alike.  The key leadership positions are appointed, not elected.  Without the scrutiny of the press focused on candidates during national elections, the EU Presidents remain mostly unfamiliar to the public.  

In the upcoming election for European Parliament seats, it’s not surprising that Euroskeptics on the left and the right are running campaigns that call for full or partial withdrawal from the EU.

Institution President Selected by: Responsible for:
European Parliament  Martin Schultz Members of the European Parliament Debates and passes European laws. Scrutinizes other EU institutions to make sure they are working democratically. Debates and adopts the EU's budget.
European Council Herman Van Rompuy National leaders (heads of state/government of EU countries). Passes EU laws, Coordinates economic policies of EU member countries, Signs agreements between the EU and other countries.
Approves the annual EU budget. Develops the EU's foreign and defense policies.
Coordinates law enforcement and judicial systems.
European Commission José Manuel Barroso National leaders (heads of state/government of EU countries) with the approval of the European Parliament. Proposes new laws to Parliament and the Council. Manages the EU's budget and allocates funding. Enforces EU law with the Court of Justice. Represents the EU internationally. Negotiates agreements between the EU and other countries.
The EU’s authority over the practice of mass surveillance traces back to one of its institutions: The European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS)

The position of European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) was created in 2001. The responsibility of the EDPS is to make sure that all EU institutions and bodies respect people’s right to privacy when processing their personal data. ‘Processing’ covers activities such as collecting information, recording and storing it, retrieving it for consultation, sending it or making it available to other people, and also blocking, erasing or destroying data.

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Comment Preferences

  •  One minor correction (6+ / 0-)

    In your list of "selected by" the phrase "heads of state" is incorrect. Various Kings, Queens and Grand Duke are heads of State so this should be "head of government".

    We will work, we will play, we will laugh, we will live. We will not waste one moment, nor sacrifice one bit of our freedom, because of fear.

    by Lib Dem FoP on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 04:39:03 PM PST

    •  Correct you are. This community is the best. (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      commonmass, Kombema, thomask, Nada Lemming

      There's a sign of intelligent life on the internet at DailyKos.

      Thank you.

      There is no existence without doubt.

      by Mark Lippman on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 04:49:05 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Not entirely (0+ / 0-)

        I forgot to include "Presidents" in that list as they are not head of Government in (off the top of my head) Ireland, Germany and Italy.

        We will work, we will play, we will laugh, we will live. We will not waste one moment, nor sacrifice one bit of our freedom, because of fear.

        by Lib Dem FoP on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 05:09:48 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Here's what the EU says: (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Kombema, thomask

          European Commission president – Appointed by: national leaders (heads of state or government of EU countries), with the approval of the European Parliament.

          European Council president – Appointed by: national leaders (heads of state or government of EU countries)

          Any reaction to the rest of the content?

          There is no existence without doubt.

          by Mark Lippman on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 05:20:57 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  No too hopeful (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Mark Lippman, thomask

            EU legislation has to be approved by the Parliament, Commission and Council (of Ministers). While Parliament and very likely the Commission would want it passed, I can foresee problems with the Council. It is possible that Merkle's experience will make her government approve it but not too sure about Cameron unless Clegg puts his foot down as the Lib Dems did over the back bench Tory motion on skirting round the European Charter of Human Rights over the extradition of foreign national criminals with a family here. Tim Farron MP, the Party President who is on the left of the party, has been stiffening Clegg's backbone recently.

            Even given the countries whose intelligence services benefit and those Washington oriented like Poland, it could possibly pass the Council with the aid of Germany under the qualified voting system I think applies to it.

            Legislation used to take ages but the trialoges (a bit like the Conference Committees in the US Capitol but with the three parties) have sped things up. Even so, I'd hang fire on being too hopeful of what comes out of the trialogue and how long it would take to come into effect.  

            We will work, we will play, we will laugh, we will live. We will not waste one moment, nor sacrifice one bit of our freedom, because of fear.

            by Lib Dem FoP on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 05:50:53 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Thank you. I realize that it's a long shot. (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Kombema, thomask

              I find discussion of the mass surveillance issue to be very unsatisfactory in the US.   I think Americans could benefit from the chance to observe a different treatment of the matter. Without anticipating too much about the outcome, there's something to be gained from the process which has no equivalent in the US. If you saw the Senate hearing the other day, it was clear that there are no answers to be had.

              Attorney General Holder released a joint statement with the EU Justice Commissioner last November that sounded very reassuring about the search for remedies. He specifically mentioned PCLOB which issued its findings a week ago.  It said the NSA is engaging in illegal practices. It would be hard for the administration to shake that off now.

              I don't have a lot of insight into the politics of each EU member country except one, France. But I think it's universal that voters may end up with the last word and the national government leaders must be aware of that.

              There is no existence without doubt.

              by Mark Lippman on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 06:36:43 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks for posting this. Here's hoping the EU (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mark Lippman, thomask

    investigations go where the U.S. government will never allow itself to go -- toward finding the truth, rather than scrambling to cover it up and silence and prosecute those who unearth it.

    "Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob." -- Franklin D. Roosevelt

    by Kombema on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 09:32:44 PM PST

    •  You are most welcome. Reading through the (0+ / 0-)

      draft resolution is like EU bureaucrat's version of a detective story. I have to hand it to Claude Moraes, a modest, unassuming MEP who represents the city of London in the EU Parliament.

      It's hard to read that the State Dept and Treasury Dept refused to answer every question put to them.  Did the Obama administration know the full extent of the NSA's activities? Did they know that it's practices included a full take of the data and metadata it was collecting? Did they know that it was collecting and storing data pertaining to all citizens in the US and the EU?  

      When asked about specific activities that are illegal or that breach international treaties/cooperative agreements, the same US officials deny the NSA did them which is, of course, a lie.

      It's a classic cat and mouse game and if I had to choose a winner between the US and EU, I'd bet on Europe. They see clear through this charade.

      There is no existence without doubt.

      by Mark Lippman on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 10:57:59 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I have to say (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mark Lippman

    Iths is fairly rare that a FP promotion causes a writer around here to improve.  What it usually does is water the writer down or make her focus on being less assertive than a diarist would be.  

    It has had the opposite affect on you.  Congratulations, and keep it coming.  

    "It rubs the lotion on its skin" is not effective coalition building.

    by Nada Lemming on Sat Feb 01, 2014 at 05:42:16 AM PST

    •  Thank you. It's always (0+ / 0-)

      nice to hear positive feedback.  As long as I feel I have something to say that could benefit people in some small way I'll keep writing and fine tuning my focus on that  intention.

      There is no existence without doubt.

      by Mark Lippman on Sat Feb 01, 2014 at 04:21:24 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

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