On June 4, 2014, one day before the anniversary of the Snowden revelations, Poland celebrates 25 years since the fall of an authoritarian regime. On this occasion, President Obama is visiting Poland and meeting with many heads of states—including officials who were affected by the mass surveillance scandal carried out by the NSA. Since October 2013, the Panoptykon Foundation, a Polish NGO, has tried to understand the relationship between the Polish and United States’ secret service organizations. Panoptykon believes that the Polish government, by accepting mass and pre-emptive surveillance, is reverting back to the much contested practices of the former, authoritarian regime — practices that triggered the revolution 25 years ago. Thus, the NGO has organized a user-generated campaign for June 4, urging people to welcome President Obama to Poland by vocalizing their thoughts on mass surveillance.
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We are fast approaching an anniversary of first disclosures made by Edward Snowden. Even though the fundaments of our trust in democratic institutions and human rights safeguards have been shaken, political reality as seen from the European perspective remains more or less intact. What may seem even more frustrating, our understanding of the real politics behind mass surveillance programmes as revealed by Snowden remains limited.
The story of post-Snowden debate is a story of crossing the redlines that never should be crossed in democratic society. After at least 10 years of allegations, we gained evidence showing that surveillance is not about fighting terrorism or even public security. It is about intelligence agencies best interests and easy access to citizens data. Katarzyna Szymielewicz talks about these sad truths nearly 12 months after first disclosures made by Edward Snowden.
In 2013, we learned digital surveillance by the world’s governments has no limits. The NSA and other intelligence agencies are capturing our phone calls, tracking our location, peering into our contacts, and collecting our emails. They do this in secret, without adequate public oversight, and in violation of our human rights. We cannot tolerate this anymore. On Tuesday February 11, the world is fighting back.
Just after Snowden revelations about NSA’s programs of bulk, mass surveillance there was hope for political change. Politics gave many promises regarding that issue. We were talking about freezing TFTP agreement till United States explains NSA activities, serious investigation in Brussels to find out what really those programs were about and how it affected fundamental rights of European citizens. We were talking about quickly negotiating new umbrella agreement on exchange of data connected to judicial matters and police cooperation. We were talking about revision of existing agreements on exchange of personal data, like SWIFT and PNR. But now are hearing that we need to rebuild trust, because of trade relations between EU and USA and economic crisis.
Eben Moglen, famous lawyer and publicist, in cooperation with Richard Stallman created Free Documentation License GNU. Director-Counsel of the Software Freedom Center and founder of the Freedom Box Foundation at the request of Panoptykon Foundation comments on Edward Snowden’s nomination for Sakharov Prize.
Have the Polish authorities been aware of the PRISM program operated by US security services and have they discovered violations of the Polish law? Is the Polish prosecution going to investigate the matter? Who, and on what grounds, decided to refuse asylum to Edward Snowden?
These are just three of the 100 questions that Amnesty International Poland, the Panoptykon Foundation and the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights asked today to the public authorities, including the Prime Minister, the Minister of the Interior and the Minister of Foreign Affairs.