US Patriot Act Author Sensenbrenner Warns EU Parliament On NSA

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By Monika Ermert for Intellectual Property Watch

US Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner at a hearing today of the European Parliament Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Committee (LIBE) on mass surveillance by the National Security Agency (NSA) and other intelligence services asked the EU politicians “to work pragmatically with the United States to continue balanced efforts to protection our nations” and “rebuild trust while defending civil liberties and national security on both sides of the Atlantic.”

Sensenbrenner’s prepared statement is here. The full archived meeting will be up later.

An author of both the US Patriot Act and new draft legislation to abolish bulk collection of data, the Freedom Act (together with Senator Patrick Leahy), Sensenbrenner was the first US politician to participate in the series of hearings expected to result in recommendations for how the EU can address the mass surveillance revelations.

Sensenbrenner has said that to push the Freedom Act to the Senate and House floors, he and his partners would have to fight in both chambers against the leaders of both parties and the intelligence community. The draft legislation passed recently in the Intelligence Committee would only make legal all the NSA had done legal, he warned.

The Congressman, on the other hand, was evasive with regard to reiterated questions about the double standard with regard to protection of US and EU citizens’ fundamental rights and the lack of redress.

With regard to a long pending negotiation on a transatlantic framework agreement on data protection, he pointed to an upcoming meeting of US Attorney General Eric Holder and European Commission Vice President Viviane Reding next weekend.

The chair of the inquiry meeting, Dutch Liberal Sophie In’t Veld, said in closing that despite the different legal systems there should be ways for the protection of civil liberties. “This will be a precondition for the trans-Atlantic trade negotiations,” she said.

During the second and third part of today’s hearing, LIBE members checked on the oversight (and lack of oversight) of spy programmes in member states. They also grilled representatives of Microsoft, Facebook and Google over their cooperation with US services.

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