Reding: ‘I am still awaiting a written response’ over US, UK spying allegations

Viviane Reding June 2013.jpg

European Commission requests for clarification from the American and British governments relating to espionage allegations remain unanswered as more revelations continue to stoke European political indignation.

German magazine Der Spiegel reported on Saturday (29 June) that the US National Security Agency (NSA) bugged EU offices and gained access to EU internal computer networks.

“I have made it clear: Partners do not spy on each other,” Viviane Redingthe commissioner for justice and fundamental rights and citizenship, told EURACTIV in an interview.

Europe “cannot negotiate over a big transatlantic market if there is the slightest doubt that our partners are carrying out spying activities on the offices of our negotiators,” she said in reference to the EU-US Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

Waiting for answers

Reding called for the American authorities to “eliminate any such doubt swiftly”, saying she had asked the US for clarifications on the allegations and is “expecting a clear and transparent reply”.

But questions asked on earlier allegations arising from reported leaks remain unanswered.

Last month, whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed that the NSA has secret authority to snoop on e-mails and internet communications using a data-mining programme called Prism. Britain's GCHQ intelligence-gathering service was reportedly involved through its ‘Tempora’ system.

“I am still awaiting a written response to the questions I sent to Attorney General [Eric] Holder on 10 June,” Reding said in the interview.

“I wrote to on 25 June 2013, to [UK] Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs William Hague to express my concern about the recent media reports and ask for clarifications regarding the Tempora programme and its proportionality,” the Commission vice-president said.

“In view of the urgency of this situation, I asked Mr Hague to get back to me by the end of last week but have yet to receive a reply,” Reding added.

The Commission has asked about the scope of the UK’s programme, whether data collection is limited to individual cases and what legal redress is available for UK and EU citizens.

Reding said she hoped that a new Transatlantic group of data protection and security experts would be set up as soon as possible and meet this month.

“The challenge we are facing will not fade away as time goes by. Both in the EU and the US, we need to prove that governments and businesses that process personal data can be trusted,” Reding said.

Background

Europeans have reacted angrily to revelations that US authorities had tapped the servers of internet companies for personal data.

Top EU officials said the revelations confirmed their fears about privacy and showed that tighter regulations were needed just as the EU and US are about to launch transatlantic trade talks.

The European Commission published in January 2012 a broad legislative package aimed at safeguarding personal data.

Timeline

  • July 2013: Joint EU-US meeting on data issues requested by Viviane Reding, the commissioner for justice, fundamental rights and citizenship

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