Published time: April 08, 2014 12:31
Edited time: April 08, 2014 13:47

Reuters / Frank Polich Reuters / Frank Polich

No legal means exist to challenge mass surveillance, said NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, testifying to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

A former NSA contractor, Snowden was speaking to the PACE session in Strasbourg via a video link-up from Moscow.

Wanted in the US on treason charges, he sparked a huge international scandal last year he leaked to the media classified evidence of American government spying programs.

I would like to clarify that I have no intention of harming the US government or straining bilateral ties between any nations. My motivation is to improve the government, not to bring it down,” Snowden said.

Snowden told the European parliamentarians that any kind of web traffic can be analyzed and searched with little effort.

The technique can be used to identify a person with a certain social or religious group and business interactions. Using this technology, NSA can also make a list of home addresses of people who match a certain criteria.

Snowden added, however, that there are no “nightmare scenarios” where the US government would, for instance, fingerprint all gay people. However, they can follow law violators as well as those where just had the bad luck to follow a wrong link on the internet, he said.

The NSA gathered “explicit sexual material regarding religious conservatives whose political views it disfavored and considered radical for the purpose of exposing it to damage their reputations and discredit them within their communities,” Snowden told PACE.

This is an unprecedented form of political interference that I don’t believe can be seen elsewhere in western governments,” he went on. “But no legal means currently exist to challenge such activities or to see penalties for such abuses,” he said.

Mass surveillance is also used by the NSA, as well as by its partners and adversaries, for the purposes of economic espionage, Snowden said.

The NSA had unlawfully compromised the world’s major transaction facilities to include SWIFT and Visa. And in their reports they explicitly noted that such information provided “rich personal information” including data that “is not about our targets,” Snowden told the parliamentarians gathered in Strasbourg.