EU politicians doubt that fighting terrorism is only reason for U.S. surveillance

EU report also calls for safe harbor agreement to be suspended

E.U. politicians said that they doubt data collection by the U.S. National Security Agency has been purely for the fight against terrorism.

In a draft report from the European Parliament's civil liberties committee, published Wednesday, members of the European Parliament (MEPs) say that it is "very doubtful that data collection of such magnitude is only guided by the fight against terrorism," and that there may be other motives such as political and economic espionage.

The document urges E.U. countries to take legal action against the breach of their sovereignty perpetrated through such mass surveillance programs.

The report, which has been prepared over many months since Edward Snowden's revelations in June, states that although the committee "wholeheartedly supports the fight against terrorism," it does not believe that it can ever be a justification for untargeted, secret and sometimes even illegal mass surveillance programmes. Snowden, a U.S. government contractor, leaked documents to several newspapers.

The Parliament report, which will be debated Thursday, criticizes the voluntary safe harbor agreement between the E.U. and the U.S. Under this agreement, U.S. companies voluntarily sign up to an agreed set of privacy principles, which can then be legally enforced.

But the committee document says that "under the current circumstances the safe harbor principles do not provide adequate protection for EU citizens" and that E.U. countries should "immediately suspend data flows to any organisation that has self-certified its adherence to the U.S. safe harbor principles."

Due to "ubiquitous computing" the scale of this problem is unprecedented says the document.

The committee members also criticized E.U. member states who carry out blanket mass surveillance activities and bulk processing of personal data. The committee "strongly rejects the notion that these issues are purely a matter of national security and therefore the sole competence of member states," said the report, before calling on the U.K., Germany, France, Sweden and the Netherlands to revise national legislation.

Follow Jennifer on Twitter at @BrusselsGeek or email tips and comments to jennifer_baker@idg.com.

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Jennifer Baker

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