US spying: Rights groups file lawsuit in France

Ben McPartland
Ben McPartland - [email protected]
US spying: Rights groups file lawsuit in France
Photo: Sergei Surpinsky/AFP

The US spying scandal provoked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden continues to have knock-on effects around the globe as two human rights organizations were due to file charges in a French court on Thursday aimed at exploring whether IT giants like Google and Facebook had played a role.


Just as the transatlantic row over allegations the US spied on French and European Union envoys appeared to be dying down, it is set to be stoked up in a French court on Thursday.

In the wake of the Snowden affair, two human rights organisations are set to lodge a complaint with a court aimed at exploring whether a raft of American IT firms including Google, Yahoo and Apple had cooperated with US authorities to help them gather intelligence.

In a statement released on Thursday the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) and the French League of Human Rights (LDH) attacked the mass surveillance of global communications by US intelligence services that was carried out "under the guise of the fight against terrorism and organised crime".

"This uncontrolled intrusion into people's lives is a significant threat to individual liberties and must be curbed at the risk of seeing the rule of law disappear. So the FIDH and LDH have asked a French court to open a judicial investigation into these matters," the statement said.

Lawyers said the groups would file the 'complaint against X' in Paris. Under French law, such complaints allow investigators to pursue a wide-ranging probe against nine US firms as well as US intelligence agencies.

In the name of defending human rights, the organisations believe a court process can clarify the roles played by IT giants like Microsoft and Google in the US PRISM surveillance programme.

Other firms the rights groups want French authorities to investigate are Facebook, YouTube, AOL, Paltalk and Skype. All the firms have denied any collaboration with US intelligence agencies.

“We have never seen such an infringement on individual freedoms, to such a large scale, from a foreign nation and it potentially affects all French citizens and all French internet users when they use Google, Microsoft, Apple, Skype and other companies,” Emmanuel Daoud, the lawyer for the two rights organisations told France Info radio.

Daoud denounced a “massive collection of personal data without permission.”

He said these companies “may have made their servers available to the FBI and NSA, which the US intelligence agencies penetrated to collect the data of internet users using these companies.”

Daoud claims these IT giants may not have been telling “the whole truth” when they claim they were not aware of the PRISM programme.

The lawyer added that the French subsidiaries of these companies are also likely to be the subject of investigation under accusations that they allowed “unauthorised access to data processing systems, collecting personal data, as well as violating privacy around secret electronic correspondence.”

According to leaked documents by former CIA operative Edward Snowden, US intelligence agencies, through the PRISM programme, spied on global communications.

The scandal opened up a transatlantic row when documents were leaked that claimed to prove the US had spied on the French embassy in Washington DC as well as offices of the European Union.


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