Civil society coalition urges the US government to respect and promote the human rights of non-US persons

NEW YORK, Aug 29 (APCNews)


When information about systematic surveillance by the US National Security Agency (NSA) was leaked to the press, President Obama’s first response was to offer reassurance that “This does not apply to U.S. citizens and it does not apply to people living in the United States.” The fact that the government was indeed collecting communications data from its own citizens generated strong opposition, to the point that Obama addressed the nation on the issue earlier in August, promising to ensure greater transparency and to reevaluate portions of the NSA’s surveillance activities.

Obama didn’t mention regret for the impact on non-US persons in the press conference, nor were they mentioned in the White Paper on the issue released earlier by the White House. To express their concern about this flagrant omission, a group of organisations and individuals submitted a comment organised through Best Bits, an international coalition of non-governmental organisations to the US Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board. The PCLOB, an expert body charged with providing recommendations to governments officials on the impact of counter-terrorism measures on privacy and civil liberties, recently issued an open call for comments on NSA surveillance. Best Bits submission highlights the following:

Human rights and civil liberties are universal and guaranteed to every person, regardless of his or her citizenship or country of residence. The U.S. has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and has a legal obligation to uphold the right to privacy, expression, association, and other fundamental rights. However, current U.S. law (Section 702 of the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) permits the U.S. government to target non-U.S. persons — people who are not citizens or permanent resident aliens, and are located outside the U.S. — for foreign intelligence purposes without obtaining a specific warrant or court order.

Best Bits ’s submission to the PCLOB contends this legislation strikes at the heart of global digital communications and severely threatens human rights in the digital age. The threat of unnecessary, disproportionate, and unaccountable extra-territorial surveillance not only violates universal rights to privacy and human dignity, but also threatens the fundamental rights to freedom of thought, opinion, expression, and association that are at the center of any democratic society.

While the NSA programs interpret Section 702 for the purpose of protecting the U.S., their negative impacts are global. This section empowers the NSA to compel U.S. communications service providers to turn over all data and communications records, regardless of their point of origin or country of jurisdiction, and including those with no ties to crime, terrorism, or espionage.

The U.S. and other nations must ensure that their government surveillance programs are subject to strong legal frameworks that are transparent, necessary to achieve a legitimate goal and proportionate to that goal, authorised by competent judicial authorities, and subject to public oversight. The International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance and a recent report by the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression provide guidance in this regards. The coalition believes that no country should, in purported name of rights and freedoms, place itself above international human rights law.

Media contacts
Analía Lavin,, +1 347 986 7419

About Best Bits
Best Bits is an inclusive network of key civil society organisations from across the world, who come together to highlight their various initiatives, and foster mutual learning and broader engagement. The network is called “Best Bits” because it does not aim to present a single solution for ratification by the assembled groups, but rather to offer an open space where each group can present and advocate for the initiatives that they believe offer the best positive agenda for advancing broadly shared civil society interests in Internet governance.

About the Association for Progressive Communications
The Association for Progressive Communications (APC) is an international network and non-profit organisation founded in 1990 that wants everyone to have access to a free and open internet to improve lives and create a more just world.


APC_PressReleasePCLOB_20130829.pdf58.74 KB

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