The European Parliament inquiry into alleged spying by the US and EU countries will hold hearings with their authorities, legal and IT experts, NGOs, data protection authorities, national parliaments following this issue and private firms involved in data transfers, the Civil Liberties Committee decided on Wednesday. The first hearing takes place on 5 September.
The Civil Liberties Committee inquiry will gather information and evidence to investigate alleged surveillance activities by the US authorities and EU countries. It will then assess the impact of these activities on EU citizens' fundamental rights, in particular those to data protection and respect for private life, freedom of expression, the presumption of innocence and an effective remedy.
MEPs will also look into the best tools for redress should violations of these rights be confirmed, make recommendations to prevent further violations and advise on how to strengthen IT security in EU institutions, bodies and agencies.
From September, the inquiry will hold public hearings of representatives of the US authorities, European Commission and Council, member states' representatives, participants in transatlantic experts groups, legal and IT experts, NGOs, data protection authorities, national parliaments and IT companies involved in transferring data to NSA or equivalent systems.
One of the first hearings is to be devoted to "the US PRISM programme and legal issues related to FISA" (the US Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act). Possible speakers include the US Ambassador to the EU, US National Security Agency officials, legal experts and representatives of US organisations such as the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
The Civil Liberties Committee will commission several expert studies. The first two will deal with surveillance programmes conducted by the US and EU countries and with the follow-up to recommendations made by the Echelon Committee.
Civil Liberties Committee delegation to Washington
Civil Liberties Committee MEPs could hold meetings related to this inquiry with US authorities and US Congress during a delegation visit to Washington already planned for the end of October. The Foreign Affairs Committee plans to pay a similar visit.
MEPs' conclusions and recommendations will be set out in a report to be presented to Parliament as a whole by the end of the year. The political groups will have to agree swiftly on which MEP is to draft the report.
So far, twelve meetings have been scheduled to take place before the end of the year. The first will be held on 5 September in the afternoon.
In the chair: Juan Fernando López Aguilar (S&D, ES) and Sophie in 'T Veld (ALDE, NL)