Edward Snowden Helps Launch Anti-Spying Treaty

By Sophie Peters ’16

NSA whistleblower, Edward Snowden, and other privacy advocates launched an international campaign against mass surveillance that includes an international anti-spying treaty on Sept. 24. The proposed “International Treaty on the Right to Privacy, Protection Against Improper Surveillance and Protection of Whistleblowers,” informally known as the “Snowden Treaty,” was created by legal experts, and has yet to be fully released, however, the official summary can be found here

In a summary of the proposed treaty, it is stated that, “Both the UN General Assembly and the UN Human Rights Council have passed resolutions expressing ‘deep concern’ about the impact of mass surveillance and collection of personal data on the exercise of our human rights.”

American citizens have also been concerned about NSA surveillance. Nearly two years after Snowden’s revelations concerning the NSA, Pew Research Center released data in March 2015 about how Americans felt about mass surveillance. Of the respondents who knew about the surveillance programs, 57 percent thought it was “unacceptable for the government to monitor the communications of U.S. citizens.”

Along with reviewing current surveillance practices every five years, the proposed treaty would also require that signatories “establish independent national supervision to ensure public transparency and accountability in their surveillance-related activities.”

However, the proposed treaty would not just ask countries to uphold higher privacy standards. One large aspect of the treaty is that it would provide more protection for whistleblowers. After Snowden released NSA documents in 2013, he fled the U.S. in order to not be arrested due to Espionage Act and government theft charges. The summary states, “Whistleblowers will also be protected from the actions of non-signatories; by signing the treaty states guarantee the right of residence in their countries and embassies for people claiming to be persecuted as whistleblowers until the appropriate proceedings for permanent asylum have been carried out in full.”

Other supporters for the treaty include documentary film director, Laura Poitras, journalist, Glenn Greenwald, and civil liberties campaigner, David Miranda. Poitras and Greenwald were the journalists that Snowden recruited when he wanted to release the NSA documents. Later, Poitras made documentary film, “Citizenfour,” about Snowden. Miranda worked with global civic organization, Avaaz, to begin work on the treaty in 2014.

The full version of the treaty will be released on a later date as it is still being refined. The writers have given copies of their draft to the governments in countries such as Iceland, Germany, and Brazil for review.

To read more about the treaty, click here