EU, US creating joint group to examine NSA surveillance programs

“The fact that the programs are said to relate to national security does not mean that anything goes,” Reding said in a speech Wednesday. “A balance needs to be struck between the policy objective pursued and the impact on fundamental rights, in particular the right to privacy.”

There was broad outrage from European officials this week after a report said that the U.S. had bugged European Union offices in Brussels and the United States. EU officials have also expressed concerns over the National Security Agency’s PRISM Internet data program and its telephone metadata collection, as well as the British-run Tempora surveillance program.

The surveillance revelations, which were made public through documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, have threatened to upend negotiations on a major EU-U.S. trade agreement.

“It is clear that for negotiations on the trade agreement with the US to succeed, there needs to be confidence, transparency and clarity among the negotiating partners,” Reding said. “This excludes spying on EU institutions.”

Reding said that unanswered questions on the NSA programs remain, and the joint group was being set up to help answer them.

“The purpose is to establish the facts and for the Commission to be able to assess the proportionality of the programs with regard to the data protection of EU citizens,” she said.