U.N. to investigate NSA, GHCQ spying

Top U.N. counterterror, human rights official says Snowden revealed "issues at the very apex of public interest"

Published December 3, 2013 4:16PM (EST)

The U.N.'s special-rapporteur on counterterrorism will carry out an investigation into the surveillance operations of the NSA and its U.K. counterpart spy agency GHCQ. The U.N. investigation serves as yet further proof that Edward Snowden's leaks, which revealed the vast reaches of U.S. and U.K. surveillance programs, made public important information about shadowy government operations.

The U.N.'s Ben Emmerson Q.C. -- who is also overseeing an investigation into civilian deaths by U.S. drone fire -- will explore whether oversight of the spy agencies meets international legal standards. Emmerson stated that Snowden -- who faces espionage charges in the U.S. -- had revealed "issues at the very apex of public interest concerns."

Via The Guardian:

"The astonishing suggestion that this sort of responsible journalism can somehow be equated with aiding and abetting terrorism needs to be scotched decisively," said Emmerson, who has been the UN's leading voice on counter-terrorism and human rights since 2011.

"It is the role of a free press to hold governments to account, and yet there have even been outrageous suggestions from some Conservative MPs that the Guardian should face a criminal investigation. It has been disheartening to see some tabloids giving prominence to this nonsense."

By Natasha Lennard

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email nlennard@salon.com.

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Ben Emmerson Edward Snowden Ghcq Leaks Nsa Spying Surveillance The Guardian U.n. Whistle-blower