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100 questions on surveillance for Polish authorities

Did the Polish authorities know about the US “PRISM” programme and did they find violations of the Polish law? Is the Polish prosecution service going to investigate the matter? Who, and on what grounds, decided to turn down Edward Snowden’s asylum application? These are just three out of the 100 questions which Amnesty International Poland, the Panoptykon Foundation and the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights addressed last week to decision-makers, including the Prime Minister, the Minister of the Interior and the Minister of Internal Affairs.

Snowden’s disclosures of the “PRISM” programme and other mass surveillance programmes as well as secret collaboration between European and US security services have undermined citizens’ trust in the authorities. Once again the means of democratic control over secret services have proven insufficient. This concern, together with the lack of information, has provoked many questions, including those about the policies of the Polish government.

“The information provided by Edward Snowden made us realise that the US services are able to follow practically anything we do on-line. This is a huge privacy threat. Honest answers to our questions are the only chance the authorities have to rebuild trust that the Polish state will respect our constitutional rights”, said Draginja Nadaždin, Director of Amnesty International Poland.

This is the second attempt to find answers to the above questions. They were asked for the first time during a debate on limits and admissibility of mass surveillance, held on 11 September 2013 by Amnesty International Poland, the Panoptykon Foundation and the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights. Decision-makers responsible for security and internal affairs, including the Prime Minister, failed to appear at the debate.

“Mass, pre-emptive surveillance can never be reconciled with the constitutional right to privacy. The society has the right to know whether Polish secret services have used the secret programmes operated by the United States and what the Polish authorities have done or are going to do to protect us from unlawful surveillance. We cannot accept silence and inaction of the government where our fundamental rights are at risk”, explained Katarzyna Szymielewicz, President of the Panoptykon Foundation.

Adam Bodnar, HFHR Deputy President added:
“Our 100 questions should not be seen only as a symbolic gesture of protest. We ask specific questions and expect a reply to be given under the Access to Public Information Act [the statutory deadline for response is 14 days]. If we don’t receive answers to at least some of our questions, we are going to pursue our constitutional right to information before administrative courts”.

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