The next session is due to hear evidence on the mass surveillance programme widely leaked by Snowden.

MEPs on the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs committee have this week voted to send him an invitation to appear before them and are awaiting his reply before a date for his appearance before them can be set.

The proposal to invite Snowden has divided MEPs and risks undermining US/EU relations, as it calls for the suspension of the "Safe Harbour" agreement between the EU and the US, renegotiate agreements over data-sharing and develop an EU "cloud" to protect Europeans from data surveillance by the US.

Snowden fled the US in spring 2013 and began a series of damaging leaks that uncovered mass surveillance of global data by the US National Security Agency in cohort with its British counterpart GCHQ.

Apart from operating its PRISM and Tempora projects, under which billions of data were collected globally, it was revealed that the telephones of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert were alleged to have been intercepted.

The claims brought a swift rebuff from the European Commission.

Revelations are "unacceptable"

Responding to questions following allegations of surveillance by US and UK intelligence services of Vice-President Almunia, the spokeswoman of the European Commission Pia Ahrenkilde Hansen said:

"This piece of news follows a series of other revelations which, as we clearly stated in the past, if proven true, are unacceptable and deserve our strongest condemnation. This is not the type of behaviour that we expect from strategic partners, let alone from our own Member States".

At its last meeting, the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs committee demanded "the swift creation of an EU data storage “cloud” and judicial redress for EU citizens to protect their data in the US".

MEP Claude Moraes, the committee lead on the allegations has prepared a draft text calling for the European Commission should suspend the “Safe Harbour” principles (data protection standards that US companies should meet when transferring EU citizens’ data to the US) and re-negotiate new, appropriate data protection standards, the draft says.

Moraes said that disclosures by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden have revealed a huge weakness in the IT security of EU institutions, stresses Mr Moraes.

The draft resolution proposes that Parliament’s technical capabilities and options should be properly assessed, including the possible uses of open source software, cloud storage and more use of encryption technologies.

PRISM

PRISM was first publicly revealed in The Washington Post and The Guardian,based on allegations by Snowden, who had been a NSA contractor. He alleged that the programme involved widespread data-mining with the involvement of Microsoft, Yahoo!, Google, Facebook, YouTube, Skype and AOL.

These reports have been vigorously denied by all the web companies.

Project Tempora

Snowden claims that Britain's signals monitoring centre has been tapping fibre optic cables in a data-harvesting scheme called Project Tempora. He alleges large volumes of data are drawn from fibre optic cables for up to 30 days so that it can be sifted and analysed.

It is claimed that the metadata collected by GCHQ - the information about what is being sent, to whom, from whom, when etc. - is being shared among the Five Eyes electronic eavesdropping alliance, comprised of the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

MUSCULAR

It has since emerged that the US MUSCULAR system is said to have accessed the front-end servers of the computer giants to access millions of files of metadata, including text, video and audio contained in messages from Google and Yahoo! users across the globe.

In documents dated January 2013, the files show how the NSA acquisitions unit has broken through the Google and Yahoo! SSL (Secure Sockets Layer), cryptographic protocols designed to provide communication security over the internet.

By doing this, GCHQ and the NSA are capable of intercepting information being sent over the so-called ‘Cloud’ – a virtual memory bank used by millions to store their content from computers and mobile devices.

(Voice of Russia)