CIA must respect the privacy of European citizens

14 February 2007

CIA must respect the privacy of European citizens

"The European Parliament is not willing to put up any longer with a situation in which the CIA is free to stick its nose into a whole range of data on individual European citizens who transfer money across borders or book a trip to the US. This is the second time in a day that the American secret service has been hauled over the coals and the member states and European Commission called upon to improve their protection of citizens' rights." So said SP Euro-MP Kartika Liotard, whose parliamentary group, the United European Left-Nordic Green Left (GUE-NGL) was co-sponsor of a resolution on PNR (Passenger Name Record) and the international monetary transfer system SWIFT approved at today's European Parliament Plenary session in Strasbourg.

Kartika LiotardCommenting on the resolution, Ms Liotard said: "For years the CIA has had free access to data on European citizens and companies who transfer money from one country to another. This goes directly contrary to European legislation, but this has clearly not been seen as a problem. The Commission and the European Central Bank (ECB) should long have taken this seriously but have in fact reacted laxly."

The unthinking handing over of dozens of pieces of information on every person who books a flight to the US – the so-called PNR system – also has the European Parliament up in arms. "The resolution that we adopted today calls on the Commission to improve protection of the privacy of European citizens," Liotard explained. "It's illegal and, what's more, utterly unnecessary to gather so much information on each and every passenger and hand it over to the CIA." Liotard, who sits on the European Parliament's Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, insists that Europe must not allow itself to be blackmailed by the US or bullied, under the guise of combating terrorism, into ignoring its own laws. "The Parliament has stated this in no uncertain terms," she added. "Now it's the Commission's turn."

In the new treaty between the EU and the US both PNR and SWIFT surveillance must be made to conform with current legislation regarding the protection of citizens' privacy. "Cooperation in policy on terrorism is essential," Liotard concluded, "but action must be both effective and proportional."

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