European Parliament Calls for Freeze on EU-US Terrorist Tracking Agreement

The European Parliament has adopted a resolution calling for the suspension of the EU-US Terrorist Finance Tracking Program agreement
The European Parliament has adopted a resolution calling for the suspension of the EU-US Terrorist Finance Tracking Program agreement

The three-year-old TFFP uses the SWIFT mechanism to track the movements of suspected homeland security threats. MEPs noted that no EU member state has investigated the allegations, and urged EU countries to authorize an inquiry by Europol's Cybercrime Centre. The resolution also calls for a "full on-site technical investigation" of allegations of the US authorities having had unauthorized access to, or having created possible "back doors" into, the SWIFT servers.

The resolution, which passed by 280 votes to 254, with 30 abstentions, is non-binding and will have little immediate effect beyond possibly prompting the aforementioned investigation. Parliament has no formal powers to initiate the suspension or termination of an international deal, and a decision to freeze the program in practice requires a vote by the 28 national governments of the EU, with approval passing through a two-thirds majority.

Nonetheless, supporters of an agreement termination were vocal: "In calling for the EU-US SWIFT agreement to be suspended, the European Parliament has today sent a clear message that enough is enough,” said Green home affairs spokesperson Jan Philipp Albrecht, Parliament's rapporteur/draftsperson for new EU data protection rules, in an emailed statement. “The revelations about NSA interception of SWIFT data make a mockery of the EU's agreement with the US, through which the bank data of European citizens is delivered to the US anti-terror system (TFTP). What is the purpose of an agreement like this, which was concluded in good faith, if the US authorities are going to circumvent its provisions?”

“Negotiations should immediately commence to strengthen the privacy and redress provisions, to ensure that governments cannot spy on individuals and obtain their data in violation of the agreement,” said Privacy International, in a statement on its website. “The recommended suspension of the agreement, however, does not change our position that Europeans are entitled to seek redress regarding the NSA’s breach since the alleged violations occurred while the agreement was still clearly in effect.”

The news also comes hard on the heels of allegations that NSA spying included surveillance on millions of French telephone and SMS communications. "Among the thousands of documents removed from the NSA by the former employee [Edward Snowden]," reported Le Monde this week, "is a graph that describes the extent of telephone surveillance carried out in France. It was found that over a period of thirty days, from 10 December 2012 to 8 January 2013, 70.3 million recordings of telephone French data were performed by the NSA."

"The EU cannot continue to remain silent in the face of these ongoing revelations: it gives the impression we are little more than a lap dog of the US”, Albrecht continued. “If we are to have a healthy relationship with the US, based on mutual respect and benefit, EU governments must not be afraid of defending core EU values when they are infringed. EU leaders must finally take a clear and unambiguous stance on the NSA violations at this week's summit."

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