Mon Oct 9th, 2006 at 08:38:32 AM EST
Sophie in 't Veld is a Dutch MEP and is Rapporteur to the European Parliament for the Passenger Name Records (PNR) issue. She gave what, in diplomatic language, is called a "frank" interview on the subject to Euractiv.com: We Can't Trust Americans Blindfolded.
The Americans will continue to have direct access to the reservation system, however they have promised to switch to a system whereby the airlines Ďforwardí the data. I have to say that the Americans promised this back in 2003 as well; it is technically possible, so there is no reason why they havenít implemented it so far. So, thatís unfortunate.
no agreement would have plunged us into chaos and would have left citizens completely unprotected. However, itís obvious that this deal is even weaker than the previous one, and the European Parliament was never happy with that one from the start, so, happy is not the word. I hope that the Americans will actually respect the agreement, because so far they have a fairly patchy record in implementing their so-called undertakings or promises.
Like the previous agreement, the Passenger Name Records will be accessible to the Americans, but from the start the European Parliament said that there was no adequate protection of EU citizensí rights. The trouble has been all along that in cases of abuse, or mistakes, thereís hardly any means of legal redress for EU citizens, because US data-protection laws do not cover them.
Some people pretend that the European Parliament is opposed to the principle of data-sharing; that is simply not true, we are as concerned about the security of our citizens as anybody else, and weíve had to remind the Americans several times that there have actually been more attacks on European soil than in America. So itís not that we donít care, but there have to be proper safeguards. You canít just say ĎWe want to know everything about our citizens but we are not bound by any rules, thereís no data-protection and there are no safeguards for citizensí.
More beneath the fold.
Iím sorry, this is a democracy, this is the 21st century, and we all know that the public authorities mean well, but people arenít safe, people should have proper means of redress. Thatís really elementary. Secondly, US authorities have really given us very little reason to trust them blindfolded.
The Americans have not lived up to their promises, thatís very obvious; for example, there was the issue of Ďpurpose limitationí. The agreementís undertakings state that passenger data can only be used for the fight against terrorism and related crime. However, in reality it turns out that it is being used for other purposes.
Thereís also the case of SWIFT [bank-transfer data]. Why do we have to find out five years into the war against terror that our bank accounts are being monitored, why didnít anybody tell us about this?
Is this the way that allies behave? Spying on each other in secret? The CIA flights, the rendition flights, secret detention camps, these donít really inspire much confidence, either. Iím sorry, but it creates an image of American authorities who feel that they are above the law. And this is not anti-Americanism, because, letís face it, opposition is growing within the US as well.
<...> The US is squandering the goodwill that they had. I am very sorry about that, because I passionately believe that we should be allies and we should be sharing the same values, but it is increasingly difficult.
This is a very undesirable situation, and itís not just about PNR. We do not speak with one voice, but national governments are selling their electorate the illusion of national sovereignty. Give me a break! Terrorism is a worldwide phenomenon, but we see today that policies are not made in national capitals, nor are they made in Brussels, they are made in Washington. <...>
Read the whole thing. Particularly what she has to say about European governments selling us short.