Signing away the data privacy of 400 Million European citizens - Bush has a timetable and his pen ready to sign up
In September 2006 President Bush introduced a slim 24 page booklet which few have bothered to read, National Stratgey for combating terrorism . It is worth considering of some of the remarks and statments made in that document. ... well all of it but here are some Europeans might well consider.
Overview of America’s National Strategy for Combating Terrorism (p 6)
America is at war with a transnational terrorist movement fueled by a radical ideology of hatred, oppression, and murder.
It is often overlooked that this threat is boldly, clearly and directly as fuelled by a religion, a religion that is followed by probably more followers than any other in the world. (see p. 10)
This transnational movement is not monolithic.
Although al-Qaida functions as the movement’s vanguard and remains, along with its affiliate groups and those inspired by them, the most dangerous present manifestation of the enemy, the movement is not controlled by any single individual, group, or state. What unites the movement is a common vision, a common set of ideas about the nature and destiny of the world, and a common goal of ushering in totalitarian rule. What unites the movement is the ideology of oppression, violence, and hate.
Our terrorist enemies exploit Islam to serve a violent political vision. Fueled by a radical ideology and a false belief that the United States is the cause of most problems affecting Muslims today, our enemies seek to expel Western power and influence from the Muslim world and establish regimes
Perhaps the most significant pasage concerns how the defence of the Homeland impacts on the US partners (see page 18)
Deny terrorists entry to the United States and disrupt their travel internationally. Denying our enemies the tools to travel internationally and across and within our borders significantly impedes their mobility and can inhibit their effectiveness. They rely on illicit networks to facilitate travel and often obtain false identification documents through theft or in-house forgery operations.
We will continue to enhance the security of the American people through a layered system of protections along our borders, at our ports, on our roadways and railways, in our skies, and with our international partners. We will continue to develop and enhance security practices and technologies to reduce vulnerabilities in the dynamic transportation network, inhibit terrorists from crossing U.S. borders, and detect and prevent terrorist travel within the United States. Our efforts will include improving all aspects of aviation security; promoting secure travel and identity documents; disrupting travel facilitation networks; improving border security and visa screening; and building international capacity and improving international information exchange to secure travel and combat terrorist travel.
Ever since 9/11 there have been discussions between the US and the EU about the physical methods of making such alliances for controlling access to the US.
These talks are now reaching frution and President Bush wants them in place, without scrutiny by Congress before he leaves offic. Almost unseen within the Joint Statement when he met the EU leaders in Slovenia is mention of “the fight against transnational crime and terrorism requires the ability to share personal data for law enforcement,” and called for the creation of a “binding international agreement” to aid such transfers while also ensuring that citizens’ privacy is “fully” protected.""It would provide the greatest level of legal security and certainty."
On June 6th Reuters carried a report which went largely unnoticed that a panel of senior (ie unelected) European Union and U.S. officials, was set up more than a year to hammer out solutions to problems raised by European lawmakers and rights groups who have long argued that data sharing deals lacked proper privacy protection.
On this see Wednesday, February 06, 2008 Data rape see also here and here how the Queen interrupted her hols at Balmoral to sign UK citizens Rights away by an Order in Council - Court at Balmoral, the 5th day of September 2006 Present, The Queen’s Most Excellent Majesty in CouncilHer Majesty, in exercise of the powers conferred upon Her by sections 60(1), (2)(b), (3)(h) and (4), 61(1)(a) and 102(2)(b) of, and paragraph 2 of Part 3 of Schedule 13 to, the Civil Aviation Act 1982(a), is pleased, by and with the advice of Her Privy Council, to order as follows: ... etc which means that 34 bits of data about you , name, address, sex, food preferences, credit card number, etc.,etc., will disappear of to the data vaults of uncle Sam ..... forever...and ever... sometghing dear reader you can do ablsolutely nothing about.
This group have, like any group of unelected officials been busy at work , brooding over Washington access to private data on air passengers travelling (and also from Canada, Mexico etc,)to the United States and the demand to keep them for 15 years.
They have also been discussing with the U.S. Treasury Department why they should have access to the banking records of EU citizens via access to records of international banking network SWIFT.
Meanwhile at various levels EU nations have been busy building all sorts of cross border police databases (Interpol see Friday, November 04, 2005 Secret Service spread terror message ... we are all doooooomed!!!! ) and has agreements to exchange DNA data , fingerprints, details of stolen passports within the bloc. Naturally they see no difficulty about sharing access further to the other side of the Atlantic and agree they need to cooperate on data privacy to "build trust."
The EU-U.S. panel have already identified a first set of 12 common principles on data privacy. These cover the use of information on race and religion in certain cases "Personal information revealing racial or ethnic origins, political opinions or religious or philosophical beliefs ... health or sexual life ... may not be processed unless domestic law provides appropriate safeguards," the text of a document seen by Reuters (but not by EU citizens or their MEP's) says.
An EU diplomat said the guidelines did not carry legal weight and would need to be detailed in further negotiations. Of course.
"The use of sensitive data depends on circumstances and purpose; it may be OK in some cases, under special circumstances, and not in others," the diplomat said. Of course.
We don't want to sell everyone's deal for a mess of pottage do we Ambassador ?
We have a report in the New York Times today that is entitled "U.S. and Europe Near Agreement on Private Data "
"The United States and the European Union are nearing completion of an agreement allowing law enforcement and security agencies to obtain private information — like credit card transactions, travel histories and Internet browsing habits — about people on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean."
We are sorry ....were you asleep whilst all that happened ?
You didn't realise this...... " diplomatic breakthrough for American counterterrorism officials, who have clashed with the European Union over demands for personal data" was in the works even ?
You thought Europe generally has more stringent laws restricting how governments and businesses can collect and transfer such information. You were right , but very soon you will be wrong.
Whilst you were asleep ... and all your elected representataives at Westminster, hosing money away down the Northern Wreck Black Hole of South Shields " draft language for 12 major issues central to a “binding international agreement,” is now agreed. All done silently secretly, swiftly ,jointly by the negotiators from the United States Homeland Security, Justice and State Departments, and by "their European Union counterparts".
We'll run that by you again , we said above "Personal information revealing racial or ethnic origins, political opinions or religious or philosophical beliefs ... health or sexual life ... may not be processed unless domestic law provides appropriate safeguards," ....
Now European law and the laws of sovereign states, sets up independent government agencies to police whether personal data is being used lawfully and to help citizens who are concerned about invasions of their privacy. The United States has no such independent agency. As a concession, the Europeans (ie those unelected well paid, well fed bueaurcrats) have agreed that the American government’s internal oversight system may be good enough to provide accountability for how Europeans’ data is used. Well let's all trust Uncle Sam... Prop. Guantanamo Bay, Diego Garcia , Abu Ghraib ...
A sticking point is what happens say if you get put on a no fly list based on incorrect personal information.
In Europe you file a lawsuit to seek damages and to have the data corrected or expunged. American citizens and permanent residents can generally do the same under the Privacy Act of 1974, but that statute does not extend to foreigners. The way we read it. It never will.
The EU is in a holding a pattern that its citizens “require the ability to bring suit in U.S. courts specifically under the Privacy Act for an agreement to be reached on redress.” Not only does that sound like a lawyers breakfast it looks like a very expensive lawyers breakfast.
The problem is that a change in the Privacy Act of 1974 requires Congresss to Act. The last thing Bush wants is to face Congress.
Bush wants to leave office with a deal - no legislative action .... simply a signature.
Paul Begala an advisor to the previous President, (who was noted for a unique understanding of evidential law), exhibited a frightening view from the top, of this misuse of executive order authority when he pardoned Marc Rich "Stroke of a pen, law of the land, kind of cool." said Begala .
Dylan Thomas described it accurately in his war time lament, "The hand that signed the paper, felled a city, and ruin came…Great is the hand that holds Dominion over man by a scribbled name"
Here in Europe officials are as anxious for a swift, silent and secure deal as President Bush , at the moment such changes will require national ratification of any accords, the Lisbon Treaty will hand ratification power to the European Parliament, which has been sceptical of American antiterrorism policies.
Anyway HMQ signed your air travel data away if you are a UK citizen one wet September afternoon in 2006. Expect your DNA, fingeprints ,bank transactions to follow pretty soon.
Is there any reciprocity ? Do we get the same deal from US citizens visiting Europe ? Is it simply a one way street ?
Do bears defecate in the woods ?