European policymakers are fighting over how financial messaging information from the SWIFT network can be used to fight terrorism, and who gets to use it, EU Observer reported.
On Thursday (Jan. 8), members of the European Parliament debated what to do about an agreement under which Europol, the EU’s police agency, shares SWIFT financial data with U.S. government agencies. Their concern: that antiterrorist information-sharing agreement is ignoring the data-protection rights of EU consumers.
But the European Commission, the EU’s executive body, defended both the agreement and a secrecy order that prevents Europol from disclosing reports from the U.S.-EU Terrorist Finance Tracking Program (TFTP). A commission official said the report contains classified data supplied by the U.S. under the condition that it won’t be publicly released.
EU ombudsman Emily O’Reilly told the Parliament’s civil liberties committee that the situation amounts to giving the U.S. a veto over the democratic oversight of EU institutions.
The TFTP deal, which the European Parliament signed off on in 2010, gives the U.S. Treasury Department access to data on Europeans’ financial transactions through SWIFT in a bid to identify terrorist financing. Europol hands over the data after making sure each request complies with the terms of the TFTP pact.
But Europol’s Joint Supervisory Body, which audits that process, has said most of the data transferred concerns people who are not suspected of any crime and have nothing do to with terrorism. The data is reportedly provided in bulk, rather than on an individual basis, because Europol doesn’t have the technical means to evaluate each request.
The U.S. Treasury refused to let O’Reilly see the audit reports, citing the classified data they contained. Parliament members now fear that the TFTP safeguards they agreed to are being undermined.