Skip to main content.

Back to: >> National Security

EU: U.S. Anti-Terror Flight Rules Breach Privacy

The Europeans are taking privacy and liberty more seriously than the Bush Administration does.

Does this bode well for American Democracy? Not in our view. The Europeans have learned about the power of liberty, freedom and privacy. Mr. Bush and the Neocons discard such notions. They seem to consider themselves a ruling elite in the Platonic mold, treating the American electorate like, well, the Stepford Wives.
Tuesday, September 2, 2003; 12:35 PM

STRASBOURG, France (Reuters) - The European Commission said on Tuesday it rejected U.S. demands for airlines to reveal passenger information as the anti-terrorism measure could breach EU privacy rules.

A spokesman for the EU executive said Washington had failed to give binding commitments that personal data could not be abused in ways that might break EU laws on confidentiality.

"The U.S. side has refused to limit the use of data to combat terrorism," Commission spokesman Reijo Kemppinen told a daily news briefing.

The transatlantic row centers on part of Washington's enhanced anti-terrorism drive it launched after the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Since March, Washington has ordered airlines flying to the United States to hand over data on passengers including names, dietary preferences and itinerary.

In a letter to the U.S. authorities the EU commissioner in charge of customs issues, Frits Bolkestein, said the issue touched on "fundamental rights and liberties which are constitutionally protected in the law of several (EU) member states."

"These liberties are fiercely cherished in the European Union," he said in the letter to Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge.

The EU said the demand could breach data protection laws and sought assurances from Washington that the data is not abused or stored indefinitely and that sensitive information on issues such as religion or health problems, are not given.

"The U.S. undertakings fall short of what we need," Bolkestein said in his letter distributed to reporters.

In theory, airlines that do hand the information to U.S. authorities could be fined by European data protection agencies if they believe the data is being abused.

EU airlines have complained they are caught between two regulators as they could be fined by U.S. authorities if they do not comply.

Bolkestein is due to discuss the issue with a senior U.S. Homeland Security official in Brussels on September 22.


No comments yet

To be able to post comments, please register on the site.