EU opens up bank data to US anti-terror investigators

MEPs have voted to allow American anti-terrorist investigators to access European bank data held by Swift, which handles millions of bank transactions a day.

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MEPs have voted to allow American anti-terrorist investigators to access European bank data held by Swift, which handles millions of bank transactions a day.

Although the European Parliament blocked a similar proposal in February, EU negotiators said the new agreement, part of the EU-US Terrorist Finance Tracking Program (TFTP) Agreement, contains improved safeguards.

Under the deal, which comes into force on 1 August, the data that can be transferred to the US investigators will provide identifying information about the originator and the recipient of a transaction. This information includes names, addresses and national identification numbers.

As part of the new deal’s safeguards, the EU’s police agency, Europol, can assess and approve the investigators’ access, and EU officials will be appointed to monitor the investigators’ actions. In addition, bulk data cannot be sent to third countries.

Lazaro Campos, Swift CEO, said: “Protection of our customer data has been and remains Swift’s top priority. [Our safeguards] include limiting the scope of data requests to anti-terrorism purposes only, segregating data to a secure environment and auditing every justification for data searches.”

Timothy Kirkhope, MEP, European Conservatives and Reformists group home affairs spokesman, who has always supported the agreement, said: “We’ve constructed this balanced agreement so that it protects our bank data and legal rights, whilst ensuring that vital and relevant information is passed on to the USA for our joint counter-terrorism efforts.

“The only people who should fear this agreement are terrorists and their financial backers.”

According to the BBC News website, the US government said that the Swift agreement is a crucial part of its anti-terrorism programme. The TFTP was started after the 9/11 attacks in the US. However, before the ratification of this new deal, it was revealed in 2006 that the US was already secretly accessing Swift’s bank data.