Europe, US at odds over data privacy, rendition, and Iran nukes
The United States and Europe appear to be headed for a showdown in a number of key areas in the war on terror.Skip to next paragraph
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Europeans are increasingly concerned about the US's use of the airline and banking data of European citizens in terrorist profiling. A German court has ordered the arrest of 13 Americans, presumed to be CIA agents, in the "extraordinary rendition" of a German citizen who was later found not to have any connections to terrorism. And European diplomats and politicians are increasingly nervous that the US plans to launch a military strike on Iran, which Europeans largely believe would create only greater problems in the Middle East.
The BBC reports that the European Union is planning to "voice concerns" over the use of data on airline passengers and bank transaction in a US antiterrorist profiling system. Late last year it was discovered that Swift, a private company which handles money transfers, had been giving information to the US in violation of European Union privacy laws.
Members of the EU parliament want to know if the information was fed into the US Automated Targeting System (ATS), which profiles possible terrorism suspects. If so, such measures would fall outside the agreements reached between Europe and the US on how to handle data.
"The European Parliament is fully supportive of proper co-operation across the Atlantic in fighting terrorism... What we don't accept is that there should be misuse of data," Liberal MEP Baroness Sarah Ludford told BBC World Service radio's World Today programme.
She said that ATS went "way beyond anything we had been led to understand the information would be used for".
The Associated Press reports that the EU justice and security commissioner has sent a letter to the US government seeking assurances that European data put into the ATS conforms to an interim agreement reached between the two parties in October of 2006.
The Washington Post reported earlier this month that EU officials had said that they were satisfied with Washington's explanation of the data use, but privacy advocates in the US and Europe wrote letters to EU privacy commissioners saying that the way the US used the data was a " direct contravention" of the October agreement. Their complaints sparked the EU parliament's decision to look into the matter.
Meanwhile, The Times of London reports that a German prosecutor has issued arrest warrants for 13 Americans, who are believed to be members of the CIA, for their role in the kidnapping and "extraordinary rendition" of a German citizen in Macedonia.
Christian Schmidt-Sommerfeld, a prosecutor from Munich, said that the warrants were issued in connection with the so-called "extraordinary rendition" of Khaled al-Masri, a German citizen of Lebanese descent, who claims he was kidnapped by US agents on the Macedonian border in 2003.
The case of Mr al-Masri is the best known of several individual allegations against the CIA, which is accused by human rights campaigners of secretly ferrying hundreds of terrorism suspects to detention facilities around the world, often in countries where torture is routine.
The Times also reports that the case has "brought a chill" to the once warm relationship between President Bush and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. In 2005, Ms. Merkel said US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice apologized to her for the incident. The US government has "strenuously denied" making such a statement.