EU to vote to suspend U.S. data sharing agreements, passenger records amid NSA spying scandal

EU to vote to suspend U.S. data sharing agreements, passenger records amid NSA spying scandal

Summary: The European Parliament will vote — ironically of all days, on U.S. Independence Day on July 4 — whether existing data sharing agreements between the two continents should be suspended, following allegations that U.S. intelligence spied on EU citizens.

EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding listens to MEPS on matters relating to the NSA spying on EU citizens and politicians. Sat next to her, an EU 'bunny', given as a "gift" by a fellow politician. (Image: European Union)

The European Parliament will vote on Thursday to adopt a resolution on measures against the U.S. government over the mass surveillance operation conducted by the National Security Agency.

In a plenary sitting in Strasbourg, numerous members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have called for the suspension of EU-U.S. trade talks, which are currently under way, until the picture surrounding the activities of the U.S.' intelligence activities becomes clearer. 

Also on the cards is the suspension of crucial EU-U.S. agreements, such as the Terrorist Finance Tracking Programme (TFTP) and the Passenger Name Records (PNR), which could see flights suspended between the two continents.

The U.S. government has been embroiled in an international diplomatic crisis over its intelligence agencies' spying on foreign nationals. Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden blew the whistle on a number of programs the U.S. employs to acquire masses of data on citizens around the world, including those in the European Union.

The U.K. government was embroiled in the NSA spying saga after it's Cheltenham-based listening station GCHQ was found to have tapped under-sea fiber optic cables, in an operation codenamed Tempora.

EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding told the parliament that she had sent U.K. Foreign Secretary William Hague a letter seeking clarification on Tempora.

Meanwhile, Reuters reports that the European Commission is examining if the U.K. broke EU law, which could lead to an infringement procedure against the British government. This could lead to financial sanctions imposed by the European Court of Justice. 

British MEP Sarah Ludford warned that other EU member states "also need to look at their cooperation with the NSA," and noted that Westminster had been "deafeningly silent" on the matter, and hoped the U.K.'s parliamentary committee on security and intelligence "did a better job."

PNR suspension could ground flights between EU, U.S.

In the resolution, submitted to the Parliament on Tuesday, more than two-dozen politicians from a range of political parties call the spying "a serious violation of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations," and call on the suspension of the Passenger Name Records (PNR) system.

Prior to leaving the airport, airlines must make passenger data available to the U.S. Names, dates of birth, addresses, credit or debit card details and seat numbers are among the data — though critics say the information has never helped catch a suspected criminal or terrorist before.

Should the PNR system be suspended, it could result in the suspension of flights to the U.S. from European member states.

MEPs mixed on suspension of free trade discussions

One of the options available to the EU is to suspend discussions on the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, otherwise known as the TTIP, is thought to be worth billions of dollars for both continents on each side of the Atlantic. It will help to eliminate tariffs on trade, and open up the doors to transatlantic partnerships and a boon to the technology and science industries, among other sectors. 

German MEP Axel Voss said the Obama administration should be "adequately explained," demanding that the delegations on the TTIP should be suspended, as did French MEP Marie-Christine Vergiat‎, who was one of two MEPs who called on the EU to give Snowden asylum in the 28 member state bloc.

Read this

EU 'assessing U.S. relationship' amid PRISM spying claims

EU 'assessing U.S. relationship' amid PRISM spying claims

In a letter obtained by ZDNet, the EU justice chief hints at consequences to come for the U.S. government if European citizens were targeted by the NSA's PRISM program.

Spanish MEP Juan Fernando López Aguilar, who chairs the European Parliament's Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs committee, also called on the suspension of the free trade agreement negotiations.

But other MEPs speaking in the Parliament on Wednesday instead suggested the suspension of exchange of data between the two continents.

"The U.S. systematically comes into our homes, our embassies, and our institutions," said Italian MEP Salvatore Iacolino. "But it would be wrong to block EU-U.S. negotiations which have just gotten under way, as this would penalize EU citizens twice over," he noted, instead pointing the figure at the "exchange of data" with the United States.

His comments were in regard to reports in the German media, which claimed EU institutions and embassies in the U.S. had been bugged by U.S. law enforcement.

Dutch MEP Sophie in 't Veld, a strong advocate of privacy and data protection rights in the EU, said she was against suspending the trade talks, but said the EU should make it "absolutely clear we cannot sign an agreement with a partner we cannot fully trust." 

She told her colleagues: "I do not want to hear the argument of national security anymore," she added. "Sorry, bugging the EU offices in Washington is a matter of 'national security'? Blanket surveillance of millions of innocent citizens is a matter of 'national security'? I do not buy that anymore."

A number of MEPs specifically called on U.S. President Barack Obama to meet with the Parliament to explain his government's actions. PRISM began during President George W. Bush's administration after the September 11 terrorist attacks.

EU justice chief: Citizen redress, or no deal

Reding, in spite of the parliamentary resolution on deck for an upcoming, she will not sign off on an "umbrella agreement" between the U.S. and the EU, a decision that was met with a round of applause for the European vice-president.

The agreement is designed to make it much easier for the U.S. and EU to share data that will cover future transfer arrangements for anti-terror operations between the two continents, from banking data and passenger name records, for instance.

Citing reciprocity between the two continents, "some progress was made on around half of the provisions," she told members on Wednesday.

"But it is now time to address key issues on the equal rights of EU and U.S. citizens, and effective judicial redress," Reding said. "I can not understand why a U.S. citizen has the right to redress in the EU, but an EU citizen does not have the right to redress in the U.S. We continue to negotiate because I keep that on the table. If we had given up that right, we would have already signed the agreement."

"And I will not sign the agreement so long as we do not have the reciprocity. And as long as we have not found the solutions in accordance with EU law on difficult issues, such as data retention."

Topic: EU

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  • Unbelieveable

    It's a sad day for America when EU government officials have more respect for American citizens rights than US government officials, although they are doing it inadvertently by protecting the privacy rights of their own citizens...
    • BS

      if that was the case they would not always be trying to make money off American companies. Just some big public display that in the end is going to bite them in the a$$.
      • Need the US

        You comment like the rest of the world needs the USA, they don't. The rest of the wold would be better off without their Political and Corporate TOXIC practices. The Founding Fathers are rolling over in their graves, to see the way the Constitution has been has been perverted and rationalized/interpreted to suit the needs of the "special interests", are you going to wake up, or let them keep feeding you the lying koolaid.
    • It's just a big show by the socialists..Note the UK...

      has not answered to it's own program involving the undersea communications.

      The liberals will push and scream foul all the way to their early graves when the the middle easterners they are fighting to protect slice them right up the belly
      • Hilarious

        How many 9/11 style attacks were successful in Europe?

        Answer: zero

        And before you cry foul and claim none were attempted, that is false. In fact, the attempt predated 9/11.
        • Europe is not known as the business center of the world,

          and New York represented a more precious and visible and more important target. The EU didn't have a center of commerce such as the World Trade Towers.

          Plus, the EU has had more terrorist attacks than the U.S., though none of the scale of 9/11.

          The EU remains more vulnerable to attacks than the U.S. but, the Muslim terrorist are preferring to take over the continent by just moving there and replacing whatever religions and customs and cultures might exist, with that of the Muslims. It's already happening, without the mass murders that come from terrorism. So, no need to terrorize when they can take over through mostly "non-violent" means.

          If you live in Europe, don't look now, but, you're slowly losing the battle against the enemy that no longer needs terrorism to conquer you.
          • Money is it? F the rights of the citizen.

            China is sitting in the wings watching, neither them nor the EU almost bankrupted the world, it was China and the EU that bailed the good old self centered US bankers and wall street out.

            Of course if that had happened in China all the bankers would have been executed, or in the EU they would all have gone to Jail. But in the good old boy corrupt third world US, the cronies did not even get charged. You think that the rest of the world that has 5 times the US economy doesn't notice this? That there will be no repercussions and sanctions? Who wants to do business with the CENTER OF CORRUPTION.
          • London's as crucial as wall street

            The City of London actually takes precedence over any other as the financial capital of the world and there have been many terrorist attacks in the UK. This includes many men, women and children blown apart by bombs whose components were purchased by funds raised through NORAID which was funded by US citizens. Terrorist outrages have happened across the globe for hundreds of years and since the twin towers fell America is now falling victim too.
          • For the EU it is quite convenient, not to be the center of the world -

            - the advantages are just great. no need to spend billions on armed forces, no need to fight wars just to proove who ist the toughest boy around, no need to take billions of usd in loans from china, etc.
            there were attacks - but we did not sell our civil rights to the extend the us did - as far as I remember homeland security (sounds exactly like gestapo) is a us department.
            the replacement is taking place since the 17th century - thats how long austria had muslim citizens directly on the continent, not to speak of other countries with extensive muslim colonies.
            and even if there was a replacement - so what - cultures change. only a fool believes, that the us culture of today would exist 100 years from now.
          • Re: Europe is not known..........................

            Here, Here!!!! You hit the nail "squarely on the head!!!! They are taking them over from within, ergo no need for "terrorism"! They are slowly taking them over as we speak by mass influx of immigration, then getting seats in their Government!

            BUT they too are to stupid to realize it!!!!
        • How about the 7/7

          I know that it did not kill as many as the twin towers but bombs went off in London on the underground and buses killing 50 odd people. I would call that a pretty terrible attack, then there was the train attack in Madrid.
          So attacks have happened and will continue to happen in the EU and around the world, all we can say is that in both the EU and the USA there has been less death than Iraq (I think 2,300 to date this year.)
      • The US spends more on socialist programs per capita.

        The US spends more money per capita than those so-called "socialist" countries and yet fewer people are actually covered. A significant portion of those socialist "entitlement" dollars gets wasted on liability insurance and other bureaucratic crap instead of providing services to your citizens. Stop wasting taxpayer dollars and lining the pockets of lawyers and insurance companies. All of that supposed competition for insurance has not led lower costs but quite the opposite.
    • As opposed to London which has the most cameras per citizen

      then any other city/country in the world?

      You mean THOSE privacy loving EU officials?
      William Farrel
      • In public areas!

        As opposed to your phone and internet communications in your own homes.
      • UK Goverments are pussy's

        We have unprecedented surveillance in the UK such as cctv not because were European but because we have vain-glorious Prime Ministers who love to be in control (that's when they haven't got their noses buried between the buttocks of US Presidents). Im sure most Brits would happily follow a more European model which would mean less surveillance of citizens which equals less cctv.
        • Freedom doesn't mean not trying to keep your citizens alive.

  • Industrial Spionage

    The Europeans still behave like American lapdogs. Not realizing that the trade secrets of companies like Airbus and other innovators are stolen. A law should prevent that companies are allowed to adhere to US law instead of EU law.
  • airbus

    How many Boeing airliners were examined by Airbus before the 320
    preferred user
  • two-tiered world order

    I used to dismiss those who spoke of US (Democrats?) trying to establish a new world order as rants of fanatics... but now that two- or perhaps three-tiered world order is upon us:
    Tier 1. those in the US who have access to "all information" and can potentially do what they please with it, without checks and balances, under the pretext of "protecting us from terrorism"
    Tier 3. the majority of the world, to whom basic rights such as deciding what is considered "private or personal information" accorded to Tier 1 and 2 do not apply because a foreign government spies on them as it pleases
    Tier 2. US citizens, who are led to believe they're treated better by Tier 1 than the rest of the world. In fact, the absence of an open discussion about which checks and balances should regulate these "omniscent state powers" effectively denies US citizens like everyone else of their basic rights (who's to say that US citizens are not spied upon as "collateral damage")

    This creates a world of: super-humans (Tier 1: a tight circle of people centered around DC), "naked" humans (Tier 2: who could potentiall get angry and demand dignified treatment by a court if they could produce proof of abuse, which most likely they can't), and "sub-humans" whose dignity and right to mind their own business without some foreign government they owe nothing to snooping on their business (literally: for example on the stuff an engineer or scientist is developing in his lab or company...).
    Sorry state for this thing we used to call democracy... US-citizens wake up!
    The rest of the world can only scream "high treason!": the US used to be the one we looked up to as example of democracy, egalitarian values, and transparency. Now how many feel vindicated, charging that this was just window dressing and their authoritarian ways were right all along?
    • The US is NOT a democracy under its constitution, but a republic.

      Its founding fathers wanted 'freedom' from foreign rule, but did not want equality, because that would have meant suffrage and rights for women and no slaves, of which all the 'fathers' had many!

      But then this is the process that has eventually led to a gradual equality of rights and enfranchisement under those countries based on British law.

      The Barons that brought King John to heel at Runnymede in 1215 so he had to sign the Magna Carta did not give a stuff about anybody but themselves. However, over time, as more of those on the fringe of true citizenship started agitating for equality under the law for themselves -- but not for those 'lesser than them -- they came to get all the rights as those selfish people before them.