Thursday, July 8, 2010

EU-US agree to share citizens bank data

US President Barack Obama on Thursday praised a deal between the United States and the European Union to share banking data as a key tool in the fight against terror.

"The threat of terrorism faced by the United States and the European Union continues and, with this agreement, all of our citizens will be safer," Obama said in a statement released by the White House.

"This new, legally binding agreement reflects significant additional data privacy safeguards but still retains the effectiveness and integrity of this indispensable counter-terrorism program," he said.

European MPs earlier Thursday voted 484-109 for a new five-year deal to allow the United States to again have access to banking information from August 1.

The Terrorist Finance Tracking Programme had allowed US access to information from the interbank money transfer system SWIFT, which is based in Brussels, but EU lawmakers' main concern was how personal information would be used by US authorities.

The TFTP has "provided critical investigative leads -- more than 1,550 to EU Member States -- since its creation after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks," Obama said.

Such leads, he said, have "aided countries around the world in preventing or investigating many of the past decade's most visible and violent terrorist attacks.

US Vice President Joe Biden sought to ease European concerns during a trip to Europe in May, saying "Europeans and Americans alike have valued greatly the privacy of our citizens."

Under the new deal, Europol, the European police organization, will check the validity of US requests.

"We are determined to protect citizens of all nations while also upholding fundamental rights, using every legitimate tool available to combat terrorism that is consistent with our laws and principles," said Obama in welcoming the deal.


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