Stewart Baker – volokh.com – Sept. 29, 2010:

Al-Qaeda is apparently planning Mumbai-style commando attacks on European, and the US has reportedly launched drone strikes in an effort to break up the plot.

One way to keep these terrorists out of the country is to heighten border scrutiny of Europeans and Americans who’ve traveled to Pakistan and spent months there without visible means of support. To do that, of course, border authorities need to know who’s been traveling in and out of Pakistan. Then they can use that information to flag visitors for additional questioning.

So how is the European Commission helping the US get the information it needs to protect itself from European terrorists trained in Pakistan?

It’s not. In fact, it’s campaigning to make sure we never get it.

The European Commission has announced that it will negotiate deals to prevent countries like Pakistan from providing travel data to the United States — except when the US already suspects a particular traveler or is otherwise investigating a particular case. In other words, the European Commission wants to bar the kind of wholesale data exchange that’s needed to spot at the border terrorists who have successfully disguised themselves as tourists. And it plans to withhold all European travel reservation data from Pakistan unless the Pakistanis agree to join a data boycott of the United States.

Remarkably, Brussels is pursuing this data boycott despite a solemn promise to the United States that it would not take such action.

Since 2003, privacy zealots in the European Union have been fighting – so far unsuccessfully — to keep the US from fully using that data to screen air passengers. Under pressure from the European Parliament, this month the European Commission launched its fourth attack in seven years on US use of such data.

Interestingly, the principles wouldn’t prevent Pakistan from giving the same information to European countries. Quite the contrary. The EU’s new principles for negotiation will require such sharing: “Information about terrorism and serious transnational crime resulting from the analysis of PNR data by third countries should be shared with EUROPOL, EUROJUST and EU Member States.”




  1. Glenn E. says:

    I believe that not only the European Commish does want to tell. But that the US government really doesn’t want to know, either. That way, it has the excuse to keep tabs on all of us, rather than just a few hundred world travelers. You can’t tell me that with the US having listening stations all over the world, with local nations’ cooperation and permission to snoop electronically. That they can’t get simple travel records for tracking possible terrorist agents. It not the lawful that the Europeans are protecting. It’s the unlawful and their economic trade shenanigans, that they’re hiding. Which is also probably what the US gov really wants the dope on. Not about terrorists or terrorism. An excuse they’re using to cover up what they’re really data mining for.


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