A European Union oversight committee has concluded that the data sharing program between the U.S. and a European financial consortium broke the law by violating the civil liberties of European citizens. The decision may prompt the EU’s ruling body to sue Belgium for allowing the program to continue.

New York Times:

The consortium, called the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications, or Swift for short, has drawn widespread criticism and scrutiny since the data transfers became publicly known early this year. American agencies requested the data so that their analysts could search for possible terrorist financing activity among the millions of confidential financial transactions that Swift oversees.

In a draft of a statement that will be made final on Thursday, the European Union’s data-protection “watchdog,” a committee made up of data-protection officials from the union’s member governments, says that financial institutions throughout the union share responsibility with Swift for the data sharing, which it concluded had violated the civil liberties of European citizens.

The Bush administration has defended the program, which began after the Sept. 11 terror attacks in the United States, and has complained bitterly that public discussion of the program may be helping terrorists elude detection.

But critics in Europe have said that the program improperly put American security interests ahead of Europeans’ rights. An investigation by a Belgian privacy commission concluded in September that Swift had flouted the European Union’s rules on data privacy, and called Swift’s actions “a gross miscalculation.”



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