The permanent ambassadors of 27 member states of the EU gave approval yesterday to the agreement reached between the European Commission and the United States about the information of the passengers that the European air companies will have to transmit to the authorities of the North American country. Although the text must still be sent to the national parliaments to be examined and later be ratified in the European Advice of July 10, diplomatic sources informed that “the content surely will not be altered adn will pass through in the agreed terms.”
The complete document still has not been made public, but its fundamental aspects are known and recently the most polemic of them. In essence, when a passenger takes an airplane from whatever point in the European Union to the USA he or she will pass through the lists of the authorities of the American country, obviously included those that manage the secret service, that Washington considers “essential” all this data in its fight against international terrorism. In reality there are 34 personal registers that the EU sends to the American service, in line with a provisional agreement that substitues that which was signed between Washington and Brussels in 2004 and was declared illegal by the European Union Justice Tribunal.
Because this provisional pact expires at the end of the coming month, the Twentyseven had “certain urgency” in reaching an agreement of greater legal substance before the fear of that the USA was deciding to go ahead without the community authorities and to open direct negotiations with the air companies, “those that would be much easier to pressure so that they facilitate whatever type of information, for very intimate that this was...,” point out sources of the advisory group. “With this agreement, at least we reduce in a substantial way the quantity of transmitted information and, above all, we guarantee the privacy of the citizens,” they add.
Although it is true that the number of information left reduced to 19 - as the European Union desired - and that the danger of falling in a luck of free exchange between the American authorities and the air companie has been avoided, it’s not less true that between these records they will represent information such as the name of the passenger, his DNI, his private domicile, his age, his e-mail address, his bank account, if he has taken a fight in the last moment or if he has not gone into a plane without a reservation made, and under “very special circumstances,” his race, his religion, his ethnic origin, his sexual orientation and his political tendencies. This last bit of information, known as sensitive information, is the most controversial part.
France had been the last State that, until the last moment, truly had been against making such intimate information available, considering that they “contradict” the protection of the citizens’ right to privacy. Nevertheless, yesterday it finally eased its oposition with the exchange of certain “very strict guarentees and limitations,” according to a high French functionary, affirming that “this type of information only will be required by the United States when dealing with a passenger directly related to an open investigation that implicates danger to a person.”
“Besides, the American Interior Security Service will have to communicate to the European Commision, in the maximum period of 48 hours, that it has accessed this information and justify its use, destroying them 30 days following the finalization of the investigation for which they were used,” added the functionary. The United States has always declared that “its has a right to access all of the information without any limit,” but finally the American negotiator Michel Chertoff agreed to these clauses not before guarenteeing the right of Washington to transmit all of the registers obtained by the Interior Security Service - and not only the Customs Office – besides conserving the secret passenger files for 15 days (7 years the information not active and 8 years more that they had been used in another investigation), with the exception of those already identified as sensitive information with restricted access.