Crucial PNR counter-terrorism agreement takes off
Posted, April 19, 2012 @ 13:00
The critical Passenger Name Records (PNR) agreement between the EU and USA, which has been approved by Euro-MPs today, will ensure that extremely valuable data on terrorists, serious criminals and people traffickers can be passed to the US authorities under strict conditions, Timothy Kirkhope MEP, European Conservatives and Reformists group spokesman, said today.
Mr Kirkhope has been the parliament's leading advocate of the agreement, and he is currently steering through parliament a similar set of proposals for exchanging data on intra-EU flights.
Under the agreement, when making a transatlantic flight reservation, very specific pieces of passenger information will be transferred to the US Department of Homeland Security, where there will be clear rules as to protection of data, who can see it, and passenger rights of access, correction, redress and information over how their information could be used.
Speaking after the parliament granted assent to the new agreement by 409 votes to 226 votes, Mr Kirkhope said:
"This agreement is a major step forward for the protection of both passengers' data, and their lives. It has taken several years to reach this stage but the work has paid off.
"We cannot underestimate the value of PNR data in tracking and apprehending people who want to cause us serious harm. PNR data has been instrumental in capturing collaborators of the 7/7 bombers and the Mumbai attackers. It led to the capture of dozens of murderers, paedophiles and rapists. 95 percent of all drug captures in Belgium and 85 percent in Sweden are caught using PNR data.
"Given the value of this data, we would have been irresponsible to reject it. However, the intervention of the European Parliament has produced a much stronger agreement with additional safeguards for passengers.
"If MEPs had blocked this deal, PNR data would still have been handed over by the airlines: but outside of any data protection framework. Some MEPs were irresponsibly asking us to play politics with a major counter-terrorism agreement. We risked cutting off our noses to spite our faces.
"Now we have a strong agreement, and we have sent a powerful message to the USA that we continue to be its partner in the fight against terrorism."