European Officials Declare U.S. Financial Spying Dragnet Illegal

Document Date: December 4, 2006

> Press Release on the Opinion of the Article 29 Working Party on the Processing of Personal Data by SWIFT (PDF) (11/23/2006)
> Belgians Confirm Illegality Of SWIFT Surveillance Program, Setting Up Showdown Over U.S. Privacy Laws(9/28/2006)
> Belgian Government Report on SWIFT Program – English translation (9/28/2006)
> Booz Allen’s Extensive Ties to Government Raise More Questions About SWIFT Surveillance Program (9/26/2006)
> ACLU Condemns House Resolution Approving SWIFT Program (6/29/2006)

> Opinion of the Article 29 Working Party on the Processing of Personal Data by SWIFT
> Booz Allen Not An Independent Check On SWIFT Surveillance (PDF)

European Union regulators have released a statement and report detailing the reasons why a secret U.S. program of mass financial spying operating without oversight is against European law. The EU officials found that the mass financial prying was not legally authorized, was conducted without proper checks and balances, and violated several important rules established to protect the privacy of Europeans.

For Americans, this report is important for several reasons. It is our government that is falling into the misguided strategy of mass surveillance as a way to fight terrorism. But it is the Europeans who have modern privacy laws in place, and as a result, Americans today are forced to rely on Europe to defend the basic principles of privacy. This report is a part of a European attempt to defend their privacy protections against the assault of an American government that, instead of bringing U.S. privacy standards up to civilized, internationally recognized standards, would like to press the Europeans to weaken their standards down to the U.S. level. This report signals that such a degradation of standards will not be allowed.

For background on the U.S. program of spying on the SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications) financial cooperative, read ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero’s statement, and the press release detailing the lack of independent oversight of the monitoring program.

The report was issued by the EU’s Article 29 Working Party, which is made up of the EU’s data-protection commissioners (important positions in Europe that don’t yet exist in the U.S.).

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