ACLU Welcomes European Scrutiny Of U.S. Snooping On Financial Data

June 28, 2006 12:00 am

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Group Teams Up With European Civil Liberties Partner

NEW YORK-The American Civil Liberties Union today welcomed a call by the London-based group Privacy International to investigate the U.S. government's tracking of financial information from the SWIFT financial cooperative, and said that it was assisting PI in its effort to press European officials to take action.

"Privacy rights are being violated on both sides of the Atlantic -- and we welcome a European investigation to get to the bottom of this," said Barry Steinhardt, Director of the ACLU's Technology and Liberty Project.

Privacy International sent a letter to national privacy commissioners across Europe calling upon them to launch investigations of the SWIFT data sharing. "We are concerned that the practice substantially violates Data Protection law and we ask that you intervene with a view to making a demand that the disclosure programme be suspended pending legal review," PI wrote in its letter. "The scale of the operation, involving millions of records, places this disclosure in the realm of a fishing exercise rather than legally authorised investigation."

The letter follows last week's revelation that the U.S. government had been sifting through domestic and international financial data from SWIFT without Congressional authorization or judicial oversight.

"The ACLU has been providing Privacy International with information about American law and the status of any investigations here, while they have been keeping us abreast of European developments," said Steinhardt. "More and more we're seeing civil liberties being violated across national boundaries, and so civil liberties groups have to respond by working together to defend those liberties across national boundaries."

Steinhardt added, "things have reached a crisis point when some of our best hopes for preserving privacy in America lie with foreign commissioners."

ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero's statement on the government's spying on bank records without judicial or Congressional oversight can be found at:

The Privacy International complaint can be found at:

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