On the 22nd of June, 2006 the New York Times had a story, which uncovered an international financial surveillance program,being run by the Bush Administration. In essence the Bush Administration is able to access international transfer data and store them in databases of the Treasury Department and/or CIA for investigating terrorist activities.
There have been a number of inconsistencies in the accounts so far. U.S.is claiming that this is a narrowly focused programme which is in compliance with the law. The Belgian Government is concerned that the data is being accessed without any authorisation by a Belgian judge.
The Bush Administration says that it has been reporting this to Congressional leaders, but some found out it, as late as May 2006 as soon as it became clear that the story was about to come out. As is the case with international co-operations, the U.S., is claiming universal jurisdiction while the body responsible for protecting the data, the EU, is avoiding any responsibility. According to the U.S. the data is only used to combat terrorism, but US also admits to possessing shared data on yet other illegal deals with relevant agencies.
The U.S. only access the specific data when it is relevant to an investigation, but how they have been able to access the entire database of billions of transactions is still not explained.
The data is supposedly, searched only when it is relevant to an investigation but they also admit that there were possibly many such searches. The U.S. has supposedly, briefed international oversight bodies, like, G-10 bank central governors, but the governors deny jurisdiction over such activities and the Belgian Minister of Justice admitted that she learnt of the transfers from the media.
These inconsistencies have severe effects on the credibility of the international finance sector. PI has called for immediately stopping the transfers until essential questions on due process and privacy protections have been answered adequately.
British banks have answered the guardians of European privacy , who claim they broke the law by letting US anti-terror investigators access the details of their consumers’ international financial transactions. The banks have written letters to their clients, and claim this should be sufficient to clear any misgivings.
The banks wrote to their customers, warning them, that the details of their international transactions might have been accessed by US investigators. This response has been to protect the consumer interests, while dealing with US investigators. Such response is in keeping with the Article29 Working Party, premised on such concerns.
The A29 group, said in November, that Europe’s financial organizations, should correct the present state of affairs as soon as possible.After the European statements to correct the state of affairs, UK’s requested its financial institutions to look at steps needed to make sure UK financial institutions followed the data protection legislation.
They were not expecting to adopt enforcement action against any UK financial institutions. They said that they might consider that if the current situation remained the same. The UK ICO actually might have little more to do than be polite.
Swift functions as an effective monopoly on international financial operations. Eighty-eight British financial institutions hold shares in Swift, while a total of four hundred and fifty seven UK institutions are connected to its network. They can not be stopped from using Swift without stopping the world’s market. The US would not stop its terrorist finance investigation and has not shown signs of welcoming European privacy authorities.
So the banks seem to be in the clear until the Europeans introduce the transatlantic agreement for which they started negotiating with the US, a week ago.The banks are waiting to see be saved by the international agreement.
Swift had struck its own deal with the US to preserve the privacy of its data. According to Swift the data it provided was in accordance with laws.The data protection authorities have disagreed, but they can not do much about it for now.
The authorities are afraid that a transatlantic agreement between Swift and the US may become a precedent for other agreements and may corrupt the broader legal principles the data protection people are struggling to protect.
Last Updated on : 1st August 2013