Sunday, December 05, 2010

Europe Wary of U.S. Bank Monitors

Eric Lichtblau writes in The New York Times:

When the European Parliament ordered a halt in February to an American government program to monitor international banking transactions for terrorist activity, the Obama administration was blindsided by the rebuke.

“Paranoia runs deep especially about US intelligence agencies,” a secret cable from the American Embassy in Berlin said. “We were astonished to learn how quickly rumors about alleged U.S. economic espionage” had taken root among German politicians who opposed the program, it said.

The memo was among dozens of State Department cables that revealed the deep distrust of some traditional European allies toward what they considered American intrusion into their citizens’ affairs without stringent oversight.

The program, created in secrecy by the Bush administration after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, has allowed American counterterrorism officials to examine banking transactions routed through a vast database run by a Brussels consortium known as Swift. When the program was disclosed in 2006 by The New York Times, just months after the newspaper reported the existence of the National Security Agency’s warrantless wiretapping program, it set off protests in Europe and forced the United States to accept new restrictions.

More here.


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