Speaking to audiences in Brussels and Dublin this week, Attorney General Eric Holder pushed efforts to share sensitive intelligence information among nations, while attempting to assure officials that the U.S. remains sensitive to concerns about privacy.
There are three agreements in place between the U.S. and European Union nations that aid antiterrorism probes, Holder told the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs in Brussels Tuesday. “These three agreements have permitted exchanges of law enforcement and counterterrorism information in connection with hundreds of investigations that have helped protect EU and U.S. citizens, while also protecting their privacy,” he said. “They stand as brilliant successes for all of our nations.”
And he added, “Indeed, I am unaware of any suggestion that there ever has been a single data protection violation under these law enforcement agreements,” he said.
Concerns have been raised by some European officials about the use of financial data and airline passenger records.
Holder added that the U.S. and European nations should expand data protection efforts across the full range of law enforcement sharing.
“I should stress that such sharing already is subject to extensive data protection guarantees at the domestic level – and again, I am aware of no violations of those guarantees,” he said. “But now we have a chance – to consolidate those guarantees in an umbrella data protection and privacy agreement that will provide further assurances to our citizens.”
He said the U.S. is sensitive to the differences in the legal systems and protections among various nations. “It is impractical to suggest that we can impose the particularities of our respective legal systems on each other,” Holder said. “Instead, we must mutually recognize that each of our systems protect civil liberties – including privacy – effectively, but in our own ways. This is precisely the mutual recognition that we have reached in our previous agreements – and must do once again.”