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Homeland Security Chief Hails Passenger Data Agreement
Secretary Michael Chertoff said the U.S. agency welcomes a European Union plan to share airline passenger name records.
U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff announced that the U.S. data-sharing agreement with the European Union will protect against terrorist and criminal threats while satisfying E.U. privacy requirements.
Chertoff, German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schauble, and E.U. Commissioner Franco Frattini initialed an international agreement on airline passenger name records, or PNRs, Thursday. The agreement, announced earlier this week, limits the data that air carriers operating transatlantic flights turn over to DHS for security reasons.
Chertoff said in a prepared statement that the agreement meets both the goals of the United States and the goals of the European Union. He added that it "ensures that all passengers traveling to the United States will be protected against terrorist and serious transnational criminal threats, while also protecting their personal information."
He called the passenger data a proven tool for combating terrorism and serious transnational crime. He said it provides the U.S. government with information that reveals connections between known threats and associates, as well as patterns of "concerning" activity.
"We have used this data in the U.S. to identify terrorist cells, dismantle human trafficking rings and arrest drug smugglers, among other successes," Chertoff said. "Further, our agreement ensures that PNR data is not used or shared for purposes other than for which it is collected. DHS and the E.U. have agreed to revise the list of data that may be collected, while retaining the flexibility to ensure sufficient data is collected to address current and future threats."
Chertoff noted that the United States modified the types of data collected and said the government will continue to gather only information that travelers provide when they make airline reservations.
"This information has proven necessary in concluding numerous investigations, and continued access will be invaluable in the fight against terrorism and successfully protecting our borders by keeping dangerous people from boarding planes and entering the U.S.," he said.
The United States had collected 34 categories of information on international travelers, including name, contact information, payment method, and itineraries. E.U. leaders claimed the practice violated privacy laws and the United States agreed to reduce the number to 19 types of information on transatlantic travelers.
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