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EU lawmakers urge block on US access to SWIFT bank data

24th Oct 2013

European lawmakers have approved a resolution that calls for US anti-terrorism investigators to be denied access to the global banking database, SWIFT. The decision followed revelations about American spying activities.

Lawmakers in the Brussels parliament voted by 280 to 254 in favor of the resolution on Wednesday to suspend US access to the global database because of concerns that the powers were being abused. There were 30 abstentions.

The vote followed leaks by former US intelligence operative Edward Snowden, which suggested that the US National Security Agency (NSA) used the Belgium-based system of international bank transfers, SWIFT, to snoop on the EU.

The resolution is non-binding, but the parliament stressed it would “take account of the European Commission’s response to this demand when considering whether to give its consent to future international agreements.”

Should the violations be proven, the Terrorist Finance Tracking Program (TFTP) could only be suspended by a two-thirds majority of the 28-nation bloc’s member states.

Opponents of the measure claimed that the cancellation of the agreement granting access would be a blow to international efforts to combat terrorism. However, supporters claim that the alleged extent of the spying represented such a grave infringement that the agreement could no longer stand.

“We need full transparency, especially with all the NSA revelations,” said Guy Verhofstadt, leader of the Liberals in the European Parliament.

The agreement had given the US limited access to the information stored on the database at a headquarters near Brussels. US investigators were required to make narrowly-tailored data requests filed with the European security authority, Europol. However, material leaked by Snowden seemed to indicate that the US hacked computers to circumvent the process.

The European Commission has said it intends to press US authorities again “without delay” for a complete explanation, but says there is no indication that the TFTP Agreement has been violated.

rc /tj (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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Sectarianism in the Middle East and its rise in the UK, Standpoint, Sahar TV. Interview 29 May 2013 and aired on 12 June 2013

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