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US Passenger Name Record Agreement infringes on civil liberties - Ó Snodaigh

11 October, 2006

Sinn Féin International Affairs and Human Rights spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has said the Passenger Name Record (PNR) Agreement should not be entered into lightly or behind closed doors. Speaking in the Dáil today Deputy Ó Snodaigh said the PNR agreement forms part of the so-called 'war on terror' and will infringe the civil liberties of Irish and EU citizens.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, "Since the 5th of February 2003 the United States requires in-flying airlines to provide the US authorities with electronic access to some 34 items of data on passengers. While some passenger data systems contain a limited amount of information others contain more extensive data including details of past travel, car and hotel reservations, phone numbers, e-mail addresses, residential and business addresses, and credit card information etc. So in terms of fundamental privacy rights versus an advancing Big Brother State this potentially expansive Agreement should not be entered into lightly or behind closed doors for that matter. EU member-states should not allow themselves to be bullied into applying an Agreement which fails to guarantee the data protection rights of its citizens.

"The United States PNR requirement forms part of its so-called 'war on terror' and one of the first casualties of that war has undoubtedly been civil liberties. We only have to look to the rights denied prisoners in guantanamo and the programme of extra-ordinary rendition to be sure of this. The currently proposed PNR Agreement would tie the fundamental data protection and privacy rights of Irish citizens flying to the United States to ever changing and ever more regressive US laws because the Agreement stipulates that the Department of Homeland Security can process PNR data "in accordance with applicable US laws". So if the law changes in the United States then they can change how they process and store PNR data on European citizens, how long it can be held for and who it can be passed to without any renegotiation of the PNR Agreement between itself and the EU.

"Ireland can opt out of this Agreement. It can negotiate an Agreement of its own if needs be or it can take the lead within the EU Council in demanding a more acceptable Agreement. I am calling on the government to amend the proposed agreement before its adoption to ensure that at a minimum: the annual joint review include a requirement for an evaluation of the Agreement covering both the detail of its operation and also its effectiveness against its stated objective of 'fighting terrorism'; and that any change in US, EU or Irish data protection provisions relevant to the operation of the Agreement would prompt an immediate and transparent renegotiation of the Agreement requiring further approval by both houses of the Oireachtas." ENDS

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