Are allegations of the NSA misusing SWIFT banking data true and if so, should this lead to cooperation on terrorism being suspended? These are the questions dealt with during the third hearing of the civil liberties committee's inquiry into the electronic mass surveillance of Europeans on 24 September. If the SWIFT allegations are proved true, it could have consequences for the EU-US Terrorist Finance Tracking (TFTP) programme, which aims to detect terrorist plots and the people involved.
After the media reported on these allegations, home affairs commissioner Cecilia Malmström wrote to US under secretary David Cohen on 12 September to ask for clarifications. However, on the day of the EP hearing she still had not received satisfactory clarifications. Ms Malmström warned that if the allegations proved to be true, it would constitutute a breach of the TFTP programme, which could lead to it being suspended.
Europol director Rob Wainwright said his organisation had "no information or evidence to either confirm or deny the allegations that have appeared in the press regarding the NSA", while Blanche Petre, general counsel of SWIFT, assured MEPs that they had “no evidence to suggest that there has been any unauthorised access to our (SWIFT) network and to our data."
MEPs also discussed the effectiveness of surveillance in fighting crime and terrorism with Reinhard Kreissl, coordinator of the project Increasing Resilience in Surveillance Societies (IRISS). Mr Kreissl said surveillance measures could not protect big public places from terror acts and the police should use surveillance data in a more efficient way in their investigation cases.
Casper Bowden, an independent researcher and a former chief privacy adviser of Microsoft, warned that once data is submitted to a single - public or private - system, it can be copied between systems: “Every single copy of personal data is a threat to the fundamental right to privacy.”
The hearing was chaired by Juan Fernando López Aguilar, a Spanish member of the S&D group .