Monday, December 7, 2009

CIA and EU Bank Records

The Times reported yesterday that the CIA would be allowed to have access to bank accounts in the EU pursuant to an agreement: "the EU said it had agreed that Europeans would be compelled to release the information to the CIA “as a matter of urgency”. The records will be kept in a US database for five years before being deleted." Under the agreement, the United States "can request “general data sets” under the scheme based on broad categories including “relevant message types, geography and perceived terrorism threats”. This seems to be a broad power, and does not apparently require probable cause.

The report notes a number of concerns, including the fact that the agreement does not offer reciprocity. This may not be a surprise given the disparities in intelligence gathering capabilities between the CIA and EU countries. The more troubling aspect is the absence of satisfactory safeguards and debate about the democratic legitimacy of such a transfer of power over citizens to a foreign sovereign. At a minimum, there must be robust debate about the relevant questions. After all, the CIA would not be given such power in the United States without a searching examination and the provision of adequate accountability mechanisms. EU citizens should not settle for less.