The European Union’s chief justice official has written to the U.S. attorney general demanding an explanation for the collection of foreign nationals’ data following disclosures about the “PRISM” spy program.
In a letter seen by Reuters, the European commissioner for justice and fundamental rights, Viviane Reding, said she had serious concerns about the possibility that U.S. authorities had accessed European citizens’ data on a vast scale.
U.S. officials have confirmed the existence of a secret program to draw data from the Internet, codenamed PRISM, which according to documents leaked to the Washington Post and Britain’s Guardian newspaper has given them access to data from firms such as Google, Facebook and Skype.
“I would request that you provide me with explanations and clarifications on the PRISM program, other U.S. programs involving data collection and search, and laws under which such programs may be authorized,” said the letter, sent to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.
Holder and Reding will meet in Dublin on Friday at a scheduled ministerial gathering.
In the letter, Reding asks Holder to explain whether EU citizens were targeted under PRISM, how broad U.S. access to the data would have been and how EU companies and citizens can appeal against the monitoring of their private correspondence.
EU officials have for several years asked the United States to explain how laws such as the Patriot Act and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendment Act affect EU citizens and companies. The European Parliament, in particular, has become vocal about limiting data sharing and protecting privacy.
Reding has said she has asked U.S. authorities to use an agreed legal channel called the Mutual Legal Assistance Agreement to access any data, a method that requires judicial approval.
Since 2011 the EU has tried to negotiate a transatlantic data protection agreement that would limit U.S. access to European data.
The talks have stalled partly over the issue of what rights EU citizens had on U.S. soil, a Commission official told Reuters earlier this week.
EU officials are also debating whether data protection should be included in negotiations for an EU-U.S. free trade deal on which formal talks are expected to begin next month.
The European business community has warned that without legal certainty, technologies which rely on data protection such as cloud computing will not be able to grow in Europe.
Companies considering adopting cloud technology still cite security as their biggest concern and European officials say they are aware that Europe’s cloud market hinges on privacy.
“The storage of the data in the foreign servers and related legal uncertainty constitutes a real impediment,” a second Commission official said.
Lobby groups in Brussels say they need to know which set of laws – EU or U.S. legislation – they should follow.
“Internet companies are piggy in the middle in terms of protecting user data, obeying the law, and different laws in different regions of the world,” said James Waterworth of the Computer and Communications Industry Association, a lobbying group based in Washington.
In an interview last night on “Extra,” Kim Kardashian addressed all the magazine covers speculating about her pregnant weight, saying, “[they] say I am 200 pounds and I’m like, ‘You are like 60 pounds off.'” So, she weighs 260 pounds. Unless she means the other way…
Both Kim Kardashian and Jessica Simpson are gaining weight now that they’re well into pregnancy, so we’re going to play a sort of messed up game: Who’s fatter? Winner gets the healthiest baby!
Lindsey Vonn and Tiger Woods made it official — they’re dating — but we all knew that was the case back when Tiger sent his private jet to pick her up last month… so now, the only real update is these awkward “it’s official!” photos they took together.
Joe Flacco is not only the highest paid QB in NFL history… he’s also the most normal friggin’ dude in the world! Who would EVER guess this dude just made $121 MILLION DOLLARS!?
Al-Qaeda spokesman Sulaiman Bu Ghaith speaks in an undated video message carried on Qatar’s al-Jazeera television October 9, 2001 saying that the militant group believed in “terrorism against oppressors”. …more
Prosecutors unsealed an indictment against a son-in-law of Osama bin Laden on Thursday that charged him with conspiracy to kill Americans, after government sources said he was arrested overseas and brought to New York.
Suleiman Abu Ghaith, a militant who appeared in videos representing al Qaeda after the September 11 attacks in 2001, had initially been picked up in Turkey and was brought to the United States in an operation led by Jordanian authorities and the FBI, the sources said.
The Turkish government deported him to Jordan, the sources said, where local authorities and the FBI took custody of him. He was brought to the United States in the last few days, a law enforcement source said.
U.S. officials including Attorney General Eric Holder announced the indictment on Thursday, saying he would be arraigned on Friday at U.S. District Court in lower Manhattan, only blocks from the site of the World Trade Center, which was destroyed in the September 11 attacks.
Abu Ghaith becomes one of the highest-ranking al Qaeda figures to be brought to the United States for civilian trial. When Holder previously announced plans to try defendants in the September 11 attacks in the same courthouse, he was forced to back down by public opposition, and the trials were moved to the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
New York police were less concerned Abu Ghaith’s case would present a security problem than they were about the trials of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four others charged with plotting the attacks, a law enforcement source said.
“It’s not the same. It doesn’t rise to that level,” said the source, who is familiar with the department’s views and spoke on condition of anonymity.
The indictment accused Abu Ghaith of acting in a conspiracy that “would and did murder United States nationals anywhere in the world,” listing actions before and after September 11, 2001.
“Among other things, Abu Ghaith urged others to swear allegiance to bin Laden, spoke on behalf of and in support of al Qaeda’s mission, and warned that attacks similar to those of September 11, 2001 would continue,” the indictment said.
It cited a May 2001 gathering at a house in Kandahar, Afghanistan, alleging Abu Ghaith urged guests to swear allegiance to bin Laden, and it says bin Laden summoned Abu Ghaith on the evening of September 11, requesting his assistance.
Bin Laden and Abu Ghaith appeared together the next morning, when the defendant warned the United States and its allies that a “great army is gathering against you” and that “the nation of Islam” would do battle against “the Jews, the Christians and the Americans,” the indictment alleges.
FIRST WORD FROM CONGRESSMAN
Initial public confirmation of Abu Ghaith’s capture came from Representative Peter King, a senior Republican member of the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee and former chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security.
“I commend our CIA and FBI, our allies in Jordan, and President (Barack) Obama for their capture of al-Qaeda spokesman Sulaiman Abu Ghaith. I trust he received a vigorous interrogation, and will face swift and certain justice,” King said in a statement.
U.S. sources indicated that, while a CIA role in the capture of Abu Ghaith could not be ruled out, the FBI took the lead role in the operation under the auspices of an interagency body known as the High-value Detainee Interrogation Group.
The group was created by Obama’s administration after the president ordered the shutdown of a CIA program in which militant suspects were detained and held in a network of secret prisons during the administration of President George W. Bush.
The suspects were sometimes subjected to controversial and physically coercive “enhanced interrogation techniques,” and also were sometimes transferred without trial to third countries under a procedure known as “extraordinary rendition.”
Records compiled by a United Nations sanctions committee show Abu Ghaith was born in Kuwait in 1965.
After the September 11 attacks, Abu Ghaith first surfaced as one of al Qaeda’s main spokesmen. Later, U.S. officials believe he was part of a group of top al Qaeda figures that included one of bin Laden’s sons, Saad, who allegedly traveled to Iran, where the Iranian government said they were being held “in custody.”
The Long War Journal, a counterterrorism blog published by the conservative Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, reported in 2010 that Abu Ghaith had been released by Iranian authorities and supposedly had returned to Afghanistan.