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[] EU, US agree to bolster flow of intelligence,

Scheveningen, Netherlands | AP | 01/10/2004

EU, US agree to bolster flow of intelligence

US Attorney General John Ashcroft and EU justice officials agreed
yesterday to improve the trans-Atlantic flow of intelligence to help
track down terrorists and prevent future attacks.

Among new measures agreed during several hours of meetings here was the
exchange of liaison intelligence officers between the continents.

The US will send an agent from the Federal Bureau of Investigation to
the European police agency Europol in The Hague, Netherlands, and the EU
will post two agents in Washington, said Antonio Vitorino, the EU
justice and home affairs commissioner.

The discussions came at the start of two days of talks between EU
justice and internal affairs ministers in the Netherlands, which
currently holds the EU presidency.

Later yesterday, France and the US were to sign a bilateral agreement on
the exchange of data between law enforcement agencies and the
extradition of suspects.

"We are devoting additional resources to Europol because we believe it's
in the best interests of the US and the world community," Ashcroft told
journalists. "The promotion of the exchange of information is likely to
result in saving lives and securing our cultures."

Ashcroft said talks also addressed ways to speed up the transfer of
sensitive information through Europol, now often hampered by diverging
national systems and competition between Europe's security agencies.

"We have agreed to have our experts work on kinds of procedures which
will reduce sticking points so that where there are differences we can
overcome them," Ashcroft said.

"We discussed ways of maximising not only the information, but the
timeliness of information. Most information is like produce at the
grocery store: it's valuable if you can acquire it within the right time
for utility," he said in a brief interview.

On Wednesday, Ashcroft signed two bilateral accords to bring the
US-Dutch extradition treaty up to date and facilitate the transfer of
terror suspects. The accords will also enable trans-Atlantic video
conferencing so that authorities can interview suspects abroad.

The accords also set out guidelines for tracking suspect bank accounts,
and enable investigators to travel abroad to conduct inquiries on
foreign soil.

At an informal meeting earlier this month, US Homeland Security
Secretary Tom Ridge stressed the need for greater information sharing
between EU and US intelligence services.

Dutch Justice Minister Piet Hein Donner told the meeting that agreement
is needed over terrorism financing, sharing information among
intelligence and law enforcement agencies, biometric passports, the
exchange of data on lost and stolen passports, and the underlying causes
of the recruitment of terrorists.

The formal exchange of sensitive data has been a troublesome issue, with
strong opposition from the European Parliament, which fears the privacy
of European citizens would be violated.

One new security measure affecting Europeans crossing US borders
involves sharing information about trans-Atlantic airline passengers,
including handing over the names, addresses and credit card details of
each passenger within 15 minutes of departing for the US.

The European Parliament is awaiting word from the European Court of
Justice on whether the EU-U.S. passenger data transfer deal violates EU
privacy rules.

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