Since 9/11 I’ve become increasingly concerned over the amount of surveillance and data hoarding that has been initiated primarily by the American government, but also by the British government too. We’ve seen a raft of quite shocking laws passed amid fear that terrorists were able to carry out complex and gigantic acts of horror against us. We’ve been told that Islamic extremist groups have abilities almost as advanced as the countries they seek to attack, and therefore these new laws were necessary to combat this intricate and well organized network of terrorists.

But questions surrounding just how organized al-Qeada really is are now being raised. A British Intelligence and Security Committee Report into the London Terrorist Attacks conclude that the Bombings were not linked with al-Qaeda, and the the attackers acted alone on a shoestring budget. Yet at the same time the British government continues to cite terrorism as one of the key reasons why the country must accept biometric identity cards, despite overwhelming evidence that such cards would not and will not prevent terrorism.

The US Patriot Act hurriedly bought into law after the September 11th attacks in America was a quite hideous piece of legislation that seemed to completely disregard rights that Americans hold dear when declaring they live in the ‘land of the free.’ Revelations surrounding US intelligence service eves dropping on overseas telephone conversations without warrants served to further harm the beleaguered President Bush. And despite the war in Afghanistan and the war in Iraq (both now re-branded into ‘the long war‘), Osama bin-Laden is still at large and Americans are still paying nearly 200 million dollars a day to find him.

America now fingerprints and photographs all visitors to the country, something which might not seem too much on an intrusion, but feels like a violation when the all powerful Department of Homeland Security refuse to state what happens to that data and whether or not it is ever erased.

However I was pleased to see the first significant sign that Europe has grown tired of this largely American tactic of questionable data hoarding. The European Court of Justice blocked an EU-US agreement that requires European airlines to send the US authorities 34 specific items of personal information, including names, addresses and credit card details, of the passengers on board flights bound for the United States. The court said the decision to send the US authorities any such data was not founded on an “appropriate legal basis.” The US say the data will help combat terrorism, but the European Parliament is concerned that the data could be misused.

The European Court of Justice decision has already been given a frosty reception in Washington with Washington American authorities warning of heavy fines and denial of landing rights for any airline failing to comply with the now illegal agreement. Washington also applied consumer pressure by threatening that passengers would be subject to long security checks on arrival, if the data was not sent in advance.

The courts decision and Americas insistence leaves European airlines in an awkward spot. They could potentially be fined $6,000 per passenger, or denied landing rights in the United States if they do not share the information Washington has demanded. But if they do share that data then they leave themselves open to legal challenges back in Europe where they would have broken data protection law.

No doubt some kind of resolution will be struck, but could this affair can’t be ignored by Washington as it continues to do everything in it’s power to gain more and more data about our every day lives in the name of freedom in it’s so called “long war.”

EU court blocks data deal with US
London bombers acted alone
British Intelligence and Security Committee Report in London attacks
Wars now re-branded
Cost of war
London bomb victim, Rachel North’s blog