We’ll be participating in a series of public events and private meetings next week with European activists and with European Union and European national officials on PNR data (airline reservations), privacy, data protection, and human rights. Our presentations at all of these events will be in English, although much of the publicity is (naturally, given the venues) in German. see the links below for slides, handouts, video, and news reports on our presentations:
In an article here yesterday, we mentioned a report earlier this month by Andrej Hunko, a member of the German national legislature (“Bundestag”) , based on responses to his information access requests to the German government about its collaboration with DHS and use of PNR data. There was more about this in DHS testimony at yesterday’s hearing in the U.S. House of Representatives. The following is an English translation of Andrej Hunko’s report, republished by permission of the author:
by Andrej Hunko, September 28, 2011
Naturally enough, the website of the NoPNR campaign regularly contains material about the retroactive legalisation of exchanges of passenger name record (PNR) data between EU Member States and the United States, Canada or Australia. Members of Parliament in the EU from several parties have already done some important work on this issue and have been levelling fierce criticism at the planned agreements, which, in point of fact, have long been applied on a ‘provisional’ basis.
I believe, however, that it is all too easy to lose sight of the fact that the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) employs hundreds of staff who operate at airports and sea ports within the EU. This practice came to light in the summer after Mark Koumans, Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Affairs, presented a report on security issues in Europe and Eurasia before the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Europe and Eurasia.
A troika of officials from the DHS appeared today before the Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence of the House Committee on Homeland security to make a joint sales pitch for the proposed agreement between the US and the European Union on DHS access to PNR data (airline reservations).
Today’s hearing appears to have been staged purely as a propaganda exercise intended to mislead European Union officials and citizens about the PNR agreement and DHS use of PNR data. The proposed “agreement” would not be a treaty (and thus would be unenforcible in U.S. courts). Even if it were reformulated as a treaty — as the European Parliament has demanded as a condition for its ratification of the agreement — it would only require ratification by the U.S. Senate, not the House of Representatives.
The House subcommittee hearing certainly looked as though it was held to create a stage for the DHS. The three DHS officials were the only witnesses. They included Chief “Privacy” Officer Mary Ellen Callahan, who Edward Hasbrouck of the Identity Project debated in June at CFP, and David Heyman (successor to Stewart Baker, who wrote the original US-EU PNR agreement as DHS Asst. Secretary for Policy), who had been scheduled to participate in the CFP panel but canceled at the last minute.
In the absence of any independent or non-governmental witnesses who might have raised questions or presented alternative views, the DHS witnesses at today’s hearing presented a “united front” including an unusual joint written statement.
For the most part, the DHS repeated the same lies today as have appeared in previous DHS reports and lobbying to the EU. For example, they described PNR data incorrectly as “the data an airline receives from a traveler,” ignoring the data entered in PNRs (unbeknownst to travelers) by travel companies and other third parties. They said that “Of the literally billions of passengers traveling to and from the United States during the past 10 years, there has not been a single … use of PNR in violation of established privacy protections,” despite the DHS track record of using PNR data as the basis for denying innocent people — including both US and EU citizens — their right to travel.
In their most egregious lie, perjuring themselves before Congress, the DHS witnesses claimed again (falsely) today, as they have claimed (falsely) before, that:
DHS applies fair information practice principles to its collection and use of PNR, including … auditing and accountability, individual access, and redress. Moreover, the Department is firmly committed to transparency when it comes to informing our partners and the public about its mission, including how we use … identifiable information such as PNR data.
This statement is false. The DHS witnesses who made this statement knew it was false. And they made it for the sole purpose of misleading Europeans about the facts.
From the Identity Project mailbag:
My life has been basically destroyed because I don’t have a valid state-issued photo ID.
Thanks to terrorists, it is illegal for any employer in my state to hire me.
I am a natural-born citizen of the United States, born and raised in the State of New Jersey. I have lived here most of my life. I have never been convicted of a felony nor even a misdemeanor. I have never been arrested, nor even ever received so much as a parking ticket. I do not receive any funds from Welfare, Social Security, or any other government program. I am not a terrorist.
Yet, in the State of New Jersey, it is illegal for any employer to hire me, and has been for about the last 6 years.