WikiLeaks: Merkel furious at MEPs over Swift data sharing deal rejection

WikiLeaks: Merkel furious at MEPs over Swift data sharing deal rejection

German Chancellor Angela Merkel was left "very, very angry" after the European Parliament voted earlier this year to scrap a deal to allow US authorities access to banking data transmitted over Swift, worried that Washington would see the move as a sign that the continent does not take terrorism seriously, according to a cable released by WikiLeaks.

In the wake of the 9/11 attacks that brought down the Twin Towers in New York in 2001 the US began covertly tapping Swift messaging data under the Terrorist Finance Tracking Program (TFTP).

The top-secret exercise provoked uproar among EU consumer bodies and politicians when the news was leaked in 2006. The following year EU ambassadors agreed a deal that allowed the US to access data for counter-terrorism purposes only and to keep any data for a maximum of five years.

Last November European Union ministers agreed a new interim nine-month deal but in February parliamentarians, expressing concerns that the agreement failed to protect the privacy of EU citizens, voted 378-196 against it, with 31 abstentions.

The New York Times has now published a cable - obtained by WikiLeaks - from the American Embassy in Berlin, dated 12 February, entitled "Chancellor Merkel angered by lack of German MEP support for TFTP".

A German official told US diplomats that Merkel was "very, very angry - angrier than he had ever seen her" with the outcome of the vote.

Says the cable: "Merkel is particularly irritated with German MEPs from her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and sister Christian Social Union (CSU) parties, most of whom reportedly voted against the agreement despite previously indicating they would support it."

The Chancellor "expressed concerns to Beust that Washington will view the EP veto as a sign that Europe does not take the terrorist threat seriously. Merkel also worried about the ramifications (presumably within Europe and for transatlantic relations) that might follow were a terrorist attack to occur that could have been prevented had Swift data been exchanged."

The embassy cable says Germans across the political spectrum strongly support data protection because of memories of East Germany's Stasi as well recent phone tapping scandals involving Deutsche Telekom and Deutsche Bahn.

Says the document: "Paranoia runs deep especially about US intelligence agencies. We were astonished to learn how quickly rumors (spread) about alleged US economic espionage."

The cable concludes that the vote shows "we need to intensify our engagement with German government interlocutors, Bundestag and European parliamentarians and opinion makers to get our views across" while also demonstrating that "strong data privacy measures" are in place.

MEPs did eventually vote through a five year deal in July after claiming to have negotiated safeguards for European citizens.

Separately, the furore over WikiLeaks' release of thousands of diplomatic cables has led to PayPal freezing the whistle-blowing site's account.

Says a statement: "PayPal has permanently restricted the account used by WikiLeaks due to a violation of the PayPal Acceptable Use Policy, which states that our payment service cannot be used for any activities that encourage, promote, facilitate or instruct others to engage in illegal activity. We've notified the account holder of this action."

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