European politicians have raised the possibility of suspending or even terminating the EU-US Terrorist Finance Tracking Programme (TFTP) after failing to get a convincing rebuttal from US authorities over allegations that the National Security Agency spied on bank-to-bank messaging data transmitted over the Swift network.
At a meeting of the Civil Liberties Committee Tuesday, Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmström said she had written to US Treasury Under Secretary David Cohen on 12 September to ask for clarifications, following the allegations in the press that the NSA had been tapping into personal financial data from Swift's international bank-transfer database.
"I am not satisfied with the answers I got so far," Malmström told MEPs. "We need more information and clarity."
The EU's Civil Liberties Committee has been extremely critical of a data sharing deal agreed between the EU and US in 2010 that gives US agencies limited access to bank data transferred across the Swift network.
"If media reports are true this constitutes a breach of the agreement and a breach of the agreement can lead to suspension," said Malmström, clarifying that a decision to maintain or suspend the TFTP agreement "is a very serious one".
If after analysing all the information, the Commission deemed it necessary to propose a suspension, "this should be decided by qualified majority in the Council," she said.
In 2011, MEPs on the Ciommittee complained that US requests for banking data "are too general and abstract to allow Europol to check whether they meet EU data protection standards, and Europol seems to be merely rubber-stamping them".
Called to give evidence, Rob Wainwright, director of Europol insisted that the EU police agency had "no direct cooperation with the NSA or the CIA".
"We simply have no evidence of the US being in breach of the TFTP agreement, so we cannot confirm or deny any of these allegations," he told the meeting.
Also appearing before the Committee, Blanche Petre, Swift's general counsel re-iterated the company's stance that there was no evidence to support claims that the NSA had hacked into the financial network.
"We have no reason to believe that there has been an unauthorised access to our data," she said.