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US, Europe Work to Solve Dispute Over Sharing Airline Passenger Info in Terror War - 2004-03-06


U.S. and European security officials are trying to work out differences over sharing airline passenger information in the war against terrorism.

The European Commission's Director-General of Justice and Home Affairs Jonathan Faull says European nations have not yet agreed to U.S. demands to hand over particular passenger information. Mr. Faull says he is concerned that the information will be used, not only for fighting international terrorism, but also local crimes and misdemeanors.

"There is a question of how much information we should provide, then there is a question, how long do you keep it and what is it for? Again, what databases do you check, are you using it to pick out terrorists, no body objects, are you using it to pick up people who are known to be involved in or suspected of having being involved in organized crime? Nobody objects," he said.

Mr. Faull says he welcomes recent efforts by the secretary of Homeland Security, Tom Ridge, and the head of Border and Transportation Security, Asa Hutchinson, to explain new U.S. security programs to its foreign partners in the war against terrorism.

But Mr. Faull is calling for even greater openness. For example, he says he learned about plans to place armed U.S. sky marshals on some international flights to the United States from a media report.

"The need to inform partners overseas may sometimes take second place," he said. "That is unfortunate. But we need channels of communication in order to understand better what is happening in both directions, so we can explain it to people at home. That is well understood that is one of the reasons I was here."

Mr. Faull made his remarks in New York at the private East-West Institute after holding talks with U.S. officials in Washington. During his talk, he discussed a wide range of issues, including European border security, migration, and demographic trends.

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