US to spy on EU banks, overseer identity not revealed

The US believes that everyone in Europe is a terrorist and therefore wants access to EU citizens’ bank accounts, a demand that is being entertained by Members of the European Parliament. Now the identity of the EU overseer of the project is being kept secret, raising concerns throughout Europe.

The Terrorist Finance Tracking Programme (TFTP) is a bilateral accord between the EU and US, giving the latter access to European bank account information if there is a suspicion that the individual in question might be a terrorist or a financial supporter of terrorism. The programme came into effect on the first of August.

It is widely alleged that the IRA received funding and significant financial backing from American citizens.

The European Commission appointed an interim overseer of the programme on the 27th of August after requesting candidates come forward on the 29th of July. Since then, however, candidates have not been put to vote and the name or identity of the interim overseer has not been revealed, with the EC citing “security reasons” for the secrecy.

That is not going down well with some MEPs, however. Sophia In ‘T Veld, Alexander Alvaro, Renate Weber, Sonia Alfano, Gianni Vattimo, Sarah Ludford and Louis Michel joined together to question the legality behind keeping the overseer’s identity secret.

“Can the Commission indicate the legal basis for keeping confidential the identity of the EU public official – interim and/or permanent – overseeing the implementation of the TFTP agreement? Is there any precedent for such a decision or arrangement?” they asked.

Much of the TFTP agreement is dealt with by European Police service Europol, but many people, particularly members of privacy groups, have criticised this and called for an independent official to oversee the programme. 

The European Commission has yet to submit three potential candidates for the role to the European Parliament and European Council, a delay which is raising questions among many ministers, and one that is not helped by the shroud of secrecy surrounding the interim overseer.