Attorney General Holder Pledges Support for Legislation to Provide E.u. Citizens with Judicial Redress in Cases of Wrongful Disclosure of Their Personal Data Transferred to the U.S. for Law Enforcement Purposes

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Attorney General Eric Holder announced today that the Obama administration, as part of successfully concluding negotiations on the E.U.-U.S. Data Protection and Privacy Agreement (DPPA), would seek to work with Congress to enact legislation that would provide E.U. citizens with the right to seek redress in U.S. courts if personal data shared with U.S. authorities by their home countries for law enforcement purposes under the proposed agreement is subsequently intentionally or willfully disclosed, to the same extent that U.S. citizens could seek judicial redress in U.S. courts for such disclosures of their own law enforcement information under the Privacy Act. 

The Attorney General has been co-chairing the E.U./U.S. Justice and Home Affairs Ministerial in Athens, Greece.   The agenda of the Ministerial is to advance E.U.-U.S cooperation against transnational crime and terrorism, with particular emphasis on foreign fighters traveling to and from Syria.

As part of that law enforcement cooperation, the Ministerial also discussed the ongoing negotiation of an "umbrella" DPAA, which would cover the exchange of law enforcement information between the E.U. and the U.S.   The DPPA is an outgrowth of an initiative begun during the Bush Administration, and carried forward during the Obama Administration, to establish an enhanced commitment to share information transatlantically to fight crime and terrorism, while also protecting privacy.

In order to advance the DPPA negotiations, Attorney General Holder stated at the Ministerial that the Obama Administration is committed to seeking legislation that would ensure that, with regard to personal information transferred within the scope of the proposed DPPA, E.U. citizens would have the same right to seek judicial redress for intentional or willful disclosures of protected information, and for refusal to grant access or to rectify any errors in that information, as would a U.S. citizen under the Privacy Act. 

“In a world of globalized crime and terrorism, we can protect our citizens only if we work together internationally, including through sharing law enforcement information with and by E.U. Member States and other close allies,” Attorney General Holder said. “At the same time, we must ensure that we continue our long tradition of protecting privacy in the law enforcement context.  The step we are announcing today will help advance both goals.”

A copy of Holder’s full statement, as delivered in Athens, appears below:

“At the outset, I would like to thank our Greek hosts -- Minister Athanassiou and Minister Kikilias -- for their superb hospitality.   And I would like to congratulate them on the highly successful Greek Presidency of the EU.

            “Today, we have had the opportunity to discuss the wide range of justice and home affairs issues that bind together the EU, its Member States and the United States, in a common effort to protect all of our citizens.   We have talked today about how we can increase our cooperation on countering violent extremism, and on responding to the critical issue of "Foreign Fighters" -- citizens from our countries, and other countries around the world, who are traveling to Syria to join terrorist groups, and who may return as trained and hardened terrorists.   We discussed joint strategies for countering transnational crime, including trafficking in firearms and wildlife; and we talked about protecting victims of crime, as well as persons with disabilities.    We dealt with the ever-increasing threat of cybercrime -- and announced that the United States would carry forward the important initiative begun by Commissioner Malmstrom, the Global Alliance Against Child Sexual Abuse Online.

           “One consistent theme ran through all our discussions:  in a world of globalized crime and terrorism, we can protect our citizens only if we work together, including through sharing law enforcement information.   At the same time, we must ensure that we continue our long tradition of protecting privacy in the law enforcement context.   We already have many mechanisms in place to do this, and we have -- on both sides of the Atlantic – an outstanding record of protecting the privacy of law enforcement information.   But we can always do more, and for that reason, the EU and the United States have undertaken to negotiate an "umbrella" Data Protection and Privacy Agreement Regarding Police and Judicial Cooperation -- the DPPA.

            “Vice President Reding and her Directorate have been our key partners in this endeavor.  While I am sorry that other commitments made it impossible for Vice President Reding to be present today, I did want to state publicly my agreement with her view that we are close to concluding the Data Protection and Privacy Agreement.  

“Indeed, I believe we should be able to finish this negotiation soon, since the remaining issues -- those  regarding the legal framework for the transfer and use of information -- have already been addressed in our existing agreements, including our EU/U.S. Mutual Legal Assistance agreement and our bilateral treaties with all of the Member States thereunder.  These prior agreements have been proven, through actual experience, to provide a high level of protection both for the safety of all our citizens and for their privacy, and we should incorporate their principles into the DPPA.

“Moreover, we should move forward quickly here to conclude our negotiations, since our DPPA negotiators have already reached agreement on additional, and comprehensive, administrative privacy protections that will come into effect when the DPPA enters into force.  And today, I am happy to announce that, in support of our desire to bring the DPPA negotiations  to conclusion, the Obama Administration is committed to seeking legislation that would ensure that, with regard to personal information transferred within the scope of our proposed DPPA Regarding Police and Judicial Cooperation, EU citizens would have the same right to seek judicial redress for intentional or willful disclosures of protected information, and for refusal to grant access or to rectify any errors in that information, as would a U.S. citizen under the Privacy Act.

“This commitment -- which has long been sought by the EU -- reflects our resolve to move forward not only on the DPPA itself, but on strengthening transatlantic ties.

“The work we do together is vital.  Thank you again to our Greek hosts, to the Commission, and to the incoming Italian Presidency.”

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