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Europe wants to civilise US terror war

Brussels goes to Washington

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Emissaries from the European Parliament arrived in Washington today with a message of restraint and fairplay for US crusaders in the "war on terror".

Worried the US zeal to hunt down terrorists is trampling over the rights of European citizens, members of the European Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs will discuss with counterparts in the US Congress how they might civilise the US initiative.

They will dangle a carrot for security-minded Americans who want to create a biometric border to encompass all its allies.

MEPs will say they are prepared to build a transatlantic zone like its own fledgling area for borderless, visa-free travel among members of the European Union. Existing extradition and Open Skies agreements would form the basis of the proposed borderless zone.

But the European Parliament wants to see the US rein in its surveillance hunt for terrorists. They want a transatlantic agreement on data protection to protect people from excessive snooping by the state. The internet, the global economy, and the hunt for terrorists make this essential.

They also want the US to show Europe some respect. Current agreements are all very one-sided, MEPs will say.

They hope their visit might have some influence on the US revision of the Patriot Act, which brought about the introduction of the Automated Targeting System (ATS) and Passenger Name Records (PNR), two US programmes for snooping on foreigners that have irked European law makers. They also want the US to show some restraint when it snoops through European financial records when it tries to track terrorist funding.

MEPs are aware of the irony that while the US is starting to reconsider the Patriot Act, EU countries are building their own version of total security awareness. Though the parliament is keen to protect civil liberties, member states are busy mimicking the US take on homeland security enshrined in the Patriot Act. ®

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