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Europe has signed a deal to hand over all bank transaction data to the US in order to help the ongoing war on terrorism.

The SWIFT agreement was signed yesterday in Brussels by Spanish minister for home affairs Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba and the US embassy's economic economic officer to the EU, Michael Dodman.

Rubalcaba welcomed the "excellent agreement", which he said had been reached after discussions with the European Parliament.

The treaty must now be approved by the European Parliament. Assuming it does pass it will be in force for five years.

IT gives the US Treasury access to bank transactions although there is now some filtering at the European end. The agreement will be overseen by Europol.

The Swift agreement was first approved in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. It lapsed in February after the European Parliament rejected an earlier draft.

The European Data Protection Supervisor remains unimpressed and has questioned the need for bulk transfers of data and the time such data is kept without being investigated by US authorities. The EDPS has also called for better oversight of the process.

Most of the world's bank transactions are transmitted by the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT), based in Belgium.

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