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[Oireachtas] Passenger Name Records: Motion. (24 May 2012)

External website: http://oireachtasdebates.oireachtas.ie/debates%20a...


Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): I move:That Dáil Éireann approves the exercise by the State of the option or discretion under Protocol No. 21 on the position of the United Kingdom and Ireland in respect of the area of freedom, security and justice annexed to the Treaty on European Union and to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, to accept the following measure:

the Council Decision on the conclusion of the Agreement between the United States of America and the European Union on the use and transfer of Passenger Name Records to the United States Department of Homeland Security, a copy of which was laid before Dáil Éireann on 6th December, 2011.

This motion is to enable Ireland to participate in the agreement between the EU and the United States on the use and transfer of passenger name records, PNR, to the US Department of Homeland Security, which has been adopted by the Council of Ministers. I propose that Ireland should exercise the option provided by Article 4 of Protocol No. 21 to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union to accept a measure after it has been adopted by the Council. The prior approval of both Houses of the Oireachtas is required to enable Ireland to exercise that option.
This agreement replaces the current EU-US PNR agreement which has been in operation since 2007. That agreement has been renegotiated in order to address concerns that had been raised about proportionality, data protection and data security aspects. A new agreement was signed in December 2011 to cover the ongoing use and transfer of PNR data to the US authorities. The European Parliament considered the agreement in detail and approved its terms on 19 April 2012. The agreement was then concluded by the Council of Justice and Home Affairs Ministers at its meeting on 26 April 2012.
PNR data is information about passengers’ travel plans that is collected and held by air carriers as part of their reservations systems. The agreement will require the airlines to provide a portion of the information they already collect to the US authorities for the purposes of combating terrorism and serious, transnational crime. PNR data is a tool of proven value to law enforcement services in counter-terrorism and serious crime investigations, particularly in cases of trafficking in drugs and persons, and a number of countries, including the UK, Canada, Sweden, Spain, the US and Australia, have been using PNR data for these purposes for some years now.
PNR data has been of benefit in investigations into a number of significant transnational, organised crime cases involving the trafficking of human beings and drug smuggling. It can be an essential support to investigating and prosecuting those who would prey on and profit from the misery of others. The use of PNR data was instrumental in the prosecution and conviction of David Headley for his involvement in facilitating the atrocious terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India in November 2008, in which 164 innocent people lost their lives. By entering details of his first name, a partial travel itinerary and a possible travel window into the PNR database, David Headley’s full name, address and passport number were obtained. He was subsequently arrested and pleaded guilty to terrorism-related charges.
While this measure is an important support to the fight against terrorism and serious crime, I am very conscious of the need to ensure that the rights of citizens are not subjected to unnecessary or disproportionate intrusion. It is important to strike an appropriate balance, especially with regard to the protection of personal data, and I believe this agreement does just that.
Time does not allow for a full description of all the provisions in the agreement. However, we had a very full and detailed debate on this proposal at the justice committee last week. The agreement contains a number of specific safeguards in regard to the use of the PNR data. In particular, the processing of the data is strictly limited to the purpose of preventing, detecting, investigating and prosecuting terrorist offences and serious, transnational crime.
With regard to the retention of the data, it will be retained by the US authorities for up to five years in an active database, with restrictions on access to it. After the first six months, the PNR data will be depersonalised, that is to say, fields that would identify an individual will be masked out. After the initial five-year period, the depersonalised data will be transferred to an inactive database, with additional access restrictions. In the case of terrorist offences and related crimes, the data may then be retained for up to a further ten years, that is to say, for a total of 15 years overall. In the case of serious, transnational crimes, the data can then be retained for up to a further five years, that is to say, for a total of ten years overall. The agreement contains specific, tailored safeguards in regard to privacy and data protection, data security, oversight, accountability, transparency and rights of access to information, the correction of errors and redress.
Members should note that, under the terms of the agreement, an individual will have the right to access his or her own data, to have incorrect data corrected and the right to redress for a violation of his or her rights under the agreement. The agreement provides that the administrative and legal safeguards which are in place in the US for privacy and data protection are available to all individuals, regardless of nationality, country of origin or place of residence. The agreement also provides for regular, joint review of its operation by the EU and US authorities, and for a joint evaluation of the agreement four years after its entry into force. The agreement will remain in force for a period of seven years.
This proposal is one of a number of measures being taken at EU level in the justice and home affairs field which arise from commitments set out in the 2009 Stockholm programme. The Government is determined that Ireland will have a full, active and constructive engagement in bringing forward the European justice agenda. Given the potential value of PNR data in investigations into drug smuggling, human trafficking or international terrorism, and the importance of giving a clear demonstration of our continued support for and solidarity with the international community in the fight against these activities, I recommend Ireland’s participation in this measure to the House…
 
{For the full debate, click the link above].
 
Passenger Name Records Motion
Vol. 766 Bi, 3
Thursday, 24 May 2012

 

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