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Statement By Homeland Secretary Michael Chertoff On A New Agreement With The European Union For Passenger Name Record Data Sharing


I am pleased to have signed an important agreement with the European Union today that will allow the Department of Homeland Security to continue using Passenger Name Record (PNR) data as an essential screening tool for detecting potentially dangerous transatlantic travelers.

PNR data is a proven resource for connecting the dots associated with terrorist activity and serious transnational crime. It involves roughly the same information that a traveler provides an airline or travel agent when purchasing a ticket.

Our frontline personnel did not have this tool on September 11th. Investigations after the attacks showed that PNR data would have, within a matter of moments, helped to identify many of the 19 hijackers by linking their methods of payment, phone numbers and seat assignments.

Two separate agreements over the past three years have enabled our frontline personnel to rely on PNR data to disrupt terrorist travel, deny admission to individuals presenting security concerns, and dismantle human trafficking and narcotics smuggling networks.

Under the new agreement, the Department of Homeland Security will collect 19 types of PNR data. The data will be maintained for seven years in an active file, and eight years thereafter in a dormant file with limited access. This ensures that we will be able to identify and investigate threats that might develop over a period of years.

The new agreement also changes how the department collects PNR data from airline reservation systems. Air carriers will now transmit PNR data directly to the department. The agreement also provides legal assurance to European air carriers that they will not be in potential violation of European privacy law when complying with U.S. law concerning PNR data.

We further agree to important data protections that are equal to privacy standards in both the United States and European Union. In addition, citizens of the European Union will continue to have the same administrative protections as U.S. citizens, including the ability to obtain information held about them and to seek the correction of inaccurate data.

I commend my European counterparts for their leadership and dedication to reaching an agreement that will protect our respective citizens and safeguard their privacy for the next seven years.


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