PRISM: The Price of Transatlantic Intelligence Co-operation

News reports that the Obama administration successfully lobbied the European Commission to strip its data privacy legislation of a measure that would have limited US intelligence agencies’ ability to spy on EU citizens should come as little surprise. Dropping the “Anti-Fisa clause” is just another step in the EU’s willingness to compromise the rights of its own citizens to the US for the sake of the transatlantic partnership. Anyone who has had to travel to the US would have witnessed the erosions after September 11, 2001.

However, it is unsurprising that Europe behaves in this way.  The US is still the world’s most dominant power with technological power far beyond that available in the EU – why antagonise the US when most data servers of large tech companies holding EU citizens’ data are in the US? Would the Anti-Fisa clause have made any difference to US requests to US based companies regarding handing over data on EU citizens – especially when they are supposed to be done in secret? More importantly, would the EU want to jeopardise US-EU relations at the same time that it is opening trade talks?

Ultimately, the US will continue to weaken data protection legislation, and the EU is likely to oblige such requests.  This transatlantism isn’t an equal partnership, it is a relationship with one clear powerful player.

For a great read on this go to Transatlantic Counter-Terrorism Cooperation.

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Oz Hassan is  an assistant professor in U.S. national security at the University of Warwick’s Centre for the Study of Globalization and Regionalization and its Centre for Studies in Democratization. He is currently a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Oz has published widely on U.S. policy in the Middle East and North Africa, European foreign policy, transatlantic relations, civil society development, assistance programs, counterterrorism and counterproliferation strategies, and democratization.

This post originally appeared on 13 June 2013 on Oz Hassan’s blog.

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