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EU panel chief doubts legality of US financial transactions monitoring program

[JURIST] The head of an EU panel on Monday criticized a White House program that keeps track of international financial transactions, telling the New York Times that it may have no "legal basis under European law." Peter Schaar, head of the European Commission's Article 29 Data Protection Working Party [official website], will give a final report to European Union officials in Brussels later this week that will set out measures to help guard against abuses of privacy; the panel does not, however, plan to recommend the cessation of the program.

The New York Times and other papers revealed the once-secret program [NYT report; JURIST report] in June, prompting sharp criticism from the Bush administration, which defended the initiative [press briefing]. The chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee later encouraged the administration to press criminal charges [JURIST report] against the media for publicizing the program, which allowed the CIA [official website] to monitor international financial transactions processed by Swift [official website], a Belgium-based banking cooperative. A London-based civil liberties group subsequently asked data-protection and privacy officials in more than a dozen countries to prevent the further release of confidential financial information [JURIST report] to American authorities. According to US government officials, the program targets those with suspected ties to Al Qaeda. The New York Times has more.

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