For Immediate ReleasePress OfficeContact: Bill Strassberger 202-282-8010May 28, 2004
Today, Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge, Irish Ambassador Noel Fahey(representing the Presidency of the European Union), and European UnionAmbassador Gnter Burghardt, (representing the European Commission) signed anagreement that will allow U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to collectairline Passenger Name Record (PNR) information relating to flights between theUnited States and the European Union. Although air carriers have beenproviding PNR data since March 2003 under an interim arrangement, this agreementwill establish the legal basis for such information to be collected andtransferred consistent with U.S. and European Union (EU) laws.
The agreement will be in effect for three-and-a-half years once it isimplemented, with renegotiations to start within one year of the agreement'sexpiration date. The comprehensive arrangement concluded with the EU,which includes this agreement as well as a more specific set of Undertakingssetting forth in detail how CBP will process and handle PNR data, containsspecific guidance on the use and retention of the PNR data, to include:
- Data will be retained by CBP for three and a half years, unless associated with an enforcement action.
- Only 34 PNR data elements will be accessed by CBP, to the extent collected in the air carriers' reservation and departure control systems.
- CBP will filter and delete "sensitive data," as mutually entified by CBP and the European Commission.
- PNR data will be used by CBP strictly for purposes of preventing and combating: 1) terrorism and related crimes; 2) other serious crimes, including organized crime, that are transnational in nature; and 3) flight from warrants or custody for the crimes described above.
The U.S. and the EU are equally committed to not only improving the safetyof air passengers and the security of our borders, but also to protecting theprivacy of air passengers consistent with both U.S. and European laws, saidSecretary Ridge. Today's signing is the result of more than a year ofnegotiations between the United States and the European Commission, and is asign of our united commitment to combat terrorism.
Without an agreement, air carriers were placed in a situation where theycould either face fines for violating EU privacy laws or penalties for failingto provide passenger data to CBP. Through the interim arrangement, boththe U.S. and the EU had agreed not to take enforcement action while negotiationswere underway. Today's formal agreement removes air carriers from thatsituation and strikes a balance between facilitating legitimate travel whilecontributing to the security of the U.S. and EU member states.