Leaked cables: U.S. bullying Europe into transatlatic biometrics matching

Biometrics matching in Europe

In 2003 the German minister of the interior Otto Schily started an initiative that led to the signing of the Prüm Convention in 2005. Germany, Spain, France, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Austria, and Belgium agreed in that convention i.e. to provide each other mutual on-line access to their police fingerprint and DNA databases. Every country can match fingerprints and DNA data with the other countries databases and see whether information on that person is available there („hit/no hit“). If there is a hit, more information can be requested in a more formal, manual procedure. But the mere fact of a person being registered in a database on (suspected) criminal offenders can obviously result in troubles. Germany, for example, has registered 3 million fingerprints and 500′000 DNA samples in police databases.

The leaked U.S. embassy cables recently published reveal that as early as 2006 the U.S. government began discussions with Germany on what parts of the Prüm Convention „might be fruitful for the U.S. to pursue with Germany as a prelude to an agreement with the Prüm group of EU countries“. It should be noted that the major difference between exchanging such information among European countries and with the U.S. is that human rights are not protected adequately in the U.S. That is why agreements with the U.S. can never be called „Prüm-like“.

The pilot U.S.-German biometrics matching agreement

The U.S. and Germany established a working group in 2006. In the first meeting in December of 2006, German officials asked important questions:

Would the U.S. use any data Germany provided for renditions? Why had so many travelers complained about U.S. port of entry systems?

These problems were not resolved. There is nothing to effectively prevent the U.S. from using hit/no hit information for renditions to „black sites“, extrajudicial killings and such like ...

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