European Allies Opposed U.S. Monitoring of Bank Transactions, NYT Reports

Germany, Austria and other European nations harbored a “deep distrust” of a U.S. program that monitors millions of international banking transactions for evidence of terrorist activity, the New York Times reported, citing State Department cables.

An examination of State Department cables by the newspaper showed that traditional European allies were concerned that the program might be used for economic espionage and worried that it prioritized American national security over European civil liberties.

A cable from officials at the U.S. Embassy in Austria reported that “the Nazi legacy and a familiarity with communist regimes” fueled “a widespread presumption against government data collection.”

The program, created in secrecy by the Bush administration, allows U.S. counterterrorism officials to scrutinize banking transaction data from the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, or Swift, a Belgium-based cooperative that routes trillions of dollars daily between banks, brokerages, stock exchanges and other institutions.

The European Parliament voted 378-196 to halt the program on Feb. 10. After a lobbying push by top Obama administration officials, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Treasury Secretary Eric Holder, the European Parliament voted 484-109 in July to restart the program.

To contact the reporters on this story: Lisa Lerer in Washington at llerer@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at msilva34@bloomberg.net

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