IFJ Attacks Secrecy In Talks Between United States and Europe Over "War on Terrorism"

The International Federation of Journalists today accused United States and European Union officials of "unacceptable secrecy that downgrades democracy" over the negotiation of a transatlantic deal on criminal matters, investigative procedures and joint actions without consultation with the European or national parliaments.

"Over the past year traditional liberties have been trimmed and cutback in pursuit of the so-called 'war on terror'," said Aidan White, General Secretary of the IFJ and its regional group the European Federation of Journalists. "Now we find that promises of more open government in Europe are put aside to suit deal-makers in Washington and Brussels."

"Co-operation developed outside the orbit of parliamentary control and without sufficient public scrutiny is unacceptable secrecy that downgrades democracy," he said.

The IFJ has criticised the refusal of the European Union Council of Ministers to release documents about the process to the civil liberties watchdog Statewatch. Nevertheless, Statewatch has obtained a copy of the secret negotiating agenda for an agreement (treaty) between the EU and the US on judicial cooperation, which would have implications for peoples' rights including the death penalty and extradition. The talks foresee the creation of joint investigative teams and a "common approach to searches, seizures, and interception of telecommunications."

A draft agreement will be discussed in detail at an informal meeting of EU Justice and Home Affairs Ministers in Copenhagen on September 13. John Ashcroft, US Attorney General, will join the meeting.

The IFJ this week released its updated report Journalism and the War on Terrorism, which reveals how co-operation between the United States and the European Union has intensified since the attacks on New York.

The report says that within three months of September 11, the European Union had a common legal definition of terrorism, a list of suspects closely in line with Washington's and more than 100 million dollars in assets frozen. The EU also adopted a common arrest warrant to prevent suspected terrorists from evading arrest. Rules on surveillance by the authorities of Internet and e-mail traffic have also been put in place.