European Passport Regulation under fire
This Tuesday afternoon, the House of Representatives will take expected two important motions. The first motion calls on the Dutch government to critically challenge the European Passport Regulation in Brussels. The second motion calls on the government to make the case in Brussels for a critical European response to US extraterritorial legislation, including the infamous Patriot Act. Both motions came about partly in response to Privacy First's earlier coverage of 1) the uselessness of taking fingerprints for passports and ID cards and 2) the risk of Dutch fingerprints falling surreptitiously into foreign hands.
The current collection of fingerprints for passports stems from the European Passport Regulation. This regulation dates from late 2004 and came about mainly under pressure from the US Bush administration. The usefulness and necessity of fingerprints was hardly discussed at the time. The responsible rapporteur of the European Parliament could not even get figures on this at the time, a recent Wob request from Privacy First. It will soon be up to the European Commission to still prove the effectiveness of the Passport Regulation. If the European Commission fails to do so, then this regulation can go straight into the bin.
In addition to fingerprints, the Bush administration's long arm has been reaching deep into the heart of Europe for years. Under the US Patriot Act, the US government was given the power to request data from European companies with a US branch, among other things. This feat of legal imperialism was nothing new for the Americans, by the way: in the US "war on drugs", American powers have been reaching far beyond its own land and sea borders for decades. The Patriot Act extended this extraterritorial circus to the US "war on terror" in 2001. At least as colonial is The Hague Invasion Act of 2002: under this act, the US government reserves the right to keep Americans out of the hands of the International Criminal Court by invading The Hague by force if necessary. Another, more recent example is the National Defense Authorisation Act: this law empowers the US military to round up 'terror suspects' worldwide and hold them in military detention indefinitely without trial.
The jurisdiction of other countries and international law had never been much of a concern in Washington in recent years. That this could only lead to excesses in the long run was common knowledge. It is therefore a mystery to Privacy First what inspired the Dutch government last year to extend contracts with French (partly US-based) passport manufacturer Morpho without warranties that the fingerprints of Dutch citizens could not fall into US (and other foreign) hands. It is now up to the same Dutch government to still protect its citizens and ask the European Commission to do the same at the European level.