The Obama administration has encountered mounting resistance in Europe to its demands for broad sharing of airline passenger data and other personal information designed to spot would-be terrorists before they strike.
Europe's objections, based on privacy considerations, worry U.S. counterterrorism officials because computer scrutiny of passenger lists has become an increasingly important tool in the struggle to prevent terrorists from entering the United States or traveling to and from their havens. The would-be Times Square bomber was hauled off a Dubai-bound airliner in May, a senior U.S. counterterrorism official said, after his name on the manifest produced a ding in Department of Homeland Security computers.
European privacy advocates have long criticized the U.S. effort to scoop up as much information as possible on U.S.-bound travelers, saying it violates Europe's traditionally stringent data privacy laws. But their power to criticize was boosted recently to the power to block. Since Dec. 1, the Lisbon Treaty has given authority over such accords to the European Parliament, where privacy concerns are embraced.
"The administration can't just stiff-arm them anymore," said Marc Rotenberg, who heads the Washington-based Electronic Privacy Information Center and testified at a European Parliament hearing in Brussels on Monday.