A United States government program to access the SWIFT transaction database, revealed by The New York Times in June 2006.
The Terrorist Finance Tracking Programme (TFTP) has generated significant intelligence that has helped detect terrorist plots and trace their authors. An EU-US Agreement on the exchange of financial information ensures protection of EU citizens' privacy and gives the U.S. and EU law enforcement authorities a powerful tool in the fight against terrorism.
The TFTP was set up by the U.S. Treasury Department shortly after the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001. Since then, the TFTP has generated significant intelligence that has been beneficial for both the U.S. and EU States in the fight against terrorism. The Report on the value of TFTP Provided Data published on 27 November 2013 demonstrates the important benefits of the TFTP for international counter-terrorism efforts.
The EU-US TFTP Agreement, which took effect on 1 August 2010, provides for the appropriate safeguards to accommodate legitimate concerns about security, privacy and respect of fundamental rights.
The Agreement safeguards data protection rights relating to transparency, rights of access, rectification and erasure of inaccurate data. It guarantees non-discriminatory rights of administrative redress and ensures that any person whose data are processed under the Agreement will have the right to seek in the U.S. judicial redress for any adverse administrative action. The Agreement further acknowledges the principle of proportionality as a guiding principle for its application.
Under the Agreement, a European public authority - Europol - assesses whether the data requested in any given case are necessary for the fight against terrorism and its financing. Europol also verifies that each request is tailored as narrowly as possible to minimise the amount of data requested. If a request for data does not meet these conditions, no data can be transferred under the Agreement.
All the searches performed on the provided data are monitored by independent overseers including by persons appointed the European Commission. In accordance with the provisions of the Agreement, they have the possibility to review in real time and retroactively all searches made of the provided data, to request additional information to justify the terrorism nexus of these searches, and the authority to block any or all searches that appear to be in breach of the safeguards laid down in Article 5 of the Agreement.
The Agreement also empowers the EU to undertake a significant review of all its aspects. A first such review took place in February 2011, followed by a Commission report in March. The second report was published in December 2012. The report (and its annex) on the fourth review which was conducted in March 2016 was adopted on 19 January 2017.
The Commission has assessed the possible options for an EU Terrorist Finance Tracking System (EU TFTS) with regard to their necessity, proportionality, cost-effectiveness and respect of fundamental rights. As a result of this assessment the Commission concluded in its Communication of 27 November 2013 that at that stage the case to present a proposal for an EU TFTS was not clearly demonstrated.
However, given the rapidly evolving pattern of terrorist financing, the Commission will analyse the need for complementary mechanisms to the EU-US TFTP to fill any potential gaps (i.e. transactions which are excluded from the EU-US TFTP agreement – notably intra-EU payments in euro – and may not be possible to track otherwise). The Commission will report on its findings in the summer of 2017.