The Washington Post is right. In an editorial today, the paper called to account the European Parliament, whose fixations on “amorphous anxieties” about privacy (to use the Post’s words) are threatening American security. The Parliament, for reasons one suspects of local politics, is rushing headlong toward a confrontation with the United States over the sharing of air travel data (known as Passenger Name Records).
The U.S. uses data like this to track and capture terrorists like Faisal Shazad, the Times Square bomber. It is too early to tell whether it had a similar role in thwarting the Yemeni printer bomb plot last week, but whether it did or not is not relevant to the overall utility of the air travel data-sharing program.
And now the Parliament wants to rescind an earlier agreement with Europe and deny the U.S. access to the data it needs. We face this potential confrontation because recent changes to the European Union’s governing treaty gave the Parliament greater power over national security issues. This has opened up the possibility of open discord between a European Parliament whose leadership disdains American concerns with a trite dismissal as being reminiscent of Dirty Harry and an American Congress and Presidency that will not outsource security to Europeans.