The Washington Post reports that the United States and the European Union signed an agreement this week detailing the amount of private information the U.S. can obtain on EU citizens traveling to and from the United States, what kinds of information can be gathered, and for how long the data may be stored.
Privacy advocates in the U.S. and the E.U. immediately questioned the agreement's sweeping expansion of data mining of travelers’ private information, including such data fields as medical history, religious affiliation, trade union membership, sexual orientation, and sexual partners.
According to WaPo:
U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff praised the pact as an "essential screening tool for detecting potentially dangerous transatlantic travelers." If available at the time of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Chertoff said, such information would have, "within a matter of moments, helped to identify many of the 19 hijackers by linking their methods of payment, phone numbers and seat assignments."
Paul Rosenzweig, Homeland Security’s deputy assistant secretary for policy, explained that the broad categories of information gathered are due to U.S. authorities' fears of risks they haven't yet imagined. Rosenzweig justified the unusual data fields if, for example, U.S. officials learned of an alert about passengers who request wheelchairs hiding bombs in leg casts.