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EU data law could hamper international arrests - U.S. officials
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - A draft EU data protection law could prevent the arrest and extradition of suspected criminals in cross-border criminal investigations, senior U.S. officials said on Wednesday.
Since 2009, the European Union's parliament has been trying to restrict how much data the United States can have access to in criminal investigations.
A review of the EU's Data Protection Directive by the EU's executive, the European Commission, in February fanned worries among U.S. officials that years of co-operation in criminal matters could be undone. The European Parliament has begun work on amendments to the Commission's draft.
On Wednesday, U.S. officials visiting Brussels to discuss data protection with the parliament said they feared international arrest warrants would be more difficult to issue under the current draft.
Interpol issues arrest warrants - known as red notices - on behalf of countries in all manner of international criminal investigations to request the provisional arrest and extradition of suspects
"It's hard to see how a member state could possibly seek an Interpol red notice request for people to be arrested since those contain personally identifiable information," Bruce Swartz, the U.S. deputy assistant attorney general said.
In 2011, more than 7,500 red notices were issued including one for Saadi Gaddafi, the son of late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.
Swartz said some of the provisions in the EU draft law were too strict and they created new obstacles to gaining access to information on suspects.
He said a draft provision requiring that transfers of data to a third country only take place once that country has either equivalent or similar laws would "undoubtedly slow or prevent the flow of information".
David Vladeck, the director of the U.S. Bureau of Consumer Protection, said investigations into commercial fraud could be slowed down because not many countries actually had equivalent levels of data protection.
Swartz said it was also "dangerous and disturbing" that the draft data protection law requested a review of separate existing international agreements on legal cooperation in criminal cases.
The European Union has signed so-called mutual legal assistance agreements with more than 25 countries including the United States, which allow police in these countries to share information in criminal investigations.
Commission spokeswoman Mina Andreeva said the review of such agreements did not threaten their existence per se.
"Member states can maintain their international agreements; they just need to be reviewed," she said. "So the basic channels of cooperation will remain in place." (Editing by Alison Williams)
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