- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 30, 2004

SCHEVENINGEN, Netherlands — Attorney General John Ashcroft and EU justice officials agreed yesterday to improve the trans-Atlantic flow of intelligence to help track down terrorists and prevent attacks.

Among measures agreed to during several hours of meetings here was the exchange of liaison intelligence officers between the continents.

The United States will send an FBI agent to the European police agency Europol in The Hague, and the European Union will post two agents in Washington, said Antonio Vitorino, the EU justice and home affairs commissioner.

The deal came at the start of two days of talks between EU justice and internal affairs ministers in the Netherlands, which holds the European bloc’s presidency.

Later yesterday, France and the United States were to sign a bilateral agreement on the exchange of data between law enforcement agencies and the extradition of suspects.

“We are devoting additional resources to Europol because we believe it’s in the best interests of the United States and the world community,” Mr. Ashcroft said. “The promotion of the exchange of information is likely to result in saving lives and securing our cultures.”

Mr. Ashcroft said talks also addressed ways to speed up the transfer of sensitive information through Europol, which often is hampered by diverging national systems and competition among Europe’s security agencies.

“We have agreed to have our experts work on kinds of procedures which will reduce sticking points so that where there are differences we can overcome them,” Mr. Ashcroft said.

On Wednesday, Mr. Ashcroft signed two bilateral accords to bring the U.S.-Dutch extradition treaty up to date and facilitate the transfer of terror suspects. The accords also will enable trans-Atlantic videoconferencing so that authorities can interview suspects abroad.

The pacts also set out guidelines for tracking suspect bank accounts and enable investigators to travel abroad to conduct inquiries on foreign soil.

At an informal meeting earlier this month, Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge stressed the need for greater information sharing between EU and U.S. intelligence services.

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