MEP questions Malta's use of US-supplied border security technology

"German MEP Cornelia Ernst has taken issue over Malta's use of the PISCES border control software, which was donated to the country by the American government in 2004, claiming that Malta's use of the software could constitute a security risk for other EU member states."

"The PISCES software was developed by the American company Booz Allen Hamilton, the former employer of US National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden. It is one of America's largest security contractors and is seen as a significant part of the constantly revolving door between the US intelligence establishment and the private sector. In fact, many of the files that Snowden eventually leaked had, in fact, been sourced from the company.

"Although it had previously been in use in the US and other countries, Malta was the first country to make use of the PISCES system when it was donated by the US government back in 2004. According to this newspaper's research, Malta is still the only EU member state using the software.

"The system is in use at international entry-points to the country, which include Malta International Airport, the Sea Passenger Terminal, Ta' Xbiex Marina and the Gozo ferry terminal." [1]

The written question was submitted to the Commission by Cornelia Ernst MEP on 22 December 2014. [2] The Commission is yet to answer, but the question may hit a sensitive spot for the US government.

Cables published by Wikileaks show that in 2009, when Kosovo was due to replace its US-supplied PISCES system with technology mandated by the EU, action was taken to try and ensure that PISCES could remain in place as "it is in the United States' long-term interest." Furthermore:

"Unlike PISCES, IBMS [Integrated Border Management System] does not store traveler data due to European data privacy rules. The inability to archive this data denies both the Kosovo police (KP) and EULEX a powerful investigatory tool, the ability to track travel patterns of criminal and terrorist targets...

"...[the European Commission Liaison Office said it] could not support anything that would be contrary to EU law, and collecting traveler data, even if it was sent to another system, might constitute such a violation...

"We need Washington... to demarche Brussels on the importance of permitting the PISCES system to remain in place." [3]

Cables also indicate that in February 2010 a "TIP/PISCES team" arrived in Kosovo, but it is unknown if the system remains in place in the country. The US Department of State 2012 and 2013 Country Reports on Terrorism do not mention PISCES in relation to Kosovo. [4]

Another leaked cable from 2008 describes the system, which is used as part of the Terrorist Interdiction Program:

"The Terrorist Interdiction Program (TIP) seeks to constrain terrorist mobility globally by helping other countries at risk of terrorist activity enhance their border security capabilities. TIP provides countries with a computerized watchlisting system known as PISCES (Personal Identification Secure Comparison and Evaluation System). Countries are identified for eligibility to participate in TIP based on known terrorist activity or transit patterns, need for a watchlisting system, and political will to cooperate. TIP installs PISCES hardware and software at selected points of entry, including international airports and major border crossings. The system enables host nation border control officials to identify suspect travelers against a current watchlist and has integrated capability for both biographic and biometric data capture. PISCES is installed at both arrival and departure terminals so that host officials can identify travelers entering and exiting the country. PISCES also enables immigration officials to use the system to collect, compare, and analyze data for investigative purposes. TIP/PISCES is currently operational in the following countries: Afghanistan, Cambodia, Cote d'Ivoire, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Ghana, Iraq, Kenya, Kosovo, Macedonia, Malta, Nepal, Pakistan, Tanzania, Thailand, Yemen, and Zambia." [5]

EU police agency Europol reportedly receives information from PISCES systems around the globe. [6]

[1] 'MEP raises alarm over security of Malta’s border control software', Malta Independent, 25 January 2015
[2] Cornelia Ersnt, 'Award of contracts for IT policing systems to external suppliers', 22 December 2014
[4] Country Reports on Terrorism: 2012 and 2013
[6] Matthias Monroy, 'Europol weitet Zusammenarbeit mit US-Militär aus – Auch das BKA war in zivil-militärischen Datentausch involviert',, 4 April 2014

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