Obama grants unprecedented powers to Interpol on U.S. soil
Floyd and Mary Beth Brown, Commentary
January 4, 2010 - 10:57AM
With the signing of an under-publicized amendment to Executive Order 12425, President Barack Obama has fundamentally altered your constitutional rights. His actions are undermining your rights to protect personal privacy from a foreign internationalist police agency named Interpol. A one-paragraph executive order may seem inconsequential to many, but this action has far reaching implications and threatens the sovereignty of America.
Obama's secretive executive order amended an order issued by President Ronald Reagan in 1983. Reagan's order recognized Interpol as an international organization and gave it privileges and immunities commonly extended to foreign diplomats.
Reagan opened the door to allow Interpol to operate in partnership with the U.S. but with significant constitutional safeguards. Specifically, Interpol's property and assets remained subject to search and seizure by American law enforcement, and its archived records remained subject to public scrutiny under provisions of the Freedom of Information Act. Interpol had to answer to the FBI and U.S. courts under Reagan's order.
These safeguards were stripped away by Obama's action the week before Christmas without debate or explanation. Obama picked the holiday season to make this radical change to minimize media coverage.
This order marks a significant change in federal policy and usurps the constitutional power of our government by yielding it to an international organization. Michael van Der Galien writes, "This foreign law enforcement organization can operate free of an important safeguard against government and abuse. Property and assets, including the organization's records, cannot now be searched or seized. Their physical operational locations are now immune from U.S. legal and investigative authorities."
Obama has given an international organization unsupervised freedom to investigate Americans on our own soil without recourse or the supervision of our own government.
Andy McCarthy writing for the National Review asks some very significant questions: "Why would we elevate an international police force above American law? Why would we immunize an international police force from the limitations that constrain the FBI and other American law-enforcement agencies? Why is it suddenly necessary to have, within the Justice Department, a repository for stashing government files which, therefore, will be beyond the ability of Congress, American law-enforcement, the media, and the American people to scrutinize?"
Interpol is the enforcement arm of the International Criminal Court (ICC). The United States never signed onto the Rome Treaty which created the ICC because of the potential for abuse by foreign interests. Obama has signaled he may sign the treaty over these objections and subject Americans to prosecution overseas in the ICC. This is harmful for two reasons.
First, the U.S. Constitution clearly states that it is the supreme law of our land and allowing the ICC to supersede the Constitution violates America's sovereignty. Second, the war on terror is unpopular with Europeans and the ICC may attempt to prosecute heroic American soldiers with trumped up war crimes. Obama is putting brave American men and women at grave risk.
An added wrinkle to this executive order is that Interpol's operations center for the United States is housed within our own Justice Department. Many of the agents are Americans who work under the aegis of Interpol. This order has potentially created the new civilian security force that Obama proposed during his campaign. This group of [U.S.] law enforcement officials is no longer subject to the restraints enshrined in the U.S. Constitution.
The order guarantees that Interpol officers have immunity from prosecution for crimes they may commit in the United States. [Same for American cops working as Interpol cops] Ironically, some Interpol nations are attempting to try American intelligence agents for their work abroad in the war on terror.
This order shows blatant disregard for the Constitution. While Obama is extending due process rights to terrorists, he is weakening those same rights for American citizens. If a citizen were to be prosecuted by Interpol, their newly granted immunity would interfere with the discovery process. Since Interpol files are immune to disclosure, a citizen could be denied his right to see the information used to prosecute him or her.
Obama's executive order has done more to weaken civil liberties than the much maligned Patriot Act. The silence in the mainstream media on this issue should scare all freedom loving Americans. Obama just signed away parts of our precious legal protections.
Floyd and Mary Beth Brown are bestselling authors and speakers and write a national weekly column distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. To comment on this column, e-mail email@example.com.
Order on Interpol Work Inside U.S. Irks Conservatives
Published: December 30, 2009
WASHINGTON — Conservative bloggers and opinion outlets in recent days have expressed mounting alarm about an executive order by President Obama that extended certain privileges and immunities to the International Criminal Police Organization, better known as Interpol.
Bloggers have accused Mr. Obama of ceding American sovereignty, painting a portrait of an international police force operating on United States soil without legal restraints. They have also argued that the order is part of a plot to allow international courts to arrest and prosecute American officials for war crimes.
That theme is making its way from the blogosphere to more mainstream news outlets.
In a Web post for the conservative National Review last week, the commentator Andrew C. McCarthy declared that an “international police force” could now operate inside the United States “unrestrained by the U.S. Constitution and American law.” He also suggested that the order created in the Justice Department “a repository for stashing government files” beyond the reach of Congress and the public.
And an editorial in The Washington Examiner this week declared that “this new directive from Obama may be the most destructive blow ever struck against American constitutional civil liberties.”
Obama administration and Interpol officials say the fears and accusations are based on ignorance about how Interpol works and about the context and impact of the order, which was issued on Dec. 17 without any statement.
“There is nothing newsworthy here,” said Christina Reynolds, a White House spokeswoman.
Contrary to its portrayal in some movies, Interpol has no police force that conducts investigations and makes arrests. Rather, it serves its 188 member countries by working as a clearinghouse for police departments in different nations to share law enforcement information — like files on wanted criminals and terrorists, stolen cars and passports, and notices that a law enforcement agency has issued an arrest warrant for a fugitive.
In the United States, a bureau at the Justice Department staffed by American officials transmits information between law enforcement agencies and Interpol. If a foreign country issues an arrest warrant for a person inside the United States, it is up to the United States government, based on its own laws, to decide whether to apprehend the suspect.
“We don’t send officers into the field to arrest people; we don’t have agents that go investigate crimes,” said Rachel Billington, an Interpol spokeswoman. “This is always done by the national police in the member country under their national laws.”
When public international organizations are operating on United States soil, a law allows the president to grant them certain rights and immunities, just as foreign embassies receive privileges. More than 70 organizations — including the International Committee of the Red Cross, the World Bank and the International Pacific Halibut Commission — receive those rights.
In 1983, President Ronald Reagan extended some rights — including immunity from lawsuits or prosecution for official acts — to Interpol, which was holding its annual meeting in the United States. But Mr. Reagan’s order did not include other standard privileges — like immunity from certain tax requirements and from having its property or records subject to search and seizure — because at the time, Interpol had no permanent office or employees on United States soil.
That changed in 2004, when Interpol opened a liaison office at the United Nations in New York City. The office consists of five staff members, Ms. Billington said, and they have access to law enforcement information submitted by other countries with restrictions on who may receive it.
“When the office opened in 2004, we said look, we’d like to have the Interpol staff working in the office in New York afforded the same immunities as other international organizations,” Ms. Billington said. “It’s only for the New York office.”
The State Department recommended approving the request, but the Bush White House did not complete the matter before its term ended, and so it rolled over.
The White House said it put out no statement with Mr. Obama’s order because it viewed the matter as uninteresting.
LaTonya Miller, the spokeswoman for the Justice Department’s Interpol bureau, said the order would have no effect on the bureau. It routinely receives and responds to Freedom of Information Act requests, she said, and will continue to do so.
“Nothing has changed,” she said. “We’ve been really concerned about all the misinformation that has been out there on the blogs.”