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Obama Grants Interpol Immunity

Filed under: Constitutional Law,International,Obama — DRJ @ 9:10 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

Just before Christmas, President Barack Obama signed an Executive Order that immunizes Interpol’s acts in America:

“Last Thursday, December 17, 2009, The White House released an Executive Order “Amending Executive Order 12425.” It grants INTERPOL (International Criminal Police Organization) a new level of full diplomatic immunity afforded to foreign embassies and select other “International Organizations” as set forth in the United States International Organizations Immunities Act of 1945.

By removing language from President Reagan’s 1983 Executive Order 12425, this international law enforcement body now operates – now operates – on American soil beyond the reach of our own top law enforcement arm, the FBI, and is immune from Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) requests.”

I haven’t posted on this before because I’m having a difficult time thinking of all the reasons this is a bad thing. Is this about subjecting the United States to international laws? Exposing American leaders and military to international war crime proceedings? Exempting a police organization on American soil from FOIA and other traditional oversight provisions?

Andy McCarthy has a succinct explanation, and Phineas Fahrquar at PubSecrets makes two points that make sense to me. The first is a continuation of Andy McCarthy’s concerns:

“The author, former federal prosecutor Andy McCarthy, asks some very good questions, among them why we need to elevate a foreign police service above our own legal protections and why does Interpol need an untouchable repository for documents? Essentially this means that someone arrested under an Interpol warrant in the US can be denied the right to see the evidence used to swear out the warrant against him (presumably at an extradition hearing), a discovery process that’s considered a fundamental protection against tyranny under our Anglo-American system.”

Fahrquar describes the second as a quasi-conspiracy theory, but it’s a reasonable one in my view:

“I do find it more than a bit disturbing that a foreign law-enforcement agency would be allowed to operate on American soil and not be subject to the same constitutional restraints as the FBI or DEA. That’s an unacceptable slight to American sovereignty. And, to give my inner-conspiracy theorist full sway, isn’t it convenient that there’s now an archive within the Justice Department that’s protected by diplomatic immunity, so that no documents in it are available to Congress or a US court? What a perfect place to lose embarrassing documents Obama and Attorney General Holder would rather never see the light of day.”


63 Responses to “Obama Grants Interpol Immunity”

  1. You will also see Obama grant the ICC power over US citizens in hopes they will cause trouble form Bush and Cheney. Maybe they will even arrest them if they are daring enough to leave the country. I think we may eventually have to take to the lampposts with rope to get our country back.

    Mike K (2cf494)

  2. This is a clear violation of Obama’s oath to protect the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and himself.

    John Hitchcock (3fd153)

  3. it will be interesting the first time Interpol tries to serve a warrant on someone’s home here…

    redc1c4 (fb8750)

  4. For this alone he should be impeached and removed from office.

    cubanbob (409ac2)

  5. He is really schooling Clinton on how this stuff is done in the big city. Clinton served himself well by replacing the Federal prosecutors with his own people but think of the troubles he could have walked away from had he done this in his first year.

    Clinton showed you could bring a lot of a corrupt state government to the federal level but I did not realize a corrupt city machine would scale up so easily. I am not happy.

    Machinist (9780ec)

  6. I am thinking this is one of the most dangerous things I have seen pushed through. Power does not corrupt, immunity does, and this gives him unimagined immunity from any investigative efforts.

    Machinist (9780ec)

  7. What power would a Republican Congress have to over ride or repeal this?

    Machinist (9780ec)

  8. “it will be interesting the first time Interpol tries to serve a warrant on someone’s home here…”

    Oh don’t worry Red, they will be backed up by the best US gestapo troops available at the time. Complete with all that fancy hardware we pay for!

    This is a massive black hole that our half & half will for sure use as a depository for deeds his crony’s will perform and we will never have the ability to gain information about.

    I can’t say I’m all that bothered they will be working within our country, with authorization from the highest of levels, gawd knows they might actually take some of these creeps out that we are too fucking scared of or have legal system ed ourselves from touching. Though the old and new KGB would be a better choice of enforcement partners for such.

    But they too need a check and balance. The potus has seemingly crossed a line no longer allowing the checks and balances of a system set up over two hundred years ago. The 50%er can go and take Aunt J with him.

    “Clinton showed you could bring a lot of a corrupt state government to the federal level but I did not realize a corrupt city machine would scale up so easily.”

    Al Capone demonstrated such many years ago didn’t he?


    DRJ, take a brief break and catch your breath, the spring thaw has yet to create the summer floods to come.

    TC (0b9ca4)

  9. The ICC, the World Court, the whims of the U.N. You name the international organization, Bee Ho will kow-tow (or shamefully bow) to it.

    Icy Texan (a1e10b)

  10. These are the times that try men’s souls!

    Krusher (fad639)

  11. DRJ, Instapundit has some additional information on this subject that you may find interesting in a 12/28/09 dated link that starts Bob Owens.

    Sorry I cannot provide the link.

    BT (74cbec)

  12. Don’t panic. Interpol is not an international police force. It is an information sharing organization. It has no law enforcement powers. What it does is it facilitates cooperation between the law enforcement agencies of different nations. No Interpol agent will ever arrest anyone, because there are no Interpol agents with powers of arrest. Interpol career employees are essentially clerks, computer operators, and telephone operators. What it will do is provide information to a particular country’s law enforcement agents who are designated to liasse with Interpol about cross-border criminal activity and that nation will act according to its laws.

    I don’t know why it needs diplomatic immunity but we could ask that about UNICEF too.

    nk (df76d4)

  13. BTW, there is no such things as an “Interpol warrant” although that term is often used. The so-called warrants are really “wanted” notices. Any law enforcement agency looking to arrest someone pursuant to an “Interpol warrant” must follow the laws of its own jurisdiction. Otherwise, the Polanski story would have come to an end a long time ago.

    nk (df76d4)

  14. #12 nk:

    I don’t know why it needs diplomatic immunity but we could ask that about UNICEF too.

    Why, it was the groundswell of support amongst the American people that wanted Interpol to be more effective here, of course!

    Sarcasm aside, I think we should ask the question of UNICEF as well.

    I agree with your summation of what Interpol is, but am utterly flummoxed as to why the O!ne would think this EO at all of any use. To anyone. So the only thing that comes to mind is a nefarious purpose as yet unrevealed.

    And John Hitchcock, I am so stealing that line!

    EW1(SG) (edc268)

  15. This is similar to some of the information sharing that occurs on the classified side of things. Country A may be willing to share with the US but not with country C. This drives the requirements for specific controls on databases.

    As relates to this story Country A may be willing to share criminally related data with other countries but only if it has some assurances that information won’t be shared to the world at large. If it is not classified it could be requested under the FOIA. No country wants terrorist or criminal acts perpetrated against its citizens and has an interest in collaborating with other countries but at the same time it may not want its citizens aware that it is sharing info with another country who may not be popular with them.

    voiceofreason2 (c9795e)

  16. put simply, if interpol ever comes for me, I will shoot on sight. this is nothing less than official lawlessness.

    i find it stunning that the same people who are bending over backwards to give enemy combatants unprecedented rights, are also doing this.

    I mean seriously, how far does the immunity go? Does this mean if they shoot you, they can get away with it? yeah, i will not recognize their authority to take me or any other american into custody.

    A.W. (e7d72e)

  17. What I don’t get is, isn’t this “Guantanamo” in reverse? The Dems supposedly hate the big G because we base it on foreign soil so as to ‘avoid’ having to follow the laws of our own country and can presumably therefore ‘betray the standards our legal system is based upon’ in treatment of incarcerees, who weren’t in general US citizens to begin with.

    Yet now they’re going to let international police actors be completely free of our own laws on our own soil, even when potentially ‘arresting’ our own citizens.

    Um, contradict much?

    rtrski (47b90a)

  18. I cannot imagine that it would be constitutional for a president without consent of the Senate to grant these powers. Executive orders are only valid within the constraints of Article II, Section 2.

    Where does he get this authority?

    The president cannot order action which violate the constitutional rights of American citizens regardless of the nationality of the authorities he his empowering.

    arch (24f4f2)

  19. You are likely to find a foreign “Interpol agent” in every foreign consulate in the country and they are likely already to have diplomatic immunity as consulate officers. The one I dealt with, once, was a police lieutenant in his home country. Over here, he was a deputy consul, and besides liaissing with local law enforcement his duties included approving visas and import/export permits. He did not have any police authority in the United States from any source.

    nk (df76d4)

  20. k:

    Doesn’t this executive order enable police authority?

    arch (24f4f2)

  21. #20 arch,

    Now that’s the question, innit?

    EW1(SG) (edc268)

  22. It isn’t what INTERPOL is today…which as previously noted is mainly an information sharing and liaison agency…it is what it can become.

    The ICC and other international judicial bodies must have a mechanism to bring people to dock without having to beg resistive nations for assistance. A quick vote in the UN, or a formal ruling by the ICC maybe, will give INTERPOL all the authority it needs to start making arrests (witness previous UN empowerments).

    The US doesn’t have to agree with any new authority that INTERPOL may get, our politicians can rant and rave until they are blue in the face, but there is nothing that can be done now that they are out of reach behind the wall of diplomatic immunity.

    ‘Change’ through the slow boil of evolution is much more dangerous than ‘change’ through revolution.

    MJN1957 (6e1275)

  23. Why would Interpol be subject to FOIA?

    Essentially this means that someone arrested under an Interpol warrant in the US can be denied the right to see the evidence used to swear out the warrant against him (presumably at an extradition hearing)

    Wouldn’t we have an agreement w/ Interpol mandating this?

    jpe (3d0902)

  24. Doesn’t this executive order enable police authority?

    No; it just grants them sovereign immunity: we can’t search/seize their records. They still can’t arrest Americans on the street (nor is that something they do anyways)

    jpe (3d0902)

  25. Drip…Drip…Drip Our rights and liberties going down the liberal fascism drain.

    Zoltan (b022a7)

  26. I had a tour as a US military political affairs officer in Central America. With a black passport, the local authorities had no right to look at documents in my possession.

    If Interpol already has diplomatic immunity from their attachment to embassies and consulates, why do they need immunity from FOIA?

    If they do not arrest people, why change this executive order?

    arch (24f4f2)

  27. What must be done to end this nonsense? If I see international police trying to enforce whatever on any level, I will execise my 2nd Amendment rights. The part about a well regulated militia being necessary for a free state. It is a state I wish to remain in. That being free. This radical who lied his way into office needs to have his wings clipped.

    Zelsdorf Ragshaft III (57cae1)

  28. I don’t pretend to understand all the motives or ramifications of this Interpol executive order. But, my rule of thumb for most things governmental–and especially with THIS administration– is if it’s handled quietly, sneakily, without explanation in a press release as to why it’s being done or why it’s good for America, then it’s probably something that caring citizens need to investigate further.

    elissa (cd012a)

  29. @ arch: he gets the authority for this EO from Congress. When the law was passed, Reagan immediately granted limited immunity (from tariffs or something) to Interpol.

    jpe (0fe544)

  30. Why would we give something to Interpol that we would not give to the FBI, State police, or even some county sheriff?

    JD (5e6c29)

  31. The FBI etal don’t have direct access to the intelligence of other countries; Interpol does. I’m not sure if that’s the reasoning driving this, but it would make sense.

    jpe (0fe544)

  32. […] Welcome readers of Patterico’s Pontifications. Thanks for the link, […]

    WTF?? Obama gives Interpol powers American cops don’t have? « Public Secrets (26ab4b)

  33. Mentioning the administration of the Ditherer In Chief, and the concept of “reasoning”…

    AD - RtR/OS! (bc0d93)

  34. Thanks much for the link, DRJ!

    #2 John Hitchcock: Dang, I wish I had thought of that line! 🙂

    #13 NK: Thank you for the clarification. I had wondered about that.

    Phineas (7151b0)

  35. Jpe – what changed in the last 30 years that they need this now?

    JD (d0aa0e)

  36. As far as I can tell, all this executive order does is put Interpol, the organization, on the same footing as embassies, consulates and the various UN bureaucracies. It does not grant any more authority to Interpol to arrest Americans than UNICEF has.

    On the FOIA thing in relation to warrants, I have already discussed the reality of Interpol “warrants”. Any real search or arrest warrant issued in the United States based on Interpol information will be issued by an American judge or magistrate applying the same Fourth Amendment standards just like in every other case, and will be executed by American law enforcement.

    nk (df76d4)

  37. BTW, wouldn’t you have liked to have had an American “Interpol agent” in our consulate in Nigeria screening the underwear bomber’s visa?

    nk (df76d4)

  38. I am not exaggerating this one little bit. When I went to that foreign country after obtaining from its Interpol agent a certificate that I would not be arrested if I went there, going through passport control I did what everybody does — I put my passport in front of him closed. He pushed it back to me, without opening it. I looked at him, puzzled, and he waved me through: “Bye bye”. They had tracked me the whole way. (Although it could be that at the time I was the handsomest man who ever walked the Earth and the beauty of my soul showed in my face.)

    nk (df76d4)

  39. in front of him

    *in front of the guy who looks at passports*

    nk (df76d4)

  40. Interpol agent kidnaps an American citizen and removes him to another country for trial. Absolutely nothing can be done to agent because of fucking immunity. NOOOOOOOO!, it is not police powers, the police are bound by the constitution while these SS shocktroopers will not be. Hmmmmmm, maybe those black helicopter people are going to be correct now or in the not to distant future.

    peedoffamerican (486f4b)

  41. That’s a good question, jd; I’ve been searching the internet tubes for the answer to that and haven’t had a lotta luck yet. There was a big old audit back in September re: our interpol procedures but I haven’t had a chance to through the two hundred plus pages yet to see if it has anything on point. If I find anything, I’ll post it here.

    jpe (0fe544)

  42. (Although it could be that at the time I was the handsomest man who ever walked the Earth and the beauty of my soul showed in my face.)


    AD - RtR/OS! (bc0d93)

  43. nk,

    Don’t panic. Interpol is not an international police force. It is an information sharing organization. It has no law enforcement powers.

    What about reports to the contrary?

    … e.g. Interpol arrests antiquities smuggler

    … e.g. Interpol arrests US prison guard

    … e.g. Interpol arrests Georgian citizen in Turkey wanted in Azerbaijan

    Just this first search turned up several thousand examples. Might you be thinking of Interpol as you wish it to be, not as it is?

    Also, fwiw, Interpol in the US is, iirc, actually run from of Holder’s Justice Dept, using staff of his who work under the aegis of Interpol, but who report ultimately to Holder himself. At least, such is my understanding.

    The idea of a Chicago-politics admin wanting a safe repository for its dirty docs doesn’t seem at all far-fetched and this move accomplishes that.

    ras (88eebb)


    WASHINGTON, Nov. 13, 2009 — Attorney General Eric Holder, Deputy Attorney General David Ogden and Timothy A. Williams, Director of INTERPOL-United States National Central Bureau (USNCB), stand for the National Anthem shortly before Director Williams was installed into his new position by AG Holder today in the Department of Justice’s Great Hall.

    ras (88eebb)

  45. No, ras. Just sloppy reporting.

    nk (df76d4)

  46. I think the FBI was in the beginning an investigative agency and did not carry guns. They depended on local law enforcement agencies for “action”. These things change.

    Machinist (9780ec)

  47. The FBI used to be a law enforcement agency. The difference between them and the KGB or Gestapo was that the latter were political police and you could run afoul of them by having information or popularity that the political leaders found threatening or inconvenient, where in theory if you had broken no laws you had nothing to fear from the FBI. The Clintons changed that and made them political police. I don’t know what things are today in that respect.

    Machinist (9780ec)

  48. No, ras. Just sloppy reporting.

    3,650 times.

    Then again, perhaps the reporting is functionally accurate as to how things actually work when discounting the degree of separation provided by local law enforcement. How separate can it be when Holder installs his own man into the position, after all, to run an operation that Obama has placed “above the law.”

    ras (88eebb)

  49. If INTERPOL has immunity then would they even need warrants or arrest authority? Would they not be like Dog the Bounty Hunter with immunity?

    Machinist (9780ec)

  50. You could say that about any consular employee, Machinist. And the employees of sseveral dozen UN and other international agencies. We have thousands of people in the country who, by treaty, can only be prosecuted in their own country for crimes they commit here.

    nk (df76d4)

  51. And Dog the Bounty Hunter’s “immunity” is largely a Law and Order made-for-TV myth. Ramos and Compean are the reality.

    nk (df76d4)

  52. I was not aware that he had any immunity, nor should he.

    I am not concerned about INTERPOL now but I am uncomfortable with the moves to avoid accountability. I would not want this with people I trusted and I certainly don’t want it with the corrupt scum now running things in DC. The abuse and corruption is so open and rampant they clearly feel safe from the voters. They have various reasons for feeling this way and they are all bad.

    Machinist (9780ec)

  53. nk,

    But Dog is not operating under both diplomatic immunity AND presidential protection.

    The directive in q puts Obama in the position of being, for all practical purposes, immune from a Congress controlled by his own party and immune from a Justice system that he can now operate outside of. If we scan the list of major checks and balances on presidential power and how the branches of govt are supposed to check and balance each other, we see each of those balancing forces being in turn shoved to the curb.

    In all of this, no one has yet offered an honorable explanation for “why this change, why now?”

    What is yours?

    ras (88eebb)

  54. nk,

    One thing I’m trying to figure out is whether institutionalizing Interpol in the DOJ affects the treatment of international arrest warrants.

    As I understand Interpol’s authority, it can issue a warrant called a red notice (e.g., the process used in the case of Liberia’s Charles Taylor) directing local law enforcement to arrest someone. According to this Legal Fact Sheet, most nations will make a provisional arrest based solely on an Interpol red notice, although it appears the requirement for extradition is not waived.

    Does this give Interpol increased access to American databases to locate and/or request provisional arrests? Does it facilitate arrests based on international warrants without revealing the underlying information?

    DRJ (84a0c3)

  55. I believe the main reason for Clinton’s “wall” between the CIA and FBI was to hide his illegal international dealings and bribes. This septic tank is over ripe and needs to be flushed. I am not just talking Democrats.

    Machinist (9780ec)

  56. DRJ,

    I honestly don’t think that, in front of an American magistrate asked to issue a warrant, an Interpol Red Notice counts any more than a detective’s affidavit as to what his crack-addicted informant has told him. It would still have to pass probable cause under current American law.

    There is no provision for provisional arrests in American law. Arrests are arrests and must be based on probable cause.

    Could it sometime be used to exploit the good faith exception to suppression of a bad warrant? Maybe. But then so could a perjurious affidavit by a confidential informant.

    nk (df76d4)

  57. “…a perjurious affidavit by a confidential informant.”

    …and that’s never happened!

    AD - RtR/OS! (bc0d93)

  58. My poem about it has gotten thousand of Google hits, AD, and somebody even stole the title for a pretty puerile song.

    nk (df76d4)

  59. It sounds like this Interpol expert agrees with you, nk, and he specifically says that the US “cannot recognize a Red Notice as a request for provisional arrest.” There must be an arrest warrant.

    DRJ (84a0c3)

  60. The same link says there is already an Interpol office in every State and there is also a U.S. National Central Bureau. So what benefit is this to the United States? Does it give the US DOJ direct access to Interpol documents and databases?

    DRJ (84a0c3)

  61. Sovereignty’s Sunset?…

    Obama’s reversal of Reagan’s protections thus has the potential to expose Americans to arrest and detention by INTERPOL via charges filed through the International Criminal Court (ICC)……

    South Texian (59ce3a)

  62. Nice how you conservatives think that your best interest have been served by the American power structure! Do you all have the off-shore accounts like your hooked up Republican-globalist brothers/sisters? Do you like the financial crisis, illegal wars and outsourced job horizon left by people who think like you!? And what have you done to effect justice to these crimes?! Nothing. You just blame a guy whose been in office for 1 year! Your kind ruined this great nation!! Conservatives/Republicans are bankrupt traitors!!

    NonAlarmist (ccba80)

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