A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

The United States of Interpol?


Q: Did Obama sign an order giving Interpol the right to police the U.S.?

A: No. The executive order Obama signed in December simply gives Interpol the same privileges that other international organizations operating in the U.S. already have.

FULL QUESTION

Did Obama sign a new bill where Interpol will now have the right of search and seizure on our shores without due process or any subpoena?? Could this be true???

FULL ANSWER

In a word, no.

President Obama’s Executive Order of Dec. 16 does nothing except grant to Interpol – the International Criminal Police Organization – certain privileges and immunities that the U.S. gives to dozens of other international groups under the International Organizations Immunities Act of 1945.

The order sparked much discussion in the conservative blogosphere and sent a great deal of e-mail our way. Despite what some have been saying, however, the order doesn’t mean that a global police force can now operate unfettered on U.S. soil.

Nor is it true that "Interpol will now have the right of search and seizure on our shores without due process or any subpoenas," as the question above states. That’s a mangled interpretation of one of the impacts of the order, which is to make Interpol’s own property and records immune from search and seizure, just like those of many other international groups operating in the U.S.

Obama’s action also doesn’t "alter our legal protections," as another message queried. And it doesn’t bring the U.S. any closer to "allow[ing] foreign countries to try Americans, at the Hague, for any ‘crimes’ not recognized as such by the U.S. that were ‘committed’ without the person having left the U.S.," as another e-mail we received said.

Bringing Interpol fully under the International Organizations Immunities Act is a process that was started by President Reagan in 1983. With Executive Order 12425, Reagan declared that Interpol was covered by the act and all of its provisions except a few that had to do with exemptions from paying U.S. income, Social Security and property taxes, and several other issues.

President Clinton in 1995 took things a step further, ordering that Interpol be granted exemptions under the act for purposes of customs duties and importation restrictions. Now, with Obama’s order, the law enforcement group is fully normalized under the law, just like the International Committee of the Red Cross, the Inter-American Development Bank, the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission and nearly 100 other organizations. For a full list, see below:

[EET ] International organizations designated by executive order as public international organizations entitled to enjoy the privileges, exemptions, and immunities conferred by the International Organizations Immunities Act, with executive order number, date issued, and volume and page of Federal Register publication:

African Development Bank, Ex. Ord. No. 12403, Feb. 8, 1983, 48 F.R. 6087.

African Development Fund, Ex. Ord. No. 11977, Mar. 14, 1977, 42 F.R. 14671.

African Union, Ex. Ord. No. 13377, Apr. 13, 2005, 70 F.R. 20263.

Asian Development Bank, Ex. Ord. No. 11334, Mar. 7, 1967, 32 F.R. 3933.

Border Environment Cooperation Commission, Ex. Ord. No. 12904, Mar. 16, 1994, 59 F.R. 13179.

Caribbean Organization, Ex. Ord. No. 10983, Dec. 30, 1961, 27 F.R. 32.

Commission for Environmental Cooperation, Ex. Ord. No. 12904, Mar. 16, 1994, 59 F.R. 13179.

Commission for Labor Cooperation, Ex. Ord. No. 12904, Mar. 16, 1994, 59 F.R. 13179.

Commission for the Study of Alternatives to the Panama Canal, Ex. Ord. No. 12567, Oct. 2, 1986, 51 F.R. 35495.

Council of Europe in Respect of the Group of States Against Corruption (GRECO), Ex. Ord. No. 13240, Dec. 18, 2001, 66 F.R. 66257.

Customs Cooperation Council, Ex. Ord. No. 11596, June 5, 1971, 36 F.R. 11079.

European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Ex. Ord. No. 12766, June 18, 1991, 56 F.R. 28463.

European Central Bank, Ex. Ord. No. 13307, May 29, 2003, 68 F.R. 33338.

European Space Agency, Ex. Ord. No. 11318, Dec. 5, 1966, 31 F.R. 15307; Ex. Ord. No. 11351, May 22, 1967, 32 F.R. 7561; Ex. Ord. No. 11760, Jan. 17, 1974, 39 F.R. 2343; Ex. Ord. No. 12766, June 18, 1991, 56 F.R. 28463.

Food and Agriculture Organization, Ex. Ord. No. 9698, Feb. 19, 1946, 11 F.R. 1809.

Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, Ex. Ord. No. 13395, Jan. 13, 2006, 71 F.R. 3203.

Great Lakes Fishery Commission, Ex. Ord. No. 11059, Oct. 23, 1962, 27 F.R. 10405.

Hong Kong Economic and Trade Offices, Ex. Ord. No. 13052, June 30, 1997, 62 F.R. 35659.

Inter-American Defense Board, Ex. Ord. No. 10228, Mar. 26, 1951, 16 F.R. 2676.

Inter-American Development Bank, Ex. Ord. No. 10873, Apr. 8, 1960, 25 F.R. 3097; Ex. Ord. No. 11019, Apr. 27, 1962, 27 F.R. 4145.

Inter-American Institute of Agricultural Sciences, Ex. Ord. No. 9751, July 11, 1946, 11 F.R. 7713.

Inter-American Investment Corporation, Ex. Ord. No. 12567, Oct. 2, 1986, 51 F.R. 35495.

Inter-American Statistical Institute, Ex. Ord. No. 9751, July 11, 1946, 11 F.R. 7713.

Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission, Ex. Ord. No. 11059, Oct. 23, 1962, 27 F.R. 10405.

Intergovernmental Maritime Consultative Organization, Ex. Ord. No. 10795, Dec. 13, 1958, 23 F.R. 9709.

International Atomic Energy Agency, Ex. Ord. No. 10727, Aug. 31, 1957, 22 F.R. 7099.

International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Ex. Ord. No. 9751, July 11, 1946, 11 F.R. 7713.

International Boundary and Water Commission, United States and Mexico, Ex. Ord. No. 12467, Mar. 2, 1984, 49 F.R. 8229.

International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes, Ex. Ord. No. 11966, Jan. 19, 1977, 42 F.R. 4331.

International Civil Aviation Organization, Ex. Ord. No. 9863, May 31, 1947, 12 F.R. 3559.

International Coffee Organization, Ex. Ord. No. 11225, May 22, 1965, 30 F.R. 7093.

International Committee of the Red Cross, Ex. Ord. No. 12643, June 23, 1988, 53 F.R. 24247.

International Cotton Advisory Committee, Ex. Ord. No. 9911, Dec. 19, 1947, 12 F.R. 8719.

International Cotton Institute, Ex. Ord. No. 11283, May 27, 1966, 31 F.R. 7667.

International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) (limited privileges), Ex. Ord. No. 12425, June 16, 1983, 48 F.R. 28069; Ex. Ord. No. 12971, Sept. 15, 1995, 60 F.R. 48617.

International Development Association, Ex. Ord. No. 11966, Jan. 19, 1977, 42 F.R. 4331.

International Development Law Institute, Ex. Ord. No. 12842, Mar. 29, 1993, 58 F.R. 17081.

International Fertilizer Development Center, Ex. Ord. No. 11977, Mar. 14, 1977, 42 F.R. 14671.

International Finance Corporation, Ex. Ord. No. 10680, Oct. 2, 1956, 21 F.R. 7647.

International Food Policy Research Institute (limited privileges), Ex. Ord. No. 12359, Apr. 22, 1982, 47 F.R. 17791.

International Fund for Agricultural Development, Ex. Ord. No. 12732, Oct. 31, 1990, 55 F.R. 46489.

International Hydrographic Bureau, Ex. Ord. No. 10769, May 29, 1958, 23 F.R. 3801.

International Joint Commission—United States and Canada, Ex. Ord. No. 9972, June 25, 1948, 13 F.R. 3573.

International Labor Organization, Ex. Ord. No. 9698, Feb. 19, 1946, 11 F.R. 1809.

International Maritime Satellite Organization, Ex. Ord. No. 12238, Sept. 12, 1980, 45 F.R. 60877.

International Monetary Fund, Ex. Ord. No. 9751, July 11, 1946, 11 F.R. 7713.

International Pacific Halibut Commission, Ex. Ord. No. 11059, Oct. 23, 1962, 27 F.R. 10405.

International Secretariat for Volunteer Service, Ex. Ord. No. 11363, July 20, 1967, 32 F.R. 10779.

International Telecommunication Union, Ex. Ord. No. 9863, May 31, 1947, 12 F.R. 3559.

International Telecommunications Satellite Organization (INTELSAT), Ex. Ord. No. 11718, May 14, 1973, 38 F.R. 12797; Ex. Ord. No. 11966, Jan. 19, 1977, 42 F.R. 4331.

International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, Ex. Ord. No. 12986, Jan. 18, 1996, 61 F.R. 1693.

International Wheat Advisory Committee (International Wheat Council), Ex. Ord. No. 9823, Jan. 24, 1947, 12 F.R. 551.

Interparliamentary Union, Ex. Ord. No. 13097, Aug. 7, 1998, 63 F.R. 43065.

Israel-United States Binational Industrial Research and Development Foundation, Ex. Ord. No. 12956, Mar. 13, 1995, 60 F.R. 14199.

ITER International Fusion Energy Organization, Ex. Ord. No. 13451, Nov. 19, 2007, 72 F.R. 65653.

Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization, Ex. Ord. No. 12997, Apr. 1, 1996, 61 F.R. 14949.

Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency, Ex. Ord. No. 12647, Aug. 2, 1988, 53 F.R. 29323.

Multinational Force and Observers, Ex. Ord. No. 12359, Apr. 22, 1982, 47 F.R. 17791.

North American Development Bank, Ex. Ord. No. 12904, Mar. 16, 1994, 59 F.R. 13179.

North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission, Ex. Ord. No. 12895, Jan. 26, 1994, 59 F.R. 4239.

North Pacific Marine Science Organization, Ex. Ord. No. 12894, Jan. 26, 1994, 59 F.R. 4237.

Organization for European Economic Cooperation (now known as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development), Ex. Ord. No. 10133, June 27, 1950, 15 F.R. 4159.

Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, Ex. Ord. No. 13049, June 11, 1997, 62 F.R. 32471.

Organization of American States (includes Pan American Union), Ex. Ord. No. 10533, June 3, 1954, 19 F.R. 3289.

Organization of Eastern Caribbean States, Ex. Ord. No. 12669, Feb. 20, 1989, 54 F.R. 7753.

Pacific Salmon Commission, Ex. Ord. No. 12567, Oct. 2, 1986, 51 F.R. 35495.

Pan American Health Organization (includes Pan American Sanitary Bureau), Ex. Ord. No. 10864, Feb. 18, 1960, 25 F.R. 1507.

Preparatory Commission of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Ex. Ord. No. 10727, Aug. 31, 1957, 22 F.R. 7099.

Provisional Intergovernmental Committee for the Movement of Migrants from Europe (now known as the Intergovernmental Committee for European Migration), Ex. Ord. No. 10335, Mar. 28, 1952, 17 F.R. 2741.

South Pacific Commission, Ex. Ord. No. 10086, Nov. 25, 1949, 14 F.R. 7147.

United International Bureau for the Protection of Intellectual Property (BIRPI), Ex. Ord. No. 11484, Sept. 29, 1969, 34 F.R. 15337.

United Nations, Ex. Ord. No. 9698, Feb. 19, 1946, 11 F.R. 1809.

United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, Ex. Ord. No. 9863, May 31, 1947, 12 F.R. 3559.

United Nations Industrial Development Organization, Ex. Ord. No. 12628, Mar. 8, 1988, 53 F.R. 7725.

United States-Mexico Border Health Commission, Ex. Ord. No. 13367, Dec. 21, 2004, 69 F.R. 77605.

Universal Postal Union, Ex. Ord. No. 10727, Aug. 31, 1957, 22 F.R. 7099.

World Health Organization, Ex. Ord. No. 10025, Dec. 30, 1948, 13 F.R. 9361.

World Intellectual Property Organization, Ex. Ord. No. 11866, June 18, 1975, 40 F.R. 26015.

World Meteorological Organization, Ex. Ord. No. 10676, Sept. 1, 1956, 21 F.R. 6625.

World Tourism Organization, Ex. Ord. No. 12508, Mar. 22, 1985, 50 F.R. 11837.

World Trade Organization, Ex. Ord. No. 13042, Apr. 9, 1997, 62 F.R. 18017.

Source: Cornell University Law School Legal Information Institute, U.S. Code collection, Title 22, Chapter 7, Subchapter XVIII, section 288.

Also, U.S. House of Representatives, U.S. Code, Title 22, Chapter 7, Subchapter XVIII, sec. 288.  [/EET]

Why did it take so long for Interpol to be fully covered? According to LaTonya Miller, a spokeswoman for the U.S. National Central Bureau of Interpol, which is located within the Department of Justice, Interpol didn’t have an office in the U.S. until 2004, when it opened one in New York. The privileges Interpol hadn’t been granted — exemption from taxes, etc. — weren’t needed. Its updated status under the law has been in the works since the New York office opened.

It’s likely that some of the hubbub springs from a fundamental misunderstanding about what Interpol does. Interpol is indeed a police organization, with 188 member countries. According to its Web site, it "aims to facilitate international police co-operation even where diplomatic relations do not exist between particular countries." Its priority areas include the drug trade, global crime syndicates, fugitives, financial and high-tech crimes.

But – take note, aspiring James Bonds – it doesn’t send agents out to do their own investigations and make arrests; it’s more of a facilitator. And its site also maintains that "[a]ction is taken within the limits of existing laws in different countries."

Viveca Novak

Sources

Obama, Barack. Executive Order: Amending Executive Order 12425 Designating Interpol as a Public Internation Organization Entitled to Enjoy Certain Privileges, Exemptions and Immunities. 16 Dec 2009.

International Organizations Immunities Act. Public Law 79-291. 9 Dec 1945.

Clinton, Bill. Executive Order 12971: Amendment to Executive Order 12425. 15 Sep 1995.

Cornell University Law School Legal Information Institute, U.S. Code collection, Title 22, Chapter 7, Subchapter XVIII, section 288.

INTERPOL Web site. Accessed 5 Jan 2010.

Savage, Charlie. "Order on Interpol Work Inside U.S. Irks Conservatives." The New York Times. 30 Dec 2009.

Miller, LaTonya. E-mail to FactCheck.org. 4 Jan 2009.

U.S. House of Representatives. U.S. Code, Title 22, Chapter 7, Subchapter XVII, section 288.