Did Obama exempt Interpol from same legal constraints as American law-enforcement?

posted at 2:55 pm on December 23, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

During his presidency, Ronald Reagan granted the global police agency Interpol the status of diplomatic personnel in order to engage more constructively on international law enforcement.  In Executive Order 12425, Reagan made two exceptions to that status.  The first had to do with taxation, but the second was to make sure that Interpol had the same accountability for its actions as American law enforcement — namely, they had to produce records when demanded by courts and could not have immunity for their actions.

Barack Obama unexpectedly revoked those exceptions in a change to EO 12425 last month, as Threats Watch reports:

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. …

After initial review and discussions between the writers of this analysis, the context was spelled out plainly.

Through EO 12425, President Reagan extended to INTERPOL recognition as an “International Organization.” In short, the privileges and immunities afforded foreign diplomats was extended to INTERPOL. Two sets of important privileges and immunities were withheld: Section 2© and the remaining sections cited (all of which deal with differing taxes).

And then comes December 17, 2009, and President Obama. The exemptions in EO 12425 were removed.

Section 2c of the United States International Organizations Immunities Act is the crucial piece.

Property and assets of international organizations, wherever located and by whomsoever held, shall be immune from search, unless such immunity be expressly waived, and from confiscation. The archives of international organizations shall be inviolable. (Emphasis added.)

Inviolable archives means INTERPOL records are beyond US citizens’ Freedom of Information Act requests and from American legal or investigative discovery (“unless such immunity be expressly waived.”)

Property and assets being immune from search and confiscation means precisely that. Wherever they may be in the United States. This could conceivably include human assets – Americans arrested on our soil by INTERPOL officers.

Actually, that last argument overreaches.  American law does not consider people as “assets.”  It does mean, though, that Interpol officers would have diplomatic immunity for any lawbreaking conducted in the US at a time when Interpol nations (like Italy) have attempted to try American intelligence agents for their work in the war on terror, a rather interesting double standard.

It also appears to mean that Americans who get arrested on the basis of Interpol work cannot get the type of documentation one normally would get in the discovery process, which is a remarkable reversal from Obama’s declared efforts to gain “due process” for terrorists detained at Gitmo.  Does the White House intend to treat Americans worse than the terrorists we’ve captured during wartime?

Andy McCarthy wonders the same thing:

Interpol’s property and assets are no longer subject to search and confiscation, and its archives are now considered inviolable. This international police force (whose U.S. headquarters is in the Justice Department in Washington) will be unrestrained by the U.S. Constitution and American law while it operates in the United States and affects both Americans and American interests outside the United States.

Interpol works closely with international tribunals (such as the International Criminal Court — which the United States has refused to join because of its sovereignty surrendering provisions, though top Obama officials want us in it). It also works closely with foreign courts and law-enforcement authorities (such as those in Europe that are investigating former Bush administration officials for purported war crimes — i.e., for actions taken in America’s defense).

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?

I seem to recall the Left getting hysterical over the Patriot Act extensions that Obama finally backed.  This gives Interpol a much wider operational latitude than anything contemplated in the Patriot Act, and with no accountability at all.

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