Interpol: No Tin Foil Hats Necessary

Interpol: No Tin Foil Hats Necessary


The conspiracy-minded blogs have been abuzz about President Obama’s Executive Order granting Interpol certain privileges and immunities. Fears of the loss of national sovereignty lead the pack with some going as far as saying this opens the door to Americans being kidnapped to appear before the World Court. The calmer voices have been saying it only grants “diplomatic immunity” to members of Interpol operating in this country. Both explanations are wrong.

Jake Tapper at ABC News has provided an explanation, complete with the history of the special classification:

The International Organizations Immunities Act, signed into law in 1945, established a special group of foreign or international organizations whose members could work in the U.S. and enjoy certain exemptions from US taxes and search and seizure laws.

Experts say there are about 75 organizations in the US covered by the International Organizations Immunities Act — including the United Nations, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the International Monetary Fund, the International Committee of the Red Cross, even the International Pacific Halibut Commission and Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission.

(These privileges are not the same as the rights afforded under “diplomatic immunity,” they are considerably less. “Diplomatic immunity” comes from the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, which states that a “diplomatic agent shall enjoy immunity from the criminal jurisdiction of the receiving State.” That is NOT what the International Organizations Immunities Act is.)

President Reagan granted Interpol some protections in 1983, then President Clinton expanded them in 1995. But because Interpol did not have a permanent office in the US, the full protections of the International Organizations Immunities Act were not needed. Tapper reports he has been told Interpol established permanent offices in the US in 2004.

Individual officers of Interpol are still subject to our criminal and civil laws, and do not enjoy diplomatic immunity. The protections afforded Interpol by President Obama are the same as those given to other international organizations, including the International Pacific Halibut Commission.

Cross-posted to

  • WHQ

    Looks like I wasted a lot of off-topic keyboard strokes on another thread. Hats off to you, Frank. (Get it?)

  • Tully

    Why I didn’t waste any keystrokes anywhere on this one: the claim that it would enable INTERPOL agents to arrest and deport American citizens for prosecution overseas was clearly wrong. As was the claim that the exemptions would allow INTERPOL to withold evidence from the accused in America.

    But paranoia is so much more fun for wingers than facts….

  • mw

    Right. As if we didn’t know what the Pacific Halibut Commission is really all about.

  • Frank Hagan

    That’s the International Pacific Halibut Commission. Makes me suspicious! 😉

  • Doomed

    “except those provided by Section 2(c), Section 3, Section 4, Section 5, and Section 6 of that Act” and the semicolon that immediately precedes them.

    So what about 2c.

    2 (c) 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.

    7(b) Representatives of foreign governments in or to international organizations and officers and employees of such organizations shall be immune from suit and legal process relating to acts performed by them in their official capacity and falling within their functions as such representatives, officers, or employees except insofar as such immunity may be waived by the foreign government or international organization concerned.

    Sec. 9.

    The privileges, exemptions, and immunities of international organizations and of their officers and employees, and members of their families, suites, and servants, provided for in this title, shall be granted notwithstanding the fact that the similar privileges, exemptions, and immunities granted to a foreign government, its officers, or employees, may be conditioned upon the existence of reciprocity by that foreign government:

    I dont know. You tell me. Section 7 and 9 were already in force.

    Obama simply allowed section 2C to be included in the mix.

    Im not a lawyer but you tell me. I work for interpol. Someone comes to my house and wants to search it….Am I immune or no?

    I work for interpol. I have files in my office at the justice department. The government wants to see those. I say no. Can they take them?

    Property Whereever located and by whomever held shall be immune.

    But then I like a good conspiracy theory.

  • kranky kritter

    Presumedly interpol wanted this immunity extended to them in return for some sort of cooperation we sought from them. Treating interpol officials like foreign diplomats doesn’t trouble me. They’re a sort of foreign emissary.

    There are good arguments for extending these sorts of exceptions to foreign emissaries, not the least of which is that we want them extended to US when we are foreign emissaries. If I were an interpol agent asked to come work in America and investigate international intrigue, I would definitely want some protection from being hassled by domestic law enforcement agencies, who might choose to toss sand in my gears for any number of reasons. So this makes sense to me,

    Aluminum haberdashers, carry on. I am out. You don’t need me to nurse this phantom grudge over the coming years. Add it to the list of reasons why Obama is a proto-bolshevik, unrealistic dove pussy, unamerican socialist whatever. You’re sick now. In seven years you’ll be well again, and there will be work to do.

  • kranky kritter

    It makes sense to me that we would extend these protections to interpol agents, because they are foreign emissaries of a sort. Presumedly we extended these protections in return for cooperation we sought from interpol.

    If I were an interpol agent, I would want this sort of protection from potential harassment by domestic law enforcement officials, who are notorious for turf wars. Just as American agents would want similar protections when they were overseas.

  • WHQ

    What’s an “interpol agent”?

    captcha: the meddlers

  • kranky kritter

    I just meant agent in the sense of “person who worked for in some capacity,” an agent of. Not sure what they are called…officers, inspectors? Anyone?

  • Frank Hagan

    The rationale’ for including section 2 protections is that Interpol has offices in the US now. The reason the 188 member countries supporting Interpol agree to this kind of protection is so that the investigations can go on unimpeded, and no country can raid Interpol’s offices to “spy” on another country.

    The US has always cooperated with Interpol, and in fact the current Secretary General is an American. (I forgot to put the link to Jake Tapper’s article in the story; that will be fixed as soon as I post this, but for those this far down in the comments … it is here.

  • Nick Benjamin

    I’m not sure InterPol has agents of it’s own. As far as I can tell they do behind-the-scenes coordination stuff like issue international arrest warrants, but all the actual police stuff is done by national agencies.