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INTERPOL Granted Diplomatic Immunity In the US 450

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the subcontracting-the-dirty-work dept.
ShakaUVM writes "A couple of weeks ago without any fanfare or notice in the media, President Obama granted INTERPOL full diplomatic immunity while conducting investigations on American soil. While INTERPOL has been allowed to operate in the US in the past, under an executive order by President Reagan, they've had to follow the same rules as the FBI, CIA, etc., while on American soil. This means, among other things, the new executive order makes INTERPOL immune to Freedom of Information Act requests and that INTERPOL agents cannot be punished for most any crimes they may commit. Hopefully the worst we'll see from this is INTERPOL agents ignoring their speeding tickets." Update: 01/05 02:57 GMT by KD : Reader davecb pointed out an ABC News blog that comes to pretty much the opposite conclusion as to the import of the executive order.
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INTERPOL Granted Diplomatic Immunity In the US

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  • by LostCluster (625375) * on Monday January 04, 2010 @07:39PM (#30648252)

    This is really a change of a default assumption than freedom to do anything without penalty. If INTERPOL starts going crazy, it only takes a presidential signature to take this exception back.

    So if the INTERPOL guy says "I won't, and I don't have to!" and the fed guy says "It's a matter of national security!"... all he needs to do is get the message up to the top of the chain-of-command, and suddenly that fed guy can grab whatever info he wants.

    Yeah, high standard, but it's not going to change things much.

    • by Zebra_X (13249) on Monday January 04, 2010 @07:46PM (#30648360)

      This is really a change of a default assumption than freedom to do anything without penalty. If INTERPOL starts going crazy, it only takes a presidential signature to take this exception back.

      No one is taking this exception back, it was granted in the first place.

      The question might be why was this ever granted in the first place? Easy - the government wants to make it easier to hunt terrorists on U.S. soil or any other citizen not following the rules. This basically allows to the U.S. government to go and ask interpol to conduct unconstitutional activities on U.S. soil and report their findings. Clap, fail.

      • by bws111 (1216812) on Monday January 04, 2010 @11:25PM (#30650692)
        Exactly what 'unconstitutional' things do you think INTERPOL can/will do? They provide information. They don't investigate, issue warrants, or arrest. They have no 'agents'. They are as threatening as the other organizations with this status, such as the International Red Cross.
    • by iammani (1392285)
      Unless the INTERPOL goes crazy with the president's implicit/explicit consent. Mass violation of the constitution by the INTERPOL, no problem, these guys are free to go. Neither the fed or the states can prosecute them.
  • by SuperKendall (25149) on Monday January 04, 2010 @07:39PM (#30648256)

    This means, among other things, the new executive order makes INTERPOL immune to Freedom of Information Act requests and that INTERPOL agents cannot be punished for most any crimes they may commit. Hopefully the worst we'll see from this is INTERPOL agents ignoring their speeding tickets.

    I'm sold. INTERPOL, sign me up!

  • but... (Score:5, Funny)

    by bsDaemon (87307) on Monday January 04, 2010 @07:41PM (#30648290)
    But the question on everyone's mind is, can RadioHead expect the same deal?
  • Headline is wrong (Score:5, Informative)

    by Geoffrey.landis (926948) on Monday January 04, 2010 @07:42PM (#30648300) Homepage

    the headline says:

    INTERPOL Granted Diplomatic Immunity In the US

    The actual article [examiner.com] says: "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.

    The headline seems to be wrong.

    • by Bananenrepublik (49759) on Monday January 04, 2010 @07:58PM (#30648518)

      Why are you linking to this "article"? It contains no information, only the Obama-bashing expected from your American right-wingers and unsupported hypotheses.

      If you care about facts, you can find them, a few seconds of searching revealed this [nytimes.com] for instance.

      Quote:

      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.

      ...

      “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.

      ...
      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 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.

      In other words there appears to be nothing to get worked up about. Even if you believe whatever republicans do is right. Because they would have done the same.

      You Americans are crazy.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        Sorry, I meant to make this a top-level reply. I meant the article linked to in the summary. Sorry, geoffrey.landis.

  • by LostCluster (625375) * on Monday January 04, 2010 @07:42PM (#30648308)
    Not quite sure this story got filed right. Nothing to do with our online rights... this has more to do with all our rights.
  • Don't be silly. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 04, 2010 @07:43PM (#30648312)

    Come on, you're telling me that INTERPOL now has the same protection as the "International Pacific Halibut Commission and Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission".

    Yeapsireee, gotta watch out for those rouge Halbut operatives. Goodness me.

    More seriously, remember INTERPOL actually has very little power - they're a coordination agency. They have no powers of arrest. They don't even DO investigations. What they DO is if a cop in Australia is tracking down a criminal who's fled to Los Angeles and therefore needs the LAPD assistance, INTERPOL is the agency that makes that inter-police-force connection happen. There are no "INTERPOL" officers in L.A. that do the arrest - that's for the LAPD (or FBI).

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by iammani (1392285)

      More seriously, remember INTERPOL actually has very little power - they're a coordination agency. They have no powers of arrest. They don't even DO investigations.

      Er, then why do these people actually need immunity?

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        They basically don't. The summary and title is flat out wrong. They basically were granted some tax freedoms, that's all.
      • by DragonWriter (970822) on Monday January 04, 2010 @08:29PM (#30648972)

        Er, then why do these people actually need immunity?

        The immunity belongs to the organization, not the people (even when sometimes they attach to people because of their relationship to the organization.) Like much stronger diplomatic or consular immunities, they are not individual rights; particularly, the institution to whom they are granted may waive them, whether or not the individual affected wishes them to. The rights exist to protect the operation of the institution (particularly, for the protections granted to international institutions, they exist principally to get other countries to cooperate fully with the institution by assuring them that the host country of the institution's facilities won't either use them to seize property acquired by other nation's funding of the organization or to seize sensitive information shared with the organization outside of the scope of the information sharing carried out under the procedures of the organization.)

        The immunities at issue that INTERPOL was previously specifically excluded from that apply to international organizations are:
        * Immunity to search and confiscation of the organizations premises, property, and archives
        * Freedom of customs duties for baggage of staff
        * Immunity from various taxes (Social Security, property taxes, federal income taxes)

        (Note, all of this is laid out in TFA)

        The personal immunities that apply to international organization staff (exemption from immigration controls, and immunity to suit based on official acts) already applied to INTERPOL, because the Reagan Administration order that added INTERPOL to the list of organizations getting the standard set of protections set out for such organizations in US law didn't exclude those personal protections, just some of the institutional protections. All the Obama order did is remove the special limitations that were applied to INTERPOL (and which were irrelevant at the time of the Reagan order, since INTERPOL didn't have offices in the US at the time.) No special privileges beyond those usually granted to international organizations that the United States participates in (and some that it doesn't!) have been granted to INTERPOL.

      • by canajin56 (660655) on Monday January 04, 2010 @08:54PM (#30649292)
        Diplomatic pouches, is why they'd need them. Prior to this order, they could not use these pouches in the USA, though they can elsewhere. So, the FBI finds out information on a major international crime ring, gives that to INTERPOL to give to the corresponding agencies in other countries. Without the pouch, airport security can read and/or seize it. They work for a private security company, too. Better hope they don't have a vested interest in intercepting that couriered envelope! Now they can get the same protection as diplomats get, for their envelopes. Can't be read anymore. That's all. Well, their offices can't be searched, either, but they don't have offices, they just have some desks at the DoJ.
    • And basically this is saying that records INTERPOL passes back are free from being intercepted by anybody in the feds who want them. If the feds need them, the correct call in your example should be to the LAPD.
    • by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Monday January 04, 2010 @07:58PM (#30648524)

      Come on, you're telling me that INTERPOL now has the same protection as the "International Pacific Halibut Commission and Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission".

      I'm not worried, as long as they lack the powers of the British Dental Association. Those guys are freakin' crazy.

    • by noz (253073)

      Frog dropped in boiling water jumps out.

  • by viking80 (697716) on Monday January 04, 2010 @07:45PM (#30648348) Journal

    This is not diplomatic immunity. This is just protection against searches, IRS, etc. This basically allows a law enforcement officer to carry out his duties. It is identical to when the FBI comes to a local town to investigate, they can not be hindered or stopped by the local law enforcement. This is obvious and should not raise any issues.

  • by d474 (695126) on Monday January 04, 2010 @07:45PM (#30648354)
    Diplomatic Immunity doesn't mean they get to violate our laws, it just means they don't go to jail for violating our laws. If complaints start to pile up (thanks to the ACLU I'm sure) then they will loose their immunity.

    Right? Or am I acting like a sheeple?
  • Think about this in context. We just had a near-disaster of a plane exploding in Detroit and US airport screening is worthless to block this threat because the attacker boarded elsewhere. So, the response is to give INTERPOL agents here more power, and most likely the hope is that our INTERPOL guys elsewhere get the same powers so they can do their job there are we don't have to worry about who's being flown in here.

  • Misleading title (Score:5, Informative)

    by Gudeldar (705128) on Monday January 04, 2010 @07:46PM (#30648366)
    The title and summary are pretty misleading, it appears the only thing Obama did was exempt INTERPOL from certain taxes and provided them with immunity from search and seizure. The article explicitly states that it is not the same thing as diplomatic immunity.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by ShakaUVM (157947)

      >>The title and summary are pretty misleading, it appears the only thing Obama did was exempt INTERPOL from certain taxes and provided them with immunity from search and seizure. The article explicitly states that it is not the same thing as diplomatic immunity.

      That's because they edited my submission and mangled it.

      For the actual law in question, read this:
      http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/International_Organizations_Immunities_Act [wikisource.org]

      INTERPOL is already immune to suit and legal process (Section 7). This mad

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        Did you read the law you linked to? Section 8(c):

        (c) No person shall, by reason of the provisions of this title, be considered as receiving diplomatic status or as receiving any of the privileges incident thereto other than such as are specifically set forth herein.

        Seems like that pretty explicity states that this is not diplomatic immunity. Also, there is nothing in that law that says anything about immunity to local prosecution - which is the main thing that most people think of when they hear 'diplomat

  • by Bazzargh (39195) on Monday January 04, 2010 @07:48PM (#30648386)

    There's no such thing as an interpol agent. They delegate to national agencies (ie the DoJ) who do /not/ get immunity. What they do have is a bunch of committees and advisors, and a (shared) database of people 'of interest'.

    Somebody's been watching the man from UNCLE a few too many times

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Somebody's been watching the man from UNCLE a few too many times

      You can *never* watch the Man from UNCLE too many times.

      Ah, frogmen emerging from wells in Iowa . . .

      Black and white images of THRUSH villains with no faces, who look like something out of a bizarre Magritte painting.

      . . . and gentlemen agents in nicely dressed suits with skinny ties . . .

  • . . . there's an app for that!

  • In countries like Paraguay, Argentina and others in South America, this is pretty standard. Now (since very few years) with left governments immunity is being revoked.
    From 2005 in Paraguay:

    "the U.S. troops in Paraguay could not be taken before the International Criminal Court if they were accused of crimes against humanity, genocide or war crimes. "

    In Argentina, joint naval exercises like Unitas are cancelled because our government don't want to give immunity to US army.

  • by starseeker (141897) on Monday January 04, 2010 @07:56PM (#30648490) Homepage

    Here are the sections that were addressed by the order, according to the linked article:

      Section 2(c), which provided officials immunity from their property and assets being searched and confiscated; including their archives;
      the portions of Section 2(d) and Section 3 relating to customs duties and federal internal-revenue importation taxes;
      Section 4, dealing with federal taxes;
      Section 5, dealing with Social Security; and
      Section 6, dealing with property taxes.

    Whether or not they have criminal immunity (don't know offhand), there doesn't seem to be ANYTHING in the above executive order addressing such matters. Might have FOIA implications, but doesn't seem to have anything to do with punishment of crimes committed by agents. Summary is wrong.

  • by dtolman (688781) <dtolman@yahoo.com> on Monday January 04, 2010 @07:56PM (#30648494) Homepage
    I mean... it seems like an article posted by him. Inaccurate headline (they did not get a grant of full "diplomatic" immunity). Inaccurate summary (agents? INTERPOL is a coordinating entity - there ARE no agents!).
  • I didn't RTFA because I am on my way out the door, but does anyone know whether or not INTERPOL has to respect our Constitution while operating here? As in, no unlawful searches and seizures, no requirement to house troops (would an international police agency qualify as troops?), protection against self-incrimination, etc. What about Miranda Rights, does INTERPOL know about them? Anyone?
  • Should have RTFA (Score:4, Informative)

    by Zebra_X (13249) on Monday January 04, 2010 @08:31PM (#30649000)

    This modification specifically allows INTERPOL the ability to enter into contracts, own and dispose property and has some ancillary language regarding taxes and immigration.

    The real provision that is possibly dangerous is Section 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 ... http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/International_Organizations_Immunities_Act#Title_I [wikisource.org]

    If an agent of INTERPOL is "just doing his job" then he can do whatever he wants. Fortunately for us INTERPOL is very limited in what it can do.

    INTERPOL's constitution is very clear as Article 3 states: It is strictly forbidden for the Organization to undertake any intervention or activities of a political, military, religious or racial character. http://www.interpol.int/public/icpo/legalmaterials/constitution/constitutiongenreg/constitution.asp [interpol.int]

    Thus, we are safe from the administration asking INTERPOL to conduct operations on US soil. If that charter were to change though... it would be a different story.

    Also, Obama's actions have had no change on their status in this regard. They have always had this status.

  • I CRY FOUL! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Mage... (18148) on Monday January 04, 2010 @08:50PM (#30649226)
    Wow, I am astonished at such a Troll-Baiting headline on Slashdot. This executive order did not grant diplomatic immunity to INTERPOL. What it did do was:
    • Allow their records to be protected from search and seizure, unless specifically allowed by the President. Section 2(c)
    • They don't have to pay customs duties or import taxes on their belongings. Section 3
    • They don't have to pay income taxes, for either their employees, or their investments. Section 4
    • They don't have to pay Social Security taxes. Section 5
    • They don't have to pay property taxes. Section 6

    As for FOIA, they were never bound by the FOIA, since they are not a part of the US Government. If you tried to sue them and use discovery to gain access to their records, that was not possible since they were already covered by Section 2(b), which protects them from judicial processes.

  • by Nicolas MONNET (4727) <nicoaltiva&gmail,com> on Monday January 04, 2010 @09:20PM (#30649588) Journal

    Interpol is an organisation whose member are nations and their police. They coordinate information sharing between member states. They don't do police work themselves. The only Interpol employees stricto sensu are administrative staff. That's it. The only "agents" are those of the FBI in the US, or the RMCP in Canada, and so on and so forth for other members. Nobody's going to show up at your door with an Interpol badge -- ever. Or maybe as a joke or a fraud.

    That slashdot falls for this right wing scaremongering bullshit is disheartening. Goddamn it, it's not that hard to look shit up on Wikipedia, morons [wikipedia.org].

  • by The Famous Druid (89404) on Tuesday January 05, 2010 @02:54AM (#30651990)
    ...get in the way of a paranoid panic attack.

    Don't the tinfoil-hat brigade even bother to read articles before deciding they confirm their worst nightmares?

  • Re: (Score:4, Informative)

    by tobe (62758) on Tuesday January 05, 2010 @08:48AM (#30653694)
    "Hopefully the worst we'll see from this is INTERPOL agents ignoring their speeding tickets" Good.. I hope they don't.. at least until the American Embassy in London gets round to clearing the > £200,000 they owe the city for their unpaid congestion charge.

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