December 24, 2009

Obamunism: Threat... or Menace?

Hatched by Dafydd

Threatswatch -- which is normally fairly reliable -- is either hyperventilating some very interesting psychedelic vapors... or else they're onto something big. Steve Schippert and Clyde Middleton note that President Barack H. Obama signed an Executive Order (EO) rescinding part of Ronald Reagan's 1983 EO 12425; the original EO restricted the activities of Interpol -- the International Criminal Police Organization -- by denying their premises and property diplomatic immunity from search, from confiscation, and denying them the "inviolability" of their "archives" that would normally be offered to, say, a foreign embassy.

Thus, under the Reagan doctrine, the FBI or other law-enforcement agencies in the United States could enter Interpol property, search Interpol premises or computers, could confiscate -- that is, seize into evidence -- property or records pursuant to a court order, and could copy and read Interpol's communications and data. In other words, Interpol was not treated as a sovereign power; it was answerable to the American justice system.

But Obama just signed, without fanfare, his own EO nullifying the exception found in Reagan's EO... and the intriguing question is -- why?

The Threatswatch Duo believe this "plac[es] INTERPOL above the United States Constitution and beyond the legal reach of our own top law enforcement;" they argue that this is a precursor to the president once again signing the Rome Treaty, enrolling the United States into the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court -- just when several European nations are trying to drag American soldiers into the ICC for show trials to express those countries' outrage at America for having the temerity to stand up to Iran, Syria, North Korea, al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas, and other such peaceful nation-states and charitable organizations:

The pre-requisite conditions regarding the Iraq withdrawal and the Guantanamo Bay terrorist detention facility closure will continue their course. meanwhile, the next move from President Obama is likely an attempt to dissolve the agreements made between President Bush and other states preventing them from turning over American military forces to the ICC (via INTERPOL) for war crimes or any other prosecutions.

When the paths on the road map converge - Iraq withdrawal, Guantánamo closure, perceived American image improved internationally, and an empowered INTERPOL in the United States - it is probable that President Barack Obama will once again make America a signatory to the International Criminal Court. It will be a move that surrenders American sovereignty to an international body who's INTERPOL enforcement arm has already been elevated above the Constitution and American domestic law enforcement.

But a bit of skepticism is warranted; for one thing, despite its full name, Interpol is only a "police organization" in the sense that the National Crime Information Center is a police organization: Interpol acts to coordinate investigations and criminal databases between countries and provide an "entry point" into the justice system of a host country for foreign powers who might be befuddled by the host's laws and procedures. It has no international agents with powers of arrest; Interpol can only work through local host countries' own police forces.

Sovereign nations have national Interpol "branches" comprising duly appointed law-enforcement officials within that country; the U.S. has one called the National Central Bureau, headquartered in the Justice Department in D.C. Thus there are no Interpol agents, in the sense of arresting authorities; there are only national police officers who carry out investigations and make arrests within the United States (and other countries).

Ed Morrissey (my old blog-boss) at Hot Air rejects the most sweeping claims of Schippert and Middleton but does find Obama's EO granting Interpol immunity suspicious. Responding to a claim from the Threatswatch article:

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?

An apologist blogger for the U.N., UN Dispatch (sponsored by the United Nations Foundation, Ted Turner's billion-dollar pro-U.N. advocacy organization), pooh-poohs the very idea that there is anything nefarious about this slight change in Interpol's immunity. But even the authors of UN Dispatch cannot hazard a guess why the Obamacle would have signed such an EO without warning or explanation:

The people actually making the arrests, though, are members of the national law enforcement of the country where the crimes are committed. They are not "Interpol Officers" -- because there is no such thing as an "Interpol Officer." Further, "Interpol" can't arrest an American on American soil, a Canadian on Canadian soil or a Rwandan on a Rwandan soil. Only national law enforcement can do that.

As to the specific reaon [sic] why the Obama administration would decide, last week, to extend to Interpol the same suite of diplomatic privileges that are typically accorded to international organizations? I don't have a good answer for that. My sense is that it probably has something to with the accessibility of Interpol's secure criminal databases (on things like stolen passports and the like). But that is a question that could pretty easily be answered by a phone call to the Justice Department.

Or perhaps not; the current administration is not exactly known for its transparency (or honesty).

I'm somewhere in between UN Dispatch and Threatswatch: I don't think this is a precursor to shoehorning the United States into the ICC or that we'll see mass arrests of former Bush administration officials by Interpol special forces in black helicopters. But on the other hand, when Obama grants special immunities to an international police-coordination organization, does so without warning or explanation, and when even those who habitually support anything done by the U.N. and other international bodies cannot find a "good answer" for why -- my transnational tyranny siren begins to scream like a banshee.

At the very least, we need to hear the story of O.: Why did he do it? What is the upside, what are the risks? Is Morrissey correct that Americans arrested by FBI agents acting as members of the "National Central Bureau" might be denied traditional powers of discovery, such as subpoenaing the investigative officers whose work led to the arrest warrant?

Then, because we cannot believe a single word that the One says (he is an Alinskyite, after all, and lies without compunction or embarassment), we need an independent investigation by the GOP before we have any idea whether this is something to concern us... or just a "pretty innocuous bureaucratic move," as the Ted Turner-backed UN Dispatch would have it.

I realize it's too much to ask; but is it too much to demand?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, December 24, 2009, at the time of 5:55 AM

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