Last week, as the nation's attention was focused on the Senate's debate on health care reform, President Barack Obama signed an amendment toExecutive Order 12425 .
It is only one paragraph long and few would pay much attention to what its effect is. But it has enormous implications.
Here's the background.
Generally, foreign military and police organizations are restricted from operating in the United States without oversight by the CIA, FBI, Departments of Defense, State, Homeland Security or though some other arrangement that makes such operations subject to U. S. authority. In 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed Executive Order 12425 that allowed the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) to operate in the United States but generally subject to the same laws that restrict CIA, FBI and other Federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. Specifically, INTERPOL agents were not immune from being prosecuted for violating American laws.
One of those laws is 42 U.S.C. Â§ 1983 which prohibits law enforcement authorities from violating an American's constitutionally protected rights. Presumably, that does not apply to INTERPOL as a result of this Executive Order President Obama has just signed.
The effect of Obama's amendment is to give them immunity from violating any American law. Agents of INTERPOL will now presumably have the same protection that foreign diplomats have while in this country. It is that immunity that has been used by other countries to spy on the United States. This arrangement, for example, now would make it possible for an American citizen being seized by INTERPOL agents and taken out of the country outside the reach of American courts and the rights they would enforce, most notably habeas corpus or the right for a judge to review a person's detention. The extent to which INTERPOL would be exempt from American extradition laws now becomes questionable.
Likewise, INTERPOL agents could seize property, including firearms, without search warrants and conduct other warrantless searches. They could break into homes and businesses to search and seize records without fear of prosecution, either criminally or civilly. In short, the powers that INTERPOL would have by being immune to U. S. law is virtually the same as martial law provides.
Moreover, INTERPOL's files and records are immune from U. S. court orders, including search warrants and civil subpoenas. And INTERPOL is protected from Freedom Of Information inquires from American media.
Many questions remain unanswered as a result of Obama's action. Some will contend that his order does not change the status quo because there are sufficient safe-guards extant in American law. But the order makes INTERPOL immune from prosecution under those laws so how efffective they would be against abuse by INTERPOL becomes a question.
So why would an American president grant such extensive powers to a foreign organization?
And foreign INTERPOL is. It is housed in Lyon, France and is governed by an Executive Committee elected by the 123 member nations though the General Assembly. But that group meets only once a year. The real power is exercised by thirteen members of the Executive Committee. It is headed by KHOO Boon Hui of Singapore. There is not an American on the Executive Committee.
As best we can determine President Obama's actions have not been reviewed by Congress and certainly have not been debated publically.
Here's one possible explanation for Obama's actions: threatswatch.org