In a post on Tucker Carlson's The Daily Caller, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and National Review Online's Andrew McCarthy defended their debunked claims that President Obama has given Interpol broad powers to investigate U.S. citizens without being limited by the Constitution. In fact, according to the head of Interpol -- whose factual statements Gingrich and McCarthy don't refute -- the organization does not have traditional police powers; additionally, Interpol was already granted immunity from lawsuits by President Reagan.
Gingrich, McCarthy falsely suggest Interpol will now carry out investigations in U.S.
Gingrich, McCarthy: Obama exempts Interpol from Fourth Amendment, which "protects against unreasonable search and seizure." Discussing Obama's December 17 executive order amending an order signed by Reagan granting certain immunities to Interpol, Gingrich and McCarthy claimed:
The overwhelming majority of police and prosecutors are honorable men and women, but like all human beings, law enforcement officials are not, as a class, angels. What prevents the men and women of law enforcement from abusing their power are the constraints of law. In the United States, the Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable search and seizure while FOIA and other laws protect American liberty and privacy from being violated by rogue cops or corrupt prosecutors.
[Interpol] Secretary-General [Ronald] Noble and others who defend President Obama's grant of immunity to Interpol claim that the order gives the agency no new power. But the point is not that the order grants Interpol new powers, the point is that it immunizes Interpol from the laws that can be invoked if and when it abuses its authority -- the same laws that hold the FBI, a local policy department or any domestic law enforcement agency accountable for abuses. Since the President's executive order, if Interpol were to act in violation of U.S. law, there is no law we can invoke to hold them accountable. And to add insult to injury, if an American citizen or official wants to find out what Interpol is up to, they can no longer do so. The Obama administration order makes Interpol's files unreachable by search warrant, subpoena or FOIA request. [The Daily Caller, 1/14/10]
Gingrich, McCarthy also previously suggested Interpol would carry out investigations of U.S. officials. Appearing on The O'Reilly Factor, Gingrich claimed of the order: "What I'm told is that it could lead to a number of investigations by Interpol in the United States potentially aimed at American officials." Gingrich commented that he was "very curious as to why the president is doing this" and asked, "Why would the president of the United States give that kind of extralegal protection to an international police force?" [Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, 1/4/10] In a December 23 blog post, McCarthy wrote, "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)." [National Review Online 12/23/09]
Head of Interpol refutes claim that organization has police powers
Interpol chief: Organization does not have traditional police powers. Gingrich and McCarthy quote Noble saying, "The executive order gives Interpol no law-enforcement or investigative powers to engage in activities on U.S. soil ... [including] searches, seizures or arrests in the U.S." They then state that Noble's comments are "true," but assert that they are "completely beside the point." [The Daily Caller, 1/14/10] However, Gingrich and McCarthy do not acknowledge that Noble has not only said that the executive order gives Interpol no law enforcement powers in the United States, but has also said that Interpol does not have those powers at all and does not engage in those activities. An article in Human Events quoted Noble as saying, "We don't have any armed agents. We don't have police officers who go into other countries and make arrests. ... It's not like the movies." The Human Events article also stated: "Once a fugitive is discovered, any arrests are made by local law enforcement, not Interpol agents." [Human Events 1/8/10]
Interpol was already immune from lawsuits
Interpol already had immunity from lawsuits because of actions by Reagan. In their piece, Gingrich and McCarthy repeatedly claim that Obama has given Interpol "immunity" from U.S. laws. In fact, in the original order signed in 1983, Reagan gave Interpol immunity under the International Organizations Immunity Act, including "the same immunity from suit and every form of judicial process as is enjoyed by foreign governments, except to the extent that such organizations may expressly waive their immunity for the purpose of any proceedings or by the terms of any contract." Indeed, as the National Rifle Association's Institute for Legislative Action has stated, "President Obama's order amends a 1983 order by President Reagan, in which the U.S. recognized INTERPOL as an international organization that is entitled to certain legal immunities under the International Organizations Immunities Act (IOIA). ... This means that articles on the recent order are incorrect in claiming that the order made INTERPOL immune from civil suits; INTERPOL was already immune." [1/8/10]
Bush State Department reportedly approved Interpol immunity request, but process was not completed before Bush left office. The New York Times reported: "In 1983, President Ronald Reagan extended some rights -- including immunity from lawsuits or prosecution for official acts -- to Interpol, which was holding its annual meeting in the United States. 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" [emphasis added]. The Times added that Interpol subsequently opened an office in New York City at the United Nations. The Times continued: " 'When the office opened in 2004, we said look, we'd like to have the Interpol staff working in the office in New York afforded the same immunities as other international organizations,' [Interpol spokesman] Ms. [Rachel] Billington said. 'It's only for the New York office.' 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." [12/30/09]
Claims about Interpol have been debunked by conservative, other media
Gingrich, McCarthy attack "openly leftwing Newsweek" for criticizing their claims. In their Daily Caller piece, Gingrich and McCarthy attack a blog post by Newsweek's Michael Isikoff, stating:
In a recent article in the now openly leftwing Newsweek, reporter Michael Isikoff accused one of us, former Speaker Newt Gingrich, of being part of the "wacky conspiracy wars" ignited by the Obama presidency. And what was our "wacky" conspiracy theory? Suggesting that elevating an international police force above the American Constitution and laws may be damaging to American civil liberty. [The Daily Caller 1/14/10]
But Krauthammer, Easton also ridiculed Interpol conspiracy theory. In fact, it is not only supposedly "openly leftwing" media outlets that have criticized the conspiracy theories about Obama's executive order. On Fox News' Special Report, conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer called the executive order "benign" and commented: "This basically is saying that Interpol has the same rights as the Swiss delegation, so it will not have to pay its parking tickets. Now, that may be a scandal; I think it is. But it's not a black helicopter landing in your back yard." Asked by host Bret Baier whether the order would allow Interpol to supersede U.S. authority, Krauthammer responded, "Absolutely not." Also on Special Report, Fortune magazine's Nina Easton stated: "It seems like the Obama White House is simply extending the protections that go to the United Nations and other international organizations to Interpol, which finally opened an office here in 2004, hadn't done so before, and it basically protects its records from being shared with other countries and so on. It seems like a -- very straightforward." She then commented: "I don't see a conspiracy." Baier responded to Easton: "The White House saying that the immunities are actually less than diplomats across the board get." [1/8/10]
NRA: Interpol executive order does not pose "threat." The NRA has also debunked the Interpol conspiracy theory. In addition to noting that Reagan had originally granted immunity to Interpol, the NRA stated: "Some have argued that the order would make INTERPOL and its officials immune from civil suit or criminal prosecution, and that it would therefore allow INTERPOL personnel to seize firearms, kidnap Americans, and otherwise violate U.S. citizens' rights. Our legal staff has reviewed this order and does not believe it poses any of these threats." [1/8/10]
PolitiFact gives Gingrich "pants on fire." Responding to Gingrich's claim that the executive order could "lead to a number of investigations by Interpol in the United States, potentially aimed at American officials," the website PolitiFact.com stated, "The key problem with this notion is that Interpol couldn't investigate CIA or American officials, because Interpol doesn't do investigations." PolitiFact concluded: "That's exactly what Gingrich's claims are: conspiracy theories, based on wild conjecture, not reality. For fanning the flames of paranoia, Gringrich's claims earn a Pants on Fire." [1/12/10]