Interpol is the world’s largest international police organization, with 188 member countries including the United States. Interpol was created in 1923 and headquartered in Lyon France, it facilitates cross-border police co-operation, and supports and assists all organizations, authorities and services whose mission is to prevent or combat international crime including terrorism. Interpol aims to facilitate international police co-operation even where diplomatic relations do not exist between particular countries.
Action is taken within the limits of existing laws in different countries and in the spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Interpol’s constitution prohibits any intervention or activities of a political, military, religious or racial character. Interpol whose correct full name is The International Criminal Police Organization is governed by its General Assembly – which is its supreme governing body, it meets annually and comprises delegates appointed by each member country. The assembly takes all important decisions related to policy, resources, working methods, finances, activities and programs.
The General Secretary who is elected by the General Assembly and serves five year terms; the current General Secretary is Ronald K. Noble who was first elected to the post in November 2000 and re-elected to a third term in 2010. Terrorism poses a grave threat to individuals’ lives and national security around the world. Interpol operatives do not make physical arrests they instead make available various resources to support member countries in their efforts to protect their citizens from terrorism, including bio-terrorism, firearms and explosives; attacks against civil aviation; maritime piracy; and weapons of mass destruction.
Interpol collects, stores, analyses and exchanges information about suspected individuals and groups and their activities. The organization also co-ordinates the circulation of alerts and warnings on terrorists, dangerous criminals and weapons threats to police in member countries A chief initiative in this area is the Fusion Task Force, which was created in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks in the United States.
In order to help member countries report terrorist activity, Interpol has issued practical guidelines on the type of information required. Member countries are also encouraged to report on other crimes which may be linked to terrorism, such as suspicious financial transactions, weapons trafficking, money laundering, falsified travel and identity documents, and seizures of nuclear, chemical and biological materials. The growing possibility of terrorists launching attacks with biological or chemical weapons is a particularly urgent concern.
A dedicated bio-terrorism unit at the General Secretariat works to implement various projects with the close co-operation of Interpol National Central Bureaus and regional offices. As the planning for terrorist attacks often spans countries and regions, fighting terrorism requires the same level of effort and cooperation among nations. Spearheading Interpol’s anti-terrorism efforts is the Fusion Task Force (FTF), created in September 2002 in the wake of the alarming rise in the scale and sophistication of international terrorist attacks.
Task Force Fusion’s primary objectives are to identify terrorist groups and their membership, solicit, collect, and share information and intelligence, provide analytical support, and to enhance the capacity of member countries to address the threats of terrorism. How did the terrorist attacks of September 11 fall under the authority of Interpol’s objectives? The clearest answer to this question came from Interpol’s Secretary General, Ronald Noble, who in his opening speech to the 10th General Assembly in Budapest emphasized the global, non-political dimensions of the September 11 attacks.
Noble not only referred to the fact that citizens from over 80 countries were among the casualties, but also argued that while the terrorist attacks took place on U. S. soil, “they constituted attacks against the entire world and its citizens. ” Therefore, Noble explained, Interpol would continue and expand its re-organizations to better suit changing conditions of international crime. Likewise, the Interpol Resolution agreed upon in Budapest likewise made reference to the September 11 attacks as having been directed “against the world’s citizens. ”.
Although Interpol recognized that the FBI was handling the primary investigation of the acts of 11 September, many investigative leads spanned the globe and many of Interpol’s member agencies have been involved with the investigations. Interpol members have issued Red Notices for a number of terrorist suspects through Interpol’s international communication network and have published them on its web site to give them as wide a circulation as possible. Immediately following September 11, Interpol issued 55 Red Notices for terrorists who had committed or were connected to these terrorist attacks.
Interpol also increased its circulation of Blue Notices, i. e. , requests for information about or the location of a suspect, of which 19 concerned the hijackers who carried out the September 11 attacks. On September 25, 2001, for instance, Egyptian police authorities posted a Red Notice for Aiman Al Zawahry, a leader of the Al Jihad terrorist group and considered Bin Laden’s right hand man. Incidentally, the first request by Red Notice for the Saudi-born militant, Usama bin Laden, was made by police from Libya well before the attacks on the United States.