Smoke 'em out: U.S. counterterrorist mishaps necessitating the expansion of INTERPOL's capabilities to meet the new terrorist threat.

Author:Winer, Corey
Position:Company overview

    On September 20, 2001, after the horrific terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 (9/11), President George W. Bush addressed the American people and proclaimed, "We will direct every resource at our command-every means of diplomacy, every tool of intelligence, every instrument of law enforcement, every financial influence and every necessary weapon of war-to the destruction and to the defeat of the global terror network." (1) Although the United States has done a remarkable job preventing another terrorist attack on its own soil, al Qaeda has still been able to wreak havoc on other nations in the international community, as illustrated by the attacks in Spain and the United Kingdom. (2) Furthermore, eight years after 9/11, the United States is still struggling in its attempts to capture senior al Qaeda leaders, most notably Osama bin Laden and his top lieutenant, Ayman Al-Zawahiri. (3)

    As al Qaeda becomes more decentralized and with the likelihood of future attacks occurring on American targets overseas, it is imperative for the United States to acknowledge its limitations in combating terrorism unilaterally and shift its foreign policy toward a renewed effort of cooperation with the international community. (4)

    First, this Note explores the historical background of terrorist networks and the organizational structure and capabilities of the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL). (5) Then, it examines various measures undertaken by the United States and INTERPOL to combat terrorism. (6) Next, this Note explains why expanding the role of INTERPOL is the most effective method of preventing terrorist attacks. (7) Finally, this Note recommends that INTERPOL prosecute terrorists under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and that the United States must become a member of the ICC in order to promote solidarity within the international community. (8)


    1. Defining Terrorism

      To effectively enforce antiterrorist measures, the global community must construct an appropriate definition of terrorism. (9) Unfortunately, crafting a workable definition that the international community can agree on has proven to be an arduous task. (10) The difficulty in adopting a precise definition of terrorism creates an impediment to establishing more effective international agreements on terrorism. (11) Further complicating the issue is the existence of two competing "terrorist" paradigms. (12) One paradigm recognizes terrorism as "a species of military war" and uses deterrence to combat it, while the other paradigm views terrorism as a crime and utilizes law enforcement to detain and penalize perpetrators. (13) Despite the presence of differing views on how to define terrorism, a vast majority of the global community collectively agrees that eradicating terrorism requires unified international cooperation. (14)

    2. Antiterrorist Conventions and the International Criminal Court

      The growing worldwide threat of terrorism provides incentives for nations to relinquish portions of their sovereignty through treaties designed to fashion beneficial international arrangements. (15) For instance, the global community has adopted a vast array of multilateral antiterrorist conventions with the goal of producing a "framework for international cooperation to combat acts of international terrorism." (16) The overarching enforcement mechanism of these conventions is the requirement that states either extradite or prosecute the offenders. (17) Despite the drafters' good intentions, these conventions achieved only minimal success due in large part to signatories' inability to fulfill their obligations. (18)

      Upon receiving the required sixty ratifications, the Rome Statute of the ICC officially entered into force on July 1, 2002. (19) The Rome Statute extended ICC jurisdiction over the following crimes: genocide, aggression, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. (20) As a "court of last resort," the ICC only acts when national judicial systems are unable or unwilling to do so. (21) Although the United States signed the Rome Statute of the ICC, it never ratified the statute, thereby maintaining its status as a non-state party. (22)

    3. Transformation of al Qaeda Strategy: From Hierarchy to Decentralization

      In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, the international community responded swiftly to destroy the al Qaeda terrorist organization. (23) Offensive military operations combined with other measures designed to disrupt al-Qaeda's actions have substantially diminished the terrorist network's ability to orchestrate spectacular attacks. (24) Eight years later, however, al Qaeda remains "the most serious terrorist threat" to the United States. (25) This reality is due to the enhanced flexibility now characteristic of terrorist organizations that place these organizations beyond the scope of any individual nation's diplomatic, military, and law enforcement efforts to combat this danger. (26)

      Many experts credit al Qaeda's survival with a major shift in its strategy. (27) Most notably, al Qaeda has mutated from an established terrorist organization having a physical presence in Afghanistan into a loosely-linked, shadowy, terrorist "brand" that other terrorist organizations are free to exploit. (28) As a result of decentralizing, al Qaeda is now more adept at persuading other terrorist organizations to conduct attacks on a global level. (29) Several reports indicate, however, that the al Qaeda terrorist network is losing favor in the Islamic world. (30)

      1. Clamping Down on Terrorist Financing and Media and Internet Propaganda

      After 9/11, the United States, with international support, focused on discovering and eliminating sources of terrorist organizations' funding in its efforts to combat terrorism. (31) Nevertheless, terrorist organizations evade detection efforts by obtaining their money from a variety of sources. (32) The fact that catastrophic terrorist attacks can be achieved with a modest budget also hinders law enforcement attempts at suppressing terrorist financing. (33) Furthermore, new financial laws complicate the international community's efforts to track terrorists' financial activities. (34)

      Since 9/11, terrorists have become increasingly reliant on the Internet and the media to spread their propaganda. (35) These terrorists use online message boards, chat rooms, and numerous media outlets to facilitate their goals. (36) Beyond the obvious advantages of quick dissemination of messages and anonymity, the Internet also provides terrorist organizations with a global pool of potential recruits and donors. (37) The United States and its allies remain determined to combat the growing terrorist threat on the Internet and in the media. (38)

    4. INTERPOL's Organizational Structure and Constitutional Limitations

      INTERPOL, created in 1923, currently consists of 187 member countries. (39) INTERPOL's organizational structure is comprised of a General Assembly, an Executive Committee, a General Secretariat, National Central Bureaus (NCBs), and Advisers. (40) INTERPOL is primarily financed by its member countries, which pay annual statutory contributions. (41) INTERPOL's constitution, adopted on June 13, 1956, provides the basic rules and regulations governing the organization. (42) Article 2 of INTERPOL's constitution outlines the organization's goals. (43) Article 3 defines the limitations on the organization's involvement in international affairs. (44) Article 42 authorizes amendments to INTERPOL's constitution requiring approval by a majority (two-thirds) of INTERPOL members. (45)

      1. How INTERPOL is Equipped to Assist National Law Enforcement Agencies

        INTERPOL's police efforts focus on the organization's six priority crime areas: (1) drugs and criminal organizations, (2) financial and high-tech crime, (3) fugitives, (4) public safety and terrorism, (5) trafficking in human beings, and (6) corruption. (46) INTERPOL also functions as a communication network designed to facilitate the exchange of information among national law enforcement agencies. (47) Furthermore, INTERPOL's knowledgeable and experienced staff and delegates provide expert assistance to member police forces. (48)

        The primary purpose for INTERPOL's existence is to foster international police cooperation. (49) INTERPOL members achieve this goal through the use of its notice system. (50) A country uses an INTERPOL Red Notice to alert the world, through INTERPOL's network, that a fugitive is being sought internationally for arrest and that the country will request extradition from any country that finds the fugitive. (51) To combat crime and achieve other INTERPOL objectives, INTERPOL also continues to enter into cooperation agreements with other international organizations in order to foster greater cooperation in law enforcement endeavors. (52)

      2. National Central Bureaus (NCBs)

        Every INTERPOL member country must establish a NCB to serve in the capacity of a liaison. (53) NCBs usually consist of one division of a member country's national law enforcement agency or investigation department and they coordinate all INTERPOL operations. (54) NCBs in larger countries tend to employ officers working as specialists in specific fields such as terrorism, drug trafficking, or high-tech crimes. (55) Each NCB has three specific duties: (1) to openly communicate with police agencies in its own country, (2) to keep channels of communication open with other NCBs, and (3) to provide necessary and appropriate communication with the INTERPOL General Secretariat. (56) INTERPOL's I-24/7 system grants each NCB instant access to a database filled with a wide variety of criminal information thereby enhancing criminal investigations. (57)


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