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Post-Afghanistan nuclear security: the role of police work

This is the second part of a four-part series. The first segment can be found online at tcextra.com. Look for the third part next week.

II. INTERNATIONAL

POLICE COOPERATION

If good police work is essential to nuclear security, how are we, the United States, actually doing? Here’s an example of the problem: Some years back in Paris, when I was “cooperating†with the International Criminal Police Organization (known as “Interpolâ€) tracking suspicious money flows, its chief administrator complained to me (as an American) that all too often when Interpol succeeded in nearly unravelling a network of illicit arms trafficking, they would find again and again the CIA (or MI-6 or Mossad or other intelligence agency) at the base of the illicit arms dealing network under investigation. That makes international police work dicey when facing the world’s greatest superpower and its satellites.

It also turned out, to Interpol’s dismay, that a number of powerful U.S. corporations, asset management firms, hedge funds, private equity firms and overseas tax-evasion subsidiaries were involved (and presumably are still involved) directly or indirectly in the financing, promotion and operation of the illegal international weapons trade.

These creations of de-regulated, for-profit capitalism are thus contributing, knowingly or not, to the delivery of illicit weapons to strange places and actors, such as the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka (Ceylon), Iranians, Yemenis, al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations around the world.

Today, a hedge fund located in Greenwich, Conn., may be financing at least indirectly the killing of American soldiers in Afghanistan.

The profit motive underlying “free†global enterprise is one thing; but outright disloyalty to America and putting weapons of destruction in the hands of our enemies is something else — beyond excuse. Obviously, we Americans are not doing a proper job of policing ourselves, let alone policing others.

The same Interpol administrator also complained to me that although Interpol shared virtually all its information with U.S. police and intelligence agencies, the United States did not fully share its information with Interpol, and, he pointed out, U.S. agencies such as the CIA, FBI and NSA appeared to withhold critical information from each other.

The administrator’s comments were prophetic, as we soon found out when the United States failed to prevent the 9/11 surprise attack on Lower Manhattan and the Pentagon, in spite of the information that was available to individual U.S. agencies. This was a clear example of how a false concept of the need for proprietary “state secrets†can be used to undermine effective, cooperative intelligence and police action at home and abroad.

Fortunately, the Obama administration is making an all-out effort to collaborate with Interpol, in our own national interest, and to force the different elements of U.S. Homeland Security to communicate and work together. Also, for the first time in history, an American, Ronald Noble, has been made head of Interpol, an organization that helps coordinate the police work of nearly 200 countries.

Hopefully we shall make full benefit of this kind of international police cooperation. But we have to take care not to abuse the Interpol relationship for our own political ends.

The recent U.S. attempt to recruit Interpol to discredit WikiLeaks’ revelations about U.S. military misbehavior in Iraq and Afghanistan is not necessarily a step in the right direction. As they say in the medical field, the best way to avoid malpractice suits is to quit malpracticing.

Sharon resident Anthony Piel is a former director and general legal counsel of the World Health Organization.

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