FACT CHECK; Interpol Immunity? FACT: They Have as Much Authority as the International Red Cross

Article excerpt

Byline: CAROLE FADER

A Times-Union reader wants to know:

Is it true President Barack Obama has given Interpol authority to operate with impunity on American soil?

Well, not exactly.

Yes, Obama signed an executive order giving Interpol important immunities.

No, the order didn't grant Interpol any more authority in the U.S. than, say, the International Red Cross.

But the fact that Interpol is the world's largest international police organization has probably led to some apprehension about the order.

Here's how it all came down:

The International Organizations Immunities Act of Dec. 9, 1945, extends to international organizations that are partners with the U.S. certain privileges, such as the ability to acquire property; exemptions, such as freedom from federal taxes; and immunities, such as from search and seizure of records.

Almost 100 other organizations are covered by the act, according to FactCheck.org, including the United Nations, UNESCO, World Health Organization and the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission.

E-MAIL CLAIMS EXAGGERATED

President Ronald Reagan's Executive Order 12425 of 1983 allowed Interpol the rights under the act, except it was not exempted from paying federal taxes, from having its records seized and several other provisions, according to FactCheck.org, a nonpartisan, nonprofit fact-finding project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania.

In 1995, President Bill Clinton amended the order so that Interpol was exempted from customs restrictions.

Obama's Dec. 17, 2009, order amended it to eliminate all the remaining exceptions, giving Interpol the same immunities as the other 100 organizations.

The State Department recommended full privileges after Interpol opened an office in New York in 2004, but the White House did not complete the matter before George W. …