Select Committee on European Union Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by International Criminal Police Organization—INTERPOL


  To be safe, the UK, the European Union and all countries must strive to prevent local criminals from escaping internationally and international criminals from crossing inside any one country's borders. Interpol believes that the best way to achieve this goal is for police to share information about suspected criminals, wanted fugitives, and the tools of their trade. Interpol facilitates the exchange of this critical police information among its 181 Member Countries through a network of Interpol National Central Bureaus each of which is 100 percent controlled by the relevant Interpol member country. The UK, for example, has an Interpol National Central Bureau housed at NCIS and all UK police services can seek assistance with crime investigations that have an international element through the UK Interpol National Central Bureau located at NCIS.

  Interpol also provides a sophisticated communications network which is required to permit the rapid exchange of information by police around the world, and since 2003 Interpol has been putting in place a state of the art secure global police communications system called I-24/7. Just this month (September, 2004), Sir John Stevens, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Department, was so impressed with the potential of Interpol and I-24/7 that he entered into a special agreement with Interpol to ensure that through I-24/7 the Bobby on the Beat in London could have direct access to Interpol's global databases on suspected terrorists, stolen passports, international fugitives, international criminals, etc. The Metropolitan Police Department now joins 116 Interpol National Central Bureaus worldwide and the New York City Police Department by permitting its police officers the ability to quickly consult Interpol's rich global databases. Interpol applauds the UK's plan to eventually connect all of its police departments, border control points and other law enforcement agencies to Interpol's I-24/7 network.

  In addition to providing access to a network of 181 member countries to its global databases through a state of the art secure communications system, Interpol provides operational police support to its member countries on specific cases and crimes. Indeed, one of Interpol's principal tasks at its General Secretariat in Lyon, France and in its sub-regional bureaus in South America, Central America and Asia is to develop expert knowledge about international crime, and to provide expert operational advice and support to its member countries' police services. However, Interpol's advice and support must not simply help police services to respond quickly and effectively to crimes and emergencies as they occur which it does through its Command and Coordination Center and Incident Response Teams. It must also enable member countries to plan the disruption of terrorist and trans-national crime organizations: to get one step ahead of the criminals. Because of this, Interpol's knowledge must be both broad and deep.

  Concrete examples are provided below as to how Interpol's secure Global Police Communications System (I-24/7); its global databases of suspected terrorists, stolen passports, international fugitives, international criminals, etc.; and its commitment to operational police support for its 181 member countries constitute three core functions that the UK must take advantage of and must support—if UK citizens are to remain safe from serious international crime.


I-24/7—Interpol's Secure Global Police Communications System Helps to Connect Police Worldwide

  Interpol believes that by connecting police worldwide Interpol helps to secure the world. I-24/7 permits police access to Interpol databases from any point in the world, and it permits police the flexibility to communicate the existence of arrest warrants and to exchange photographs, fingerprints, names and other important information in a secure, fast and easy way. Since March 2003, Interpol has been connecting its Member Countries to I-24/7. In little more than a year and a half, 116 countries already have been connected, and over 3 million messages seeking important information for police have been exchanged for the first time in any calendar year—an 82 per cent increase over 2002.


Interpol's Databases Help Member Countries Police Services to Identify Terrorists and Dangerous International Criminals

  1.  Assume that the UK wishes to determine whether the name or photograph of a suspected terrorist is known to police anywhere in the world, what database will permit the UK to determine the answer? Interpol's Global Database of names and photographs of suspected terrorists. (With over 90 countries participating worldwide, Interpol has increased the number of names in its suspected terrorist database by over 1,500 over the last two years.)

  2.  Assume that a terrorist or dangerous criminal possessing a stolen passport from inside or outside the European Union wishes to enter the UK, what database will alert the UK that the passport is stolen? Interpol's Global Database on Stolen Travel Documents. (This database was created in 2002 with only 2 countries participating and a few thousand passport numbers. It now has 51 member countries participating and over 1.8 million stolen and lost passport numbers. The G-8 and the European Union have designated Interpol as the place to house the world's stolen and lost passport database.)

  3.  Assume that a "Bobby on the Beat" stops a non-UK national for questioning, what database will alert the him or her that this person is in fact a suspected terrorist wanted for arrest internationally or simply whether the person is known to police? Interpol's Global Database for International Fugitives. (Over the last two years Interpol's Member Countries and National Central Bureaus have increased the number of international fugitives arrested by 70 percent—reaching for the first time 2,000 plus arrests worldwide during 2003. With regard to the category of suspects known internationally, there were 2,697 positive hits in Interpol's databases of persons known to police in 104 different countries.)

  4.  Assume that the UK arrests a person for a minor or serious crime and the UK wishes to know whether this person is whom he claims to be, what database will alert the UK that this person is in fact a wanted murderer or terrorist known under the same or different name? Interpol's Global Database of fingerprints. (Interpol's fingerprint database of criminals investigated internationally contains 40,000 entries.)

  5.  Assume that in connection with a highly sensitive investigation the UK wishes to determine whether any other suspected criminals used same phone number, address, etc., what database will give the UK this answer? Interpol's Global Database of phone numbers connected to criminal investigations. (Interpol has in excess of 100,000 phone numbers and thousands of addresses queried by Interpol's Member Countries in connection with criminal investigations.)

  6.  Assume that the UK recovers a DNA sample in connection with an investigation of a suspected rapist or child molester whose identity is unknown, what database would advise the UK whether that DNA sample is known to police somewhere in the world? Interpol's Database of Anonymous DNA profiles provided by participating countries' police forces. (Interpol's DNA database contains no names. It is like an unlisted telephone number; no one at Interpol knows to whom the number belongs. It is Interpol's newest database. While its content is small in number, Interpol already has had its first match. A positive hit tells two countries that the same suspect could have committed crimes in two different countries. Interpol's maintaining this database without names will ensure the greatest data and privacy protection possible.)


Interpol's Operational Police Support Function Helps Member Countries to Prevent Serious Crimes and to Respond to Terrorist Incidents

  7.  Assume that a disguised weapon such as a pen gun, beeper gun or cell phone gun is recovered by security personnel at an airport or international institution, what organization would be able to issue a worldwide alert to police forces and international institutions within a short time of receipt of such information? Interpol through issuance of its Orange Notice Security Alerts. (The Orange Notice Security Alert was created by Interpol in response to the series of parcel bombs sent to European Union institutions.)

  8.  Assume that there is a major criminal incident or that terrorists strike somewhere in the world, what international police organization will offer to send a team to the site of the attack in order to provide support to the Member Country concerned and to ensure that wanted persons notices are issued; databases are checked; relevant warnings are issued and analytical reports are generated where appropriate? Interpol's Incident Response Teams. (During the last two years, Interpol has sent 13 Incident Response Teams to 12 different countries. Interpol currently has teams in place in Bangledesh and Indonesia.)

  9.  Assume that a Chief Constable needs help providing evidence in an illegal trafficking in human beings case, but he or she has no officer who speaks the particular dialect of Chinese needed, whom can the Chief Constable contact? NCIS, which would seek assistance from Interpol. (In fact, the UK received help from an Interpol officer on just such a case.)

  10.  Assume that there is a dispute between two countries about whether a certain finger mark lifted at a crime scene is the finger mark of a particular suspect to what international police organization could either country turn for an expert opinion? Interpol. (Following the 11 March 2004 terrorist bombings in Madrid, the FBI and Spanish National Police disagreed about whether a particular finger mark was that of a lawyer in the US. Initially, the FBI identified the lawyer, but later admitted the mis-identification—blaming it on the quality of the electronic finger mark image transmitted by Spain. The FBI's explanation caused reverberations among police worldwide; so Interpol sent a two person team to Spain to review the evidence and determine whether the quality of the electronically transmitted image was sound. Interpol concluded the electronic image could not justify the misidentification.)


  The world of policing has changed since 11 September 2001 and 11 March 2004. Today, no responsible or prudent police investigator should consider a case closed until he or she has consulted Interpol's global databases. Without consulting Interpol, the police investigator would not know whether the suspect under investigation is known under any other name in another country; whether the suspect is under criminal investigation by another country's police service; or whether the suspect is wanted for arrest by another country for a more serious crime. Interpol has scores of examples proving this point. The most recent example concerns Denmark, which transmitted Interpol the fingerprints of a suspect arrested for a non-violent crime, but whom Interpol's fingerprint experts determined was also wanted for arrest for murder under a different name by a European country that is not part of the European Union.

  This last example proves the futility of only cooperating within the European Union and of building up only national and European Union police institutions. Currently, the European Union appears to believe that it should concentrate only on national and European police institutions to keep Europe safe from terrorism, transnational crime and violent crime. In fact, national police and European police institutions share one common weakness. Neither can fight international crime successfully unless Interpol is used. Indeed, for citizens inside European Union borders to be safe, police and border control need to know whether the person who wishes to enter the European Union is suspected of having committed a crime anywhere in the world; is wanted for criminal prosecution by another country or is in possession of stolen travel documents from any country in the world. Only Interpol can provide this information systematically and rapidly in a cost efficient manner. Only Interpol can provide the UK and European Union Member Countries with the kind of operational police support that is needed to prevent or solve crimes whose origin is inside or outside the European Union.

  Interpol and its three core functions provide the UK and the European Union with a unique set of services and added value that are priceless. At the highest levels of government, the UK and the European Union need to begin to take a more profound look at Interpol as part of the UK's and the European Union's strategy to keeping both the UK and the European Union safer from terrorism and other forms of serious transnational crime. Moreover, as resources get scarcer and as governments seek to avoid unnecessary duplication, the UK may find that investing in Interpol provides it with more financial leverage. For example, if the UK wants a UK police agency to produce a global database, its taxpayers would have to pay 100 per cent of the cost; if it asks a European Union Police Institution, its taxpayers would have to pay X per cent of the cost, but if it asks Interpol the cost could be spread over 181 member countries and the percentage would only be Y percent. In short, Interpol is the essential link to an effective UK and European anti-crime strategy.

20 September 2004

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