Never one to shrink from a fight, former House speaker Newt Gingrich has struck back at Declassified's reporting on his endorsement of the seemingly wacky conspiracy theories circulating about the International Criminal Police Organization based in Lyon, France, commonly referred to as Interpol.
Criticizing our "snarky piece" in what he calls "the now openly leftwing Newsweek," the former speaker of the House (along with ex-terrorism prosecutor Andrew McCarthy) insists there is indeed something suspicious about President Obama's Dec. 17 executive order granting certain immunities and privileges to Interpol.
Their latest argument is laid out in a piece on the Daily Caller, the new Web site run by iconoclastic conservative journalist and former TV host Tucker Carlson. Their conclusion: the order is further evidence of a president who is "notoriously indifferent to American sovereignty" because it frees "an international police force operating on our soil from the constraints of our law."
Their article raises anew the specter of Interpol officers knocking down the doors of U.S. citizens, seizing their belongings, and throwing them in some sort of international jail. "In the United States, the Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable search and seizure," they write. But "since the President's executive order, if Interpol were to act in violation of U.S. law, there is no law we can invoke to hold them accountable."
While this may not quite be the same bizarre argument as Chuck Norris's claim that the Obama executive order was designed to create a "secret vault" at Interpol headquarters in New York to stash documents revealing his pro-Muslim sympathies, it deserves a brief response.
The Gingrich-McCarthy suggestion that Declassified's reporting on this issue shows the "openly leftwing" tendencies of NEWSWEEK is especially curious.
As we pointed out last week, among those who have demolished the idea that there is anything especially suspicious about Obama's executive order is the National Rifle Association, not exactly a hotbed of Marxism-Leninism.
Here's what the NRA said: "Some have argued that the order would make INTERPOL and its officials immune from civil suit or criminal prosecution, and that it would therefore allow INTERPOL personnel to seize firearms, kidnap Americans and otherwise violate U.S. citizens' rights. Our legal staff has reviewed this order and does not believe it poses any of these threats."
But for good measure we asked Ron Noble, the secretary-general of Interpol (who has previously been a U.S. federal prosecutor and the U.S. Treasury Department's top law-enforcement official), to examine the latest Gingrich-McCarthy offering and respond in particular to a couple of the authors' points.
Noble's most important point: Interpol is an international law-enforcement organization that assists the police agencies of its member countries by providing information (like maintaining and distributing data about a United Nations watch list of wanted Qaeda and Taliban terrorists).
But its officers have no authority to knock down doors, seize property, or do anything else in the United States that might conceivably violate the Fourth Amendment or any other constitutional rights of Americans.
"INTERPOL officers do NOT have authority to arrest," Noble writes in an e-mail. "They do NOT carry guns." Indeed, they don't even carry badges—just Interpol ID cards. "Not only is INTERPOL not authorized to search or seize property or to make arrests, but even if an INTERPOL officer were to do so, neither Reagan's, nor Obama's Executive Order would protect him or her from arrest or prosecution for having done so."
Noble's reference to Ronald Reagan is telling. It was Reagan who signed a 1983 executive order granting limited immunity (such as exemption from certain local taxes and fees) to Interpol officers in the United States. It's the same immunity that was already granted to employees of other international organizations with offices in the United States. Obama extended that order to cover the Interpol office that opened in 2004 (to work on the terrorist watch list) and to protect from public disclosure sensitive law-enforcement documents maintained at the office that had been provided by member countries about suspected terrorists.
"Perhaps [Gingrich and McCarthy's] greatest error is their claim that a Presidential Executive Order, which is issued under the authority of a statute passed by Congress, could possibly authorize activity that is in violation of the U.S. Constitution," writes Noble. "There is nothing that gets Americans more upset than the thought that someone is above the law. Both Gingrich and McCarthy must recognize that no Presidential order can exceed the bounds of the U.S. Constitution.
"Simply stated, the immunity Gingrich and McCarthy complain about—from lawsuits for official acts (like providing photographs of suspected terrorists to U.S. law enforcement to improve no-fly lists) or even from the imaginary acts they fear is limited in nature and was granted as a matter of routine by President Reagan," he concludes.
In other words, the idea of rogue Interpol cops running wild inside the United States is, as Noble originally told us, "not within the realm of reality."