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Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."
Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

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Home > Tamil National ForumSelected Writings by Sachi Sri Kantha > On Interpol and Intelligence

Selected Writings by Sachi Sri Kantha

On Interpol and  Intelligence

7 February 2001

 "... limited wars are primarily fought on the field of morale. In order for... states to quickly and effectively wipe out "revolt", which could get out of hand despite technical superiority due to the political and moral convictions of the mass movement, it is necessary to .. take effective action in the psychological arena... Ever since the U.S. Defence Department organised the first ever World Wide Psyops Conference in 1963 and the first NATO Symposium On Defence Psychology in Paris in 1960, many NATO leaders and several scientists have been working in the field of psychological counter-insurgency methods...The central aim of this defence approach is to destroy the morale of the insurgent movement ... Defaming the insurgents as "terrorists" and punishing them accordingly - thereby ignoring international law concerning the rights of people in war - is a particularly useful means..." Michael Schubert in 'On Liberation Movements And The Rights Of Peoples', 1992

Two months ago, there was some publicity about the arrest warrant on Tamil Tiger leader V.Pirabaharan, issued by the Interpol, based in Lyon, France. Until then I was vaguely aware of Interpol's existence but not sure about its mandate and how effectively its dictum flies. But after reading the complete description of the so-called arrest warrant in the website of Interpol, I inferred that the Sri Lankan media were making a mountain out of a mole hill. The editorialist of the government mouth-piece, Ceylon Daily News, had written,

"By issuing a Red Alert Most Wanted Notice for Sri Lanka's public enemy number one, LTTE chief Velupillai Prabhakaran, Interpol or the International Criminal Police Organisation has clearly underlined his chillingly murderous nature....Thus have the countries of the world been alerted to the need to collar and bring to justice one of the world's most wanted criminals - a man who has spilt rivers of blood here and abroad for a cause which only a microscopic minority of Tamils supports..." [editorial, January 28, 2001]

"The Interpol's warrant also carried a 'warning', which the intelligence-challenged torch-carriers to the ruling mandarins of Sri Lanka and India glaringly failed to highlight: "The person should be considered innocent until proven guilty".

In relation to this, I read with interest the recent interview of Mr.Raymond Kendall, the retiring secretary general (top honcho) of Interpol, which appeared in the latest issue of Foreign Policy magazine [Jan/Feb. 2001, pp.31-40], published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington DC. The facts presented by Mr.Kendall enlightened me much about the activities, limitations and history of Interpol. Thus, Interpol's 'Red Notice' is just that - a 'notice' without much bite, and the information contained in Pirabaharan's red notice is not a secret or surprise to anyone in Asia and elsewhere. 

Here are some facts about the Interpol activities, as presented by Mr.Kendall.

Fact No.1:

In the interview, Mr.Kendall has stated that the annual budget of Interpol is only 23 million US dollars. This is puny! Even the Sri Lankan government's current military budget per annum has exceeded one billion (or 1000 million) US dollars. In comparative terms, Sri Lankan military spends more money in 10 days [under the facade of 'capturing Pirabaharan dead or alive'] than the annual budget of Interpol.

Fact No.2:

To the question, "Tell me, what can Interpol do well and what can it not do well?", Mr.Kendall had answered:

"There are some basic things that only Interpol can do. For example, being able to circulate throughout the world, throughout 178 countries, information about a wanted person, a stolen work of art, or a missing child. What it cannot do is undertake street action. Interpol cannot do that, and I don't believe it will ever be able to do that in the forseeable future."

Fact No.3:

About the circulated arrest warrants, Mr.Kendall has stated, "At the moment I think there are something like 40 or 50 of these warrants in existence, including one for Milosevic." To a follow-up question, "And of those that were issued, how many have been captured?", Mr.Kendall had responded, "I think about half a dozen." In the same answer, he had noted that, "certain number of countries, including the United Kingdom and the United States" are opposing the creation of "an international criminal tribunal".

It is interesting to ask why certain countries are against the establishment of an international criminal tribunal. If such a body comes into existence, even Dr.Henry Kissinger, the American ex-trouble shooter cum Nobel Peace Prize laureate, may have to face trial as a war criminal. Not only American Secretaries of State, but also American Presidents like Ronald Reagan and George Bush could be charged for terrorism for their aggression against Libya and Iraq respectively. That the Interpol's arrest warrants for terrorism are somewhat toothless has been underlined by the historical fact that a 'terrorist' identified by these warrants, like Yitshak Shamir for instance, later became a prime minister of Israel.

A box-feature on the history of Interpol, carried by the Foreign Policy magazine, also mentions that, "Interpol has never had policing powers of its own. Rather, it acts as a global clearinghouse for information on crime...". It is run by a 373-person bureaucracy, consisting of "about 120 police experts and 200-plus support staffers". Mr.Kendall has acknowledged that the labor of Interpol is taxed seriously by its member states, which the intelligence-challenged editiorialists in Sri Lanka should take note. 

In my opinion, Interpol's definition of who is a 'terrorist' leaves much to be desired. It appears to me that if Interpol bureaucrats depend solely on the intelligence of the police mandarins and politicians representing its dues-paying member countries, without checking the validity and scrutinizing each request on its merit, it will fall into a rut - a predicament similar to what the International Criminal Police Commission (ICPC - the predecessor of current Interpol) faced during the Second World War. The box-feature in the Foreign Policy magazine article notes that in 1930s, "the Nazis took over the ICPC and moved the headquarters to a town near Berlin. Under the command of Reinhold Heyrich, the Nazis used ICPC files, which recorded a suspect's religion and sexual orientation, to track down European Jews and homosexuals."

I earnestly hope that impeccable objectives of current Interpol does not suffer from such a Nazi-type rut and rust, for want of intelligence [not the variety of secret information - familiar to police-, but the faculty of perceiving and comprehending meaning by humans] among its intelligentsia, in the 21st century.


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