Thursday, June 17, 2010

Interpol chief: Air travel 'scares me' Warns of lax security globally as more and more fly

Posted: June 16, 2010
11:09 pm Eastern

By Stewart Stogel
© 2010 WorldNetDaily

"It is at best ironic and at worst dangerous that Interpol officials sometimes have a more difficult time crossing borders than the criminals we're pursuing."

This comes despite increased security at U.S. airports where activities directed by the Transportation Security Administration are not always coordinated with Interpol.

U.S. air traffic, it was explained, is a small portion of the still largely unregulated international air transportation system.

The industry trade group Airports Council International puts North American traffic just above 12 percent of worldwide activity.

A major hindrance to effective international police "cooperation" is the fact that Interpol officials, unlike their United Nations counterparts, do not enjoy unfettered diplomatic transit.

In most instances, Interpol officers must await clearances by local authorities before they can enter a country.

Noble says a pilot program, now under way at the World Cup in South Africa, would provide his personnel with a special "visa identity card" to allow quick and timely transit.

Four nations have accepted the visa card, with 23 more considering it.

Noble declined to say whether the U.S. is one of those considering the program.

Interpol, with 188 member nations, is second only to the U.N., which has 192 members.

Another program Noble is experimenting with is what he called "virtual borders."

The system is currently being used to check attendees at the World Cup.

The checks are being expanded to hotels and banks.

"If we don't get you at the airport or the border crossings we can still screen you at a venue or hotel," said Noble.

A less sophisticated system has been used by the Secret Service at the Super Bowl and World Series.

While some may liken the Interpol system to a modern day version of "Big Brother," the secretary-general insists that his organization has vastly improved security, especially inside the United States:

"Just in 2002, the U.S. searches of our database was 2000 hits. ... Last year, U.S. searches numbered 79 million hits. ...We need to able to quickly identify those who could pose a threat to our safety and conversely, we need to be able to identify those who pose no risk to our safety."

One case in particular was the recent arrest of Johan van der Sloot. The Aruban fugitive and onetime suspect in the disappearance of American Natalie Holloway was apprehended in Chile and returned to Peru with Interpol assistance, said Noble.

Another incident occured off the Israeli coast. During the controversial Turkish flotilla attempt to reach Gaza, three Pakistani journalists went missing.

Interpol agents, together with Israeli and Jordanian police, were able to respond to Pakistani requests to track them down, he said. He added that cooperation among all the police authorities was "excellent."

Interpol, he added, is often able to bridge certain gulfs the U.N. cannot, because his organization is "professional rather than political."

"We are the world's most democratic institution...We have a one country, one vote system...We have no Security Council and no right to veto. ...We are able to achieve police-to-police cooperation even on occasions when governments do not or can't (cooperate)."