International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol)


“Presently providing cooperation among police agencies of 181 nations, Interpol is in the United States represented by the U.S. National Central Bureau, also called Interpol-Washington, which is directed by the Department of Justice and jointly managed with the Treasury Department. Interpol-Washington consists of five divisions: the Alien/Fugitive Enforcement Division which oversees activities involving international fugitives from justice; the Financial Fraud/Economic Crimes Division which focuses on economic crimes; the Criminal Investigations Division which centers on various forms of international crime; the Drug Investigations Division which specializes in drug crimes; and the State Liaison Division which maintains relations with various police agencies within the United States. All agents working for Interpol-Washington are drawn from various U.S. state and federal police agencies.”(1)

In existence since 1923, the international police organization now known as Interpol passed resolutions to combat —at first implicitly, then explicitly— terrorism and terrorist-related activities. These policies developed in a piecemeal fashion from resolutions focusing in criminal acts against international civil aviation and the holding of hostages in the 1970s to a full-fledged Declaration Against Terrorism that passed in 1998. Following the events of 9/11, Interpol undertook major new initiatives. A General Secretariat Command and Co-ordination Center was set up and is operational 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. And at the Cameroon meeting of 2002, a new global communications project was announced as InterpolÂ’s highest priority. This project involves the launching of a new internet-based Global Communications System, called ‘I-24/7,Â’ to provide for a rapid and secure exchange of data among InterpolÂ’s member agencies. The I-24/7 system allows for the searching and cross-checking of data submitted to Interpol by the organizationÂ’s members over a virtual private network system that transmits encrypted information over the internet.

The terrorist attacks of 9-11 fell under the authority of Interpol because, as Secretary General Ronald Noble said, the attacks were global. Noble not only referred to the fact that citizens from over 80 countries were among the casualties, but also that the terrorist attacks were aimed at the entire world by virtue of it occurring at the World Trade Center, which “thus represented the world by name” (Noble 2001). Interpol operates under an article of its constitution that explicitly prohibits the policing of political crimes. However, terrorist incidents are broken down into their constituent parts, the criminal elements of which can then be subjected to police investigations. Likewise indicating a de-politicized understanding of terrorism, Interpol also pays special attention to the financing of terrorist activities since it is assumed that the frequency and seriousness of terrorist attacks are often proportionate to the amount of financing terrorists receive.

Interpol serves as a network of police from various nations and places emphasis on a smooth coordination of and direct contacts among the participating police agencies. Yet, evincing the preference for police to work on a more limited (bilateral) scale, some member agencies have lamented the relative sluggishness of the Interpol structures. Terrorism has also mostly remained a matter regulated, policed, and prosecuted at the national level or on a more limited multilateral scale. This accounts for the development of international anti-terrorist initiatives independent from Interpol. In Europe, for instance, counter-terrorism is organized by the Task Force Terrorism in the European Police Office (Europol). Likewise, police agencies at the national level have expanded their antiterrorism work. Expanded options have been taken, however, to forge cooperation. In November 2001, for example, Interpol signed an agreement with Europol to foster cooperation in the policing of terrorism and other international crimes (see below).

The focus on foreign terrorist groups rather than domestic groups has led to an emphasis in anti-terrorist activities on citizens of certain countries. Thus, since recently, sources in Arabic are always listed first on the pages of Interpol website and all official documents since September 11. The prominence now accorded to the language clearly shows that international police organizations and cooperative arrangements such as Interpol reflect the various characteristics of national police agencies, their relative weight on the international scene, and the focus on terrorist groups from Arab nations.

Interpol pays special and most attention to establishing direct international police communications that can be used efficiently. But efficiency does not necessarily equate to effectiveness in results. Until recently, the circulation of Red Notices occurred by regular mail. It could take weeks, even months before the Red Notices would reach their destination. Changes were made after September 11. Now, during the first 10 months of 2002, about half of all (968) Red Notices were transmitted electronically, albeit it to only 42 member agencies.

A central advantage is that Interpol has managed to attract cooperation from police agencies representing nations that are ideologically very diverse and not always on friendly terms politically. For example, shortly after the war in Iraq, authorities from France and the United States agreed to cooperate towards the development of biometric techniques to prevent the forgery of passports as part of their efforts against terrorism, despite these countriesÂ’ profound disagreements over the Iraqi conflict. Thus, although ideological and political sentiments on terrorism can be very divided in the world of politics and diplomacy, international efforts at the level of police agencies and organizations can be based on a common ground surrounding terrorism through its treatment as a de-politicized crime.”(2)

Objectives of Interpol

“Interpol is an organization that aims to provide and promote mutual assistance between criminal police authorities within the limits of national laws and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Originally formed in Vienna in 1923, the organization has steadily grown in membership but never substantially changed in form or objectives (Deflem 2000, 2002a). Interpol is not a supranational police agency with investigative powers, but a cooperative network intended to foster collaboration and to provide assistance in police work among law enforcement agencies in many nations. To this end, Interpol links a central headquarters, located in Lyon, France, with specialized bureaus, the so-called National Central Bureaus (NCB), in the countries of participating police agencies. At present, Interpol counts 181 participating police agencies, with police of Afghanistan among the most recent members to join. At the Lyon headquarters, Interpol employs some 200 full-time staff and 150 seconded police officers. The objectives of Interpol have historically always been confined to criminal enforcement duties (so-called ordinary-law crimes). Since 1951, following certain politically sensitive Interpol cases that involved police from former Communist countries in Eastern Europe”(3) Interpol decided (Article 3 to its constitution) to preclude the “Organization to undertake any intervention or activities of a political, military, religious or racial character” (Interpol website).

History of Interpol activity about Terrorism

“With respect to counter-terrorism, various resolutions were passed by Interpol to combat —at first implicitly, then explicitly— terrorism and terrorist-related activities (Anderson 1997; Bossard 1987; Interpol website). In 1970, the Interpol General Assembly in Brussels specified a resolution to cooperate in matters of criminal acts conducted against international civil aviation. In 1971, a resolution was reached that Interpol agencies should take measures to prevent or suppress specific modern forms of international criminality, specifically, the holding of hostages with the intention of perpetrating blackmail or other forms of extortion. The resolution clarified that this provision was valid only within the context of the Interpol resolution, which passed in Lisbon, Portugal in June 1951, that Interpol would not concern itself with matters of a political, racial or religious nature. In 1979, the Interpol General Assembly, meeting in Nairobi, decided to take appropriate measures against organized groups which, sometimes claiming to be ideologically motivated, had committed acts of violence, such as murder, wounding, kidnapping, hostage-taking, unlawful interference with civil aviation, arson and bombing, and thereby “seriously jeopardise general public safety”. In 1981, the General Assembly in Nice passed a resolution to control the worldwide production, distribution, sale and storage of explosive substances, which were often used in criminal acts of violence.

Interpol took a more explicit move towards the policing of terrorism in 1983, when the General Assembly meeting in Cannes, France resolved that a study would be conducted to define InterpolÂ’s position regarding criminal acts that resulted in many victims, are committed by organized groups, and “which are usually covered by the general term ‘terrorismÂ’.” It was also decided to organize a symposium on terrorism in 1984. That year, at the General Assembly meeting in Luxembourg, a resolution passed on ‘Violent Crime Commonly Referred to as TerrorismÂ’ to encourage the member agencies to cooperate and “combat terrorism as far as their national laws permit.” Referring specifically to the criminal acts of organized groups engaging in violent criminal activities that are designed, by spreading terror or fear, to attain “allegedly political objectives,” and activities that are “commonly covered by the term ‘terrorismÂ’,” a new Interpol Resolution specified that “(a) [although] by virtue of the principle of national sovereignty, the political character of any offense can only be determined by national legislation, (b) it is nonetheless essential to combat this type of crime which causes considerable damage in Member States.” An additional Interpol resolution of 1984 acknowledged that it was not possible to give a more precise definition of political, military, religious or racial matters, and that each case had to be examined separately.

In 1985, at the General Assembly meeting in Washington, D.C., a resolution passed that called for the creation of a specialized group, the ‘Public Safety and TerrorismÂ’ (PST) sub-directorate to coordinate and enhance cooperation in “combating international terrorism.” The resolution also called for a practical instruction manual on terrorism, to organize another symposium on terrorism, and to make international terrorism an agenda item of all future General Assembly and Executive Committee meetings. In 1986, a first ‘Guide for Combating International TerrorismÂ’ was approved.

Following certain highly publicized terrorist incidents during the 1990s (such as the World Trade Center bombing on February 26, 1993), the Interpol General Assembly stepped up its counter-terrorist initiatives. In 1998, at the General Assembly meeting in Cairo, InterpolÂ’s commitment to combat international terrorism was explicitly confirmed in a ‘Declaration Against Terrorism,Â’ condemning terrorism because of the threat it poses “not only with regard to security and stability, but also to the State of Law, to democracy and to human rights.” In 1999, at the Interpol General Assembly meeting in Seoul, it was again affirmed that the fight against international terrorism was “one of the main aims of InterpolÂ’s action in carrying out its general activities of police cooperation.”(4)

Notes and References

  1. Deflem, Mathieu. 2005. “International Policing —The Role of the United States.” Pp. 808-812 in The Encyclopedia of Criminology, edited by Richard A. Wright and J. Mitchell Miller. New York: Routledge.
  2. Deflem, Mathieu. 2010. “Police and Counter-Terrorism: A Sociological Theory of International Cooperation.” Pp. 163-172 in Emerging Transnational (In)security Governance: A Statist-Transnationalist Approach, edited by Ersel Aydinli. London: Routledge.
  3. Deflem, Mathieu, and Lindsay C. Maybin. 2005. “Interpol and the Policing of International Terrorism: Developments and Dynamics since September 11.” Pp. 175-191 in Terrorism: Research, Readings, & Realities, edited by Lynne L. Snowden and Brad Whitsel. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2005.
  4. Id.

See also

  • United States Drug Enforcement Administration
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • Bureau of Customs and Border Protection
  • Office of National Drug Control Policy
  • USA Patriot Act
  • Europol
  • International Police Cooperation
  • Further Reading

    • Deflem, Mathieu. 2001. “International Police Cooperation in Northern America.” Pp. 71-98 in International Police Cooperation: A World Perspective, edited by Daniel J. Koenig and Dilip K. Das. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.
    • Deflem, Mathieu. 2002. Policing World Society: Historical Foundations of International Police Cooperation. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press.
    • Deflem, Mathieu. 2003. “The Boundaries of International Cooperation: Problems and Prospects of U.S.-Mexican Policing.” In Corruption, Police, Security & Democracy, edited by Menachem Amir and Stanley Einstein. Huntsville, TX: Office of International Criminal Justice.
    • Dunn, Timothy J. 1996. The Militarization of the U.S.-Mexico Border, 1978-1992. Austin, TX: CMAS Books.
    • Koenig, Daniel J., and Dilip K. Das, eds. 2001. International Police Cooperation: A World Perspective. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.
    • Marenin, Otwin. 2001. “United States International Policing Activities: An Overview.” Pp. 297-322 in International Police Cooperation: A World Perspective, edited by Daniel J. Koenig and Dilip K. Das. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.
    • McDonald, William F., ed. 1997. Crime and Law Enforcement in the Global Village. Cincinnati, OH: Anderson Publishing.
    • Nadelmann, Ethan A. 1993. Cops Across Borders: The Internationalization of U.S. Criminal Law Enforcement. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press.

    International Criminal Police Organization

    Introduction to Interpol

    International Criminal Police Organization or Interpol, intergovernmental body established to promote mutual cooperation between police authorities around the world and to develop means of effectively preventing crime. Founded in Vienna in 1923 and reconstituted in 1946, Interpol is strictly nonpolitical and is forbidden to undertake any activities of a religious, racial, or military nature. The majority of countries (177 in 1997) belong to Interpol, and only government-approved police bodies may hold membership. The general assembly meets annually to decide policy and to elect the executive committee, consisting of a president, three vice presidents, and nine delegates, all of different nationalities. The general secretariat, based in Lyon, France, is the permanent administrative headquarters. It coordinates the international activities of member countries, holds a library of international criminal records, and organizes regular meetings at which delegates can exchange information on police work. Interpol is financed by contributions from member countries; its budget in 1997 was $28 million.” (1)


    Overview of Interpol in relation to cyber crime: [1]

    Definition of INTERPOL

    Within the context of international organizations, the following is a brief meaning of interpol: Interpol is a large network of police forces from 190 countries across the world. It is an organization which helps to combat and track crime and criminals which cross borders. Every member country has a dedicated office for Interpol. Interpol has both police and civilians as its staffers and thus is very effective against handling crime. Civilians are usually employed in finance, legal concerns and HR. The total number of people who can be employed at one time are 650 from across 90 different countries. Each member should have essential knowledge of atleast one of the four essential languages viz. English, French, Arabic and Spanish

    Interpol is able to identify, trace and catch international criminals who are on a run by using a secure police internet known as I-24/7. The police can access this through an I-link portal. This portal is also used to see the most wanted list of Interpol and raise alerts

    Another notable hub of Interpol is CCC i.e. its Command and Control Centre which works 24/7/365. It is like a central control room which coordinates all the activities of Interpol. It has regional centres at Lyon, France and Argentina. The next branch is due to open in Singapore. The staff at CCC are operating all the year round exchanging vital information by sending messages and alerts across the globe.


    See Also

    • International Organization


    Notes and References

    1. By Samuel C. McQuade, III

    See Also

    • Types of Cybercrime
    • Cybercriminal

    Further Reading

    Fooner, M. (1989). Interpol: Issues in world crime and international justice. Criminal Justice and Public Safety. New York: Springer; Anderson, M. (1989). Policing the world: Interpol and the politics of international police co-operation. New York: Oxford University Press; Interpol. (2008). Interpol Home Page. Retrieved from Interpol Web site: (internet link)


    Notes and References

    Guide to Interpol

    Hierarchical Display of Interpol

    International Organisations > World organisations > World organisation
    International Relations > Cooperation policy > Cooperation policy > Police cooperation
    European Union > European construction > European Union > Area of freedom, security and justice > EU police cooperation > Europol


    Concept of Interpol

    See the dictionary definition of Interpol.

    Characteristics of Interpol

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    Translation of Interpol

    Thesaurus of Interpol

    International Organisations > World organisations > World organisation > Interpol
    International Relations > Cooperation policy > Cooperation policy > Police cooperation > Interpol
    European Union > European construction > European Union > Area of freedom, security and justice > EU police cooperation > Europol > Interpol

    See also

    • ICPO
    • International Criminal Police Organization
    • International Criminal Police Organisation