I've Got Your Sovereignty
The Best Part About Think Tank 2.0: Heterogeneousness of Thought
By Michael Tanji | December 31, 2009
My colleague Steve Schippert asked recently: "Wither Soverignty." My then-private reply at the time went something like this:
I don't want to up the humidity level on this parade, but:
- INTERPOL's resources (aside from administrative) are drawn from member nations' police forces (contrary to the movies, you can't be an 'INTERPOL agent') who are there to facilitate and liaison, not conduct police operations themselves.
- While this may be seen as something linked to a path to the ICC, congress has to ratify any such agreement. We can't ratify the law of the sea (not that we should) a treaty we helped put together; we can't pass health care (not that we should) something everyone agrees needs to be addressed to a certain degree.
- As an international organization that is essentially diplomatic in spirit, it is not unusual to expect that they would ask for similar rights and privileges as other diplomatic missions. We didn't have to give it to them, but we shouldn't be surprised it came during this administration, where making friends overseas is on the top-ten list.
Does anyone think for a second that an FBI agent supporting the US INTERPOL office is going to act against the best interests of the US? No FBI agent I know would. Is Congress ever going to ratify an ICC treaty? Not if health care is any indication. Finally, what one executive order can give, another can take away (or a secret one can effectively counter).Mike
Steve's reply at the time:
All of that is understood and agreed, but my point is that we have surrendered sovereignty as a matter of policy. We now rely on the fidelity of our FBI (et al) personnel to stand athwart policy and potential untoward actions of empowered international law enforcement, which is a lot to ask of an individual in the face of a bureaucracy.Steve
Any information collected on Americans, no matter what our notional FBI agent supporting INTERPOL thinks or cares, is beyond reach of our own law enforcement and citizens themselves. I find this unacceptable.
Yes, it can be undone. Bush already did that once. But that it must be done is the point. That we must remain energetically vigilant toward our own leadership on such matters without rest is enraging.
I don't blame anyone who tracked this story for feeling concerned about the Executive Order, but I think outrage is unwarranted. We afford such protection and immunity to a wide range of organizations, including those that probably should have been given the boot long ago, but we need to make sure we know exactly what is at stake here: INTERPOL has nothing that participating nations are not already prepared to give up. So you cannot subpoena INTERPOL? Fine. They didn't collect that information, your own government did. So subpoena (or FOIA) them.
If anything, I find this move to be simply one more item added to this administration's internationalism buffet, and an innocuous one at that. If recent events have demonstrated anything, it's that it doesn't matter what sort of mechanism or organization you set up to share information and cooperate if you're not prepared to actually and completely work as a team, because short of that you are setting yourself up for catastrophe.
An organization that is trying to address bad acts and find bad actors from a transnational perspective is a good thing. The more we can cooperate the better, because trying to go it alone is more complicated, time-consuming, and draining than we can afford. When you are frustrated and tired you get lazy, complacent, and that's not where we need to be given the environment we're in.
I stand with Steve and everyone concerned about national sovereignty, we just need to make sure we're picking the right fight.