Under-the-Radar Intelligence Sharing

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I may be the only layperson who cares that the United Nations and the International Criminal Police Organization (better known as Interpol) are now combining resources to track down terrorist suspects—yet another example of the UN’s continued interest in taking the lead on counterterrorism efforts.

The new joint effort is a notable step—Interpol usually focuses on typical “hard” security issues, such as managing intelligence in order to identify and capture criminal suspects who cross borders and elude national authorities. Inside the UN, the idea of sharing national intelligence remains an attractive but controversial idea. Interpol will help the UN by acting as a middleman for activities that lay beyond the UN’s current interests, if not its mandate, by publishing notices for terrorist suspects identified by the UN 1267 committee. In addition, Interpol will provide resources necessary to complete issue special notices, always a welcome offer for an international organization like the UN, plagued by resource problems.

The mandate for this surprising alliance comes from a vague UN pronouncement last July. Security Council resolution 1617 recommended that members states “increase cooperation…as soon as possible share information” and “work within the framework of Interpol.” It’s not that UN leaders and various members didn’t want more fastidious language and action, but as a cooperative group it usually defers to inaction, with exceptions.

Taking a cue from Res. 1617, Interpol responded by passing a resolution of its own, which extended to the UN an offer to issue special notices to Interpol member states about al-Qaeda- and Taliban-associated individuals and entities placed on the UN’s list. Today, Interpol issued the fist four such notices, including one for Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

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