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Interpol, which claims to be merely a clearing-house for information passed among police agencies in various countries, has been accused of releasing false information about Americans to foreign governments. A bill has been introduced in the state legislature to ban police cooperation with Interpol.
AUSTIN - Interpol, that international police force whose crime-fighting exploits usually happen only in detective novels, has been getting a black eye.
Although self-described as a private agency only to channel information among law enforcement units in 125 countries, Interpol has recently been accused of:
* Being involved in covert intelligence operations;
* Supplying false information which have led to illegal arrests of American citizens abroad;
* Providing information on Americans to Communist countries, including those with whom the United States have no diplomatic ties;
* Being under the control of officials with Nazi backgrounds.
These charges have come from a group known as the National Commission on Law Enforcement and Social Justice (NCLE), which claims to have documented abuses by Interpol.
A General Accounting Office (GAO) report in 1976, made at the request of a congressman, conceded the lack of control over information supplied Interpol by U.S. law enforcement agencies.
The GAO also said most requests via Interpol did not provide sufficient data on why the information was needed. It recommended improved "screening" of requests before providing information and encouraged the reporting of disposition of cases.
"Outcome data would give the U.S. Bureau (of Interpol) a valuable insight into whether requests from foreign governments are legitimate and whether they are serving useful law enforcement purposes," the report said.
Last month State Rep. Craig Washington, D-Houston, introduced a bill to prohibit Texas state or local government employees from giving to or requesting Information from Interpol.
Washington said damage that could be done to the privacy of an individual "by such an unrestricted foreign police force is immense."
NCLE is a private group begun by the Church of Scientology, according to Danny Chadwell, Austin director. Its goal is to expose and prevent the passing of false reports among law enforcement agencies.
The Church of Scientology takes such things seriously. It has filed a $750 million lawsuit against the FBI, the CIA and other governmental agencies because false reports were allegedly circulated claiming the church was a front for drug users, among other gossipy items.
Chadwell said most of NCLE's research so far has been pointed at Interpol.
Copies of reports prepared by the group include purported statements by American residents who claim to have been victimized by Interpol's false reports.
One case is that of Mohammod Sami, a member of the International Monetary Fund who works in Washington, D.C.
Sami says he took his two children to Germany on vacation in 1975 and his wife complained to police that he had kidnapped them.
Althought the FBI and local police refused to intervene on the grounds it was a civil matter, Sami says the Interpol bureau in Washington falsely reported to Interpol in Germany that he was wanted for an extraditable offense.
He was arrested by German police and held three days before the U.S. State Department got him released and he says, issued a formal apology.
Sami is suing Interpol for $9 million.
NCLE also says it has found "agents" of Interpol in several cities, although they all seem to be private detectives and Interpol denies having agents.
Author Ladislas ("Patton") Farago sent the NCLE a letter saying he had found documents showing Nazi officials had taken over Interpol during the war. Farago also claims that Interpol's "protective curtain" in South America has enabled former Nazis who escaped prosecution for war crimes to "remain at large, not only unmolested, but actually protected and guarded . . ."
And Chadwell said that until 1972, the head of Interpol was a former Nazi SS officer.
NCLE is trying to get legislation passed in several states to prohibit Interpol from obtaining information from police. Chadwell says a bill has been introduced in Congress placing Interpol's U.S. bureau under the Freedom of Information Act, from which it is now exempt.
Althought federal agencies apparently make frequent responses to Interpol requests (according to the GAO report), there appears to be little contact with Texas law enforcement units.
The Texas Department of Public Safety claims "no working relationship" with Interpol, which a spokesman said meant no information is given or received from it.
A Houston Police Department intelligence officer said he recalled only "one or two" requests from Interpol in the past year.
They concerned the disposition of cases, he said. While HPD has no formal policy for dealing with Interpol, the officer said "I probably wouldn't respond" to any request for information other than the outcome of cases.