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Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco Delivers Remarks at "INTERPOL at 100: Celebrating a Century of Transnational Police Cooperation"


Washington, DC
United States

Remarks as Prepared for Delivery

Good afternoon. Thank you for that warm welcome. Wonderful to see this Great Hall so filled with supporters of INTERPOL.

Thank you, Skip, for that kind introduction and for your many years of public service.

I am honored to join you to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of INTERPOL and 100 years of international law enforcement cooperation.

I am also honored to welcome Secretary General Jurgen Stock to the Department of Justice—and to thank him for his steadfast leadership of INTERPOL since 2014 and for his long and distinguished career of public service. 

Under his leadership, INTERPOL has made important advances in at least three respects:

First, in modernizing its technology and strengthening INTERPOL’s National Central Bureaus, to create a truly global network.

It is a network we rely upon every day to locate fugitives, and to seek their arrest overseas pursuant to INTERPOL red notices, so that they can be extradited to face justice here. 

Second, Jurgen has helped make INTERPOL a critical platform for multilateral coordination to fight terrorism and international and transnational crime. This ranges from creating a biometric database of foreign terrorist fighters to establishing networks for cooperation against environmental crime, human smuggling, narcotics trafficking, cybercrime, and other forms of organized crime.

And third, Jurgen has put in place safeguards—including the Notices and Diffusions Task Force—to ensure that INTERPOL notices are consistent with the INTERPOL Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights—and are not misused by repressive regimes.

Jurgen’s been busy.

Our National Central Bureau sees—every day—the importance of these advances made by the Secretary General.

I also want to pay tribute to the women and men at the National Central Bureau—and to its outstanding leader, Mike Hughes. They work around the clock keeping information essential to apprehending fugitives and protecting our citizens—flowing to and from INTERPOL.

I know that Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security John Tien, my friend—who is with us today, and who is our partner in staffing the National Central Bureau—joins me in recognizing the critical importance of this work.

We celebrating another anniversary this year—it is 20 years ago that we established the DOJ and DHS co-management of INTERPOL Washington. 

Thank you, John, and the Department of Homeland Security, for being here today and for your partnership.

INTERPOL started in 1923, at the second International Criminal Police Congress, in which the United States was of one of the 20 countries that participated.

The central concept behind INTERPOL was to establish the means for police in different countries to cooperate on solving crimes—particularly through identification techniques, centralized criminal records, and arrest and extradition procedures.

Today, INTERPOL is 195, soon to be 196, countries strong and those founding ideas have expanded into myriad avenues for law enforcement cooperation around the globe. 

In 1923, member countries communicated by mail, telegram, and telephone, just a little bit of an advance through carrier pigeon, but not much. Today, through a dedicated 24/7 web-based communications system, police agencies around the world can instantly connect with just the click of a mouse—exchanging millions of messages and insights annually. 

INTERPOL’s notices by U.S. and foreign authorities can often be the fastest and most effective method of seeking the location and arrest of criminals—indeed, in many instances, the existence of an INTERPOL red notice may be the precondition for an arrest to be made by another country for the purposes of extradition.

In its infancy, INTERPOL relied on paper and ink fingerprints to aid in the identification of criminals. Today, digital fingerprint systems, DNA profiles, and facial recognition images lead to thousands of identifications every year. 

Through the marriage of partnerships and technology, INTERPOL is making it harder for criminals and terrorists to travel with impunity.

INTERPOL is at the forefront of helping law enforcement worldwide respond to the most urgent public safety and national security challenges. From terrorism, cybercrime, drug cartels, human trafficking—INTERPOL is increasingly playing an important role in our global security. 

And as autocratic nations seek to project power both at home and abroad, I want to applaud INTERPOL’s decision to increase scrutiny of requests, including through the Notices and Diffusions Task Force, to ensure that INTERPOL isn’t misused in furtherance of transnational repression.

INTERPOL provides a vital link between police agencies all around the world. And that global cooperation is evident here today—with the presence of so many leaders from across law enforcement at every level.  

Across my career, from being an AUSA to advising the President on homeland security and counterterrorism, to my role now as Deputy Attorney General, I have seen the value—and frankly, the necessity—of law enforcement cooperation across borders.

And on so many occasions, INTERPOL has been that critical link. I am sure that every law enforcement leader here could share examples of INTERPOL playing a key part in their critical investigations.

INTERPOL’s system of notices, databases, and communications between its member countries works both quietly behind the scenes and actively in investigations to prevent crimes, disrupt criminal organizations, catch criminals, and protect the public.

Through INTERPOL Washington, the United States is benefitting from these resources and the international cooperation required in the 21st century challenges that we all have to protect the public.

Hundreds of millions of queries of INTERPOL data every year by U.S. authorities result in countless matches on fugitives, missing persons, and dangerous individuals every single day.

To take just one notable example—one that has particular resonance given that we have just observed police week and honored our fallen law enforcement heroes—on June 20, 2013, nearly 10 years ago, in Bogota, Colombia, drug traffickers murdered DEA Special Agent James “Terry” Watson.

INTERPOL Washington worked closely with agents and prosecutors to quickly draft and expedite the publication of seven Red Notices, each within hours or even within minutes of the issuance of arrest warrants for the defendants.

The Red Notices provided the Colombian National Police with authority they needed to provisionally arrest the subjects who were all eventually extradited to the United States and successfully prosecuted in the Eastern District of Virginia in 2014. 

Then Attorney General Eric Holder said at the time that the final convictions in this case represented an “important milestone in our effort to achieve justice for a fallen hero”—and he noted in particular that this result was made possible through “assistance from INTERPOL.”

What started as a simple idea to foster communication between police agencies has grown into a global crime fighting force that touches every aspect of our mission to keep people safe and to uphold the rule of law.

We face ever evolving threats—from countering nuclear smuggling to tracking down terrorists, from disrupting the latest cyber threat to rescuing children from sex traffickers, from dismantling violent drug cartels to fighting illegal arms trafficking.  

Over the last 100 years, INTERPOL has evolved to meet the threat, and in so doing, has made the world a safer place.

Congratulations to INTERPOL on celebrating 100 years.

Updated May 22, 2023