Analysis of “IA INVESTIGATION: Interpol and Julian Assange’s red notice”

This old article has now been re-sighted in the wild, and we expect it to circulate again – despite the comments from Goran Rudlin on the article itself, debunking it thoroughly.

This is the article which inspired the old “AmIObjective” blog and was the first ever post. We republish it here.

A page cited to me more than once is from the intriguingly named “Independent Australia“, which supports:

quality investigative journalism, as well as citizen journalism and a diversity of voices

Or, in other words: they host a range of articles of varying quality and perspectives.
The article “IA INVESTIGATION: Interpol and Julian Assange’s red notice” comes up on the first page of various google searches for the current Assange extradition hearings. I have been asked what I think is untrue or unreliable about this article, so let’s go through it.

This blog post makes no comment on the guilt or innocence of Mr Assange. It is limited to one thing only: analysing the reliability of a single post elsewhere on the Internet.

Introduction

The tags are the first interesting thing – this is the only article on the site which is tagged

“Interpol Nazi Connection”

which suggests that it may not be entirely objective in its outlook (update – the tag has since been removed). But that in itself is no more than an eyebrow-raiser, and of course no conclusions can be drawn from it.
The very first sentence of the article proper asks a question:

Why did Julian Assange receive an Interpol Red Notice, but Gaddafi only an Orange?

This implies:

  • That an orange notice is somehow inferior to (or less important than) a red notice (“only an Orange”).
  • That whoever issued the Red Notice put Mr Assange at a higher risk than whoever issued the Orange notice for Gadaffi.

If true, this would indeed be very worrying. But is it true?

Inferiority?

Does the author really think that an Orange notice is less important than a Red Notice, or is there room for mis-understanding? They clarify later:

Why was Julian Assange – who has not yet been charged – given the most severe Red Notice?

I’ll come back to the “not charged” thing in a later post, but the author is definitely saying that a Red Notice is the “most severe”. Here is the list of notices and what they actually mean. The red notice is:

To seek the arrest or provisional arrest of wanted persons with a view to extradition.

The orange notice is:

To warn of an event, a person, an object or a process representing an imminent threat and danger to persons or property.

I struggle to understand how somebody sought for “arrest or provisional arrest” can be said to be placed in a more important category than somebody “representing an imminent threat and danger to persons or property”. If anything, given the wording, the reverse is the case. One could be wanted for arrest for any number of non-violent crimes.

Red Notices are not even really arrest warrants (though some countries treat them as such); they are just information that country X wishes to have person Y detained. But the article manages to repeat the same error once again:

Recidivist mass murderer Muammar Gaddafi.. cops a mere clockwork Orange Notice whilst our Julian Assange… is king hit with the big ticket Red Notice.

Severity Red

I then decided to explore the claim that:

Try as I did, I just couldn’t find anyone else in the entire of Red Notice history as far down the criminal dude chain as our Julian

Note that “our Julian” again implies subjectivity, but in itself means nothing.
To see if the published Red Notices are really all “severe” and Mr Assange is really an exception, I did a search on Interpol for US Citizens wanted for sex crimes (“US Citizens” so I could see results in English and so that I could do further searches in the US media and Law Enforcement sites; “sex crimes” because that was what appeared on the Red Notice for Mr Assange). I started viewing profiles on the last page, in order to get the oldest results (which are more likely to have been available to the IA author as well). There are some nasty characters there to be sure. But on the other hand, a guy (who could once be found on the last page of notices) is wanted for “sex crimes” which a google search for his name showed me is illegal wire tap. Specifically, he is alleged to have made voyeur videos of college girls getting changed.
This is a less serious crime than rape, which is one of the charges that await Mr Assange if he is extradited (which looks very likely at this point in time, as the Supreme Court consider the final appeal).
The above search took me about 5 minutes. John Trites has been wanted since 1998, and the US warrant was issued in 1999: so the Interpol notice was probably around at the time that the IA author did their research, given that Trites has been wanted for over a decade.
Also, a few months after the IA article was posted, Interpol issued a Red Notice for the guy behind the breast implant scandal. For drink driving.
Now don’t get me wrong: there are some real rotters on there too: wanted for kidnapping, war crimes and genocide, and all manner of horrible things.
But even a cursory search can show quite clearly that the claim in the article is misleading: Julian Assange is in no way special in terms of the severity of the allegations that the Red Notice was issued for.

Severity Orange

What of the severity of Orange notices, which the article feels are less important?
At the time of writing, there are two Orange Notices visible on the site: both about prison breaks. Only one was in English at the time of writing, so I shall use that for my own convenience since I speak no other languages. Eleven inmates have escaped from a prison in Mexico. Their crimes include kidnapping, homicide, organised crime, and robbery. This Orange Notice is to warn people of a very real and dangerous threat – along the lines of 11 escaped and violent convicted felons. If you encounter them, your life may well be in danger – and as the definition states, Orange notices are specifically to warn about real and immediate threats.

[Update – the original orange notice has gone. Here is the page you can find them for yourself.]

So once again, I am bemused as to how the IA author drew the conclusion that:

Recidivist mass murderer Muammar Gaddafi.. cops a mere clockwork Orange Notice whilst our Julian Assange… is king hit with the big ticket Red Notice.

It simply isn’t true that Orange is “mere” anything, or that red is “big ticket”.

Numbers

Another quick point about this claim:

Try as I did, I just couldn’t find anyone else in the entire of Red Notice history as far down the criminal dude chain as our Julian

The entire history? Given that 6,000 Red Notices were issued in 2010 alone, that would have taken some doing. And as I showed above, a five minute search on the Interpol site is all I needed to find examples that are lower down the chain. Again, the author is stating something which is highly misleading. Perhaps the author did try (and fail), but they almost certainly didn’t go through the whole history as they claim, and they certainly can’t have tried very hard.

Informants

The article lists a number of statements, which are all attributed to:

My sources… Here are just a few reasons why so, according to informants… Interpol insiders

An anonymous author on a citizen reporting website cites anonymous sources at an organisation that the author has already clearly shown that they don’t actually know much about. But this is where the bulk of the statements lie – all unattributed “sources”, with no evidence to back them up – we are asked to take the author’s word.
I won’t cover the individual statements (there are lots of them), because they are all completely without value for that reason. For example, I could claim right here that a “source” at IA had told me that the article was totally fabricated in order to demonstrate gullibility and to see how often it was cited as reliable. That statement would hold precisely the same value as all of the statements that the article attributes to unknown sources.

Real Scandal

The author touches on a very real scandal: the arrest and conviction of former head of Interpol, Jackie Selebi. This is indeed a real scandal, but it is not related to the very normal procedure of issuing a Red Notice when asked. The author does, however, demonstrate once more that they do not understand what a Red Notice is or how they are issued:

On September 10, 2007, South Africa’s National Prosecuting Authority issued a warrant for Selebi’s arrest. Did Interpol post a Red Notice on their President? Course not.

There’s nothing “of course” about it: since Interpol have to be requested, the South African police force would have had to issue a request. These requests are made when international police co-operation is required. Given that Mr Selebi was in South Africa at the time (and his whereabouts were known), there was no need for an International Warrant. So (I presume) no request was made.
The author goes on to ask:

How come he didn’t resign as President of Interpol until months later, on January 13, 2008?

This is perhaps a valid point: having a head of police who has themselves been arrested is a bit embarrassing to say the least. Mr Selebi resigned from both his South African and his Interpol positions on 12th January, which was immediately after the South African authorities announced that charges would be brought. Maybe he should have resigned earlier, but it is perhaps misleading to withhold the fact that Mr Selebi resigned immediately he knew he would be charged, and instead present his resignation as unrelated.

A very real scandal to be sure: but unrelated to the Red Notice issued for Mr Assange, and covered in a misleading manner in terms of Interpol process and legal process.

Issuers

The request for the Red Notice for Mr Assange came from a Swedish Prosectutor. The request for an Orange Notice for Gadaffi came from the United Nations – they are not a Law Enforcement body, so cannot request a Red Notice. But they issued an Orange Notice for Gadaffi (and others) when Libya was in breach of a UN Resolution. The International Criminal Court are a prosecuting body – they can (and did) subsequently request a Red Notice for Gadaffi.

So What’s The Answer?

The answer to the question in the first sentence of the article, it turns out, is quite straightforward.

Why did Julian Assange receive an Interpol Red Notice, but Gaddafi only an Orange?

Because Sweden requested a Red Notice for an individual who was wanted to face charges (correct process). The UN Security Council asked for an Orange Notice to warn of dangerous individuals on the loose (correct process), while they referred the matter to the International Criminal Court to investigate (correct process). The ICC later asked Interpol to issue a Red Warrant for Gadaffi when they decided that he could indeed be charged with crimes and face trial (correct process).

Just one more

There are more errors and fallacies in the article, but this post is already overlong, so let us finish where we came in: with a Godwin. The author states:

There is the Hitler connection of course… The organization that was the forerunner of Interpol had a succession of four Nazi Presidents because of Germany’s annexing of Austria in 1938…
Not sure if this is all on the Interpol website; maybe it is, but then again, if the Assange Red Notice is anything to go by, Interpol is capable of a bit of revisionist history.

Why is the author not sure if these details are on the Interpol website? Have a go yourself. Start here and then click “About Interpol” and follow the obvious route. The only reason, in my view, that the IA author could be unsure of this is if he didn’t do what I did – basic research.

In addition, the author implies that what happened to a different organisation which was disbanded and replaced is in some way relevant to today. This is misleading.

And so..

In conclusion: I read the article to which I have been referred, and after very basic research, I established very quickly that the article contains both untrue statements and misleading statements in quite a number.

In my opinion the article is of no value to anyone who wishes to be accurately informed on any of the issues which it discusses.

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