PARIS, France – An international gathering of senior police officials focusing on terrorism and the prevention of the radicalization of youth has heard the head of INTERPOL describe the era of the Internet as easing the path to radicalization, which he said was a global threat that only international police networks could fully address.
Speaking at the two-day International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) summit (21-22 September) in Paris – alongside IACP President Michael Carroll and the Director of the French National Police, Frédéric Péchenard – INTERPOL Secretary General Ronald K. Noble said that terrorist recruiters exploited the web to their full advantage as they targeted young, middle class vulnerable individuals who were usually not ‘on the radar of law enforcement’.
“The advent of the Internet has made the process of radicalization easier to achieve and the process of combating it that much more difficult, because many of the behaviors associated with it are not in and of themselves criminal,” said Secretary General Noble.
“The threat is global; it is virtual; and it is on our doorsteps,” said the head of INTERPOL, pointing to the ‘skyrocketing’ number of extremist websites, from 12 in 1998 to 4,500 just eight years later.
Mr Noble said that preventing radicalization required police to use international police networks, and that in this respect INTERPOL was uniquely placed to support police worldwide as a network of law enforcement agencies from 188 member countries, linking police worldwide via its I-24/7 global police communications system, global databases and network of National Central Bureaus, so as to empower front-line officers with access to the information they need to establish the links between terrorism and other criminal activities.
With INTERPOL having created its database of stolen and lost travel documents (SLTD) in response to the threat posed by terrorists using fraudulent passports to plan or carry out attacks, the world police body’s chief said that with more than 22 million records submitted by more than 150 countries, the database was the only global repository of its kind.
The police summit also heard that through INTERPOL’s global network of anti-terrorist specialists, that more than 120 member countries contribute data on active terrorist groups through INTERPOL’s Fusion Task Force, its primary counter-terrorism initiative. The registry includes close to 10,000 names of wanted or suspected terrorists.
“It is only through INTERPOL’s network that this type of information can be disseminated quickly throughout the world in order for law enforcement to effectively counter the virtual base of operations which extremists exploit on the Internet,” said Mr Noble.
The two-day IACP summit, which also brings under its umbrella FRANCOPOL, the association representing the international French-speaking police community, will review the issue of youth in terrorist and radical activities, recruitment methods by terrorist recruiters, as well as the role of law enforcement in de-radicalization programmes and prevention strategies.