World Police

Imagine a world with open borders and lightning-fast transportation and communication, where international crime syndicates work together, undermining entire countries and using them as bases for the smuggling of narcotics, arms, lumber and people. With their huge profits, the rackets bribe officials and kill any who stand in their way. Imagine the law-abiding states’ sense of vulnerability when they see how effectively crime syndicates exploit the opportunities offered by globalization. Imagine the transnational police organization Interpol, with its 187-country membership, cooperating with the United Nations to fight crime and set up a police force to operate in countries where the local authorities are too corrupt or weak. As you can imagine, all this is happening already. Crime syndicates move narcotics from one end of the globe to the other, using some countries (such as, reportedly, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea Bissau) as transit points; they use the Internet for communication and electronic fraud. US officials estimate that organized crime may equal 15 percent of global GDP. In response, 60 countries are taking part in the Interpol-UN conference in Singapore this week, in a step toward a «global policing doctrine» that will include a secure communications network and global archive of information, including DNA records, fingerprints and photos. «The police will be trained and equipped differently with resources,» said Ronald K. Noble, secretary-general of Interpol, according to yesterday’s International Herald Tribune. «When they stop someone, they will be consulting global databases to determine who they are.» The heightened fears of the past few years may have made many people feel that they can dispel with some freedoms in return for security. But if the inconceivable power of a worldwide police web is placed at the disposal of countries that don’t make citizens’ freedom and well being their priority (and there are already many of them), then we cannot imagine how bad that future will be.