Remarks as prepared for delivery
Good afternoon. I am glad that you have joined us today to mark the U.S. National Central Bureau’s (USNCB)’s 50th anniversary. Your attendance at this ceremony honors us and says a lot about what the U.S. National Central Bureau means to the criminal justice, law enforcement and homeland security agencies in the United States.
I want to thank Chief Kenneth S. Giannoules, and the rest of the former Chiefs and Directors of the USNCB for their leadership and the legacy they left behind that we continue to enjoy today.
Ken, before I get started, I have to mention that I don’t think there could have been a better person than yourself, and Mrs. Yowell, to kick start this agency. Your energy and drive really put the agency on the right path right from the start. So Thank You, Sir.
The USNCB has been open for business for the past 50 years, and yet in many ways we are still relatively unknown to many in the public, in Congress, and even by some of our state and local law enforcement agencies in the United States. Even though we work behind the scenes, I suspect on some level it has to do with the number of names our agency is known by. Some know us by our proper name: the U.S. National Central Bureau, or USNCB, or by the NCB of the United States, or simply by INTERPOL Washington, or a fan favorite on our staff, IPOL. All would be correct.
Some are still under the impression that we are not a U.S. agency at all but take our orders from INTERPOL’s General Secretariat in Lyon, France. We don’t. And we have to remind INTERPOL all the time that they actually work for the member countries of the organization, not the other way around.
So after a half a century, we continue to answer the call from any U.S. law enforcement agency to needs assistance no matter what name they use. Even when they ask for the National Central Broadcasting Agency or the National Census Bureau? But those who have worked with us know that there is no confusing what our capabilities are and what we bring to the fight in confronting some of the most challenging and growing global threats to our country and our communities.
Ever since the lights were turned on in the Treasury Building in 1969, the USNCB has continuously strived to evolve, grow, and innovate in order to always be ready when called upon and to stay ahead of the shifting global threats. This drive continues today and is the reason why the USNCB has become a global leader within the INTERPOL community.
It may surprise you to learn that before the United States was attacked on 9/11, the INTERPOL General Secretariat- the headquarters of the international organization – only worked nine to five during the work week, no weekends or holidays.
But while INTERPOL would close for the day back then, the USNCB was operating around the clock with a 24/7 Operations Center, which had been established nearly 20 years before, in the early 1980s. This is a prime example of what I mean when I say the USNCB stays ahead of the curve and is always ready when called upon.
So why is the USNCB so special? What sets us apart from all the other NCBs in the world?
Because if you studied the other 193 NCBs, you would discover that they have the same INTERPOL connection, the same access, operate under the same set of rules, and have the same opportunity to leverage the INTERPOL system in support of their country’s law enforcement and border security needs.
I can say with confidence that those things that set the USNCB apart – the reason we have become and remain a global leader within the INTERPOL community – are all represented right here in this room.
In our leadership, our partner agencies, and most importantly our people.
I routinely joke that our operation is so dynamic that our agency needs to be managed by not one but two Departments.
But the unique co-management structure and connection the USNCB has to the Deputy Attorney General and Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS-or formally Treasury) allows us to marshal the resources necessary to tackle whatever international challenge or hazard that shows up at our front door. I wish I could report to you that those challenges were only limited to the often times complex and time sensitive investigative requests, extraditions, or other international law enforcement entanglements that always seem to come up.
But more and more these days, the USNCB needs to rely on the assistance of our Departmental leadership to help us in combating against those forces attempting to shift the INTERPOL organization toward their own national interests and political ends. At this time in our history with INTERPOL, this is increasingly becoming a daily challenge for the USNCB leadership. We could not have been as successful at combating these forces without the support and engagement of our leaders, both past and present.
Mr. O’Callaghan mentioned Deputy Attorney General (DAG) Rosenstein’s speech at last year’s General Assembly in Dubai and the election of the South Korean official as the President of INTERPOL’s Executive Committee. This is a great and important example of our Departmental leadership being there when we needed them. But I have to say, as eloquent and impactful as his speech was that day, it was the DAG’s willingness to stick around and help us in our bilateral discussions with some of the more skeptical member countries who were still straddling the fence on who they would support. His assistance in the trenches with us at some old fashion direct diplomacy helped to secure the necessary support for the South Korean candidate and ensured the vote went our way.
The second ingredient to the USNCB’s success is our partner agencies.
They entrust us with some of their highest profile and most sensitive investigations or fugitive cases. There are not too many high profile U.S. cases with an international nexus that the USNCB is not in some way involved with thanks to our partner agencies.
Because we operate in the background, it is sometimes difficult to explain how we contributed to the success of a particular investigation or the capture of an international fugitive. Suffice it to say however, our participation provides an oftentimes critical, if not indispensable, element to those successful outcomes.
There was a marketing slogan from a company named BASF back in the 90’s that hits the mark in the terms of capturing what the USNCB does. The slogan went:
“We don’t make a lot of the products you buy. We make a lot of the products you buy better”
In a few words that is exactly what the USNCB does day in and day out with the support we provide. We don’t conduct the investigation, collect the evidence, prosecute the crime, or arrest the fugitive, we just make those things better or more effective.
In addition to sharing their important cases with us, our partner agencies also share their talent….by detailing their subject matter experts to the USNCB to help us deliver the support that is needed to all 18,000 U.S. law enforcement agencies across the nation.
The number of agencies who have detailed personnel to work at the USNCB over the past 50 years, certainly sets us apart from our peers around the world. I can’t tell you how many times foreign law enforcement leaders have complimented, and are just a little envious of the USNCB’s organizational model – particularly having so many different U.S. law enforcement agencies represented on our staff. Who all contribute their talents and skills to the fight against transnational criminal and terrorist threats. We truly are an example of a “whole of government” approach.
Which brings me to the most important ingredient of our success, our people.
When our detailees arrive at the USNCB as subject matter experts in their agency’s mission, authorities and operations, they quickly realize that the USNCB and the INTERPOL organization as a whole, are unlike any conventional law enforcement unit or task force operation they may have experienced before in their careers. They come to rely on the expertise of the USNCB’s full-time permanent staff, who are the subject matter experts on the INTERPOL platform and its functions and are the true backbone of the agency, holding everything together and making it all work.
It’s the marriage of these two elements of our workforce, the expertise of the detailees in their agency missions and the expertise of the full-time staff in the utilization of the INTERPOL platform that results in some magical things. But like any marriage when you have two experts living under the same roof, there is bound to be some tension from time to time….a few “disagreements”…. the occasional eye roll, or a couple of…. “don’t tell me what I can or can’t do.
This occasional tension is always used by our talented team to fuel the creative process – a process that has resulted in the development and deployment of some of the most ingenious information sharing solutions to the increasingly complex challenges of transnational crime and terrorism. In the truest sense of our agency’s motto, “Domestic Focus….International Reach” many of these solutions developed by the USNCB are later adopted and globalized by INTERPOL and its member countries.
For example, INTERPOL’s Maritime Piracy database was initially developed and operated out of the USNCB before we gave it to INTERPOL as a means of bringing in more international partners. Now nearly a decade later, that database is still being utilized today to combat maritime piracy and prosecute those who are involved in it.
USNCB personnel and detailees with expertise in traveler screening and passport data, joined a handful of member country representatives to develop INTERPOL’s Stolen and Lost Travel Document database. This flagship database now contains more than 90 million records of stolen or lost travel documents reported by more than 160 countries and is used virtually every second of every day to screen international travelers across the globe.
Since 9/11, the USNCB has developed and deployed multiple Counter Terrorism information sharing programs with our law enforcement and Department of Defense partners. Operations such as, Vennlig, Hamah, Tread, and CellBlock. These programs have been so successful at getting the right information to the right hands that INTERPOL has adopted our model under a program called “MILEX” or Military to Law Enforcement Exchange. Today, MILEX is being utilized by a number of our foreign partners as a means for collecting and disseminating foreign terrorist fighter identity data obtained from conflict zones across the globe.
One of the more impactful programs developed by the USNCB involved the integration of the INTERPOL notice system with our national law enforcement indices. This solution enables any U.S. border official or law enforcement officer to access INTERPOL’s global advisories on missing or wanted persons, foreign terrorist fighters and other subjects of interest within minutes of their publication right on their agency’s native law enforcement or border security systems.
The proven success of our solution has resulted in the USNCB and now INTERPOL deploying technical assistance teams to help other countries in integrating their immigration and border security systems with INTERPOL’s system thereby creating a truly global security architecture.
Again, the USNCB didn’t invent the INTERPOL notice and advisory system, we just made it better and more effective.
I am very honored to have the opportunity to lead this agency at this time in its history. It is an exciting time to be at the helm. I am also humbled to be counted among such a distinguished group of former USNCB chiefs and directors and be a member of the alumni of those who have served at the USNCB over the past 50 years.
I am confident that no matter what the next challenge is, what new threats will face the international law enforcement communities in the future, the USNCB will be right in the thick of the fight churning out new and innovative solutions to make our communities, our nation, and the world a safer place for our families and our community.
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Author: September 17, 2019