Interpol Helps Detect U.S. Arrivals Who Use Fraudulent Passports

The effort identifies some 300 suspect documents a month.

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U.S. support for Interpol has increased dramatically over the past seven years, says Ronald Noble, the secretary general of the international police organization, which boasts 186 member nations. "Never before has Interpol received as much financial support as we receive now from the United States," he told U.S. News in an interview. "Never before has law enforcement consulted or contributed to our databases as much as they do now."

As an example, he cites Interpol's database of stolen and altered travel documents, which countries can use to prevent travelers from using fake papers to cross international borders.

Before October 2007, U.S. officials were consulting Interpol's database only 80 times each month, according to Noble. But in the first six months after U.S. officials automated the system so that the travel documents of every passenger arriving from overseas is run against the database, the system has performed 18,338,240 searches and returned 2,297 hits—which translates into more than 300 suspect passports a month.

Currently, only 23 other countries have similarly automated access to Interpol's database.

Of the 880 million international arrivals around the world last year, only 20 million were screened against Interpol's record of stolen documents. "That means 860 million people were able to go from one country to another without having their passports screened against Interpol's databases that have 15 million stolen documents," Noble says.