Whether an individual who has gone absent without leave (AWOL) from the United States (US) Armed Forces for more than 30 days, but whose name does not appear in the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) National Crime Information Centre (NCIC) Wanted Persons File, would still be sought by the military as a deserter; whether every deserter's name is entered into the Wanted Persons File; whether every military deserter is prosecuted [USA101862.E]

The United States (US) Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) National Crime Information Centre (NCIC) is a computerized database that was established in 1967 to help law enforcement agencies find stolen property and capture fugitives (US Sept. 2005; ibid. 13 Nov. 2003). The database consists of the following:

-property files, including information on stolen articles and vehicles
-persons files, including the Supervised Release; Convicted Sexual Offender Registry; Foreign Fugitive; Identity Theft; Immigration Violator; Missing Person; Protection Order; Unidentified Person; US Secret Service; Violent Gang and Terrorist Organization; and Wanted Persons File. (ibid. Sept. 2005; see also US 13 Nov. 2003)

The database is accessible to local, state and federal US law enforcement agencies, including the US Customs and Border Protection agency, and is also accessible to law enforcement agencies in Canada, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands and Guam (ibid.; ibid. Sept. 2005). The information system is reportedly available "24 hours a day, 365 days a year" (ibid.; ibid. 13 Nov. 2003).

In a 19 October 2006 telephone interview, a representative of the Center on Conscience & War (CCW), a US-based non-governmental organization (NGO) that "works to defend and extend the rights of conscientious objectors" (CCW n.d.), indicated that a person who is absent without official leave (AWOL) from the US Armed Forces for more than 30 days but whose name does not appear in the NCIC Wanted Persons File would still officially be sought by the military as a deserter. However, the CCW Representative noted that different branches, bases and commanders treat the issue differently; some look for military deserters more "affirmatively" than others (19 Oct. 2006).

The CCW Representative indicated that every US military deserter's name is supposed to be entered into the NCIC Wanted Persons File but that this may not always happen (19 Oct. 2006). With respect to the amount of time usually required for a deserter's name to appear in the Wanted Persons File, the CCW Representative stated that, in general, it takes a minimum of 30 days (19 Oct. 2006). According to the Representative, the time it takes to input the names into the NCIC varies from base to base (CCW 19 Oct. 2006).

In 20 October 2006 correspondence, an official at the Embassy of the United States in Ottawa indicated that the US Armed Forces does not "seek" international deserters. However, the Official stated that "[international deserters] would be held accountable upon their return to the [United] States" (US 20 Oct. 2006).

In a 19 October 2006 telephone interview, the CCW Representative stated that "every military deserter is prosecuted in some form of way." The Representative indicated that, in order to be prosecuted for desertion, it has to be proven that a person never intended to return to military duty (CCW 19 Oct. 2006). The Representative further noted that an asylum seeker, for example, could be prosecuted because the military would have proof that he or she never intended to return to military service (ibid.). According to the Representative, the

[p]enalty for desertion can include a jail term, generally for up to 5 years or a bad discharge in lieu of a prison term. In times of war or national emergency, as declared by Congress, the maximum sentence is enhanced to life imprisonment or the death sentence. (ibid.)

In 20 October 2006 correspondence to the Research Directorate, the Official at the Embassy of the United States in Ottawa indicated that it is the military deserter's command who "take[s] into account all the circumstances of the incident and determine[s] the appropriate level of punishment" and that "[o]ften [military deserters] are simply given a Dishonorable Discharge."

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

References

Center on Conscience and War (CCW). 19 October 2006. Telephone interview with a representative.

_____. N.d. "About CCW." http://www.centeronconscience.org/about_ccw.htm [Accessed 9 Nov. 2006]

United States (US). 20 October 2006. Embassy of the United States of America in Ottawa, Canada. Correspondence from an official.

_____. September 2005. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Division. "National Crime Information Center: An Overview." http://www.fbi.gov/hq/cjisd/ncic_brochure.pdf [Accessed 24 Oct. 2006]

_____. 13 November 2003. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Division. "The FBI's National Crime Information Center." Congressional testimony of Michael D. Kirkpatrick, Assistant Director in Charge, Criminal Justice Information Services Division, FBI before the Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security, and Citizenship, Committee on the Judiciary. http://www.fbi.gov/congress/congress03/ncic111303.htm [Accessed 24 Oct. 2006]

Additional Sources Consulted


Internet sites, including: Amnesty International (AI), Central Committee for Consciencious Objectors (CCCO), Center on Conscience & War (CCW), European Country of Origin Information Network (ecoi.net), Factiva, Human Rights Watch (HRW), United States (US) Department of Justice, US Department of State.