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Decline and Fall - Skyjacking Edition - 7/8/13

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(Article changed on July 10, 2013 at 22:59)

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It appears that someone in Washington called several government officials in Europe to force the landing of a jet carrying the President of Bolivia.  If that proves to be the case, the actions by all involved violate of the 2010 international protocol to help stop skyjacking.  The protocol, signed by all but a few nations, says:

"Any person commits an offence if that person unlawfully and intentionally seizes or exercises control of an aircraft in service by force or threat thereof, or by coercion, or by any other form of intimidation, or by any technological means."  2010 Protocol Supplementary to the Convention for the Suppression of Un-Lawful Seizure of Aircraft

Paranoia on Steroids

The president of Bolivia, Eva Morales, flew to Russia for an international energy conference.  His plane landed and stayed at Moscow's Vnukovo International Airport while he was at the conference.   During the conference, Morales indicated that he would consider providing asylum for NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.  However, he didn't offer asylum or grandstand when he responded to a reporter's inquiry.

Based on the forced landing of the Morales plane and the new  "Insider Threat" program to squash whistleblowers, the Obama administration obviously wants Snowden in the worst way.  The diplomatic requests mask a deeper sense of entitlement that turned into recklessness in this situation.

When the Morales plane left Russia, there was a refueling stop planned in Spain's Canary Islands.  While in Austrian airspace, the Bolivian plan received word that Spain was withdrawing permission to refuel.  The aircraft quickly made landing requests to Portugal, Italy and France.  The word back was no permission to land.  With a need to refuel and no other options, a request was made to Austria and Morales landed in Vienna.

Once on the ground, Morales was confined to the Vienna air terminal for hours.  Bolivian officials insisted that the Austrians search the plane for Snowden.  An Austrian official walked through the plane but supposedly interrupted the search and left.  Austrian President Heinz Fischer said:

"The official was informed that the problem had been fixed and he saw at that point that the plane was empty... He did not look under the seats. There was no formal inspection, but no other person was found aboard." Austrian President Heinz Fischer, Buenos Ares Herald, July 7

Guess what?  Snowden was not on the plane.

How did this happen?  Were these European countries so anxious to find Snowden, they acted in a way that broke international law and agreements?

Thanks to Matthew Schofield of the McClatchy News Foreign Staff, we know that someone contacted Spanish authorities and authorities in the other refusing nations with requests that the Bolivian plane not land on their territory (How the hunt for Edward Snowden, and bad information, stranded Bolivian president, Friday, July 5, 2013).  Schofield connected the dots on critical elements of this story.

The article quotes Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manual Garcia-Margallo who was interviewed after the incident:

"We were told that Snowden was inside. I can [only] work with the data they give me.  They said they were clear he was inside. " The reactions of European countries were because the information they gave us was that (Snowden) was inside."  Spanish Foreign Minister Garcia-Margallo McClatchy, July 5 (Author's emphasis)

That's telling!  As Schofield points out, the foreign minister didn't say who they were but let's guess - an authorized, high-ranking member of the Obama administration.  Who else could make such a request and have it granted?

Also, the foreign minister's statement implicates officials in the other three European countries.  How else would he know the information he claims to have received?

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