MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Was it an act of intimidation or was it a violation of international protocol and law to mid-flight deny the presidential plane of Evo Morales, president of Bolivia, air passage over France, Portugal and Spain? Or was it both?
It's a murky story with the US government not issuing any statements, as of Wednesday morning, about the forced diversion of Morales's presidential plane to Vienna, where it was thoroughly searched by Austrian officials to see if Edward Snowden was on board. The Bolivian foreign minister charges the US with threatening the life of Morales because the plane was running low on fuel.
According to the BBC,
"The decisions of these countries violated international law. We are already making procedures to denounce this to the UN secretary general," he [the foreign miniter of Bolivia] said.
"We have no doubt that it was an order from the White House....For no reason whatsoever should a diplomatic plane with a president [inside] be diverted from its route and forced to land in another country."
France, Portugal and Spain all offered rather vague and unconvincing excuses for their actions. After Snowden was not found on the plane and it was refueled in Vienna, Austrian authorities granted it permission to depart on Wednesday.
Morales had been returning from a conference in Moscow, but his plane left from a different airport than the one Snowden is ensconced in.
Morales, who was re-elected president by a landslide vote of 64% in 2009, has long had a contentious relationship with the United States, including expelling the US ambassador in 2006 for allegedly undermining democracy in Bolivia.
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Although Morales had told Russian Television that he would consider asylum for Snowden, it is highly likely that the US would have known that Snowden had not been transferred to Morales's plane given its "surveillance state" capabilities that one assumes extend to Moscow.
Therefore, it is a strong possible theory that the Obama administration was doing what it has been doing to whistleblowers, journalists, and international opponents of neo-liberalism: intimidating them.
In essence, the White House and the military-industrial complex-surveillance state apparatus were putting world leaders who might be contemplating granting asylum to Snowden on notice: "We can reach you anywhere: don't mess with us by giving Snowden a refuge from our prosecution of him."
The BBC reports that Morales, who is indigenous and usually wears a colorful wool Andean coat to diplomatic events, was a tad indignant about being treated like at outlaw:
Mr Morales said presidents should have the right to travel anywhere in the world.
"It's not an offense against the president, it is an offense against the country, against the whole of the Latin American region," he said before taking off.
He described the incident as "almost a kidnapping of 13 hours."
Meanwhile on the home front, all that "false misunderstood information" that Snowden was accused of leaking. Well, here is what the BBC reports:
The leaking of thousands of classified intelligence documents prompted revelations that the US has been systematically seizing vast amounts of phone and web data.
National Intelligence Director James Clapper apologized on Tuesday for telling Congress in March that the NSA did not have a policy of gathering data on millions of Americans.
He said in a letter to the Senate intelligence committee that his answer had been "clearly erroneous."
So the US admits now it is collecting data on millions of Americans as it diverts our attention by having allies divert the "Air Force One" of Bolivia.
(Photo: Alain Bachellier)