Sunday, February 13, 2011

Argentines discover (unauthorized) pamphlets, guns and narcotics in a US military transport plane

"Don't touch my bags, if you please, Mr. Customs Man"

There's an odd story coming out of Argentina. The US military tried to bring in a suspicious cache of undeclared items on a military transport plane, including unauthorized weapons, narcotics (!!), encryption devices and booklets instructing US soldiers what to do if they are caught operating in a foreign country.

Horacio Verbitsky reports for Página 12 in Seguro que no 13.02.2011. Also reported in Juan Cruz Sanz, Un avión militar de EE.UU. le trajo complicaciones al Gobierno Clarín 13.02.2011.

The plane in question was a Boeing C17 Globemaster III cargo plane. It was supposedly bringing supplies to use in training police on handling hostage situations. The fact that the material was being brought in on a military plane was an issue in itself. After their experience of "El Proceso", the military dictatorship of 1976-83, Argentina insists that internal security is a civilian and not a military responsibility. They're more scrupulous about the point than the United States, especially since the 2001 terrorist attacks.

During a routine inspection upon landing Thursday, the C-17 was discovered to be carrying 1000 cubic feet of material not declared on the plane's manifest.

Verbitsky's report, considerably more detailed than the Clarín, says that the undeclared materials amounted to around a third of the plane's cargo. The unauthorized cargo included machine guns, rifles, various drugs including narcotics, transmission equipment, and a instruction booklets in five languages for American soldiers, and a case the crew would not allow the Argentines to inspect. The American Embassy also refused permission. Argentine President Cristina Fernández ordered that the case be inspected, which was done over a period of six hours on Friday, and it contained "software y material sensitivo para la seguridad" (software and sensitive security material). By Verbitsky's report, further inspection of the material is scheduled to continue on Monday.

One part of the instruction booklet provided the Spanish explanation, "Soy un soldado de los Estados Unidos. Por favor, informe a mi embajada que he sido arrestado por país" ("I am a United States soldier. Please inform my embassy that I have been arrested in your country").

It wasn't the first time this had happened recently. The hostage-rescue training had been scheduled to begin in August 2010 but was postponed when the US plane carrying the weapons to be used in the training was also found to be carrying unauthorized materials. Argentina sent it back home to North Carolina.

Verbitsky comments that part of what is happening is that the US military has a very disproportionate role in domestic security in the US, far disproportionate to that common in Latin American countries. "Estados Unidos intenta exportarlo a los países bajo su influencia, que son casi todos." (The United States is intent on exporting [that same disproportion] to [Latin America] countries under its influence, which is almost all of them."

Verbitsky concludes his report:

El Departamento de Estado citó al embajador argentino Alfredo Chiaradía y le expresó su "sorpresa" por el procedimiento ya que "Estados Unidos desea mantener relaciones amistosas con la Argentina". Curiosa forma de lograrlo. Cualquier argentino, civil o militar, que intentara ingresar armas y drogas no declaradas a los Estados Unidos iría preso en forma inmediata.

[The {US} State Department met with the Argentine Ambassador and expressed their "surprise" at the procedure {i.e., their surprise that the Argentine authorities enforced their own country's laws!} and that "the United States wants to maintain friendly relations with Argentine." Strange way to show it. Any Argentine, civilian or military, who tried to bring undeclared arms and drugs into the United States would be jailed immediately.]
One obvious possibility is that the Argentines intercepted materials intended for use in some clandestine US military operation in Argentina not authorized by the Argentine government.

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