Apparently, the pen is so mighty, that we can’t even risk certain foreign journalists flying in our airspace.
According to reports over the weekend, an Air France flight to Mexico was diverted because of one passenger, Franco-Colombian writer Hernando Calvo Ospina, who works for the Le Monde Diplomatique, a left-wing French-based newspaper. Apparently, Ospina has written extensive critiques of the current Colombian President Alvaro Uribe and the U.S.-fed drug war in Latin America. According to his publisher, he was on his way to Nicaragua, to research his current project, a book about the Central Intelligence Agency.
A spokesman for Mr Ospina’s French publisher, Le Temps des Cerises, said: “Hernando, who was heading to Nicaragua to research a report, thus found out that he is on a ‘no-fly list’ that bans a number of people from flying to or even over the United States.” (snip)
The publisher accused the Central Intelligence Agency of being behind Mr Ospina’s blacklisting, pointing out that the journalist was currently researching a book about the spy agency. “It shows to what degree its paranoia (has reached),” it said.
Air France said that as the flight was not due to stop in a US airport, it had not sent US authorities the passenger manifest. However, it sent one to Mexico, which apparently sent the list on. The crew were informed of the ban as they approached US airspace.
Mr Ospina, who has written several books and contributes to Le Monde Diplomatique, the left-wing French political monthly, said that he was informed of the order to divert the flight by its co-pilot.
“I was speechless and my first reaction was to ask, ‘Do you think I’m a terrorist?’,” he said. “He replied ‘no’ and said that was why he told me about it, adding that it was extraordinary and the first time it had happened on an Air France plane.”
Due to the secrecy of the Department of Homeland Security’s “no-fly list,” no one really knows how many names are on it, or who.Â Fliers snagged up in the list have limited recourse for appealing their situation under current laws. Legislation has been introduced in Congress — but so far not moved –Â to make the process more transparent.
According to reports and public statements, there are approximately 400,000 unique individuals on the FBI’s consolidated terror watch list, and more than one million names. In October 2008, then-DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff told reporters there were 2,500 individuals on the no-fly list and 16,000 on the “selectee list,” which directs airlines to send someone to secondary screening at airport checkpoints.