Fri, Aug 22, 2003
Resumption of Deadly 'Drug-Interdiction' Flights Not a Good
In case the Administration missed it the first time ["IAOPA
Condemns Peruvian/CIA Attack," 04-25-01, ANN], the International
Council of Aircraft Owner and Pilot Associations (IAOPA) is
reiterating its opposition to the use of deadly force against
civilian aircraft that are not an immediate threat to national
security. IAOPA was responding to a 19 August announcement from the
White House that the United States was resuming the "Airbridge
Denial Program," a drug interdiction assistance program, with the
Republic of Colombia.
The program provides technical assistance, including
surveillance aircraft, to assist in tracking aircraft that might be
engaged in illegal drug activity. This is the first of the
"Airbridge" programs to resume after the tragic shoot down of a
missionary aircraft in Peru in 2001. While the White House said
that Colombia now has "appropriate procedures to protect against
loss of innocent life," IAOPA still maintains that deadly force
against civilian aircraft cannot be justified.
"We support aggressive efforts to stop drug smuggling," said
Phil Boyer, IAOPA president, "but as was so tragically demonstrated
in Peru, the risks of shooting down an innocent aircraft far
outweigh the satisfaction of downing a drug smuggler. The same
modern technology and superior intelligence information which makes
it possible to identify a suspected aircraft in the first place
could just as easily be used to track the aircraft to its landing
point where officials could arrest the suspects."
In the tragic incident
in Peru, covered extensively in Aero-News, a 'Dragonfly'
fighter jet attacked a single-engine Cessna, owned by the
U.S.-based Association of Baptists for World Evangelism, after a
U.S. surveillance plane said it might be a flight ferrying illegal
drugs. A missionary and her infant daughter were shot and killed.
The pilot in command was wounded.
A U.S. State Department insider has told AOPA-USA's Washington
office that resumption of the Airbridge program with Peru is now
also under consideration. However, some American Congressman have
expressed deep concern about the program.
Meanwhile, representatives from AOPA-USA plan to meet with the
State Department to review the details of the "safeguards" in the
Colombian Airbridge Denial Program.
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