jbear

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The duty to answer international questions about this incident was left to the spokesperson for the Obama State Department. At the time, that position was occupied by Jen Psaki, now the Biden White House Press Secretary. As he so often does, the Associated Press’s State Department reporter Matt Lee led the way in relentlessly pressing Psaki, demanding answers to what role the U.S. played in this incident. As she so often does, Psaki did everything possible to refuse even minimal transparency — neither admitting nor denying that the U.S. was behind all of this — yet she nonetheless made critical concessions at the July 3 State Department Press Briefing:

QUESTION: Did the U.S. have any role in encouraging Western European countries to block the flight of the Bolivian President yesterday? Was there any communication between the U.S. and those countries in the affair?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know because we’ve talked about it quite a bit in here, the U.S. has been in touch – the United States, I should say, officials – have been in touch with a broad range of countries over the course of the last 10 days. And we haven’t – I haven’t listed those countries; I’m certainly not going to do that today.

Our position on Mr. Snowden has also been crystal clear in terms of what we want to happen, and that message has been communicated both publicly and privately in a range of these conversations we’ve had with countries. And let me just repeat: He’s been accused of leaking classified information. He’s been charged with three felony accounts and should be returned to the United States. I don’t know that any country doesn’t think that that is what the United States would like to happen. . . .

QUESTION: There’s been a great deal of criticism though from Latin American leaders about the decision, not least because Snowden doesn’t appear to have been on board. You don’t sound like you’re denying that there were conversations about this. I mean, they – a number of Latin American leaders today have specifically criticized the U.S. for intervening in a diplomatic flight. Are you – am I right in understanding you’re not denying there were conversations about that?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to get into diplomatic conversations that happened over the past 10 days and which countries they were with, but I would point you to the countries that you’re referring to and ask you to ask them about decisions that were made.

QUESTION: But Jen, were you in communication with those countries or alerted to the fact that they would be either – well, not allowing a certain plane to land – the President’s plane?

MS. PSAKI: We have been in contact with a range of countries across the world who had any chance of having Mr. Snowden land or even transit through their countries, but I’m not going to outline when those were or what those countries have been.

QUESTION: Jen —

QUESTION: Why isn’t it unseemly for any country to essentially deny a head of state safe passage through its airspace? Why – regardless of whether Snowden was on that plane, why isn’t that in and of itself patently offensive?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Roz, I would point you to those specific countries to answer that question.

QUESTION: But if the – if a similar situation were to happen involving Air Force One, it would be an international incident.

MS. PSAKI: I’m not getting into a hypothetical. That’s not something that is currently happening that we’re currently discussing. . . .

QUESTION: Can you say whether the United States or whether you are aware that the U.S. Government ever at some point had any information that Snowden might be on this plane?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not aware of – I’m not aware of, but not something I would get into even if I did know. . . .

QUESTION: At the airport, the Austrian authorities searched the plane of Morales. Did the U.S. ask for that?

MS. PSAKI: Again, we – I would point you to all of these individual countries to describe to you what happened and why any various decisions were made.

QUESTION: Did you consult with Austrian authorities when they let the plane touch down, when they let plane go on the ground?

MS. PSAKI: I think my last answer answered that question.

That exchange led to headlines confirming what most had already strongly suspected: “US admits contact with other countries over potential Snowden flights.” As Psaki put it, even while refusing to admit that the U.S. was behind the downing of Morales’ plane: “I don’t know that any country doesn’t think that that is what the United States would like to happen.”

Illustrating how little the U.S. cares about even pretending to abide by the standards it imposes on others, the Biden administration on Monday sent out Psaki herself to condemn Belarus’ conduct as “a shocking act” and “a brazen affront to international freedom and peace and security by the regime.” It would not even occur to Biden officials — just for the sake of appearances if nothing else — to try to find someone to do this other than the same person who, in 2013, obfuscated and defended the actions of the U.S. and E.U. in doing the same thing to Bolivia’s presidential plane. U.S. officials simply do not believe that they are bound by the same standards to which its adversaries must be subjected.