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Cablegate: Gos and Media Complain About Enhanced U.S. Aviation

VZCZCXRO6813
OO RUEHROV RUEHTRO
DE RUEHKH #0074/01 0131304
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O R 131301Z JAN 10
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0015
INFO IGAD COLLECTIVE
UN SECURITY COUNCIL COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KHARTOUM 000074

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS
NSC FOR MGAVIN, LETIM
DEPT PLS PASS USAID FOR AFR/SUDAN
ADDIS ABABA ALSO FOR USAU

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ASEC EAIR KPAO OIIP PREL PTER SU
SUBJECT: GOS AND MEDIA COMPLAIN ABOUT ENHANCED U.S. AVIATION
SCREENING; SERVE NOTICE OF POSSIBLE RECIPROCITY

1. (SBU) Summary: Government of Sudan (GOS) officials and
state-controlled media have reacted negatively to the news of
enhanced airport security screening for U.S.-bound Sudanese
nationals. Complaints centered on Sudan's inclusion on the list of
countries receiving increased scrutiny by the U.S. Transportation
Security Administration (TSA). Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA)
Undersecretary Mutriff Siddiq informed Charge d'Affaires that the
GOS may reciprocate with similar screening for U.S. passengers
entering Sudan. He urged that the U.S. provide clarification on
what the new procedures entailed. Reaction to news of enhanced
screening was further complicated by a January 8 Warden Message,
issued by U.S. Embassy Khartoum, warning of a potential attack
against Air Uganda flights between Juba and Kampala. Noting that
the GOS was not notified of the message prior to its posting,
Siddiq urged that in the future such information be communicated to
the GOS in advance. End Summary.

--------------------------------

GOVERNMENT THREATENS RECIPROCITY

--------------------------------

2. (SBU) On January 11, CDA Whitehead called on MFA Undersecretary
Mutriff Siddiq by mutual agreement to discuss a range of issues,
including enhanced screening requirements for Sudanese nationals
traveling to the United States following the December 25 attempt
by Abdul Farouk Umar Abdulmutallab to blow up a Delta flight.
Siddiq expressed confusion over the new security directives - "it's
not clear to us what these new procedures are." Regarding Sudan's
inclusion for such scrutiny due to its being on the U.S. State
Sponsors of Terrorism List, Mutriff argued that Sudan should not
have been singled out, noting that the GOS continues to cooperate
closely with the USG on counterterrorism issues. Siddiq warned the
CDA that the GOS reserves the right to reciprocate with
proportionate enhanced security for U.S. nationals traveling to
Sudan. "We have been quite lenient in the past [towards Americans],
but we will have to accord you the same treatment," he said.

3. (SBU) Siddiq also expressed concern over whether official
delegations or government ministers would be subjected to the new
security procedures, given the upcoming trip to Washington for
consultations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) by GOS
Finance Minister Awad Aljaz, a regime hardliner with a well-known
anti-U.S. bias. Asked whether Aljaz should be advised to cancel his
trip, CDA responded that while government ministers were exempted
from enhanced screening under TSA guidelines, he could make no
guarantees for treatment of Aljaz by security personnel in transit
countries.

------------------

LOCAL MEDIA REACTS

------------------

4. (SBU) Local media, especially those with pro-government views,
reacted angrily to the news of enhanced screening. Pro-government
Sudan Vision reported that "the American administration is
tightening security measures at all of its airports against Arabs
and Muslims, besides setting up new systems to screen passengers in
grave violation of human rights." Following President Obama's
January 7 remarks on "Strengthening Intelligence and Aviation
Security," media reaction to the news of enhanced screening was
further complicated by a January 8 Warden Message issued by U.S.
Embassy Khartoum. The message alerted Americans to a "potential
threat against commercial aviation transiting between Juba, Sudan
and Kampala, Uganda by regional extremists." After the Embassy
placed the Warden Message on the Consular website, the Public
Affairs section received a flurry of inquiries from local and
international media as to whether there was any link between the
security threat and the President's remarks.

KHARTOUM 00000074 002 OF 002


5. (SBU) The issuance of the Warden Message caught the GOS by
surprise. MFA Undersecretary Siddiq complained to the CDA that the
MFA, Civil Aviation Authority and National Intelligence and
Security Service (NISS) had not been informed prior to its posting.
While Siddiq did not question the integrity or utility of the
message, he urged that in the future such information be shared
beforehand. CDA agreed on the need for better communication in the
future.

-----------------------------------

HEIGHTENED SECURITY AT JUBA AIRPORT

-----------------------------------

6. (SBU) Following dissemination of the Warden Message, both the
Government of Southern Sudan (GOSS) and Air Uganda took steps to
heighten their security posture. On January 10, Air Uganda
suspended its service into Juba pending a review of its security
procedures, while on January 11 the GOSS changed procedures at the
airport, requiring cars to park across the street from the
terminal, checking all tickets and IDs before allowing people to
enter terminal, and restricting access to the runway. The Southern
Sudan Police Service (SSPS) has been deployed to Juba airport to
carry out the new security policy; the GOSS Minister of Internal
Affairs reportedly oversaw the operation himself for approximately
three hours on January 11. However, authorities were still not
screening passengers taking flights via the VIP Lounge at Juba
Airport or scanning their hand-carry luggage. Post intends to
explore how it can provide the GOSS with FAA or TSA technical
assistance and advice on how to improve security at Juba
International Airport. Air Uganda is planning to resume
Juba-Kampala flights as soon as possible, but is asking Sudanese
security officers carry out additional screenings of passengers
before boarding Juba-Kampala flights.

7. (SBU) Comment: Negative reaction to the enhanced security
screening and possible reciprocity are hardly a surprise, but will
likely contribute to the belief by many Sudanese that they are
being unjustly singled out for political reasons. While the new
measures are unlikely to deter ordinary Sudanese from applying for
U.S. visas, it remains to be seen whether the enhanced screening
will change the travel plans of some senior government officials
such as Aljaz. Post requests specific information that we can share
with the GOS on what the new TSA procedures entail and how they
will be applied. End Comment.
WHITEHEAD

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