Viewing cable 04THEHAGUE51

04THEHAGUE512004-01-09 14:04:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy The Hague
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 THE HAGUE 000051 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/09/2009 
Classified By: CDA Daniel R. Russel for reasons 1.5 (b) and (d) 
¶1.     (C) Summary.  After a promising start, Dutch carriers, 
under pressure from pilots, are at this stage not ready to 
allow sky marshals on their flights and would likely choose 
instead to ground flights.  However, carriers are working 
with the pilots' unions and the Ministry of Justice to 
develop a protocol that addresses pilots concerns, which 
center on liability and responsibilities during a mid air 
incident.  The Ministry of Justice is confident that it can 
work through the disagreements and start the sky marshal 
program in four weeks time.  Under MOJ's direction, the Royal 
Military Police have trained a brigade of 10 sky marshals. 
The past week has featured a loud debate in the media among 
the airline employees unions, the carriers, the government, 
and the public -- a debate that includes strong public 
criticism of the MOJ.  End Summary. 
¶2.     (SBU) In the past week Dutch media have covered in 
detail a public dispute between the GONL and pilots over 
how/whether to comply with the USG requirements for armed sky 
marshals on transatlantic flights.  It appeared at first that 
sky marshals would be less of an issue in the Netherlands and 
that Dutch carriers would be able to comply.   But now, under 
pressure from the pilots union, carriers will draw up a 
protocol with unions and the GONL.  The process could take a 
few weeks. 
Dutch Sky Marshals Program 
¶3.     (C) The Dutch Royal Military Police (Marechaussee) 
Special Air Security Branch maintains a small sky marshal 
program.  While the program is administered by the 
Marechaussee (which is technically under the Ministry of 
Defense), the Ministry of Justice directed the creation of 
the program.  The program was launched in 2003 and was 
developed in close coordination with DHS officials.  At the 
moment the Dutch have ten officers who the MOJ says could 
deploy this month.  The program should expand in 2004, 
according to Hendrik Bos of the Marechaussee.  Air marshals 
have a temporary authority to deploy onto Dutch carriers, but 
a permanent legislative solution will be necessary if the 
program were to go long term.  The government has not yet 
authorized the marshals to carry guns, and their armed 
training is not yet complete, according to our Brussels-based 
TSAR.  MOJ has been criticized in the media for caving in to 
"irrational" U.S. security demands, but MOJ makes the point 
that its program has been under development for two years. 
The Ministry of Justice is confident the Dutch sky marshal 
program can be up and running in four weeks. 
Pilots Association Opposes Guns 
¶4.     (SBU) The Dutch Airline Pilots Association (VNV) have 
called for a protocol to be drawn up between MOJ, the 
airlines, and the VNV, that requires air marshals announce 
themselves, their responsibilities, and their weapons to the 
pilot of an aircraft.  Henk de Vries, Chairman of the VNV, 
told EconOff the position of his organization is as follows: 
air marshals can provide an extra contribution to airline 
security if a) there are clear lines of responsibility and 
authority, and b) air marshals carry other than conventional 
firearms.  The VNV strongly objects to air marshals carrying 
firearms because this would conflict with current aviation 
security goals to ban all firearms in the air.  The VNV fears 
the use of firearms would create serious technical and 
legal/liability problems when used on board aircraft.  Since 
the authority and responsibility on board aircraft rests with 
the captain of an aircraft, he/she will be held responsible 
for passengers killed or wounded in action.  VNV has asked 
for an investigation into the use of "intelligent" weapons 
including paralyzers and/or "smart guns."  VNV also wants 
cameras in cockpits.  The VNV is interested to know the USG 
position on pilot liability/responsibility on board an 
aircraft in case of an incident.  De Vries told post that the 
VNV will urge its members on January 9 to refuse to fly with 
air marshals equipped with conventional firearms, regardless 
of the aircraft's final destination. 
¶5.     (SBU) The Dutch flight attendants union has joined the 
discussion as well, making known its opposition to the 
deployment of sky marshals.  Their reading of national and 
international law stipulates that cabin crew members have 
authority over the cabin, and therefore should take the lead 
over sky marshals during emergency situations. 
KLM -- Complaints, But Working on Agreement 
¶6.     (C) On January 8, EconOff spoke with Teun Platenkamp, 
who holds the title of Sr. VP of Security Services at KLM, 
and also serves as Chairman of the Association of European 
Airlines (AEA) Civil Aviation Security Committee.  KLM is 
committed to working on the aforementioned protocol and 
expects it to be finished in two weeks.  Like the pilots 
union, KLM states that the primary point of aviation security 
should be at the airport, not in the sky.  Platenkamp pointed 
out Schiphol's tight baggage and passenger screening systems, 
in particular for transatlantic flights.  Nevertheless, KLM 
says it is not/not opposed to the air marshals request in 
principle, and is working hard to meet the requirements. 
Plantenkamp voiced objections to manner in which the 
emergency amendments were communicated to the Dutch.  KLM was 
initially surprised by the USG announcement of requiring 
government-employed armed air marshals on some 
foreign-operated transatlantic flights.  But the problem was 
aggravated in that the emergency amendments were delivered 
directly to airlines instead of to governments first.  The 
result was that carriers and unions had little time to react, 
and issued quick statements, which caused the debate to be 
conducted in the open media.  KLM argues that air security 
would have been better served if the discussion between the 
GONL, carriers, and the employees unions could have taken 
place in a more orderly fashion, rather than through a public 
media war of press releases and editorials.  Platenkamp 
identified another potential hurdle:  he predicts that pilots 
and airlines will not simply acquiesce to the posting of an 
air marshal in response to a threat; instead, airlines and 
pilots will demand to know the nature of a threat so they may 
decide for themselves whether or not they want to fly. 
¶7.     (C) Platenkamp welcomes an open discussion with the 
USG that will lead to a carefully considered, mutually 
agreeable air marshals policy.  He warns that setting up a 
last-minute, hasty arrangement "could work against us all." 
Platenkamp took time to reinforce his organization's 
commitment to guaranteeing safe air travel and noted that KLM 
wants very much not to have to cancel flights, such as what 
happened to British Airways and Air France.  Platenkamp noted 
that the Dutch DG for Civil Aviation will attend the January 
16 meeting of DGs in Brussels on the subject of the new U.S. 
security requirements.