On January 12, 2010 the State Department filed a cable to DC: "Algerian Fm: TSA Listing "intolerable, Inappropriate, Inopportune."" It communicated to Washington the Algerian government's upset over TSA's inclusion of the north African nation on its "enhanced security" watch-list, which at that time contained fourteen countries. Citing enhanced cooperation with the Americans on counterterrorism issues, the Algerian foreign minister told US Ambassador David Pearce that "the GOA [Government of Algeria] had been extremely disappointed with Algeria's inclusion in the TSA list, as well as the press coverage the decision had generated. The decision was intolerable, inappropriate, and inopportune."
The Algerians were reportedly concerned about more than just national humiliation; charges of religious discrimination and hypocrisy were also leveled against the United States.
The GOA protested the discriminatory nature of the whole list. Thirteen of the 14 countries listed were Muslim. This sent a message that was inconsistent with President Obama's Cairo speech, and the administration's stated policy of outreach to Muslim communities. The decision will likely give further impetus to those who already question the sincerity of the administration's approach.
In a rhetorical flourish somewhat unusual for the typically staid, understated cables, Pearce finishes his communique by issuing what reads like a stern warning to the policy makers in DC: do something or else all of these interests may be compromised.
It is noteworthy that Medelci began and ended this conversation by stressing the importance the Algerian leadership attaches to continuing bilateral cooperation, especially on counterterrorism. But in-between, however, he delivered an unmistakable message that the GOA feels the TSA moves are inconsistent with that relationship and that they will be watching closely to see how we respond to this demarche. Over the past year, we have had a green light to develop important new ties across the board, from military to law enforcement. That light has now turned yellow.
Maybe the special terror watch-lists for Muslim nations isn't such a good idea after all. Indeed, the Sudanese government was also reportedly perturbed by its inclusion on the list; CBS cites another cable wherein the US government advises Sudan that its officials would not be subject to the enhanced screening measures, only its people. Firedoglake cites a host of cables showing that other countries also protested.
Likely the governments of those nations are also providing key corporate and security related information, access and dollars to the US. Can the US have its cake and eat it too?
Your move, US government.