The extraordinary events of the last day–blow-by-blow live blog here from the Guardian–have certainly raised plenty of legal and diplomatic issues. What is the legality of diverting a head of state’s official plane, or even refusing airspace, despite the plane reporting being low on fuel? Did the US pressure European countries, especially France, Portugal, Spain and Italy to refuse landing rights on the suspicion that Edward Snowden was on board the Bolivian president’s flight?
Bolivia has labeled this an “act of aggression” and if the head of state’s plane counts as sovereign territory–in the way an embassy does–then they may well be justified in seeking some satisfaction (RT is reporting they will complain to the UN).
In not unrelated news, as the Guardian puts it, Ecuador will today announce who they think is behind the “bug” they found in their embassy in London last month. This is the embassy where Julian Assange has been granted political asylum for fears the US will extradite him to face charges of publishing leaks.
As several people have pointed out, this refusal of overflying airspace is in marked contrast to the extraordinary rendition permissions:
Hundreds of US torture flights flew over EU w the tacit knowledge of EU govts. Not a single 1 of them was prevented from using EU airspace.—
Maher Arar (@ArarMaher) July 03, 2013
But I think this presents a great example of what several people, including Pete Adey and Stuart Elden, are calling the “politics of verticality,” a term attributed to Eyal Weizman in 2002. See this paper by Adey, Mark Whitehead and Alison J. Williams in Theory, Culture & Society for example. They ask specifically what is the nature of an “air target” (on the ground, but after last night’s events presumably also a target in the air); what cultural practices make up the air target; and finally what are the affective rationalities involved?
If their paper is more about targeting (from the air), last night’s events prompt us to reverse that and also enquire about aerial targets and vertical geopolitics.