Another No-Fly List screw up: Top Indonesia general blocked from flying to Pentagon’s terrorism conference

Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, talks with Gen. Gatot Nurmantyo, commander in chief of the Indonesian National Defense Forces, at the Pentagon, Feb. 18, 2016. (DoD photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro)

The federal government’s secretly administered no-fly list took another ding Sunday, when Indonesia’s top general was blocked from boarding his flight to the United States on the invitation of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. for an anti-terrorism conference.

“Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford invited Commander of the Indonesian Armed Forces Gen. Gatot Nurmantyo to attend a Chiefs of Defense Conference on Countering Violent Extremism being held Oct. 23 through Oct. 24 in Washington,” said a statement released by the U.S. embassy in Jakarta.

“General Gatot was unable to travel as planned,” the statement said. “The Embassy was in touch with the General’s staff about this matter throughout the weekend, working to facilitate his travel. U.S. Ambassador Joseph Donovan has apologized to Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi for any inconvenience to General Gatot.”

Reuters reported:

“We’ve asked for clarification to the US, to the Department of State as well as the embassy in Jakarta and until now we’re still waiting for that clarification,” Indonesia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Retno Marsudi told Reuters.

The ministry’s spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir earlier said Indonesia’s embassy in Washington was to send a diplomatic note to the US secretary of state demanding an explanation for the incident.

The ministry will also summon the US deputy ambassador in Jakarta on Monday to seek explanation, Nasir said, adding that the ambassador is presently not in Indonesia.

The American embassy in Jakarta also pledged to help the general rebook his flight.

“The U.S. Embassy was, and remains, prepared to facilitate the General’s travel to the United States. We remain committed to our Strategic Partnership with Indonesia as a way to deliver security and prosperity to both our nations and peoples,” the statement said.

In February 2016, Indonesia’s top general held extensive talks with Dunford at the Pentagon–talks that were punctuated by an elaborate military parade and review hosted by Duford for his Indonesia counterpart.

Gatot is a major figure in Indonesia, which maintains the veneer of a democracy, but also gives its military tremendous influence in the political, social and economic spheres.

In addition to the diplomatic embarrassment, Gatot’s appearance on the no-fly list is a reminder of the mysterious database that Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R.-Wis.) wanted to make a part of his program to restrict gun rights.

There is no public access to the no-fly list and no process to learn is you are on the list nor a process to appeal your inclusion on the list.

The no-fly list is maintained by the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center and is supplemented by the Secondary Security Screening Selection program, which tagged passengers for further scrutiny when “SSSS” is printed on their boarding pass.

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