US State Department Out of the Loop on American Pilots Detained in Brazil

During the habitual daily press briefing at the US State Department, yesterday, December 1st, deputy spokesman Tom Casey was asked about the condition of the American pilots who had their passports confiscated and have been detained for more than two months in Brazil after their Legacy executive jet collided with a Boeing 737 causing the death of all 154 people aboard.

From his evasive response, Casey didn’t seem to know anything about the subject. Even though, anyone following the case knows that there are two pilots involved, Joe Lepore and Jan Paladino, and that the collision was between a Boeing and a small jet, the State Department spokesman referred to "several U.S. pilots" who "have been asked to remain in Brazil while Brazilian aviation officials look at the circumstances surrounding the collision of a couple of aircraft."

Twice he told the reporter asking the questions to direct his questioning to the Brazilian authorities. And when asked if the pilots were being treated according to the law, Casey commented: "My understanding at this point is that this investigation and the activities surrounding it are proceeding as we would expect them to."

What follows is an excerpt of the press briefing transcript containing the material related to the American pilots:

QUESTION: Do you have any update for us on the condition of these U.S. pilots that are in Brazil that were part of that crash a couple of months ago? Any update on their condition and what the U.S. might be doing to expedite their release or assist them in any way?

MR. CASEY: Well, I don’t think that there is a lot new that I have to offer you on this. This is the case of several U.S. pilots that are not charged with anything and not under arrest but have been asked to remain in Brazil while Brazilian aviation officials look at the circumstances surrounding the collision of a couple of aircraft. We have continued to be in touch through our consular officers with the individuals themselves and with their family members. We’re certainly in regular contact with the Brazilian Government about that case. We do want to see them conclude the investigation in a way that certainly respects their normal legal and regulatory procedures. But in terms of movement on that, I’d have to refer you to the Brazilian authorities.

QUESTION: Do you have information about the U.S. attempts to get them sent over to the United States?

MR. CASEY: Well, again, this is something that’s proceeding in accordance with Brazilian laws and practices and our main message to the Brazilian Government is we want to make sure that they are treated in accordance with the laws and the standards that Brazil has.

QUESTION: And just one final follow-up? Do you feel that they are being treated within their norms of international and Brazilian law at this point?

MR. CASEY: My understanding at this point is that this investigation and the activities surrounding it are proceeding as we would expect them to, but again I don’t have any real specifics to offer you. You really have to talk to the Brazilians about the details of that investigation.


  • Show Comments (13)

  • DPaul2006

    Clueless in D.C.
    Just another example of how far out of touch this State Dept. is. Hey, I’m a Bushie and I’m still appalled at how clueless this bunch has become. The Spokesman for the State Dept. doesn’t know anything about this case? What cubicle has he been stuck in for the last two months? The American government needs to get it together once and for all. If their response to this case is any indication, then we really are in trouble.

  • anonymous

    to PafÀƒºncio
    From the FAA Airman’s Information Manual, section 4-4-9-g. Please note that the FAA made a point of making its rules adhere to the ICAO (that’s ‘I’ for international) rules and procedures years ago, so this is standard procedure for the ICAO too:

    “The guiding principle is that the last ATC clearance has precedence over the previous ATC clearance. When the route or altitude in a previously issued clearance is amended, the controller will restate applicable altitude restrictions. If altitude to maintain is changed or restated, whether prior to departure or while airborne, and previously issued altitude restrictions are omitted, those altitude restrictions are canceled, including departure procedures and STAR altitude restrictions.”

    The order of precedence (lowest to highest) filed flight plan, departure flight plan (as obtained from clearance before taking off), and then ATC assigned deviations from the flight plan. The reason is that it gives the pilot and controller an implicit contract of expectation if contact is lost between the two. Even if they can’t talk, the controller can make an assumption about what the pilot is doing.

    If they’ve done something wrong, fine. But let’s please make sure it is because they broke a rule, not followed one. Remember, these rules are there to help safety, and this is why these types of procedures are practiced. Even as a lowly 1000 hour general aviation pilot, I have practiced this same scenario in a simulator.

  • DavidB

    I don’t beleive that the US State Department or the Brazilian authories are out of the loop on the American pilots detained in Brazil.
    Let the process run its course. This was a terrible disaster. It warrents a complete investigation.
    It is reasonable to hold the pilots while this occurs.

  • ch.c.

    I have no doubt……
    that the U.S. medias, various administrations and agencies are low key….for the time being……until the US pilots will be freed or accused if they will be found guilty by the Brazilian Justice but not by the International Air Agencies laws and regulations !

    And then the thunderstorms will flash from all over the world to all over Brazil !

    Because thus far, despite the Brazilians allegations from their Pampers Wearing
    Minister accusing the US pilots have yet not been proved , while on the other hand every single defense that this insane Minister had for the Brazilians innocence have ALREADY BEEN PROVEN WRONG……not even by foreigners but by the Brazilians investigators disclosures and revelations…of the messy situations, air control and instructions that prevailed at the time of tragedy but also well earlier, with the ATC’s, blind spots, radar, towers and even the Brazilian software problems !

    Just think, from what has been revealed and disclosed thus far, how UNSAFE have been the millions and millions of Brazilians and Foreigners when they were flying over Brazil…..for the last several years !!!!!.
    Something that Brazilians authorities failed to reveal, on purpose : that the Brazilian skies were NOT as safe as they reassured the many International Air and Safety Agencies !!!!!!
    They were even adamant in their statements to have the best or one of the best World Air Security Systems, Controls, newest Equipments and best ATCs !

    Therefore the more Brazilians Authorities cheat, hide and lie, as they did and still do, the more they put an……AUTOGOAL !!!!!

    Conclusion : let them talk and accuse, because thus far the more they did and still do, the more they contradict themselves !!!!!

    Letting a guilty defending himself with constant contradictions and accusing others, is the best way to find out the final real and sad truth !

  • Bob

    Mr. Casey’s unfortunate responses reflect poorly on the State Department, and further promote their reputation as being aloof and not proactive in assisting Americans overseas in dramatic situations. However, even sorrier is the Brazilian Minister of Defense, who has not only shown extreme incompetence and detachment from reality, but exemplifies the Brazilian President’s proclivity to appoint Ministers based on loyalty and friendship, instead of capacity and know-how. When the Ministry involves human lives, as it does in aviation, incompetence can fatal.

  • Rick

    “Out of the Loop” sounds like a good place to be when lynchings are taking place.

  • Pafúncio

    to Tom
    The pilots share half the responsibility with the controllers. Its their fault if they did not follow or could read the plan flight despite not reaching communication with the towers, are they trained or not? As an American pilot you should be the first one to answer this question. These miserable American employees must respond for their performance or blame their company, although they are protecting themselves and families because they know that in the corporative non-free America their career are done if they do it. But it seems as a pilot you dont care a lot and more deadly accidents will still happen in the skies of America as it happens!

  • Wiken

    “My understanding at this point is that this investigation and the activities surrounding it are proceeding as we would expect them to, but again I don’t have any real specifics to offer you. You really have to talk to the Brazilians about the details of that investigation.”
    The excerpt above is taken from the same press briefing. The first remark is a predictable recogntition that there is nothing for the US to complain about. The second sentence is perhaps more interesting, as it encourages journalists to simply do their job, by going to Brazil to meet the real people in charge of the investigation.
    This is particularly interesting. No American journalist has ever been seen in Brazil, asking questions to the Minister of Defense, or the Air Force Commander, or the ATC personnel, or any other people really involved in this issue. All the information the American media deal with on this is information made available by Brazilian newspapers and magazines.
    All the news – good or bad – concerning the legal situation of the Legacy pilots come from one single source: the Brazilian media. The stories about the bad working conditions of the ATC people in Brazil and the problems of radar coverage in the accident area – pieces of information that the Legacy pilots clearly take advantage of – were not unveiled by the American media, but by Brazilian journalists.
    Brazilians accuse Brazilians for the sole benefit of Americans. Brazilians – not Americans – provide the usual Brazil-haters with all the information they need to practice their favorite sport.
    When the American “cover” this story, they either reproduce Brazilian newspaper reports in a very passive manner or simply indulge in plain scandal-mongering, jingoistic, Joe Sharkey-style journalism.
    As long as the lazy and shy American journalists don’t take this matter seriously – and that implies going to Brazil and having no fear to ask objective questions to the people in charge – no State Dept official will ever take them seriously.

  • Allen Brown


    the State department will not get involved . that would open up a hole new bag of worms , do you think Andrew Witherspoon wants to have to work for that money he gets from the tax payers of the US , I have written him several times and phoned him and as of yet not received a single call back , here is his address

    Andrew Witherspoon
    American Citizens Services
    US Consulate General
    Rua Henri Donant ,500
    ChacaraÀ‚ À‚ Santo Antonio
    Sao Paulo

    as us citizens we have a bunch of nut less people making big money to live in countries like Brazil selling visa to crocked government employees and rich people so they can take there stolen money and buy political favors to hide stolen money .

    while the working class whom come to Brazil and get killed or robed are told

    The press wont do a thing as they don’t think Brazil is news worthy .

    but here is a plan below is the email address of the US Congress And Senate

    This is the senate

    This is the house

    À‚ À‚ À‚ À‚ Be careful what you say and they will respond.À‚ À‚ I would suggest calling the office when you get the right one.À‚ À‚ The strongest persuasion is a hand written letter.À‚ À‚ They figure if you took time to write and mail the letter you are serious.À‚ À‚ Try the email first.À‚ À‚ That can get a congressional started.

    send them a letter no send a bunch of them
    have them right a bill that would require all Brazilians wanting to bring big money in to the US must post a legal document showing where the money came from if not no money in

    then let them see if they will start treating US Citizen like they are treated in the U.S.A

  • Pafúncio

    Lets not even think of America getting “booked”! : P

    Those pilots were involved on the accident and they are essential to the investigations as they are among those who left the accident ALIVE, can you think for a second and breath at the same time?

    Gees make us a favor and do not fly to Braziiiiiiiiiiiiil!!!! Pra frente Brazil zil zil zil !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Yes let’s make the gringos deal with the brazilian police!!!!

    Hope you people LEARN the lesson and don’t think you can do anything you want in here!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Tom

    Whats going on in Brazil is an absolute sham. I am a Bush supporter but I hope that some diplomatic pressure is seriously placed on Brazil VERY soon or I will be very disappointed in the administration. Brazil needs to be embarassed into adering with ICAO treaties concerning aircraft investigations. The only investigation that is going on now is how to incorrectly place blame on these two guys. I am an airline pilot and none of the evidence so far points to the Legacy pilots, all of it points to the Air Traffic Controllers. I will be one of the pilots that refuse to fly to Brazil or deal with that ridiculous ‘government’ in any way in the future. There is no due process going on at all, their passports were not seized legally, but only on the rumor of a pathetic, ridiuclous lunatic named Waldir Perez, a name synonymous with ‘Baghdad Bob’. Everything that he has said is completely false, and Brazil has set back accident investigations about a hundered years. Lets hope they will be embarassed as a nation when the book gets written.

  • Wiken

    I know you’re going to lambast me on this, but the State Dept guy has done nothing but correctly recognized that respect for due process is taking place in this case. The Legacy pilots’ lawyers, who clearly gave up appealing to higher courts to have their passports back, seem to have come to the same conclusion. Chances are, the Legacy crew will be released within a couple of days, after answering questions regarding the blackbox material (which was made available by ICAO a few days ago, and translated into Portuguese). Most probably, they will be indicted for involuntary manslaughter, which will certainly lead to their immediate release. Spending time in prison is a very remote possibility, since it has been settled that their fault was not intentional. This is good news for them, and their lawyers are aware they can’t go any further.

  • Stephen

    State Department spokesman “several U.S. pilots” “have been asked to remain in Brazil
    As I have commented before, The only way you will get the attention of the State dept is to get the mainstream media to run with the story and get transparency and action. The Americans reading this can do this, your media will listen, try the middle to the left, they are jsut looking for a reason to go after the Bush and Condi regime. Where is Ms. Condi on this? Just get a couple of pilots from an American air carrier to refuse to fly flights here and you will see how fast things will move! What would happen to American pilots if they even bumped a Brazilian aircraft on a airport tarmac or apron here? Would they also have to give up their passports until the investigation took place? And where is Joe Sharkeys influence with the NYT. A freelance writer ok, but the Times is sitting on this one!

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