• U.S.

Como Se Dice, Don’t Shoot?

1 minute read
Amanda Bower

I don’t know if this is bandito or it’s amigo, o.k.?” says the voice on the flight recorder. “Es posible we’ll get him to land in Iquitos and check, O.K.?” And later: “Don’t shoot! ¡No mas! ¡No mas!” An audiotape and State Department report released last week make clear that language barriers were a key factor in the mistaken shooting down of a U.S. plane by a Peruvian military jet in April, killing an American missionary, Veronica Bowers, and her daughter Charity. The CIA-contracted U.S. pilots, watching from a surveillance plane, repeatedly voiced concerns, but a Peruvian liaison official onboard, required to know English, did not understand. An intelligence official says the Peruvian had passed a required test in English, but his “abilities deteriorated as the stress rose.” Language fluency is a long-standing CIA problem. On a proficiency scale of 1 (Good morning) to 5 (Let’s discuss Kant), case officers with a 2 are often sent into the field–hardly fluent enough to read a newspaper.

–Reported by Massimo Calabresi

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