Elements of the German air force — better known as the Luftwaffe —
operating out of U.S. Air Force bases and conducting training over
American soil may be illegal, according to a government watchdog
organization based in New Mexico, where Luftwaffe planes are stationed.
Paragon Foundation says low-level flight training being conducted by German air units out of Holloman Air Force Base near Alamogordo, New Mexico, since April 1996 “may prove to have been unauthorized from the start because the secretary of state and Congress did not approve them.”
At the center of the controversy is a lawsuit originally filed in September 1998 by Otero County rancher Charlie Lee, the Otero County Grazing Association, Otero Cattleman, Lincoln Forest Permittees and others. The suit, which is being financed primarily by Paragon, seeks to block construction of a target complex and low-level flights on Otero Mesa in southeast New Mexico and west Texas.
|German Tornado fighter bomber being refueled over the Mediterranean Sea by a U.S. Air Force KC-135R tanker.|
The controversy worsened a year later, when two German Tornado fighters collided in mid-air outside Carlsbad, New Mexico, barely missing the Marathon Indian Basin Gas Processing Plant and a local ranch. The resulting crash investigation was conducted entirely by German air force personnel — and its findings have not been made available to the American public, even after a memorandum passed in the New Mexico Senate demanding details of the crash and German operational and investigative procedures, Paragon officials told WorldNetDaily.
On Monday, U.S. District Judge Bruce D. Black “changed the complexion” of the case by granting permission to “allow an amendment to the lawsuit challenging the legitimacy of the German air force presence in the U.S.,” said Bob Jones, president of the Paragon Foundation.
“American Air Force officials have not followed proper channels in allowing foreign troops to train in America. This has gone on since the [initial] agreement [in the early 1990s] between former President George Bush and German Chancellor Helmut Kohl. There has never been congressional approval of this foreign training,” Jones said.
“This is a big break in this case. Judge Black’s decision will allow the plaintiffs to depose U.S. State Department and Air Force officials,” said Frank Bond, the lead Paragon attorney in the case. “We can challenge the legal premise for the German air force presence at Holloman. Our team will show that the Secretary of State and Congress had not authorized the German air force to be conducting operations there.”
State Department officials had no comment and referred the matter to the Pentagon. Air Force officials there said they were looking into the matter, but were unable to locate staffers who had the most recent information, a spokesman told WorldNetDaily.
Meanwhile, a public relations official at Holloman told Paragon he didn’t believe the judge’s ruling would have an impact on German operations there, adding that German officials haven’t replied to the New Mexico Senate’s request because “it doesn’t have the force of law.”
German air force spokesman Cmdr. Eckhard Sowoda, also at Holloman, had no comment on the ruling or the German Ministry of Defense’s failure to provide the materials requested by New Mexico lawmakers, the group said.
“The threshold question is whether the United States Air Force legally brought the Germans to Holloman,” said Bond. “The Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the U.S. Air Force and the German Ministry of Defense may be illegal because it was not submitted to the Secretary of State. Once approved by State, the MOA has to be transmitted to Congress.”
He also said that a Memorandum of Agreement is not a legal document, and that the Germans are operating under a “Letter of Diplomatic Approval” instead.
“That letter doesn’t permit the transport of hazardous material,” Bond said, adding that “the Germans are now using live weapons while training” by carrying bombs, rockets and flares.