Wednesday, November 28, 2012

More on the Alan Gross case

After the lawyer for jailed USAID contractor Alan Gross alleged that he has a cancerous growth on his back that Cuban medical staff are leaving untreated – “misdiagnosed” by Cuban doctors, his wife alleged – the Cuban government has responded with a statement (English here) saying that he does not have cancer.  American diplomats in Cuba were presented the results of an October 24 biopsy – performed on that date because Mr. Gross had previously refused to have one performed – that showed negative results.

The Cuban statement also said that Gross’ weight is “normal” and he engages in a “voluntary regimen of systematic physical exercise” that, together with “a balanced diet of his choice,” has eliminated “his previous condition of obesity.”

Gross’ lawyer, Jared Genser, responded today with a complaint that Cuba had released information on his client’s medical condition that should be treated confidentially.  (Genser himself had no compunction about releasing last month a report on Gross’ medical condition written by a U.S. doctor who had not examined him.)

Here are stories from AP and the New York Times.  Also, an AP article from yesterday on a visit made to Mr. Gross by a U.S. physician who is also a rabbi, another from Global Post, and a ridiculous article by Professor Jaime Suchlicki of the University of Miami.

Several of these articles mention a lawsuit that attorneys for Mr. Gross filed against the U.S. government seeking compensation for his suffering based on the government’s alleged negligence.  Today’s Times story includes this:

Scott Gilbert, one of the Gross family’s lawyers, said the case could be especially damaging for the State Department and DAI if the discovery process produces more examples of unqualified and ill-prepared contractors sent to Cuba. He said the suit would draw attention to the American government’s pro-democracy effort, which Mr. Gilbert described as “flawed in conception” and “completely messed up” in execution.

The main complaint in the lawsuit is here (pdf).  Some points of interest:

·         It sets out very clearly (p.9) that the USAID program derives from the Helms-Burton law and is geared toward changing the political order in Cuba. 

·         It cites elements of USAID manuals that discuss counterintelligence training (p.11).

·         It claims that the U.S. Interests Section and USAID were supposed to be communicating with each other regarding Mr. Gross’ trips (p.19).  What I understand from U.S. officials is that at the time of the arrest, U.S. diplomats in Cuba had no idea who he was or what he was doing, and that only after this episode was a mechanism established whereby the State Department would be informed when USAID operatives were going into Cuba.

·         Beginning on page 20, it reviews Mr. Gross’ trips to Cuba, noting that in each instance he came home, he warned his employer (DAI, a USAID contractor based in Maryland) about the risks inherent in his activity (perceived by him and the Cubans with whom he was working), those warnings were ignored, he was often urged by DAI to get on with the program, he returned to Cuba, and DAI continued making money from the program.

Interesting reading. 

Of course Mr. Gross was making plenty of money too, and it sort of jumps off the page that the lawsuit assigns responsibility to everyone but Mr. Gross for the trips that he himself made to Cuba, even after perceiving the dangers.  It should also be noted that while Mr. Gross was issuing his warnings, he also continued his modus operandi of traveling to Cuba along with American Jewish delegations and having unwitting members of those delegations carry some of his equipment.  Not a nice guy.

The lawsuit seeks payment of damages from DAI and the U.S. government, and it is clearly part of a strategy to press the Obama Administration to negotiate for Mr. Gross’ release.  In that vein, the lawyer’s threat to use the discovery process to disclose lots if information about USAID’s Cuba activities give the Administration heartburn.  As for the contention that the government was negligent, I don’t know if I have ever seen a USAID document about the Cuba program that does not warn of the risks involved in its Cuba operations, and some even state explicitly that the program violates Cuban law.

More background: on the Cuban case against Mr. Gross; on the U.S. government’s handling of the case (here and here) and everything I have ever posted on the case here.


Anonymous said...

This Kabuki Dance, now in its 50 year should come to an end between the U.S. and Cuba because while many confuse it to serve each country's national interests, the embargo is a relic of the past. The Castro government liked the embargo because it masks the economic failures to move Cuba barely into the 20th century. It was always an excuse to have an enemy to the north. The U.S. wants the embargo because it was convenient in appealing to the Cuban American communities in Florida and New Jersey for votes in presidential elections. So Alan Gross and "The Cuban Five", who in most other cases of espionage cases would be traded and released, become pawns in this Kabuki show. But this has happened before in slightly different contexts. Jimmy Carter was close to normalization and along came the Mariel boat lift. Same with Bill Clinton and we had the "Brothers to the Rescue" incident. With the Obama administration, we have seen a cautious movement with allowances for Cuban Americans to see family and increase remittances along with more limited cultural exchanges that we had in Clinton's second term. Will we see a bolder initiative from Obama in his second term? Has Raul Castro calculated that Americans visiting Cuba can be the best way to improve the economy while maintaining political control similar to Vietnam? It would seem that the first steps must begin with both governments dealing with the cases of Alan Gross and thenCuban Five.

brianmack said...

We're not living in communist cuba
nor china so it's obvious why Mr. Gross was arrested. What's obscene
is how the present government is treating this matter. I am seeing
quite a bit of press in various circles indicating that there just
might be an accommodation that will
release Mr. Gross.

Anonymous said...

There are two aspects to this whole imbroglio that must be dealt with.

The first and most urgent is finding a viable human solution to the situtions shared by both Alan Gross and the Cuban five.

This would not only return them to their respective countries and to their individual lives but clear the chief obstacle to progress in the negotiations between both governments based on the principle of the conditional lifting of the embargo.

In order to do this the key is to carry out a prisoner swap.

But in order to be viable this prisoner swap must not be unequal.

Swapping Alan Gross for the Cuban five will look to the US public like a blackmail imposed on the US government by a weak third world totalitarian dictatorship and would not be able to get off the ground.

The real solution would be be a multiprisoner swap where in order to get their five agents back the Cuban government would have to free not only Alan Gross but at least four more political prisoners,

This would be a humanitarian solution for a greater number of prisoners involved on vboth sides of the Florida Straits and would allow both governments to make such a swap without losing face.

General Rafael Del Pino has proposed some Cuban Army officers jailed for political opposition to the regime or accused of spying for the US that could be considered for such a swap and there are also Cuban american political opponents of the Castro regime that were imprisoned for invading Cuba with weapons.

So there are a sufficient number of candidates that could be freed in exchange for the Cuban five.

So let us get on with negotiating a quick solution to this roadblock so that all the prisoners involved can be freed and get on wioth their lives and so that both governments can engage in solving other more substantive problems such as the conditional lifting of the embargo.

Anonymous said...

The second aspect of the enchilada is purely internal and has nothing to do with the Cuban government.

A serious investigation must be conducted by some agency of the US government, be it a Congressional Investigating Committee, the FBI, the Inspector General of the State Department on the DAI program that led to Alan Gross imprisonment.

The whole implementation of a program to create a mesh network in the island was so incredibly stupid that one is led to suspect either the sheer ineptitude of the decision makers that sent Alan Gross to his fate or to the desire to create a provocation that would halt all progress towards a betterment of relations between both governments.

Certain obviously stupid decisions must be explained and accounted for.

For example, asking a private subcontractor to take unnecessary risks attempting on five different occasions to smuggle sophisticated electronic equipment through the Cuban Customs which could have been taken into the country legally without any risks through the diplomatic mail.

Also attempting to set up the bgans receiving and transmitting equipment necessary for the functioning of a mesh network within territory under the jurisdiction of the Cuban government instead of inside diplomatic missions where they would be legal and work just as effectively.

Both decissions unnecesarily endangered Alan Gross and other fellow Jews.

The first risked other members of teh American Jewish community that were innocently trying to pass sophisticated electronic equipment through the Cuban customs without being unaware that they were violating cuban law and placing themselves and their religious mission in danger.

The attempt to set up such equipment within the buildings run by Jewish NGO's in Cuba, also unnecessarily endangered members of the Cuban Jewish communities.

Someone within DAI must answer for this!

The same holds true for creating an unnecessary incident that did not allow the mesh network to be created in Cuba and that will retard its implementation until after Alan Gross is freed.

The incident also held up progress in beginning meaningful negotiations between both governments to carry out a democratic transition in the island.

For all these reasons, the investigation should focus on discovering who was responsible for all these mistakes and whether they were made through ineptitude or due to a desire to sabotage President Obama's foreign policy with respect to the island.


Anonymous said...

obviously, mr gross was arrested because he broke the law of cuba -- which he recognized he was doing. so i don't understand the previous comment about why mr gross was arrested. and it is so obvious mr gross knew exactly what he was doing was in violation of cuban law (as it would be under USA law as well) so it is hard to fathom why he has never taken responsibility. no one put a gun to his head to take all that money to do illegal activities in cuba.

John McAuliff said...

Pity the State Department spokespersons who must present with a straight face the US rationalization for its international isolation on the embargo and its refusal to accept responsibility for a well paid amatuer covert operative Alan Gross.

My comment on the former at the end of our last newsletter here

and on the Gross case here

John McAuliff
Fund for Reconciliation and Development

Anonymous said...

In reply to the anonymous comment made on 11/30 at 2.06 PM.

Dear Fellow Cuban Triangle Fan,

I am not suggesting that Alan Gross is blameless.

He clearly knew what he was getting into and the danger he was running and must have made a good cost benefit analysis before he accepted the project.

But IMHO he has already not only paid the full consequences for his mistake but he has also been overcharged and is paying for more than his share of the blame.

What he did does not make him the only one guilty, the high officials or DAI must share their part of the blame as the intellectual authors of the whole affair.

After all they were the ones that made the key decision of such a project.

1- What the objective of such a mission would be?
2- How it should be carried out?
3- That the project should be outsourced.
4- Who made out its guidelines and requested plans to carry it out.
5- Who approved the project presented by the private contractor.
6- Who signed the contract, supervised it and paid Gross for his activities.

They were after all, the ones who designed "mission impossible" and who laid out the cash that made possible to outsource this suicidical task a potential patsy.

Why instead of doing this did they not ask for the task of creating and maintaining a mesh network be assigned to diplomatic personnel who were the ones that could have carried it out without risks of any sort?

IMHO their share of the blame is much higher than Alan Gross.

He was just their pawn who was willing to be manipulated and run the risks because of the financial rewards he was being offered by the real masterminds of the whole affair.

If a hypothetical contract killing was being prosecuted do you believe that the DA should go only after the contract killer or would you favor that he should also accuse the person or persons who paid for the job?

If you agree that the mastermind bears a share of the blame, how should he be held accountable for it?

I think you would agree that whoever is responsible cannot be put in jail for:
1- Their negligence and/or ineptitude.
2- Or for recklessly endangering the life of:
a- A US citizen
b- Innocent members of the US and Cuban Jewish community
3- Or for sabotaging:
a- The implementation of a mesh network in the island
b- The Obama Administration's policy towards Cuba,

I think that due to this they should at least:
1- Be fired to stop them from carrying out similar ineptitude projects in the future.
2- Be subject to civil suits from the Gross family for having designed a clearly deficient plan that put Mr. Gross in prison.

But of course this requires that those responsible should be identified first.

Hence the need for an investigation of some sort to find out what really happened and who did it.

All the above is logically coherent and is a direct consequence of the obviously childish way the whole project was put together.

Frankly that is no way to run a railroad!

Consequently, I would not even dare to hire the guys that planned this project to take my dog out for his walk every morning!

I would not be able to work thinking that Fido might end up in the dog catcher's hands!

. Cantaclaro