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Alan Gross and the Free Press

Do Reporters Read?

by SAUL LANDAU

Less than 3 years ago, Cuban authorities arrested Alan Gross, who had an almost $600,000 contract with DIA.Inc., to carry out a USAID program in Cuba.

At his Havana trial, Gross heard Cuban authorities present his trip reports in which he revealed how he supplied a pre-selected group of mostly Jewish Cubans with sophisticated and illegal technology.

Gross smuggled the parts into Cuba “piece by piece, in backpacks and carry-on bags.” These included “laptops, smartphones, hard drives and networking equipment,” wrote Desmond Butler. “The most sensitive item, according to official trip reports, was… a specialized mobile phone chip that experts say is often used by the Pentagon and the CIA to make satellite signals virtually impossible to track.”

With Gross’ sophisticated SIM card the group could also defuse signal tracking. His secrecy was not intended to keep Cuban officials from learning Jewish matzo ball recipes.

The U.S. Agency for International Development funded the operation as part of its “democracy promotion” plan “to provide economic, development and humanitarian assistance around the world in support of U.S. foreign policy goals. Gross, however, identified himself as a member of a Jewish humanitarian group, not a representative of the U.S. government.”

On May 11, 2012, some three months after Butler’s article appeared, State Department Press Briefing officer Victoria Nuland fielded a question.

“Yesterday, Josefina Vidal, a Cuban official …said [on CNN] that they’ve conveyed some kind of offer to the U.S. Government on the release of Alan Gross.  Is there any possibility at all of negotiation on that front?

NULAND: “Go back to an interview Secretary Clinton gave to CNN….  There is no equivalence between …convicted spies — [in the 1990s, Cuban agents infiltrated exile terrorist groups in Miami to stop their terrorism in Cuba. The agents fed their information via Havana to the FBI who after years of using their data arrested them. In 2001, a jury convicted and a judge sentenced them to draconian terms] — in the United States, and… an assistance worker who should never have been locked up in the first place.”

Did she not read Butler’s piece?

“So we are not contemplating any release of the Cuban Five, and we are not contemplating any trade.  The continuing imprisonment of Alan Gross is deplorable, it is wrong, and it’s an affront to human decency.  And the Cuban Government needs to do the right thing.”

QUESTION: “Why is it okay to talk about trading with the Taliban but not with the Cubans for a U.S. person that’s been in jail and is in poor health?”

MS. NULAND: “There’s no equivalency in these situations, and the Cuban Government knows that.  This is a matter of a sitting government [the Taliban governed Afghanistan before US troops invaded in 2001] having locked up an assistance worker on no basis whatsoever. …I mean, our view is he did nothing wrong.”

Ignoring facts in Butler’s AP story. the State Department insists Gross “was distributing laptops and standard computer equipment to help the Jewish community access the Internet.”

In fact, however, as La Alborada reported, Gross was establishing an infrastructure for an encrypted satellite-communications system to spread unrest in Cuba and permit US supervisors to build democracy. “Gross as its expert operator, was only a cover-up based on Gross’ being Jewish and an active supporter, in the US, of B’nai B’rith, presentable as a kind of Jewish Santa Claus for Internet-deprived Cubans of his religion.”

Cuba did not arrest Gross for “trying to help fellow Jews share religious and cultural information; he is in jail for being an agent of a foreign country in a program intended to destabilize …the government of Cuba.”

Why do we have a press if government officials don’t read or refer to it? Even reporters ignore it. Wolf Blitzer either faked ignorance or was uninformed when he interviewed Hilary Clinton and Alan Gross.

But Desmond Butler read Gross’ trip reports as did “USAID officials [who] received regular briefings on his progress, according to DAI spokesman Steven O’Connor.”

Butler shows how, in order “to avoid airport scrutiny, Gross enlisted the help of other American Jews to bring in electronic equipment a piece at a time. He instructed his helpers [Jews on religious trips to Cuba] to pack items, some of them banned in Cuba, in carry-on luggage, not checked bags.”

In her May 11 press briefing Nuland “categorically reject[ed] the charges against him, and the fact that he’s been locked up …with no cause” She also forgot to read, Judy Gross’ — his wife  — statement to a TV reporter. “We know now that he [Alan] did break Cuban law. He did not know that until he got to Cuba and was arrested.

Dear Judy,

Please send a copy of your interview to Secretary of State Clinton, President Obama and their press officers. Then, in front of the White House and State Department, hold up the key “Alan-did-break-Cuban-law” sentence on the off chance someone might notice.

Lots of luck. Saul.

Saul Landau’s WILL THE REAL TERRORIST PLEASE STAND UP screens at NCORE in NYC June 1 at the Marquis Marriott, 1535 Broadway. Landau is an Institute for Policy Studies fellow.