FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The State Department and the Cuban Five

When I arrived back in Halifax on September 14, 2014 from talks in Washington about the case of the Cuban Five, there was an envelope waiting for me. It was from the “U.S. Department of State” and there was a sticker on the manila envelope that warned: “To be opened by addressee ONLY.”

The envelope contained the State Department’s response to an almost forgotten Freedom of Information Act request I’d filed four years earlier, on September 9, 2010 (not “2004” as the accompanying letter declared; even the State Department — one hopes — doesn’t take that long to respond to a simple request for information).

Since I’d filed the original request — Case #201005562 — four years ago, I’d periodically emailed the Department for progress reports. On July 12, 2013, a Chris Barnes responded: “I checked the electronic notes on this case. The case is still open. The case notes indicate documents from a search are currently under review. Each case is different and the time it takes depends on the complexity of information requested and the time it takes to review the material.”

Given the time it was taking, I began to hope State Department minions, in their diligent search among musty basement documents and back-room records from more than 15 years before, must have struck the motherlode and were now busily assembling it for me.

So when the Department wrote again on April 1, 2013 — humour unintentional, I’m sure — to “determine if you are still interested” in the files, I immediately responded that I was. “Can you tell me when I can expect a response?”
kimber

No none did — until the envelope arrived in the mail.

The envelope contained 10 pages, three of them the cover letter and boilerplate on Appeals Procedures, on the off chance I wanted to wait another four years for a further answer.

Of the seven remaining pages, there were three documents: “We have determined that two may be released in full and one may be released with excisions.[1] All released material is enclosed.”

The good news was that, “since fewer than 100 pages have been duplicated in this case, your request has been processed without charge to you.” Well, thanks for that.

So what are these documents that took the U.S. government four long years to uncover and vet? [2]

The three documents — two cables and a diplomatic note — all relate to the 1997 Havana hotel bombing campaign, which was masterminded by Cuban exile militant Luis Posada Carriles and financed by members of the powerful Cuban American National Foundation. (Posada acknowledged both those assertions in a 1998 New York Times interview.)

There is nothing especially new in any of the documents, except the claim [3] the US Government asked the Cubans in diplomatic notes on at least five occasions that summer (July 13, August 7 and 21, and September 5 and 11) to “furnish all information it may have in its possession that concretely links US persons or organizations to any of the explosions.”

The first document is an unclassified cable from the US Interest Section in Havana to the State Department, the White House and more than a dozen American embassies. The subject heading: “FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS U.S. RESPONSIBLE FOR CONSEQUENCES OF RECENT HAVANA BOMBINGS.” Reference: “KOZAK/JACOBS TELCON AUGUST 21.” (In government-speak, a telcon is a telephone conference, this one presumably between Michael Kozak, the then-head of the US Interest Section and someone named Jacobs, perhaps Morris E. “Bud” Jacobs, who “held several public diplomacy and policy positions for the Department of State and the U.S. Information Agency” at the time.)

The note focused on statements Cuban Foreign Minister Robert Robaina had made in Granma, the Cuban government daily newspaper, in which he said the United States government had “supported the recent explosions at Havana hotels and would be responsible for whatever consequences that arise… Robaina said that over the years the [Government of Cuba] has given the [US Government] sufficient proof to convict individuals of such crimes, but that US courts prefer to listen to politicized arguments of the defense.”

The cable quoted from its own diplomatic note in response: “Clearly only the Cuban side can be responsible for the consequences of its failure to provide relevant information and evidence.”

In a later diplomatic note referenced in the second cable, the US again urges the Cubans to share information and promises:

“If the Government of the Republic of Cuba furnishes the necessary information and evidence of US-based criminal wrongdoing, the United States Government will take the appropriate law enforcement steps.”

The reality is that they did not.

Fast forward less than a year later to June 1998 when Cuban State Security finally did share the evidence it had gathered with the FBI during three days of meetings in Havana. The FBI promised to investigate and report back to the Cubans.

Instead, three months later, they arrested… not the terrorist plotters but the Cuban intelligence agents who’d helped uncover their plots.

Luis Posada Carriles? He still walks the streets of Miami, a free man.[4]

Stephen Kimber, a Professor of Journalism at the University of King’s College in Halifax, Canada, is the author of What Lies Across the Water: The Real Story of the Cuban Five. It is available directly from the publisher, Fernwood, or as an ebook from the author’s website.

Notes.


[1] The “excision” appears — or actually doesn’t appear — in the Summary section of a cable about a September 19th diplomatic note from the US Interests Section to the Cuban Government. The exemption claimed is for “information specifically authorized by an executive order to be kept secret in the interest of national security of foreign policy.”

[2] To be fair, these documents are at least more to the point than the 400 pages of easily publicly available newspaper clippings the Federal Bureau of Investigation sent me in 2012 after a similar multi-year wait for “relevant” documents concerning the Bureau’s involvement in a series of June 1998 meetings in Havana between the FBI and Cuban State Security concerning terrorist attacks against Cuba.

[3] Interestingly, in their exhaustive search for the material I’d asked for, the State Department apparently didn’t find the text of any of them, except the September 5 and 19 notes. At least they didn’t include them in the material they sent me.

[4] The US government did belatedly acknowledge Posada’s role in plotting the Havana hotel bombings. They didn’t charge him with actually plotting those terrorist attacks, of course, but, in an Orwellian twist, with lying on an immigration form about his role in planning the bombings! During his trial in 2010 — he was acquitted — prosecutors introduced the same documents the Cubans had turned over to them 13 years earlier. And so it goes.

 

More articles by:

February 20, 2019
William A. Cohn
Something New and Something Old: a Story Still Being Told
Bill Martin
The Fourth Hypothesis: the Present Juncture of the Trump Clarification and the Watershed Moment on the Washington Mall
February 19, 2019
Richard Falk – Daniel Falcone
Troublesome Possibilities: The Left and Tulsi Gabbard
Patrick Cockburn
She Didn’t Start the Fire: Why Attack the ISIS Bride?
Evaggelos Vallianatos
Literature and Theater During War: Why Euripides Still Matters
Maximilian Werner
The Night of Terror: Wyoming Game and Fish’s Latest Attempt to Close the Book on the Mark Uptain Tragedy
Conn Hallinan
Erdogan is Destined for Another Rebuke in Turkey
Nyla Ali Khan
Politics of Jammu and Kashmir: The Only Viable Way is Forward
Mark Ashwill
On the Outside Looking In: an American in Vietnam
Joyce Nelson
Sir Richard Branson’s Venezuelan-Border PR Stunt
Ron Jacobs
Day of Remembrance and the Music of Anthony Brown        
Cesar Chelala
Women’s Critical Role in Saving the Environment
February 18, 2019
Paul Street
31 Actual National Emergencies
Robert Fisk
What Happened to the Remains of Khashoggi’s Predecessor?
David Mattson
When Grizzly Bears Go Bad: Constructions of Victimhood and Blame
Julian Vigo
USMCA’s Outsourcing of Free Speech to Big Tech
George Wuerthner
How the BLM Serves the West’s Welfare Ranchers
Christopher Fons
The Crimes of Elliot Abrams
Thomas Knapp
The First Rule of AIPAC Is: You Do Not Talk about AIPAC
Mitchel Cohen
A Tale of Two Citations: Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” and Michael Harrington’s “The Other America”
Jake Johnston
Haiti and the Collapse of a Political and Economic System
Dave Lindorff
It’s Not Just Trump and the Republicans
Laura Flanders
An End to Amazon’s Two-Bit Romance. No Low-Rent Rendezvous.
Patrick Walker
Venezuelan Coup Democrats Vomit on Green New Deal
Natalie Dowzicky
The Millennial Generation Will Tear Down Trump’s Wall
Nick Licata
Of Stress and Inequality
Joseph G. Ramsey
Waking Up on President’s Day During the Reign of Donald Trump
Elliot Sperber
Greater Than Food
Weekend Edition
February 15, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Matthew Hoh
Time for Peace in Afghanistan and an End to the Lies
Chris Floyd
Pence and the Benjamins: An Eternity of Anti-Semitism
Rob Urie
The Green New Deal, Capitalism and the State
Jim Kavanagh
The Siege of Venezuela and the Travails of Empire
Paul Street
Someone Needs to Teach These As$#oles a Lesson
Andrew Levine
World Historical Donald: Unwitting and Unwilling Author of The Green New Deal
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Third Rail-Roaded
Eric Draitser
Impacts of Exploding US Oil Production on Climate and Foreign Policy
Ron Jacobs
Maduro, Guaidó and American Exceptionalism
John Laforge
Nuclear Power Can’t Survive, Much Less Slow Climate Disruption
Joyce Nelson
Venezuela & The Mighty Wurlitzer
Jonathan Cook
In Hebron, Israel Removes the Last Restraint on Its Settlers’ Reign of Terror
Ramzy Baroud
Enough Western Meddling and Interventions: Let the Venezuelan People Decide
Robert Fantina
Congress, Israel and the Politics of “Righteous Indignation”
Dave Lindorff
Using Students, Teachers, Journalists and other Professionals as Spies Puts Everyone in Jeopardy
Kathy Kelly
What it Really Takes to Secure Peace in Afghanistan
Brian Cloughley
In Libya, “We Came, We Saw, He Died.” Now, Maduro?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail