FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Who Was Alan Gross Working For?

Alan P. Gross, an American arrested in Cuba in 2009 for smuggling broadband satellite communications equipment, made world headlines on December 2014 when he was released the same day that US president Obama ordered the release of three Cubans who were in American prisons serving sentences for espionage. Press reports mentioned that Gross was in the Caribbean island in his capacity as a subcontractor for USAID, a US government agency that administers aid programs abroad. Throughout its history this agency has been accused of being an arm of US foreign policy and at worst a mere front for intelligence operations rather than the neutral and apolitical provider of aid to poor countries that it pretends to be. In 2014 USAID was caught red-handed in bizarre schemes to destabilize Cuba through Twitter and by funding hip hop artists.

A lesser known fact is that Gross was in Cuba working for a USAID contractor called Development Alternatives Inc. (DAI), a company that supervises and executes economic development projects all over the world. In 2010 it was USAID’s fifth biggest contractor, raking in almost $382.5 million in contracts just in that year.

DAI has also worked for the US State Department, the Pentagon, the World Bank, the United Nations, the European Commission, and private sector giants like Monsanto, Wal-Mart, Hewlett Packard, Sun Microsystems, Exxon Mobil, Daimler Chrysler, Unilever and The Gap.

“We tackle fundamental social and economic development problems caused by inefficient markets, ineffective governance, and instability”, says DAI about its work. “Since 1970, we have worked in more than 150 countries—delivering results across the spectrum of international development contexts, from stable societies and high-growth economies to challenging environments racked by political or military conflict.”

The company’s services include: corporate social responsibility, public-private partnerships, business strategy, exploration and analysis of market opportunities, integration of small businesses and small farmers into global value chains, food security and agribusiness promotion, financial services, drafting laws to make competitive economies, innovation and entrepreneurship, gender issues, climate change adaptation, carbon markets, water resources management, market environmentalism, legislative reform, citizen participation, public safety, health care, information and communications technology, and more. In short, if you want to set up a country from scratch, just call DAI.

According to Sourcewatch, a sort of Wikipedia of the left:

“DAI acted as a conduit for USAID (through the Office of Transition Initiatives) and National Endowment for Democracy (NED} funds to the Venezuelan opposition to president Hugo Chavez. Furthermore, it was instrumental along with NED affiliated organizations for financing black propaganda on Venezuelan private network TV during the general strike in 2002. Documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request show that DAI was required to keep certain personnel in Venezuela and had to consult with USAID about staff changes. Philip Agee, a former CIA officer, suggests that this is merely a cover for what passed for CIA operations in the past.”

The company’s own web site informs that it has played an important role in the United States’ geopolitical and military strategy in the Middle East:

“Following the 9/11 attacks of 2001 and the subsequent U.S. military actions, DAI was called on to lead a variety of challenging development projects in the midst of the counterinsurgency in Afghanistan, a country where we worked as early as 1977. Similarly, after the United States toppled the Iraqi regime in 2003, DAI won a project to help provide legitimate governance in the country. Other assignments in Iraq covered agriculture.”

It is most interesting that DAI would be in Afghanistan in 1977, way before the Soviet invasion, just when the CIA was arming and training an islamic fundamentalist insurgent force to destabilize the country.

According to a 2011 article in The Guardian by Jonathan Steele:

“Western backing for these (Afghan) rebels had begun before Soviet troops arrived. It served western propaganda to say the Russians had no justification for entering Afghanistan in what the west called an aggressive land grab. In fact, US officials saw an advantage in the mujahedin rebellion which grew after a pro-Moscow government toppled (Prime Minister) Daoud in April 1978. In his memoirs, Robert Gates, then a CIA official and later defence secretary under Presidents Bush and Obama, recounts a staff meeting in March 1979 where CIA officials asked whether they should keep the mujahideen going, thereby “sucking the Soviets into a Vietnamese quagmire”. The meeting agreed to fund them to buy weapons.”

Needless to say, this type of work can be pretty hazardous. In December 2009 five DAI employees were killed by an explosion in the USAID headquarters in Gardez, Afghanistan. From that facility DAI was running a Local Governance and Community Development project. According to DAI:

“Our mission on behalf of (USAID) was crucial: encourage communities in the most volatile parts of the country to turn away from the insurgency and toward the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. We set out to do this in large part by facilitating 2,635 community projects that addressed local grievances, fostered stability, facilitated dialogue, and engendered trust in district and provincial leaders.”

The most notorious death of a DAI employee in a war zone was that of Linda Norgrove, who was abducted by the Taliban in eastern Afghanistan on September 2010. The US sent a Navy elite force to rescue her but the Rambo-style operation did not go well. Norgrove was killed, not by her captors but by a grenade thrown by one of her would-be rescuers, according to an official joint US-UK investigation of her death.

According to DAI CEO Jim Boomgard, Gross was in Cuba running a US government program called “Cuba Democracy and Contingency Planning Program”. In an August 2008 meeting, officials from this program told DAI representatives that “USAID is not telling Cubans how or why they need a democratic transition, but rather, the Agency wants to provide the technology and means for communicating the spark which could benefit the population.” The program, the officials said, intended to “provide a base from which Cubans can ‘develop alternative visions of the future.’”

In 2012 Gross and his wife sued USAID and DAI for allegedly not informing him adequately of the risk that his mission entailed – the case was settled out of court in 2013. If what Gross claimed in his lawsuit is true, then the man was an unwitting dupe in a US intelligence operation. It remains to be seen how many American aid workers who sincerely believed they were engaging in harmless, uncontroversial activity helping people abroad were actually being used by the CIA or other agencies as pawns in high risk games of political chess.

Carmello Ruiz-Marrero is a Puerto Rican journalist. Web site: http://carmeloruiz.blogspot.com/ Twitter: @carmeloruiz

 

More articles by:

Carmelo Ruiz-Marrero is a Puerto Rican journalist.

September 18, 2018
Conn Hallinan
Britain: the Anti-Semitism Debate
Tamara Pearson
Why Mexico’s Next President is No Friend of Migrants
Richard Moser
Both the Commune and Revolution
Nick Pemberton
Serena 15, Tennis Love
Binoy Kampmark
Inconvenient Realities: Climate Change and the South Pacific
Martin Billheimer
La Grand’Route: Waiting for the Bus
John Kendall Hawkins
Seymour Hersh: a Life of Adversarial Democracy at Work
Faisal Khan
Is Israel a Democracy?
John Feffer
The GOP Wants Trumpism…Without Trump
Kim Ives
The Roots of Haiti’s Movement for PetroCaribe Transparency
Dave Lindorff
We Already Have a Fake Billionaire President; Why Would We want a Real One Running in 2020?
Gerry Brown
Is China Springing Debt Traps or Throwing a Lifeline to Countries in Distress?
Pete Tucker
The Washington Post Really Wants to Stop Ben Jealous
Dean Baker
Getting It Wrong Again: Consumer Spending and the Great Recession
September 17, 2018
Melvin Goodman
What is to be Done?
Rob Urie
American Fascism
Patrick Cockburn
The Adults in the White House Trying to Save the US From Trump Are Just as Dangerous as He Is
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
The Long Fall of Bob Woodward: From Nixon’s Nemesis to Cheney’s Savoir
Mairead Maguire
Demonization of Russia in a New Cold War Era
Dean Baker
The Bank Bailout of 2008 was Unnecessary
Wim Laven
Hurricane Trump, Season 2
Yves Engler
Smearing Dimitri Lascaris
Ron Jacobs
From ROTC to Revolution and Beyond
Clark T. Scott
The Cannibals of Horsepower
Binoy Kampmark
A Traditional Right: Jimmie Åkesson and the Sweden Democrats
Laura Flanders
History Markers
Weekend Edition
September 14, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Carl Boggs
Obama’s Imperial Presidency
Joshua Frank
From CO2 to Methane, Trump’s Hurricane of Destruction
Jeffrey St. Clair
Maria’s Missing Dead
Andrew Levine
A Bulwark Against the Idiocy of Conservatives Like Brett Kavanaugh
T.J. Coles
Neil deGrasse Tyson: A Celebrity Salesman for the Military-Industrial-Complex
Jeff Ballinger
Nike and Colin Kaepernick: Fronting the Bigots’ Team
David Rosen
Why Stop at Roe? How “Settled Law” Can be Overturned
Gary Olson
Pope Francis and the Battle Over Cultural Terrain
Nick Pemberton
Donald The Victim: A Product of Post-9/11 America
Ramzy Baroud
The Veiled Danger of the ‘Dead’ Oslo Accords
Kevin Martin
U.S. Support for the Bombing of Yemen to Continue
Robert Fisk
A Murder in Aleppo
Robert Hunziker
The Elite World Order in Jitters
Ben Dangl
After 9/11: The Staggering Economic and Human Cost of the War on Terror
Charles Pierson
Invade The Hague! Bolton vs. the ICC
Robert Fantina
Trump and Palestine
Daniel Warner
Hubris on and Off the Court
John Kendall Hawkins
Boning Up on Eternal Recurrence, Kubrick-style: “2001,” Revisited
Haydar Khan
Set Theory of the Left
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail