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Judi Lynn

(161,430 posts)
Mon Dec 29, 2014, 10:16 PM Dec 2014

Obama's Very Sly Cuban Move

Obama's Very Sly Cuban Move

Alan Gross is freed from a Cuban jail—and this leads to a historic shift in Washington-Havana relations.

—By David Corn

| Wed Dec. 17, 2014 11:40 AM EST

For years, President Barack Obama faced a tough problem: what to do about Alan Gross, the US subcontractor imprisoned in Cuba? And this dilemma encapsulated the larger puzzle of how to change US-Cuba relations, which have been frozen in a Cold War narrative.

The Cubans arrested Gross in 2009 and threw him in jail for distributing internet communications equipment under a program funded by the US Agency for International Development. The Cubans claimed he was a spy helping dissidents set up a secret communications system; the Obama administration insisted he was no such thing and was merely promoting free expression within Cuba's Jewish community. After Gross, who was in poor health, was sentenced to 15 years in prison, the Cubans offered the Americans a deal: They would free Gross if the United States released the Cuban Five, five Cubans arrested for spying in 1998 in Florida and later convicted and given long prison sentences. (One of the five was paroled in 2011; another comes up for parole in February.)

The Obama White House balked at the deal, in part because it seemed to equate Gross' activity with espionage. For years, Gross and his family and his advocates slammed the administration for not doing enough to secure his freedom. Some privately complained bitterly about White House inaction. Gross, they noted, had been sent to Cuba on a mission for the United States—which might indeed have crossed a line—but was left to rot on his own. A year ago, Gross sent Obama a letter and said he feared he had been "abandoned." He called on the president to intervene personally to win his freedom.

But White House officials, insisting that Gross was not an intelligence asset, felt they could not accept the Cuban terms. There would be no spy swap. And the political uproar that accompanied the trade of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for five Taliban commanders earlier this year hardly encouraged the administration to reconsider.

There was a deadlock. Yet someone on the Cuban or American side came up with an ingenious workaround. It turns out that a US intelligence asset—who provided intelligence that helped the United States apprehend the Cuban Five—had been held in a Cuban prison for years. This person could be the other end of the swap. Consequently, Obama agreed to trade the remaining Cuban Five for this person—which isn't a bad deal. And at the same time—coincidentally?—the Cubans released Gross on "humanitarian" grounds. Presto! On Wednesday morning, Gross boarded a US government plane and began the short flight back to the United States.


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(17,751 posts)
4. As if any of the 5 were spying on the US gov't.
Wed Dec 31, 2014, 02:12 PM
Dec 2014

Parking a car on the "lover's lane" side street next to Opa Locka airport watching civilian planes take off and land (including Basulto's BttR terrorists) isn't exactly espionage.
That's pretty much what the 5 ever did.
And, they did it on their own dime ... w/no funding whatsoever from the Cuban gov't.

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