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by Ken Fuller
 
 Washington has expressed outrage over the fact that Russia has granted asylum to whistle-blower Edward Snowden, arguing that he should have been extradited to the USA in order to face charges for purloining National Security Agency secrets and then, much to the US’s embarrassment, making them — or some of them — public via the international press.

Well, look who’s talking! When it comes to extraditing criminals, if there is one country that lacks moral stature, it is the USA — even when the criminal concerned is a terrorist.

Longstanding readers may recall that in July 2009 this column told the story of Luis Posada Carriles, the Cuban-born terrorist accused of masterminding the bombing of a Cuban airliner in 1976, killing all 73 people on board. Posada was also accused of bombing hotels in Havana in 1997. In 1998, he admitted this in interviews, only to later retract. During the same period, speaking to the New York Times he revealed his ties to the Miami-based Cuban American National Foundation but, as his co-conspirators came under pressure, he retracted this also.

The National Security Archive at George Washington University collects and publishes declassified documents obtained through the US Freedom of Information Act. It has posted  Central Intelligence Agency records revealing that in the 1960s and part of the 70s, Posada was a CIA agent, and, as an informant, remained in sporadic contact with representatives of that body until at least June 1976 — three months before the Cuban airliner was bombed.

Between 1963 and 1965, Posada was in the US military, during which time the CIA trained him in demolition work. By the 1970s, however, he was a senior official in Venezuelan intelligence. The declassified documents show that the CIA had concrete advance intelligence as early as June 1976 that a Cuban airliner was to be targeted. Moreover, a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) attaché not only had “multiple contacts” with one of the Venezuelans who placed the bomb but issued him a US visa five days before the bombing.

Posada’s role in the Venezuelan secret police was not enough to save him, however, and he was arrested. He escaped in 1985 before he could be tried and went on to participate in various other activities, including assisting in Lt. Col. Oliver North’s illegal operations against the Sandinista government in Nicaragua.

Posada then served time in Panama for a 2000 assassination plot against Fidel Castro, but in August 2004 he was pardoned by the outgoing Panamanian president — a favor, some say, to George W. Bush, who needed the Cuban expatriate vote in Miami. The following year, he was arrested for entering the USA illegally, but when a dozen “friendly” countries were contacted with a view to deporting him, none was willing to put out the welcome mat for him.

There were, however, two countries which would have taken him: Venezuela, which demanded his extradition, and Cuba. But Washington refused to extradite the terrorist.

Until 2009, in the USA Posada had been charged with little more than immigration fraud and lying to the federal authorities in order to become a US citizen. Some analysts took the view that the US government had avoided any serious prosecution for fear that Posada would spill the beans on CIA involvement in coups and assassination attempts. In April 2009, however, Posada, then 81, was indicted on 11 counts, including perjury and obstruction of a federal proceeding.
While he was not charged with the bombing of either the Cubana airliner in 1976 or the Havana hotels in 1998, he did stand accused of having lied about his (non-) involvement in the latter.
In April 2011, however, a jury in El Paso, Texas, acquitted him on all charges — despite, in the words of Jose Perierra, the lawyer representing the Venezuelan government in its extradition demand, who attended the trial, the evidence being “overwhelming” regarding his lies to immigration authorities concerning his entry into the USA and his terrorist activity against Cuba. Perierra told the Mexican newspaper El Jornada (a translation of this report appeared in The Nation) that Posadas’ own statements and substantial witness testimony “couldn’t have been clearer.”

So Washington refuses to extradite the terrorist Posada to Venezuela, but demands that Edward Snowden, who hasn’t harmed a fly, be extradited to the USA, and Bradley Manning has been convicted of “espionage.” There’s a coincidence! That was the same charge faced by five Cuban anti-terrorists who infiltrated a terrorist network in the Cuban exile community in Miami, compiling evidence implicating, among others, Luis Posada Carriles.  In June 1998, FBI officials were invited to Havana so that the evidence could be passed to them.

Instead of using that evidence against the terrorists, US officials tipped them off the guilty parties and hunted down the five anti-terrorists (two US-born and three Cuban-born) who had provided it. Arrested, they were held in solitary confinement for 17 months and charged with “conspiracy” and failure to declare themselves as “foreign agents.” They were tried in Miami, where they had little hope of receiving a fair trial, and given sentences ranging from 15 years to life-plus. One of the men received a double life sentence plus 18 years. Then they were placed in solitary confinement again, preventing any effective preparations for their appeals.

There was, of course, an international outcry against the injustice of it all, but even so the US Supreme Court refused to review their final appeal, and appeals sent to Barack “Change We Can Believe In” Obama, including from the Philippine Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban 5, were ignored.

Four of the five men are still imprisoned. What a disgrace.
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