Wednesday, April 06, 2011
The Wall Street Journal / THE AMERICAS / APRIL 4, 2011
Jimmy Carter Lobbies for Cuban Spies
Why lend legitimacy to the Castro brothers?
By MARY ANASTASIA O'GRADY
They say that Cuba is a place where time stands still and it certainly seemed that way last week when Jimmy Carter arrived in Havana to fraternize with the Castros. The image of the 86-year-old American ex-president wearing a wide smile as he disembarked from a jet to meet with the regime bigwigs was déjà vu all over again.
For more than three and a half decades the world's most famous peanut farmer has toiled to get the island's repressive military dictatorship more respect from the U.S. This trip was no different. Agence France
Press reported that it was undertaken at "Havana's invitation" and "aimed at improving U.S.-Cuba relations." Fidel praised Mr. Carter as "brave and serious."
It is obvious why the dictatorship sought out Mr. Carter. The list of individuals---no fair counting Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Kim Jong Il or Chris Dodd---who are willing to lend legitimacy to one of the 20th century's most disastrous revolutionary experiments is shrinking fast. The former president is, as they say, useful.
We may never know why Mr. Carter agreed to be used. But we do know how he was used: On Wednesday, before he left Havana he went on Cuban television to argue for the release of the five Cuban spies known as "the wasp network," who are now serving time in U.S. prisons.
This is a new low for Mr. Carter---and not only because it demonstrates complete disregard for the American criminal justice
system. The dangers that Cuban agents operating inside the U.S. present to Americans are well established. Treating their crimes lightly will only increase the nation's exposure to serious risk.
Initially, hopes were high that Mr. Carter would be able to win the release of Alan Gross, a U.S. Agency for International Development contractor who was taken hostage by Cuba in December 2009. The 61-year-old American had apparently brought hardware to members of the island's tiny Jewish community so that they could access the Internet. He has been sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Yet once Mr. Carter was on the ground in Havana, he announced that he was not there "to take [Mr. Gross] out of the country." He did visit him and recommended that he be set free. That could still happen. Mr. Gross is in frail health and back home in Maryland both his mother and his daughter are fighting cancer. Rumors abound that he will be given a humanitarian pardon.
Cuba no doubt will spin an early release of Mr. Gross as evidence of its goodwill toward the world. But for now it's hoping to get more than international kudos. One objective seems to be the exchange of its American prisoner for the "wasps."
Gerardo Hernández, René González, Antonio Guerrero, Ramón Labañino and Fernando González Llort were all arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation on Sept. 12, 1998. Five others in the network were arrested the same day but accepted plea bargains in exchange for acting as witnesses for the prosecution.
The FBI had collected plenty of its own evidence. It had used the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and court warrants toinvestigate the group over a period of three years. Mr. Hernández, who is serving two life sentences, was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder in the Cuban Air Force downing of two civilian aircraft flown by Cuban exiles from Florida in 1996. Four Americans died. The prosecution also showed that the "wasps" had sought to infiltrate U.S. military installations and to discover unprotected points along the Florida coast where arms and explosives could be brought into the country.
Because Cuba is so poor, its American advocates like to say that it presents no threat to U.S. national security. But this ignores Cuban espionage. In 2002 Defense Intelligence Agency analyst Ana Belen Montes, the highest ranking U.S. intelligence operative ever to be charged with spying for Cuba, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 25 years in prison. Her arrest, 10 days after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, was rushed because she had the potential to pass sensitive information about the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan to enemy agents.
Americans still don't know how much damage Walter Kendall Myers, an analyst working in intelligence and research at the State Department, and his wife, Gwendolyn Myers, also an employee at State, inflicted on the U.S. over the 30 years that they spied for Cuba. The couple was recruited by the Cuban Mission to the United Nations in New York, a notorious hothouse of Cuban espionage.
Mr. Carter should stick to doing personal favors for his "personal friend"---those were his words for Fidel while in Havana, according to Europa Press. When a six-hour meeting with the old tyrant is followed by a Carter announcement expressing doubts about the trial that led to the conviction of spies and a promise to speak with President Obama about a pardon for them, its hard to see him as anything but a shill for Cuba's military dictatorship.