We report on a flurry of activity concerning the case of Alan Gross, just days before the third anniversary of his arrest in Cuba, an event marked at a press conference in Washington this morning by his wife Judy Gross, understandably disconsolate, with his lawyer, Jared Genser, by her side.
Together, they said the Obama administration had failed to pursue vigorous diplomacy sufficient to secure his release. He feels “dumped and forgotten” by the U.S. government, Mrs. Gross said, like a soldier left to die. The lawyer’s message to the U.S. government was also direct: “You sent him there; you have an obligation to get him out.”
In fact, they laid blame at the feet of both governments for being obstacles to the settlement of his case. They said the Cuban government, which publicly calls for direct negotiations to address his case and the captivity of the Cuban Five, was either unable or unwilling to talk.
But they also made a special point of noting that the Obama administration had actively sought and won the release of Americans imprisoned abroad, and said the administration should pick an envoy close to President Obama, with full White House support, to go to Cuba and negotiate Alan Gross’s release.
Significantly, they called his captivity an obstacle to improvements in U.S.-Cuba relations, and urged both parties to work for his release. In saying so, they parted company with the most ardent embargo supporters, who warn the Obama administration not to negotiate for his release.
As Senator Bob Menendez said this week in an interview with the New York Times “I’m not into negotiating for someone who is clearly a hostage of the Cuban regime.” Judy Gross correctly diagnosed the hardliner’s position as a surefire recipe for continuing his captivity for years. “He is a pawn of these very radical right-wing Cuba haters, for lack of a better word, who don’t want to see any changes happen, even to get Alan home.”
Mrs. Gross pled for her husband’s release on humanitarian grounds, and demanded access by doctors for an independent examination of a mass on his shoulder that the family believes could be cancerous. For its part, the Cuban government released this week the results of a biopsy conducted October 24th, and an examination by a physician who is also ordained as a Rabbi, who concluded that the growth is not cancerous.
Two weeks ago, attorneys for the Gross family filed a law suit against the U.S. government and his employer, the USAID contractor DAI, seeking $60 million in damages. In the complaint available here, they concede that his activities were “to promote (a) successful democratic transition” in Cuba and that when he was at risk of detection by Cuban authorities, USAID failed to comply with provisions of the “Counterintelligence Manual” to save him before his arrest.
Mr. Gross knew of the dangers associated with his activities in Cuba, writing in one of the trip reports filed with his employer under the USAID contract, “In no uncertain terms, this is very risky business.”
In light of these facts, it is hard to understand why his legal representatives still argue that all he was doing in Cuba was trying to improve Internet access for the Jewish community. This benign explanation was long ago overtaken by the facts.
Even so, it is a position that remains front and center in the U.S. State Department’s talking points. Victoria Nuland, the department’s Spokesperson, responded to a reporter who asked about the Gross case, by saying:
But again, just to remind that this is a guy who’s been incarcerated for no reason for three years and ought to come home.
Alan Gross was given a 15-year prison term simply for the supposed crime of helping the Jewish community of Cuba communicate with the outside world.
Old tropes die hard, especially when the U.S. government decides we can’t handle the truth. This failure to concede why Mr. Gross was arrested and convicted not only contributes to the lack of movement in his case, but is especially alarming now that we know the Obama administration is doubling down on the program that led to his arrest.
As Tracey Eaton reports in Along the Malecón, the U.S. government “The U.S. government has hired a former CIA agent,” named Daniel Gabriel, “to create and manage a team of at least 10 journalists in Cuba.” Gabriel’s Linked In profile concludes with this heartfelt endorsement:
“Dan is one of those dream clients you get once in a blue moon: totally risk tolerant, possessed of a voracious appetite for learning, and the drive to turn pontification into action.”
We could not think of a clearer case for why these programs need to end.