U.S. Hopes to Reopen Cuba Embassy Ahead of Americas Summit 2

Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson

Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson

Latin American Herald Tribune

WASHINGTON – The U.S. government is optimistic about the prospects of reaching agreement with Cuba to re-open embassies before April’s Summit of the Americas in Panama, Washington’s chief negotiator in talks with Havana said Friday.

“I do think we can get this done in time for the Summit of the Americas,” Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson said after discussions in Washington with a Cuban delegation.

The gathering in Panama could be the occasion for the first meeting between President Barack Obama and Cuba’s Raul Castro since the two men announced in December an agreement to restore bilateral diplomatic ties after a break of more than 50 years.

Friday’s talks at the State Department were “productive and encouraging,” Jacobson told reporters after her second encounter with Havana’s representative, veteran diplomat Josefina Vidal.

Cuba moved on Friday to eliminate one obstacle to an early reopening of embassies, as Vidal said Havana was not making its removal from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism a precondition for progress toward normalization.

Even so, she suggested the removal needs to occur before the formal restoration of diplomatic relations.

“It would be very difficult to explain that Cuba and the United States have established normal diplomatic relations when Cuba is kept on this list,” Vidal said.

Secretary of State John Kerry said earlier Friday that the issue of the list was not on the agenda for the discussions between Jacobson and Vidal.

“The state sponsored terrorism designation is a separate process, it is not a negotiation. And that evaluation will be made appropriately and nothing will be done with respect to the list until the evaluation is completed,” Kerry said.

The process of removing a country from the list requires a formal notification from the president to Congress, which then has 45 days to consider the matter.

Editor’s Note:  Fellow Directorate of Intelligence (DI) officer Gustavo Machin reportedly accompanied Vidal to Washington in his position as Deputy Chief of MINREX’s North America Division.

Kelly: Ex-FBI Chief Tells of Cop-Killer Swap That Cuba Rejected 1

 ASSOCIATED PRESS  Former FBI Director Louis Freeh, above in 2013, said he presented a spies-for-Chesimard trade to Cuba through intermediaries.


ASSOCIATED PRESS
Former FBI Director Louis Freeh, above in 2013, said he presented a spies-for-Chesimard trade to Cuba through intermediaries.

By Mike Kelly, Record Columnist -The Record [Bergen County, NJ]

Years before Joanne Chesimard was placed on the FBI’s list of most wanted terrorists and the bounty for her capture was increased to $2 million, federal authorities secretly reached out to their Cuban counterparts with a plan to bring the convicted cop killer back to New Jersey.

It was the fall of 1998. The FBI drew up a proposal to trade five captured Cuban spies for Chesimard, who had been convicted two decades earlier of killing a New Jersey state trooper in a turnpike gunfight but had broken out of jail and fled to Cuba, where she was granted political asylum.

Cuban authorities refused to discuss the proposed deal.

Three of those spies were sent back to Cuba in December in exchange for American contractor Alan Gross and a CIA operative. The two others had returned earlier after serving their U.S. prison terms.

The proposed 1998 trade, which has never been publicly acknowledged by either the United States or Cuba, was described in detail in two recent interviews with The Record by one of its originators, former FBI Director Louis Freeh.

Why the plan failed may offer insight about the obstacles facing the state police, the FBI and a host of political figures as they renew efforts to bring back Chesimard. The story also illustrates the legacy of suspicion that permeates U.S.-Cuban relations.

In New Jersey, however, the renewed discussion of Chesimard’s fugitive status has reopened old wounds that date to an unsettling time in America — a time that was punctuated by a horrific confrontation on the New Jersey Turnpike between state troopers and members of the Black Liberation Army who were calling for an armed revolution.

Just before midnight on May 2, 1973, Chesimard, then 25, was traveling south with two male compatriots when two troopers stopped their car. Within minutes a wild gunbattle broke out, leaving Trooper Werner Foerster dead and his partner wounded.

Chesimard, who also was wounded, was later caught, charged with murder and sentenced to a life term. But in 1979, she escaped from the state women’s prison in Clinton and disappeared, only to turn up five years later in Cuba.

Chesimard, 67, and reportedly living in the Havana area under the name Assata Shakur, is regarded as a criminal by U.S. authorities. Cuba has never shown any inclination to rescind her political asylum, which was granted by Fidel Castro in the mid-1980s.

In the fall of 1998, however, Freeh thought he saw an opening for U.S. authorities to get their hands on Chesimard.

Feature continues here:  Chesimard deal

 

Alan Gross Takes Fight with Feds to U.S. Supreme Court 2

agBy Zoe Tillman, Legal Times, @zoetillman

Alan Gross, the American contractor freed after five years of detention in Cuba, is taking a lawsuit against the federal government to the U.S. Supreme Court. Gross wants the high court to review whether the government can be held responsible for injuries he and his wife claimed they suffered while he was detained in Cuba.

In a petition filed with the high court on Feb. 12, Gross and his wife Judith argued that a federal appeals court in Washington was wrong to find that the federal government was immune against all of the Gross’ claims, including economic losses in the United States and Judith Gross’ emotional distress. The appeals court found that those injuries stemmed from Gross’ incarceration in Cuba, triggering immunity for the feds.

“The decisions of the lower courts will have profound negative consequences for all U.S. residents who travel abroad, no matter how briefly, including those who travel for work,” Gross’ lawyers argued in the petition. “The decisions would mean that a U.S. resident who travels abroad for one day and suffers some injury during that limited time would have no redress for any subsequent harm occurring solely in the United States, even if that domestic injury dwarfs the foreign injuries.”

Gross was working as a U.S. Agency for International Development subcontractor in Cuba when he was detained by authorities there in 2009. In 2011, he was convicted of attempting to subvert the Cuban government and sentenced to 15 years in prison. While Gross was still incarcerated, he and his wife, who was in the United States, sued the federal government and the contractor who hired him, arguing they were negligent in failing to alert Gross to the riskiness of his work and in preparing him for those risks.

Gross reached a confidential settlement with the contractor, Developer Alternatives Inc. A federal district judge dismissed the case against the U.S. government in May 2013 and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit affirmed that decision in November—one month before Gross was released.

Gross’ lawyers at Gilbert LLP declined on Friday to discuss their petition to the Supreme Court.

On appeal to the high court, Gross and his wife are also arguing that the lower courts created an unconstitutional distinction between plaintiffs suing the federal government for injuries that took place solely in the United States and those who suffered some or all of their injuries abroad.

The government’s response is due March 16.

Editor’s Note:  Alan Gross already received $3.2 million from a 2014 lawsuit.

This Friday’s US-Cuba Talks to Focus on Reopening Embassies 2

State DepartmentU.S.-Cuba Talks on Re-Establishing Diplomatic Relations

Media Note

[US Department of State] Office of the Spokesperson

Washington, DC

February 20, 2015

 

On February 27, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta S. Jacobson will host a delegation from the Cuban government led by Josefina Vidal, general director of the U.S. Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to discuss re-establishing diplomatic relations. The talks will take place at the Department of State in Washington, D.C. and will focus on matters related to reopening embassies, including the functions of diplomats in our respective countries.

These talks continue the dialogue initiated by the parties on January 22 in Havana, Cuba and are a key step in implementing the new direction in U.S.-Cuba relations announced by President Obama on December 17, 2014. It is in the interest of both countries to re-establish diplomatic relations and re-open embassies. A U.S. Embassy in Havana will allow the United States to more effectively promote our interests and values, and increase engagement with the Cuban people. As with the more complex process of normalizing relations, re-establishing diplomatic relations requires the agreement of the governments of both Cuba and the United States.

Editor’s Note: Directorate of Intelligence (DI) officer Josefina Vidal was thrown out of the US in May 2003 as part of a mass expulsion of Cuban spy-diplomats.

Congressional Hearing Next Thursday: “The President’s New Cuba Policy and U.S. National Security” Reply

CongressSubcommittee Hearing: The President’s New Cuba Policy and U.S. National Security

Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere | 2200 Rayburn House Office Building Washington, DC 20515 | Feb 26, 2015 10:00am to 1:00pm

Chairman Duncan on the hearing: “In 1982, Cuba was designated as a State Sponsor of Terrorism for providing critical support to many terrorist organizations. Today, given the links between Cuba and China, Iran, North Korea, and Russia and the close proximity to the U.S. homeland, I am deeply concerned about the U.S. national security implications of the Administration’s Cuba policy change. Cuba continues to support terrorist organizations and it was caught red-handed proliferating weapons to North Korea as recently as last year. Cuba has also been stunningly successful in espionage against the U.S., in trafficking U.S. national security secrets to hostile regimes, and in benefiting from a criminal pipeline spanning Cuba to Florida. This hearing will examine the U.S. national security implications of the President’s Cuba policy change and potential vulnerabilities to Americans as a result.”

WITNESSES:

Mr. Chris Simmons:  Editor, Cuba Confidential

Mr. Fernando Menéndez:  Senior Fellow, Center for a Secure Free Society

José Azel, Ph.D.:  Senior Research Associate, Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies – University of Miami

The Honorable Dennis K. Hays:  Director, The Emergence Group

***Any changes to witness list will be reflected above.

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi Leads Democratic Delegation in Meeting With Cuban Spy-Diplomat 4

Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi in Havana

Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi in Havana

By Chris Simmons

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez today met with Democratic Party members of Congress to Havana. At his side was expelled Directorate of Intelligence (DI) officer Josefina Vidal, who continues to serve as head of the Foreign Ministry’s North America Division.

Democratic congressmen and women on the delegation include Eliot Engel, Rosa DeLauro, Collin Peterson, Anna Eshoo, Nydia Velazquez, Jim McGovern, Steve Israel and David Cicilline.

Next week, Vidal leads a Cuban delegation to Washington for the next round of normalization talks, which are scheduled for February 27.

NBC’s Perfidy Didn’t Start with Brian Williams 1

Brian WilliamsBy Humberto Fontova, Townhall

Brian Williams recently “shocked” many Americans with his disingenuous reporting. His claims of perilous combat coverage in Iraq and dramatic Hurricane Katrina coverage in New Orleans appear bogus. After suspending him for 6 months, NBC is now investigating its top anchor, attempting to “get at the truth.” Right. Same as the Warren Commission.

But in fact, Brian Williams’ style of NBC reporting has its adherents. Take the Castro regime. A red carpet, honor-guard and a 21-gun salute (figuratively speaking) is what NBC always finds upon their frequent visits to “report” from Cuba.

Gosh? I wonder why? Maybe these quotes provide a clue:

“Much more valuable than rural recruits for our guerrilla force, were American media recruits to export our propaganda.” (Ernesto “Che” Guevara.)

“Propaganda is vital—propaganda is the heart of our struggle.” (Fidel Castro.)

“The vetting procedure starts the minute the (Cuban) regime receives your visa application. When your smiling Cuban “guides” greet you at the airport they know plenty about you, and from several angles.” (Chris Simmons, the Defense Intelligence Agency’s top Cuban spycatcher, now retired.)

“The Castro regime assigns 20 security agents to follow and monitor every foreign journalist. You play the regime’s game and practice self–censorship or you’re gone.” (Vicente Botin, reporter for Madrid’s El Pais who was booted from Cuba for taking his job title seriously.)

Nobody ever called the Castro brothers stupid. They instantly recognize an ally (or a sap)–which brings us to NBC.

During Brian Williams visit to Cuba last month, for instance, NBC introduced their frequent commentator-guest Arturo Lopez-Levy as “adjunct faculty at the NYU School of Professional Studies Center for Global Affairs.”

Feature continues here:  NBC’s Deception

CODEPINK’s Itinerary For This Week’s Visit to Cuba – Meet With Spies, More Spies & Even More Spies! 4

CODEPINK at their Havana press conference.

CODEPINK at their Havana press conference.

By Chris Simmons

The left-wing group, CODEPINK, is currently in Cuba as it heads a “a historic delegation” that – from February 8-15, “will have high-level meetings with government officials, visit members of the Cuban 5 who were recently released from US prison, talk to doctors who combated Ebola in Africa, and interact with local people about cultural, economic, environmental and health issues.”

However, a closer review of their agenda finds scheduled meetings with intelligence officers and co-opted agencies, including:

Monday, February 9 @9am:  Meeting with Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP), followed by a possible meeting with Fernando Gonzalez and the rest of the Cuban 5.

Friday, February 13 @9:00am: Meeting with Josefina Vidal, an expelled Directorate of Intelligence officer currently serving “undercover” at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

For more details on the intelligence activities of the highlighted groups and individuals, simply use the search tab. For CodePink’s full schedule, click here.