By Tracey Eaton, Along the Malecon
Cuban authorities arrested American development worker Alan Gross in 2009 after his fifth trip to the island to set up a network of Internet hotspots. But Gross evidently wasn’t the only older Jewish man spotted in Cuba carrying out a mission for the U.S. government.
Jeffrey Robert Kline, founder of the Self Reliance Foundation, went to the island to test cell phones and other wireless devices for a contractor that was working for the State Department, according to a knowledgeable source who asked not to be identified.
Government agencies turned to Kline because he was considered a “maverick,” said the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “People hire him to do things others won’t touch.” Kline, 64, could not be reached for comment. In February, I wrote about a Cuba project he is doing for the Broadcasting Board of Governors. (See “The incredible disappearing $450,000 contract”).
DAI, an international development company in Bethesda, Md., had hired Gross to travel to Cuba to set up the Internet hotspots. The U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID, financed DAI as part of a democracy project aimed at undermining Cuba’s socialist government. Gross went about his business quietly, the knowledgeable source said, but Kline “was being very public” and “was slinging cell phones around.”
According to the source’s version of events: Kline and other Self Reliance Foundation employees had brought into Cuba some $50,000 worth of communications gear, including at least one satellite phone. Cuban authorities confiscated some of the gear and briefly detained one of the employees. The employees heard rumors that Cuban police were looking for a Jewish man who was distributing communication gear. They never found out whether authorities were looking for Kline or for Alan Gross. But they were worried and hurried to get out of the country and return to the U.S.
Feature continues here: The Other Alan Gross