Settlement Results in $3.2 Million Check for Alan Gross 1

This photo from the Twitter account of Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz. shows Alan Gross with his wife Judy before leaving Cuba, Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014. The US and Cuba have agreed to re-establish diplomatic relations and open economic and travel ties, marking a historic shift in U.S. policy toward the communist island after a half-century of enmity. AP

This photo from the Twitter account of Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz. shows Alan Gross with his wife Judy before leaving Cuba, Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014. The US and Cuba have agreed to re-establish diplomatic relations and open economic and travel ties, marking a historic shift in U.S. policy toward the communist island after a half-century of enmity. AP

By Mimi Whitefield, mwhitefield@MiamiHerald.com

The U.S. Agency for International Development and Development Alternatives Inc. finalized a settlement this week for claims related to USAID subcontractor Alan Gross, who was released from a Cuban prison last week.

Development Alternatives is the Maryland-based international development firm that subcontracted a USAID pro-democracy program to Gross to introduce satellite communications equipment into Cuba.

The amount of the settlement wasn’t disclosed but CNN reported that as part of it, Gross was to be paid $3.2 million.

Gross was arrested Dec. 3, 2009, and held in Cuba until last Wednesday when the Cubans released him as a humanitarian gesture. His release, as well as the swap of a CIA agent held in Cuba for three Cuban spies imprisoned in the United States, paved the way for a historic agreement that will restore diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States.

USAID said the settlement resolves unanticipated claims pending before the Civilian Board of Contract Appeals under a cost-reimbursement contract and included claims related to Gross, who had served five years of a 15-year sentence at the time of his release.

The U.S. government has maintained that Gross was simply providing Internet access for the Jewish community in Cuba but the Cuban government said he was convicted for “illegally and covertly introducing … communications equipment meant only for military purposes.”

The Grosses filed a $60 million negligence suit in U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia against both DAI and the federal government, alleging they had failed to adequately train and prepare him for the risks he would face in Cuba.

DAI earlier settled with the Grosses for an undisclosed amount but a judge dismissed the case against the government, saying it was immune from any claim arising in a foreign country.

USAID said the settlement with DAI, which was announced Tuesday, “avoids the cost, delay and risks of further proceedings, and does not constitute an admission of liability by either party.”

WH Calls on Cuba to Release Alan Gross, Remove ‘Impediment’ to Normalizing Relations 6

FILE - This undated handout photo provided by the Gross family shows Alan and Judy Gross at an unknown location. An attorney for a Gross, who has spent over four years imprisoned in Cuba, argued before a federal appeals court that his client should be allowed to sue the U.S. government over his imprisonment. (AP Photo/Gross Family, File)

FILE – This undated handout photo provided by the Gross family shows Alan and Judy Gross at an unknown location. An attorney for a Gross, who has spent over four years imprisoned in Cuba, argued before a federal appeals court that his client should be allowed to sue the U.S. government over his imprisonment. (AP Photo/Gross Family, File)

By Lesley Clark, McClatchy Washington Bureau

The White House marked the fifth anniversary of U.S. contractor Alan Gross’s captivity in Cuba by calling for his release, saying it “would remove an impediment to more constructive relations between the United States and Cuba.”

Gross, a subcontractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development, has been held in Cuba since his arrest on Dec. 3, 2009, for smuggling satellite communications equipment to Cuba as part of USAID’s pro-democracy programs.

The administration “remains focused on securing Alan’s freedom from a Cuban prison, and returning him safely to his wife and children, where he belongs,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said in a statement, saying the U.S. is “deeply concerned” about Gross’s health and that a release on humanitarian grounds would make it easier to normalize relations with Cuba.

But Gross has become increasingly frustrated with the U.S. government and its failure so far to win his freedom, said his wife, Judy, who said Wednesday it was “time for President Obama to bring Alan back to the United States now; otherwise it will be too late.”

“Alan is resolved that he will not endure another year imprisoned in Cuba, and I am afraid that we are at the end,” Gross said. “After five years of literally wasting away, Alan is done.”

The Cuban government has linked Gross’s release to the imprisonment of five Cubans convicted in 2001 of infiltrating South Florida military installations and spying on the exile community. But the administration has repeatedly ruled out a swap, saying the USAID subcontractor wasn’t a spy and can’t be part of a spy-for-spy swap.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., called for Cuba to release Gross and urged the Obama administration to “step up its efforts” to secure an “unconditional release” for Gross.

“Unilateral concessions by the U.S. government to the Castro regime will help fund more human rights violations, and keep real freedom further out of reach for the Cuban people,” Rubio said.

Could a U.S.-Cuba prisoner swap break the ice? 1

FILE - This undated handout photo provided by the Gross family shows Alan and Judy Gross at an unknown location. An attorney for a Gross, who has spent over four years imprisoned in Cuba, argued before a federal appeals court that his client should be allowed to sue the U.S. government over his imprisonment. (AP Photo/Gross Family, File)

FILE – This undated handout photo provided by the Gross family shows Alan and Judy Gross at an unknown location. An attorney for a Gross, who has spent over four years imprisoned in Cuba, argued before a federal appeals court that his client should be allowed to sue the U.S. government over his imprisonment. (AP Photo/Gross Family, File)

By Ray Sanchez, Elise Labott and Patrick Oppmann, CNN (CNN) — Alan Gross, a U.S. government subcontractor imprisoned in Cuba for smuggling satellite equipment onto the island, is being held at Havana’s Carlos J. Finlay Military Hospital.

With peeling canary-yellow walls and hordes of people coming and going, the aging building doesn’t look like a place where Cuba would hold its most valuable prisoner.

But police officers and soldiers surround the hospital. Inside, Cuban special forces guard the 65-year-old U.S. citizen, emotionally and physically frail and approaching his fifth year in confinement.

North of the Florida Straits, Gross’ imprisonment is seen as the major impediment to better relations with Havana.

Now, however, midway through the second term of President Barack Obama, several signs of possible change have emerged. Senior administration officials and Cuba observers say reforms on the island and changing attitudes in the United States have created an opening for improved relations.

The signs include the admission this week by senior administration officials that talks about a swap between Gross and three imprisoned Cuban agents — part of group originally known as the Cuban Five — have taken place. In addition, recent editorials in The New York Times have recommended an end to the longstanding U.S. embargo against Cuba and even a prisoner swap for Gross.

Video with article continues here:  CNN

Family of Aid Worker Wants US Government to Bring Him Back Home Reply

United States citizen Alan Gross has been imprisoned in Cuba since being arrested in 2009. He is currently serving a 15 year sentence for “acts against the independence or the territorial integrity of the state.” A government subcontractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development (US-AID), the government’s international development agency, Gross was working to provide internet/intranet access to Cuban citizens in Jewish communities.

Lawyer for American Imprisoned in Cuba Argues Client Should be Able to Sue US Government 4

FILE - This undated handout photo provided by the Gross family shows Alan and Judy Gross at an unknown location. An attorney for a Gross, who has spent over four years imprisoned in Cuba, argued before a federal appeals court that his client should be allowed to sue the U.S. government over his imprisonment. (AP Photo/Gross Family, File)

FILE – This undated handout photo provided by the Gross family shows Alan and Judy Gross at an unknown location. An attorney for a Gross, who has spent over four years imprisoned in Cuba, argued before a federal appeals court that his client should be allowed to sue the U.S. government over his imprisonment. (AP Photo/Gross Family, File)

By Jessica Gresko, Associated Press

WASHINGTON – A U.S. government subcontractor who has spent over four years imprisoned in Cuba should be allowed to sue the U.S. government over lost wages and legal fees, his attorney told an appeals court Friday.

Alan Gross was working in Cuba as a government subcontractor when he was arrested in 2009. He has since lost income and racked up legal fees, his attorney Barry Buchman told the three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington. A lawyer for the government argued the claims are based on his detention in Cuba, making him ineligible to sue.

The panel is expected to issue a written ruling on the case at a later date.

A lower-court judge previously threw out Gross’ lawsuit against the government in 2013, saying federal law bars lawsuits against the government based on injuries suffered in foreign countries. Gross’ lawyers appealed.

Gross was detained in December 2009 while working to set up Internet access as a subcontractor for the U.S. government’s U.S. Agency for International Development, which does work promoting democracy in the communist country. It was his fifth trip to Cuba to work with Jewish communities on setting up Internet access that bypassed local censorship. Cuba considers USAID’s programs illegal attempts by the U.S. to undermine its government, and Gross was tried and sentenced to 15 years in prison.

On Friday, Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson asked a lawyer for the government, Alan Burch, if USAID was still sending people to Cuba. He responded he didn’t know. A USAID spokesman did not immediately return a telephone call Friday.

The Associated Press has previously reported that USAID continued its democracy-building efforts in Cuba following Gross’ arrest, including one program to set up a “Cuban Twitter” and another to send young Latin Americans to Cuba.

“The goal is laudable, but this is a very dangerous thing to do, I think,” Henderson said of USAID sending people to Cuba.

Gross said in his lawsuit in 2012 that he wasn’t adequately trained or warned about the dangers, though he wrote in one report on his work that what he was doing was “very risky business in no uncertain terms.” A 2012 AP investigation also found he was using sensitive technology typically available only to governments.

Gross’ $60 million lawsuit blamed the U.S. government and the contractor he was working for, Maryland-based Development Alternatives Inc., for failing to appropriately prepare him. The lawsuit did not say how much each party should pay or how Gross’ attorneys arrived at the $60 million figure.

The Gross family settled with Development Alternatives Inc. for an undisclosed amount in May 2013.

Follow Jessica Gresko at http://twitter.com/jessicagresko.

After Mother’s Death, Jailed American Alan Gross Visited by Wife in Cuba 1

Judy Gross, the wife of jailed US contractor Alan Gross, after arriving in Cuba Tuesday to visit her husband and plead with Cuban government officials to release him from prison. Gross is serving a 15 year sentence for importing banned satellite communications equipment to the island.

Judy Gross, the wife of jailed US contractor Alan Gross, after arriving in Cuba Tuesday to visit her husband and plead with Cuban government officials to release him from prison. Gross is serving a 15 year sentence for importing banned satellite communications equipment to the island.(CNN)

By Patrick Oppmann, CNN

(CNN) — The wife of imprisoned U.S. State Department contractor Alan Gross traveled to Cuba Tuesday as part of her ongoing effort to free her husband.

Judy Gross did not talk to a CNN reporter outside Havana’s Jose Marti International Airport, and she and Gross’ attorney quickly boarded a bus provided by the Cuban government.

Last week, Gross’ mother died after a long fight with cancer, Gross’ attorney, Scott Gilbert, said.

The Cuban government refused Gross’ request to travel to the United States to say goodbye to Evelyn Gross before she died. Gross had promised that after seeing his mother he would return to his prison cell at a military hospital in Havana.

“We would like to convey our heartfelt condolences to his relatives,” Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs official Josefina Vidal said in a statement. “It is necessary to clarify that neither the Cuban penitentiary system nor the U.S. penitentiary system provide the possibility for inmates to travel abroad, no matter the reason.”

Gross, 65, is serving a 15-year sentence for bringing satellite communications equipment to Cuba as part of his work as a subcontractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development. He was convicted in March 2011.

U.S. officials said Gross was merely trying to help Cubans bypass the island’s stringent restrictions on Internet access and have said his imprisonment is one of the major obstacles to improved relations with Cuba.

In April, Gross embarked on a hunger strike to protest his continued imprisonment. He later said he was suspending his hunger strike after his mother pleaded with him to begin eating again.

Since his arrest, Gross has suffered a slew of health problems, his attorney said, and lost more than 100 pounds.

“Alan is confined to one room, 23 hours a day.” Gilbert said during an interview with CNN in April. “He spends his day there in pajamas, he’s fed meals in his room. He’s let out for an hour a day, to exercise an hour a day in a small, walled courtyard where you can barely see the sky.”

Cuban officials have said they want to negotiate Gross’ case with representatives of the United States in conjunction with the fates of three Cuban intelligence operatives serving lengthy sentences in U.S. prisons.

But U.S. officials have called that effort blackmail and said the cases are separate matters because Gross was not working as a spy in Cuba.

The diplomatic impasse is taking its toll on Gross, Gilbert said.

“The White House has yet to engage on this issue; we need the president to make this a priority. Without that, Alan will die in Cuba,” Gilbert said.

Editor’s Note:  Josefina Vidal left the US in May 2003 as part of a mass expulsion of Cuban diplomat-spies. Despite her departure, she continues to insist she is not a career staffer with Havana’s primary foreign intelligence service, the Directorate of Intelligence (DI).

Alan Gross’s Wife on US-Cuba Impasse 3

By Tracey Eaton

HAVANA TIMES — Forget South Florida politics, negotiate with the Cubans and find a way to bring Alan Gross home. That’s what Judy Gross told me earlier this week.

Her husband has been in jail in Cuba for more than four years – 1,521 days, to be exact. And she said she is angry and frustrated that the U.S. government doesn’t do more to secure his freedom. She said: ”…It’s been way, way too long and our government is responsible for Alan being there and I just can’t believe that they can’t do anything about it. Sometimes I wonder if there’s some kind of motive behind it. Not to be paranoid, but it just blows my mind still that they don’t even mention Alan’s name.”

Gross reiterated her call to President Obama to step up efforts to free her husband. Asked about Secretary John Kerry’s recent request that the Vatican help out, Gross said:
”…it’s really Secretary Kerry’s job to free Alan, not the Pope. So instead of asking the Pope, I think Secretary Kerry should work on it.”

Judy Gross also faulted the Cuban government for jailing her husband in 2009, but expressed admiration for the Cuban people. ”I really love Cuba and I hope to keep going back under different circumstances. The people are so friendly…”

See more at: Alan Gross’s Wife on US-Cuba Impasse

Miami Herald OP/ED: Alan Gross Should Not Be Swapped For Cuban Spies 1

Alan Gross began his fifth year as a prisoner of Cuba’s unjust “justice” system last week, a symbol of the continuing estrangement between that island nation and the United States, and, more important, the fundamentally unchanged nature of the governing regime.

Gross, for anyone who needs reminding, is a 64-year-old husband and father who was surprisingly detained in December of 2009 by Cuban authorities. He was summarily tried and sentenced to 15 years in prison for the “crime” of delivering a portable computer and a cellphone to Cuba’s small and isolated Jewish community, an action not normally considered a crime except by a handful of repressive regimes around the world, including, of course, Cuba.

Since his arrest, Gross has lost more than 100 pounds. He suffers from degenerative arthritis and his health continues to deteriorate. Even worse is the emotional toll that four years of incarceration and separation have taken on him and his family. For these reasons, and because his severe punishment is in no way commensurate with his alleged transgression, he should be released immediately and unconditionally.

On the anniversary of his arrest, Gross’ wife, Judy, made a dramatic plea for President Obama to “do whatever it takes to bring Alan home.” The Obama administration, for its part, has said, without releasing details, that it is holding behind-the-scenes talks with the Cubans on the topic, even though officials have repeatedly called for his release without the need for negotiations.

Unfortunately, the Cuban government has other plans. Where the rest of the world sees a victim of an arbitrary and unfair government, Cuba’s leaders see a human pawn that can be used to advance their own selfish political objectives.

The regime said last week that it was ready to hold talks over Gross’ freedom, but that any such dialogue must include the situation of the four imprisoned spies who have been held in this country since 1998. In fact, the Cuban government has repeatedly declared that it would be prepared to exchange Gross for the four so-called “anti-terrorist fighters” in U.S. jails.

The Obama administration would be wrong to give in to this blackmail because the two cases are totally distinct. Alan Gross is a hostage; the Cubans committed espionage. The four Cuban spies (a fifth was released after completing his sentence and now lives in Cuba) were sentenced for spying not on Cuban exile organizations, but on U.S. military installations and for their part in the downing of airplanes belonging to Brothers to the Rescue in 1996.

Gross, in contrast, was arrested when he was sent as a private contractor by USAID with equipment that could be used by Cuba’s tiny Jewish community to connect to the Internet. The Cubans were involved in espionage activities that had fatal consequences. Alan Gross was part of an effort to increase the freedom of communication _ which may be a crime in Cuba, but not in the rest of the civilized world. The two cases could not be more different.

Gross’ wife has pleaded that he should not be left to die in prison. Releasing him would be the humanitarian thing to do, especially considering he committed no crime. It’s up to the Cuban government to demonstrate that it’s capable, just this once, of doing the right thing.

Expelled Spy Josefina Vidal Continues Push For Prisoner Exchange 1

Cuba won’t budge on jailed American contractor, insists on prisoner swap

By Mary Murray, NBC News

Cuba’s government on Wednesday continued to tie the fate of an American contractor jailed there for four years to the release of four Cuban spies imprisoned in the U.S. since 1998. Responding to renewed calls for Havana to free 64-year-old American contractor Alan Gross, Director General of Cuba’s Foreign Ministry, Josefina Vidal Ferreiro, said in a statement that the government is open to negotiations for a swap of prisoners.

“The Cuban government reiterates its readiness to immediately establish a dialogue with the United States government to find a solution to the case of Mr. Gross on a reciprocal basis, and which addresses the humanitarian concerns of Cuba relating to the case of the four Cuban anti-terrorist fighters in prison in the United States,” she said.

Ferreiro (sic) was referring to four remaining members of the “Cuban Five” held in U.S. prisons after being convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage and other charges in 1998. The prisoners — Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, Antonio Guerrero and Fernando González — are national heroes in Cuba, and the governments of Raul Castro and Fidel Castro before him have made winning their freedom a priority. The fifth member of the group, René González, was released in October 2011 and subsequently returned to Cuba.

“(The Cuban prisoners) … serve long and unjust prison sentences for crimes they did not commit and which were never proved,” Ferreiro (sic) said in the statement. “Their imprisonment has a high human cost to them and their families. They have not seen their children grow, they have lost mothers, fathers and brothers, face health problems, and have been separated from their families and their homeland for over 15 years now.”

Gross, an Agency for International Development contractor, was arrested on Dec. 3, 2009, and accused of smuggling sophisticated satellite and other telecommunications equipment to Cuba’s tiny Jewish community. Gross has said he was only trying to increase internet access in Cuba. But he was convicted by a Cuban court in March 2011 of crimes “against the independence and territorial integrity of the state” and sentenced to 15 years.

Since then, he has lost more than 100 pounds in the Cuban prison where he is being held, according to his wife, Judy, and supporters. President Barack Obama’s spokesman, the U.S. State Department and 66 U.S. senators used the fourth anniversary of Gross’ arrest on Tuesday to urge Cuba to free him.

Editor’s Note: Vidal departed Washington in May 2003 after the US declared her husband and 13 other Cuban spy-diplomats Persona Non Grata. Among the seven spies expelled from the Cuban Interest Section was her husband, First Secretary Jose Anselmo Lopez Perera. First Secretary Josefina de la C. Vidal, also known to the US as a Cuban Intelligence Officer, “voluntarily” returned to Cuba.

The husband-wife spy team was chosen for expulsion, in part, because Washington knew Havana historically withdraws the spouse of any expelled spy.

Alan Gross Wife Plans New Freedom Push for Jew Held in Cuba 4

Rally Will Push White House for Action

(Jewish Telegraphic Agency) Alan Gross’ wife and Washington’s Jewish community will call on President Obama to make a priority of securing his release from a Cuban jail on the fourth anniversary of his imprisonment.

Judy Gross will appear with officials from the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington on Dec. 3 outside the White House in a protest. Joining them will be other faith leaders and local elected officials.

Gross, a subcontractor for the State Department on a mission to hook up Cuba’s small Jewish community to the internet, was arrested in December 2009 as he was leaving Cuba. He is serving a 15-year sentence for “crimes against the state.”

At the Dec. 3 rally, Judy Gross will read an excerpt of her most recent letter from her husband.

“It is clear that only the president of the United States has the power to bring me home,” Gross says in an excerpt of the letter the family provided to JTA. “On behalf of my family and myself, on behalf of every American who might ever find himself or herself in trouble abroad – I ask President Obama to direct his administration to take meaningful, proactive steps to secure my immediate release.”

Judy Gross told JTA in an interview that her husband, 64, is depressed and is in chronic pain from arthritis. “The best thing to do is contact the White House,” she said she would ask the American people at the rally. “Ask them to do what you need to do to get Alan home.” She would not elaborate except to say that the “president has the power to do what it takes to get him home.”

The Cuban government has indicated that it wants the United States to allow to return to Cuba five spies currently in prison or on probation in the United States.