U.S. Supreme Court Denies Alan Gross Appeal in Lawsuit Against U.S. Government 1

Alan Gross speaks on the phone with President Barack Obama after his release from Cuban prison on Dec. 17, 2014. (White House, public domain)

Alan Gross speaks on the phone with President Barack Obama after his release from Cuban prison on Dec. 17, 2014. (White House, public domain)

by Dusty Christensen, Latin America News Dispatch

NEW YORK — The U.S. Supreme Court denied an appeal on Monday by former government subcontractor Alan Gross, who filed a $60 million lawsuit in 2012 alleging negligence on the part of the U.S. government over the five years he spent in a Cuban prison.

The decision upholds a November 2014 ruling in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which dismissed the case on the grounds that the United States is not liable for “claims arising in a foreign country.”

“We are certainly disappointed, but not surprised by the court’s decision,” said Gross’ lawyer Scott Gilbert in a statement to Latin America News Dispatch.

In 2009, Gross was arrested while working as a government subcontractor in Cuba, where he was distributing satellite phones and computer equipment to the island’s Jewish community as part of a USAID democracy promotion program. Cuban authorities

accused him of being a U.S. intelligence agent, and sentenced him to 15 years in prison for participating in “a subversive project of the U.S. government that aimed to destroy the Revolution through the use of communications systems out of the control of authorities.”

In the lawsuit, Gross and his wife Judy say that Gross wasn’t properly informed of the perils of his work, which the “United States negligently directed, organized, and oversaw.” The case was dismissed in federal court, however, just one month before Gross was released from prison in December as part of the thawing of diplomatic relations with Cuba.

Gross received $3.2 million in a separate case in December, when USAID reached a settlement with the subcontractor he was working with in Cuba, Development Alternatives, Inc.

As in the most recent ruling, however, the U.S. government denied any liability for Gross’ imprisonment. In a statement released in December, USAID said, “The settlement avoids the cost, delay and risks of further proceedings, and does not constitute an admission of liability by either party.”

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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.

Where is Rolando Sarraf Trujillo? 1

Family of Cuban who spied for CIA say they have not heard from him since Obama announced his release from jail two weeks ago

Family of Cuban who spied for CIA say they have not heard from him since Obama announced his release from jail two weeks ago

By Andrew Buncome, The Independent (UK)

Two weeks after it was announced he had been set free from a Cuban jail, the family of American spy Rolando Sarraff Trujillo are still waiting to hear from him.

Last month, as he announced an historic realignment of the US’s relationship with Cuba, President Barack Obama revealed that in addition to US contractor Alan Gross, Cuba was also releasing a second person as part of a prisoner exchange.

Mr Obama did not name Mr Sarraff, 51, a former Cuban intelligence officer, but reports identified him as a man who had been jailed in 1995 for providing intelligence to the CIA.

“This man – whose sacrifice has been known to only a few – provided America with the information that led us to arrest the network of Cuban agents that included the men transferred to Cuba today as well as other spies in the United States,” said the president. “He is now safely on our shores.”

But the New York Times said his family had not seen or heard from him since, triggering speculation that he is still being debriefed by US intelligence officials.

Mr Sarraff’s sister, Vilma, who lives in Spain, said her family grew alarmed on December 16 when her brother failed to make his daily phone call from prison to his parents, who still live in Cuba.

They then learned he had been released from Cuba’s Villa Marista prison, but since then, no American or Cuban official has notified the family of his whereabouts, she said. “We still don’t know where he is,” Ms Sarraff added.

Prior to his arrest in November 1995, Mr Sarraff worked in the cryptology section of Cuba’s Directorate of Intelligence and was an expert on the codes used by Cuban spies in the United States to communicate with Havana. According to members of his family, he had also studied journalism at the University of Havana.

In exchange for the release of Mr Gross, a contractor with the US Agency for International Development, and Mr Sarraff, the US released three Cuban spies – the three remaining members of the so-called Cuban Fiv

These men had been arrested in Florida in the late 1990s while monitoring anti-Castro elements within the Cuban-American community. The arrest of the men, who always insisted they had not spied on the US government, was reportedly made possible by information passed to the US by Mr Sarraff.

Feature continues here:  Where is Roly?

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.”

Agente Cubano Percy Francisco Alvarado Godoy: La USAID y los peligros de colaborar con terroristas (II) 2

canfPor Percy Francisco Alvarado Godoy

La FNCA ha sido desde su creación un instrumento para condicionar la política norteamericana hacia Cuba.

Muchos elementos evidencian cómo las diferentes administraciones norteamericanas la han empleado, indistintamente, como punta de lanza de su política agresiva, recibiendo fondos millonarios a través de sus agencias federales como la CIA y la USAID para articular en cada momento sus planes encaminados a destruir por cualquier vía posible a la Revolución.

Cuando les ha sido necesario, tal como ocurrió con el destape de las corruptelas de Adolfo Franco, han colocado en la USAID a personeros de la FNCA como José Cárdenas, ex directivo de la misma. Esta fue la salida para descongelar en el 2008 los fondos destinados para propiciar la subversión contra Cuba y tratar de mantener las emisiones de Radio y TV Martí.

La ambiciosa FNCA publicó por ese entonces un informe en el que denunció que tan solo el 17 % de los fondos eran realmente empleados para apoyar a la contrarrevolución interna. Fue una jugada maestra encaminada a lograr el malsano propósito de monopolizar el dinero de la USAID, desplazando del privilegiado papel a otras organizaciones radicadas en EE UU, tales como el Centro por una Cuba libre, el Directorio Democrático Cubano, el Grupo de Apoyo a la Democracia y Acción Democrática.

No fue, sin embargo, hasta el 2011 cuando la USAID comenzó a tener en cuenta con más atención a la FNCA y a su Fundación para los Derechos Humanos en Cuba (FHRC), luego de haberle retirado su financiamiento tras los escándalos de sus vínculos con Luis Posada Carriles y la oleada terrorista en la década de los noventa, así como su participación en el secuestro del niño Elián González, lo cual provocó una seria caída de imagen para la misma. La USAID tuvo siempre la certeza de que la FNCA empleó parte de los fondos entregados a ella en actividades terroristas contra objetivos económicos, políticos y sociales dentro de Cuba, distanciándose de la misma, al menos, de forma pública.

Fue en el 2011 cuando la USAID aprobó 3.4 millones de USD para la FHRC, parte de los que fueron dirigidos hacia los grupúsculos contrarrevolucionarios por los que apostaban los directores de la FNCA. Otra parte importante de los fondos, a falta de serias auditorías, fueron a parar a los bolsillos de los propios intermediarios y unos pocos liderzuelos dentro de la Isla.

Los envíos destinados por la FHRC a sus grupúsculos seleccionados, fundamentalmente consistentes en computadoras, teléfonos celulares, cámaras, materiales impresos, soportes digitales, alimentos, medicinas, productos higiénicos y ropa, nunca han sido significativos.

Agente Cubano

Alan Gross Loses Appeal in Case Against U.S. Government 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)

Latin American Herald Tribune

WASHINGTON – An appellate court in Washington D.C. has rejected a lawsuit brought against the U.S. government by Alan Gross, an American subcontractor who is serving a 15-year sentence in Cuba on a conviction for subversion, judicial officials said.

Gross claimed that the government had not alerted him to the risks that his work on the Communist-ruled island entailed.

But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia on Friday upheld a lower court’s finding that the government has sovereign immunity because the damage the plaintiff suffered occurred outside the United States.

Gross and his wife, Judy, filed the $60 million lawsuit in November 2010, accusing the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Bethesda, Maryland-based contractor he worked for, Development Alternatives Inc., of negligence.

In the lawsuit, they alleged that neither DAI nor the government warned him of the risks of the Cuba mission and refused to pull him out after he expressed concerns.

The couple reached a settlement with DAI in 2013 for an undisclosed sum but a U.S. district court threw out their suit against USAID, prompting them to bring the case to the appeals court in Washington.

USAID contracted Maryland-based DAI for a project to expand Internet access and the flow of information in Cuba.

DAI hired Gross to travel to the island, where he was detained in December 2009 with satellite communications equipment he was planning to distribute among Cuba’s Jewish community. Cuban authorities said Gross was illegally aiding dissidents and inciting subversion. He was eventually convicted and sentenced to 15 years.

Havana has suggested an exchange of Gross for three Cuban intelligence agents serving time in U.S. prisons.

The United States rejects talk of a prisoner swap, instead demanding that Cuba release Gross without conditions.

Agente Cubano Percy Francisco Alvarado Godoy: La USAID y los peligros de colaborar con terroristas (I) 4

PercyPor Percy Francisco Alvarado Godoy

Nada resulta casual cuando se trata de la política de Estados Unidos hacia Cuba y los pretendidos cambios “significativos” dentro de la USAID, tienen una clara explicación, siempre que resulten ciertos y este anuncio no sea más que una maniobra de distracción.

La primera e irrebatible verdad es que todo el diseño de la política norteamericana ha sido un rotundo fracaso desde el triunfo revolucionario de 1959. Administración tras administración, la promesa de cada estrenado presidente de revertir el proceso histórico cubano se ha convertido, a lo largo de cada mandato, en un fiasco. Esto ha sido un mal evitable si se hubiera actuado con cordura y franca diplomacia, si se hubiera respetado nuestra soberanía y no se hubieran tramado operaciones encubiertas ni otros tipos de acciones violatorias del derecho internacional. Pero ni un solo presidente USA entró en razón al respecto.

Ni el criminal y sostenido bloqueo, ni el terrorismo criminal y desmedido, ni la más tenebrosa guerra mediática, han podido con la Revolución Cubana. El no reconocer este fracaso y continuar actuando con prepotencia y tozudez, ha sido el principal error de EE UU durante décadas.

Esa es la principal causa del replanteamiento de la labor de la USAID con respecto a Cuba, notificado por Asociated Press en los último días, según la cual se estarían preparando nuevas “normas internas” que prohibirían el empleo de acciones y programas encubiertos para subvertir nuestro orden constitucional.

Otra de las causas a tener en cuenta sobre la necesidad de un cambio en la política USA con respecto a Cuba lo ha sido la lenta toma de conciencia por parte de algunos medios de comunicación –entiéndase AP y The New York Times-, así como el impacto provocado por las recientes denuncias de estos medios no solo sobre los programas subversivos implementados por la USAID, sino sobre la necesidad de un cambio total en la vieja y añeja política norteamericana hacia nuestra patria.

Uno de los más absurdos errores de la USAID es manejar equivocadamente el concepto de sociedad civil al referirse a una insignificante contrarrevolución interna, cuando la sociedad civil cubana apoya mayoritariamente a la Revolución, por cuanto sus programas comienzan con un fallo de raíz al ser concebidos e implementados.

El escandaloso empleo del dinero de los contribuyentes norteamericanos en programas secretos como ZunZuneo, remedo de Twitter encaminado a influir en nuestra juventud con matrices de opinión preestablecidas desde el exterior, así como otros planes desestabilizadores, cuya eficacia ha sido puesta en entredicho, también ha sido motivo de críticas en los últimos tiempos.

La USAID y los peligros de colaborar con terroristas (I)

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.

Critics Question Sources for AP Report on Cuba Democracy Program 1

AP

 

 

 

Say sources had political agenda to undermine U.S. policy

By Daniel Wiser, Washington Free Beacon

Critics are raising questions about the Associated Press’s recent report on a U.S. program to foster civil society in Cuba and have accused the news organization of cooperating with sources who have a political agenda against U.S. policy toward the island.

The AP recently reported on the program that sent Spanish-speaking youth to Cuba to help build health and civil society associations, which the news organization described as a “clandestine operation” with the goal of “ginning up rebellion.” Human rights groups involved in the program criticized the report and said it mischaracterized the nature of the civil society projects.

Defenders of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) program say the AP has been less than forthright about the sources for its reporting. They also allege that the AP obtained information and documents from longstanding critics of U.S. policy toward Cuba’s communist government.

The anti-Castro website Capitol Hill Cubans alleged that the key source for the AP’s reporting on both the civil society program and a separate project, an attempt to develop a Twitter-like social media service for Cubans, was Fulton Armstrong. Armstrong is a former Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) staffer and senior intelligence analyst for Latin America.

Armstrong told the Washington Free Beacon in an email that although the AP contacted him, he was not the main source of information and documents. “The AP’s reports are pretty obviously based on documentary evidence provided by insiders concerned about the regime-change programs,” he said, adding that he was never fully briefed on what he called USAID’s “clandestine, covert operations.”

“Because the SFRC had investigated these scandalously run secret programs during my tenure on the Committee staff, and because my boss (Chairman [John] Kerry) was concerned enough to put a hold on the programs for a while, I was logically among the dozens of people to be called by the AP reporters,” he said.

Armstrong has long raised the ire of U.S. officials and activists advocating a tough line against the Castro regime. Foreign policy officials in the George W. Bush administration attempted to reassign Armstrong from Latin American intelligence after arguing that he was “soft” on threats from Cuba, according to a 2003 report by the New York Times.

Feature continues here:  Critics Question Credibility of AP Sources