Harder Line on Cuba in Alan Gross Push

After Election, Is Havana Confrontation Best Policy?

Havana Headache: President Obama’s reelection could open the way to talks to free Alan Gross. Are his supporters missing the boat by painting Cuba into a corner, instead of pinning hopes on better U.S. ties with the island nation.
courtesy of gross family
Havana Headache: President Obama’s reelection could open the way to talks to free Alan Gross. Are his supporters missing the boat by painting Cuba into a corner, instead of pinning hopes on better U.S. ties with the island nation.

By Paul Berger

Published November 19, 2012, issue of November 23, 2012.
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On November 16, another lawyer acting on behalf of the Gross family, sued the U.S. government and Development Alternatives Inc, the contractor that sent Gross to Cuba. The suit, seeking $60 million, claimed that DAI and the United States Agency for International Development negligently allowed Gross to make repeated trips to Cuba despite knowing of “specific risks” to his safety.

Armstrong said the lawsuit alone had the potential to undermine Gross’s case.

Gross has consistently insisted that his work in Cuba was an innocent attempt to improve internet access for the island’s tiny Jewish community. But the lawsuit claims USAID and DAI ignored repeated warnings from Gross that his work appeared to be drawing unwanted Cuban attention. It also claims that Gross should have been given counter intelligence training.

“This makes it sound like he was going in to do sensitive operations of a covert nature,” Armstrong said. “It’s not an admission he was doing intelligence…but it plays further into Cuban government hands that what he was doing was an intelligence style operation, [that] he knew he had been detected and that it was wrong.”

The lawsuit was filed in United States District Court for the District of Columbia by lawyer Scott Gilbert.

A DAI spokesman said the contractor was “disappointed” that the Gross family had filed a lawsuit. “We would like to address the numerous disagreements we have with the content of the complaint,” the spokesman said. “(But) doing so will not advance the cause of bringing Alan home, which remains our highest priority.”

A State Department spokesman referred questions to the Justice Department late on Friday.

The human rights lawyer, Genser, who has led the humanitarian campaign to free Gross since he replaced Peter Kahn in mid-July said he was not a part of the lawsuit and that his work was “focused on securing Alan’s freedom.”

Genser has helped liberate prisoners in some of the world’s most authoritarian countries, including Pakistan, Syria and Nicaragua. He won most of those cases through a nonprofit he founded ten years ago, Freedom Now, that represented Burmese political prisoner Aung San Suu Kyi before her release from house arrest in 2010 and that continues to represent Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo.

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