On January 10[th] one of the most dangerous terrorists in recent history will go on trial in a small courtroom in El Paso, Texas. This is not the venue the Obama administration has finally selected to prosecute the perpetrators of 9/11; it is where the reputed godfather of Cuban exile violence, Luis Posada Carriles, may finally face a modicum of accountability for his many crimes.
Writes Peter Kornbluh in an article published on January 24th in The Nation magazine :
In the annals of modern justice, the Posada trial stands out as one of the most bizarre and disreputable of legal proceedings. The man identified by US intelligence reports as a mastermind of the midair destruction of a Cuban airliner—all seventy-three people on board were killed when the plane plunged into the sea off the coast of Barbados on October 6, 1976—and who publicly bragged about being behind a series of hotel bombings in Havana that killed an Italian businessman, Fabio Di Celmo, is being prosecuted for perjury and fraud, not murder and mayhem. The handling of his case during the Bush years became an international embarrassment and reflected poorly on the willingness and/or abilities of the Justice Department to prosecute crimes of terror when that terrorist was once an agent and ally of America. For the Obama administration, the verdict will carry significant implications for US credibility in the fight against terrorism, as well as for the future of US-Cuban relations.1
Whilst James C. McKinley Jr., writing in The New York Times on January 9th, asks why this elderly former CIA agent is on trial not for terrorism but perjury:
An elderly Cuban exile who once worked for the C.I.A. and has been linked to bombings in Havana and the downing of an airliner in the 1970s is scheduled to go on trial this week in a Texas courtroom — not on terrorism charges, but for perjury.
His article continues:
“The C.I.A. trained and unleashed a Frankenstein,” said Peter Kornbluh, an analyst with the National Security Archive who has studied Mr. Posada’s career. “It is long past time he be identified as a terrorist and be held accountable as a terrorist.”
Mr. Posada’s lawyer, Arturo Hernandez, predicted that his client would be acquitted. “He’s innocent of everything,” Mr. Hernandez said.
The defendant in question, Luis Posada Carriles, has in fact worked with the CIA on many different occasions – and especially during America’s Cold War campaign against Castro:
Mr. Posada has long been entwined with American intelligence services, going back to the failed Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961. He worked directly for the agency until 1967, spying on Cuban exile groups in Miami and running paramilitary training camps, according to declassified documents. He was also a “paid asset” of the agency in Venezuela from 1968 to 1976, according to declassified documents and an unclassified summary of his career in the court record.
Click here to read the full article.
But then, back in May 2005, the 77-year-old Posada Carriles was arrested in Miami, and held for entering the US illegally; the judge eventually ruling that he could not be deported to face charges in Venezuela:
The judge said Luis Posada Carriles – wanted by Caracas over a 1976 plane bombing which killed 73 people – faced the threat of torture in Venezuela.
Click here to read full report from the BBC News in September 2005.
The record of terrorist offences Mr Posada is charged with is a very long one: Posada has actually admitted to involvement with bombings of Cuban hotels and nightclubs, and has already been convicted in Panama for his involvement in many other plots, including the attack which brought down Cubana Flight 455. Stephen Kinzer, writing for The Guardian, in May 2007, says he only narrowly escaped becoming one of those victims:
One October day in 1976, a Cuban airliner exploded over the Caribbean and crashed, killing all 73 people aboard. There should have been 74. I had a ticket on that flight, but changed my reservation at the last moment and flew to Havana on an earlier plane.
I was sitting by the pool of the Hotel Riviera when I heard news of the crash. A few days later, I attended a powerfully moving ceremony at which one million Cubans turned out to hear Fidel Castro denounce the bomb attack. On the reviewing stand next to him were flag-draped coffins of the few victims whose remains had been found.
Investigators in Venezuela, where the doomed flight originated, quickly determined that a famous anti-Castro terrorist, Luis Posada Carriles, had probably planned this attack. More than 30 years later, however, Posada remains amazingly immune to prosecution. Instead of going to jail, he went to work for the CIA.
Last week a federal judge in Texas threw out a case against Posada. The Bush administration has power under the Patriot Act to detain him indefinitely, and could even extradite him to Venezuela. Instead it has chosen to protect him. 4
Click here to read the full article.
Posada Carriles was released from US custody on April 19th 2007, after paying his bond. Peter Kornbluh picks up the story again:
In April 2006 government lawyers decided to hold a naturalization interview with Posada while he was in jail, surreptitiously gathering self-incriminating evidence against him in the hotel bombing case…
Instead, on January 11, 2007, Posada was indicted in El Paso on six counts of making “false statements” and one of fraud about how he came to the United States and for his use of false names and false passports—charges that carry an maximum sentence of five to ten years each. To make matters worse for the credibility of the US legal system, four months later Judge Kathleen Cardone dismissed all charges against Posada. The government, she ruled, had engaged in “fraud, deceit and trickery” in obtaining evidence against Posada under the guise of conducting a naturalization review. The court, she declared, could “not set aside [Posada’s legal] rights nor overlook Government misconduct [just] because Defendant is a political hot potato.”
A free man, Posada took up residence in Miami…
Ironically, it is now the legal proceedings against Posada that could be embarrassing to, and carry significant implications for, WOLADY [the CIA’s codeword for the United States]. In the six years Posada has been in the United States, his case has become a spectacle around the world. Now, if he is found guilty and in effect proven to be a mastermind of terrorism, the US government will have to address the scandalously short sentence the perjury charges carry. If he is found innocent and released, the Obama administration will have to confront the fact that the US legal system is inadequate to hold Posada even minimally accountable for his violent crimes, and that the United States is, in the end, harboring an international terrorist.”
Hardly surprisingly, some of the relatives of Posada’s victims were already outraged that a known terrorist was only going to trial to face charges of perjury:
“He is not being charged as a terrorist but rather as a liar,” says Livio Di Celmo, whose brother, Fabio, was killed in one of the hotel bombings in Cuba. “My family and I are outraged and disappointed that a known terrorist, Luis Posada, is going to trial for perjury and immigration fraud, not for the horrific crime of masterminding the bombing of a civilian airliner,” Roseanne Nenninger, whose 19-year-old brother, Raymond, was aboard the Cuban plane, told The Nation. “Our hope is that the US government will designate Posada as a terrorist and hold him accountable for the pain, suffering and loss he has caused to us and so many other families.”
But they needn’t have worried because in April, the now 83-year-old Posada Carriles was acquitted of even these relatively minor offences, and so the case is presumably closed:
A US court has acquitted a veteran Cuban anti-communist activist and former CIA agent, Luis Posada Carriles, on immigration charges.
Click here to read the full report from BBC News on April 8th.
Back in May 2007, Stephen Kinzer had written:
“After last week’s verdict, a spokesman for the US Department of Justice said Posada’s case is under review. A grand jury in New Jersey is investigating his role in the bombing of Cuban hotels in the 1990s. So far, though, the services he provided to the CIA for more than four decades have protected him.
“If you harbour a terrorist, you are a terrorist,” President Bush famously declared after the attacks of September 11, 2001. The United States is now harbouring Luis Posada Carriles. His continued freedom mocks victims of terrorism everywhere. It also shows how heavily the “war on terror” is overlaid with politics and hypocrisy.”
This latest verdict merely goes to show how the double standards that applied during Bush’s “war on terror” have been perpetuated under the Obama administration.
To learn more watch Posada Carriles: Terrorism Made in the USA (2007) — a documentary from renowned Venezuelan filmmaker Angel Palacios which details his longstanding relationship with the CIA, dating back to the 1960’s.
The film took two years of meticulous research by an investigative team that examined declassified documents and criminal files, and interviewed witnesses and survivors from several Latin American countries.
1 From an article entitled: “Former CIA Asset Luis Posada Goes to Trial” by Peter Kornbluh, published in The Nation, January 24th 2011. www.thenation.com/article/157510/former-cia-asset-luis-posada-goes-trial
2 From an article entitled “Terror Accusations, but Perjury Charges” by James C. McKinley Jr, published in The New York Times on January 9th 2011. www.nytimes.com/2011/01/10/us/10posada.html
3 “No deportation for Cuban militant” from BBC News published on Wednesday 28th September 2005. news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/4289136.stm
4 From article entitled: “The terrorist Bush isn’t after: Luis Posada Carriles is a terrorist – but an anti-Castro one, so as far as America is concerned he’s all right.” by Stephen Kinzer, The Guardian, Tuesday 15th May 2007. www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2007/may/15/theterroristbushisntafter
5 From an article entitled “US court acquites Cuba militant Luis Posada Carriles” published by BBC News on April 8th 2011. www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-13021002