Responses to Acquittal of CIA Terrorist Luis Posada Carriles

New York Times, April 8, 2011:

Jury Clears Cuban Exile of Charges That He Lied to U.S.

... The abrupt decision ends four years of attempts by the United States to convict Luis Posada Carriles, now 83, and means he no longer faces the prospect of spending the final years of his life in prison, at least in the United States. For decades, Mr. Posada, an anti-Castro militant, worked to destabilize communist governments throughout Latin America and was often supported by Washington. After hearing that he had been acquitted on all 11 counts of perjury, obstruction and immigration fraud, Mr. Posada grinned widely and hugged his three lawyers simultaneously. Two of the lawyers broke out in tears. ...

Mr. Posada sneaked into the United States in 2005 and sought political asylum, and later citizenship, for which he went through immigration hearings in El Paso. Prosecutors accused him of lying while under oath during those proceedings about how he made it into the country and by denying he masterminded hotel bombings in Cuba in 1997 that killed an Italian tourist and wounded 12 other people.

Mr. Posada said in a 1998 interview with The New York Times that he planned the attacks, but later recanted that. During the trial, jurors heard more than two hours of recordings from those interviews, but apparently were not swayed by them. ...

He helped the United States funnel support to Nicaraguan contra rebels in the 1980s and in 2000, was arrested in Panama amid a plot to kill President Fidel Castro of Cuba there. He was pardoned by Panama’s president in 2004 and turned up in the United States the following March. ...

Cuba and Venezuela would like to try him for the 1997 hotel bombings or the airliner bombing, but a United States immigration judge has ruled that he cannot be sent to either country, for fear he could be tortured.

Jose Pertierra, a lawyer representing Venezuela against Mr. Posada, sat through every day of the trial and was crestfallen after the verdict.

“The evidence was strong. We heard the voice of Luis Posada saying he was the mastermind of the bombings,” Mr. Pertierra said. He said Venezuela would renew its efforts for extradition. ...

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/09/us/09posada.html?_r=1

Democracy Now!, April 11, 2011:

Alleged Cuban Airline Bomber Free After Acquittal on Immigration Charges

Luis Posada Carriles, a former CIA operative best known as the suspected mastermind of the deadly 1976 bombing of a Cuban airline jet, was acquitted Friday. He wasn’t facing terrorism charges, but 11 charges of perjury, immigration fraud, and obstruction of justice. Although the U.S. government believes he is an international terrorist, Posada Carriles was freed on Friday. Will the Obama administration let him walk the streets of Miami? [includes rush transcript]

http://www.democracynow.org/seo/2011/4/11/cia_trained_airline_bomber_set_free

Caden Agramonte, April 12, 2o11:

Rejection to Acquittal of Posada Carriles on the Rise

Havana, Cuba, Apr 12.- The recent acquittal in El Paso, Texas, of international terrorist Luis Posada Carriles in his trial for lying to US immigration authorities was slammed in Venezuela and Belarus.

The Venezuela Group of the Latin American Parliament (Parlatino) issued a press release published in Caracas saying that exonerating Posada Carriles was a mockery because it is widely known that he is a confessed and convicted terrorist. Signed by Rodrigo Cabezas, Group’s president, the document adds that Washington has only one opportunity left to make justice, that is extraditing Posada Carriles to Venezuela as established by a bilateral agreement signed in 1922 and in response to an extradition request filed by Caracas in 2005, Prensa Latina reported.

Posada Carriles escaped from a prison in Venezuela where he was going to be tried for the in-mid-air blowing of a Cuban airliner off Barbados coasts in 1976 killing all 73 aboard. Cabezas criticized the fact that Posada Carrilles only faced petty crimes like perjury and fraud, even though he has been accused of major crimes.

Parlatino’s denunciation comes after one made by the Venezuelan foreign ministry and the Cuba-Venezuela Mutual Solidarity Movement.

In Belarus, Lilliam Ananich, first deputy Information minister rejected the pardon and said imperial governments must stop making such fragrant violations of their obligations to fight terrorism, in a meeting with Cuban ambassador, Alfredo Nieves Portuondo.

The Cuban diplomat gave Ananich documents declassified by the White House revealing the terrorist nature of actions led by Posada Carriles and his complicity with the CIA.

Ananich also received a collection of documentary films about terrorist actions masterminded by Posada Carrilles against the Cuban people.

Following El Paso verdict, Cuban and foreign media have noted that by finding Posada Carriles not guilty, the jury also failed to admit that the terrorist was the author of the bombings in Havana hotels in 1997 which killed one young Italian tourist, Fabio di Celmo. (acn).

The acquittal virtually insures that Posada will never be brought to justice for his role in the bombing of Cubana airliner in October 1976 that killed 73 people, including the entire Cuban national fencing team.

The Justice Department's decision not to extradite or prosecute Posada for the hotel or the airline bombings, and instead to bring lesser charges, did not lead to the verdict prosecutors sought. Despite hearing a tape recording in which Posada acknowledged planning the hotel bombing, the jury swiftly acquitted him of lying about his involvement to immigration authorities.

The decision extricates the CIA from the unprecedented and uncomfortable position of having the Justice Department charge a longtime agent with participation in an international terrorist incident.

But the verdict deals a blow to hopes that the United States and Cuba might have a more normal relationship, and it could undermine the credibility of U.S. counterterrorism policy in the Western Hemisphere -- insofar as the only suspect in two terror incidents involving Cuban civilians has never faced charges for the bombings themselves. Posada's 10-year career as a CIA agent was not much of an issue in the three-month-long trial in El Paso, Texas, but his acquittal may suggest to skeptics that anti-Castro operatives enjoy a degree of impunity that the U.S. legal system cannot or will not punish. Cuba's Foreign Ministry, for one, has denounced Posada's acquittal as a "farce."

Early in Posada's trial, prosecutors introduced the CIA's one-page, unclassified summary of Posada's work as a "paid asset" for the agency between 1965 and 1976. It emphasized that he had provided "unsolicited threat reporting." The implication was that Posada sought to prevent attacks on civilians, a claim that Posada himself has never made. The agency retains thousands of documents about Posada that have never been made public for reasons of "national security."

In fact, other documents posted online by the non-profit National Security Archive show how the CIA trained, recruited, promoted and protected Posada on his road to international notoriety. On more than one occasion, Posada has said that any Cuban civilian is a legitimate target in the struggle against Castro.

Posada's evolution from political refugee to accused terrorist was nurtured by the CIA. He came to the United States in 1961 and received demolition and small-arms training from the Agency. After serving a year in the U.S. Army and becoming a demolitions expert, he was recruited by the CIA's Maritime Training Branch in 1965, where he planned to plant on a bomb on the hull of a  Soviet ship docked in Vera Cruz, Mexico. "It is hoped this procedure will cause little or no harm to the ship's crew," a CIA official said in a cable to Langley. The plan was later abandoned.

As the CIA shut down its Miami station in 1967 and shifted its attention to Vietnam, Posada emigrated to Venezuela. Disenchanted with Washington's willingness to live with Castro, he was embraced by an anti-communist government in Caracas. With Agency help, Posada and other exiles assumed high-ranking positions in the Venezuelan intelligence services. Soon Posada and co. were able to deploy the power of the Venezuelan state against the Castro government and its supporters. Within a year, Posada had returned to the CIA payroll.

Posada was forced out of Venezuelan intelligence in 1974 when a more moderate government took power in Caracas, but his ties with the CIA survived. In its unclassified summary, the Agency says that it had "intermittent contact" with Posada between 1974 and 1976 over "outstanding financial matters," possibly a delicate reference to other CIA reports, now declassified, that Posada associated with a known drug trafficker and other "gangster elements."  The Agency says its financial relationship with Posada ended in February 1976.

Eight months later, two employees of Posada's private security firm boarded a flight from Caracas to Barbados with a suitcase loaded with explosives. The men disembarked in Barbados and the flight continued to Havana. The bomb detonated shortly after take off, killing all the passengers, including11 Guyanese and five North Koreans. The two men were arrested, as were Posada and an associate, Orlando Bosch. According to the documents posted by the National Security Archive, a reliable source "all but admitted" Posada's involvement to the FBI.*

But Posada had friends in the right places. To appease the Cuban government, Venezuelan officials detained Posada for eight years without announcing a verdict.** To appease Washington, they finally put him in a military court, despite the fact that none of the people involved were military officers. The four men were acquitted, but the case was sent to a civilian court where Bosch was acquitted, while Posada and the two subordinates were convicted.

Before Posada could be sentenced he escaped prison, helped by a hefty bribe supplied by supporters in Miami. Posada made his way to Central America, where he joined the Reagan administration's secret campaign to evade contra rebels fighting a leftist government in Nicaragua. Soon he was earning $6,000 - $7,000 a month, paid by White House and former CIA officials seeking to evade a congressional ban on aid to the contras.

After the wars of Central America ended in the early 1990s. Posada settled In El Salvador where, as he later told Ana Louise Bardach of the New York Times in a tape-recorded interview, he planned a series of bombings of Havana hotels designed to discourage tourism to Cuba. His role went undetected and he moved on to other targets.

In 2000*** Posada was arrested in Panama for plotting to assassinate Fidel Castro during a visit there by the Cuban president. Posada and two associates were convicted of conspiring to bomb a crowded auditorium where Castro was scheduled to speak. Posada was pardoned by the president of Panama. After being released in 2004, he snuck back into the United States in 2005, seeking political asylum and apparently not fearing criminal charges.

The Bush administration initially seemed to ignore his presence in the United States and then charged him with immigration violations. Venezuela's request that he be extradited was rebuffed, and a U.S. court ruled he could not be deported to Venezuela either, saying he might be tortured -- a charge Venezuela's defenders reject. The Obama Justice Department, perhaps seeking to rescue U.S. credibility on terrorism policy, amplified the immigration charges to include perjury and obstruction of counts related to the hotel bombing. The jury didn't buy it.

"We created a Frankenstein," said Peter Kornbluh of the National Security Archive during the trial. But as a creature of U.S. policy, Posada benefited from official secrecy and circuitous charges. The jury didn't see Posada as monster. If they agreed with the defendant's case, they saw him as an American sympathizer who deserved his freedom.

The Atantic | April 12, 2011:

Luis Posada's Long History With the CIA

... The acquittal virtually insures that Posada will never be brought to justice for his role in the bombing of Cubana airliner in October 1976 that killed 73 people, including the entire Cuban national fencing team.

The Justice Department's decision not to extradite or prosecute Posada for the hotel or the airline bombings, and instead to bring lesser charges, did not lead to the verdict prosecutors sought. Despite hearing a tape recording in which Posada acknowledged planning the hotel bombing, the jury swiftly acquitted him of lying about his involvement to immigration authorities.

The decision extricates the CIA from the unprecedented and uncomfortable position of having the Justice Department charge a longtime agent with participation in an international terrorist incident.

But the verdict deals a blow to hopes that the United States and Cuba might have a more normal relationship, and it could undermine the credibility of U.S. counterterrorism policy in the Western Hemisphere -- insofar as the only suspect in two terror incidents involving Cuban civilians has never faced charges for the bombings themselves. Posada's 10-year career as a CIA agent was not much of an issue in the three-month-long trial in El Paso, Texas, but his acquittal may suggest to skeptics that anti-Castro operatives enjoy a degree of impunity that the U.S. legal system cannot or will not punish. Cuba's Foreign Ministry, for one, has denounced Posada's acquittal as a "farce."

Early in Posada's trial, prosecutors introduced the CIA's one-page, unclassified summary of Posada's work as a "paid asset" for the agency between 1965 and 1976. It emphasized that he had provided "unsolicited threat reporting." The implication was that Posada sought to prevent attacks on civilians, a claim that Posada himself has never made. The agency retains thousands of documents about Posada that have never been made public for reasons of "national security."

In fact, other documents posted online by the non-profit National Security Archive show how the CIA trained, recruited, promoted and protected Posada on his road to international notoriety. On more than one occasion, Posada has said that any Cuban civilian is a legitimate target in the struggle against Castro.

Posada's evolution from political refugee to accused terrorist was nurtured by the CIA. He came to the United States in 1961 and received demolition and small-arms training from the Agency. After serving a year in the U.S. Army and becoming a demolitions expert, he was recruited by the CIA's Maritime Training Branch in 1965, where he planned to plant on a bomb on the hull of a  Soviet ship docked in Vera Cruz, Mexico. "It is hoped this procedure will cause little or no harm to the ship's crew," a CIA official said in a cable to Langley. The plan was later abandoned.

As the CIA shut down its Miami station in 1967 and shifted its attention to Vietnam, Posada emigrated to Venezuela. Disenchanted with Washington's willingness to live with Castro, he was embraced by an anti-communist government in Caracas. With Agency help, Posada and other exiles assumed high-ranking positions in the Venezuelan intelligence services. Soon Posada and co. were able to deploy the power of the Venezuelan state against the Castro government and its supporters. Within a year, Posada had returned to the CIA payroll.

Posada was forced out of Venezuelan intelligence in 1974 when a more moderate government took power in Caracas, but his ties with the CIA survived. In its unclassified summary, the Agency says that it had "intermittent contact" with Posada between 1974 and 1976 over "outstanding financial matters," possibly a delicate reference to other CIA reports, now declassified, that Posada associated with a known drug trafficker and other "gangster elements."  The Agency says its financial relationship with Posada ended in February 1976.

Eight months later, two employees of Posada's private security firm boarded a flight from Caracas to Barbados with a suitcase loaded with explosives. The men disembarked in Barbados and the flight continued to Havana. The bomb detonated shortly after take off, killing all the passengers, including11 Guyanese and five North Koreans. The two men were arrested, as were Posada and an associate, Orlando Bosch. According to the documents posted by the National Security Archive, a reliable source "all but admitted" Posada's involvement to the FBI.*

But Posada had friends in the right places. To appease the Cuban government, Venezuelan officials detained Posada for eight years without announcing a verdict.** To appease Washington, they finally put him in a military court, despite the fact that none of the people involved were military officers. The four men were acquitted, but the case was sent to a civilian court where Bosch was acquitted, while Posada and the two subordinates were convicted.

Before Posada could be sentenced he escaped prison, helped by a hefty bribe supplied by supporters in Miami. Posada made his way to Central America, where he joined the Reagan administration's secret campaign to evade contra rebels fighting a leftist government in Nicaragua. Soon he was earning $6,000 - $7,000 a month, paid by White House and former CIA officials seeking to evade a congressional ban on aid to the contras.

After the wars of Central America ended in the early 1990s. Posada settled In El Salvador where, as he later told Ana Louise Bardach of the New York Times in a tape-recorded interview, he planned a series of bombings of Havana hotels designed to discourage tourism to Cuba. His role went undetected and he moved on to other targets.

In 2000*** Posada was arrested in Panama for plotting to assassinate Fidel Castro during a visit there by the Cuban president. Posada and two associates were convicted of conspiring to bomb a crowded auditorium where Castro was scheduled to speak. Posada was pardoned by the president of Panama. After being released in 2004, he snuck back into the United States in 2005, seeking political asylum and apparently not fearing criminal charges.

The Bush administration initially seemed to ignore his presence in the United States and then charged him with immigration violations. Venezuela's request that he be extradited was rebuffed, and a U.S. court ruled he could not be deported to Venezuela either, saying he might be tortured -- a charge Venezuela's defenders reject. The Obama Justice Department, perhaps seeking to rescue U.S. credibility on terrorism policy, amplified the immigration charges to include perjury and obstruction of counts related to the hotel bombing. The jury didn't buy it.

"We created a Frankenstein," said Peter Kornbluh of the National Security Archive during the trial. But as a creature of U.S. policy, Posada benefited from official secrecy and circuitous charges. The jury didn't see Posada as monster. If they agreed with the defendant's case, they saw him as an American sympathizer who deserved his freedom.

http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2011/04/luis-posadas-long-history-with-the-cia/237210/

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