Wash Post Forgets Foreign Policy Basics
Source: Associated Press
On Friday, the Washington Post published an editorial on U.S. policy and the case of Alan Gross, an American subcontractor for USAID's democracy program in Cuba, who was arrested in Cuba in early December 2009. The editorial concludes that the U.S. Congress should (continue to) withhold the right of all Americans to travel to Cuba until Mr. Gross is released.
Only in U.S. Cuba policy can we talk about holding back millions of generous Americans from an island and then pay a clandestine handful to Ã¢â‚¬Ëœreach outÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ to the people instead.
According to the Post:
Mr. Gross was in Cuba to help several Jewish community groups gain access to the Internet, so that they could use sites such as Wikipedia and communicate with each other and with Jewish organizations abroad, according to his employer, Bethesda-based Development Alternatives Inc., and other sources familiar with his work. He reportedly supplied the groups with laptops and satellite equipment for Internet connections.
For this the 60-year-old contractor was arrested Dec. 4 and has been held ever since by Cuba's communist regime, which has accused him of conducting an espionage operation. Only in the ancient, crumbling regime of the Castro brothers could this ridiculous charge be leveled.
In Cuba, access to the internet is very limited, and controlled by the government. It is difficult for Americans to fathom a country that would restrict access to technology and the internet today. But itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not at all uncommon to put restrictions on the means by and extent to which which another country meddles in our domestic affairs.
How would we react if the shoe were on the other foot? Imagine a Cuban citizen for whom the State Department approved a tourist visa, who, when he arrived, supplied and serviced satellite communications equipment - paid for by the Cuban government - to an American religious or professional organization. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not terrorism, by a long shot. But in the United States, if you act on a foreign government's behalf and you don't register yourself as foreign agent, you're breaking the law.
According to the Foreign Agents Registration Act, a foreign agent is:
any person who acts as an agent, representative, employee, or servant, or any person who acts in any other capacity at the order, request, or under the direction or control, of a foreign principal or of a person any of whose activities are directly or indirectly supervised, directed, controlled, financed, or subsidized in whole or in major part by a foreign principal, and who directly or through any other person--
(iii) within the United States solicits, collects, disburses, or dispenses contributions, loans, money, or other things of value for or in the interest of such foreign principal
I hope for Mr. Gross's sake, there can be a swift diplomatic solution to his case that brings him home to his family. And let's hope the Administration learns to take its Cuba policy by the horns, finally, and face the failures and the opportunities The Washington Post has overlooked in its editorial.
It bears repeating that, only in U.S. Cuba policy do we talk about holding back millions of Americans from the island but then pay millions to a clandestine handful to Ã¢â‚¬Ëœreach outÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ to the Cuban people instead.