Guest Post by Anya Landau French: New TSA Regs Could Spark Terrorism List Debate on Cuba


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Anya Landau French is director of research for the New America Foundation/U.S.-Cuba Policy Initiative.
Responding to the attempted bombing of a U.S. airliner on Christmas day, the Transportation Security Administration has issued new regulations for travelers bound for the United States who either hold a passport issued by, or who are departing from or transiting through, a country on the State Department’s state sponsors of terrorism list – which includes Cuba. (In addition, the new security measures will apply travelers from 10 other countries of “concern”.)
I’ve put in an inquiry to the Department of Homeland Security’s public affairs office to learn a bit more about what these regulations will mean for U.S. citizens and permanent residents who travel to Cuba for work or to visit family. Until I get my answers, I can only guess how these regulations will be implemented. But I think it is pretty safe to say that these regulations could spark a debate in Miami and Washington about whether it’s time to remove Cuba from the terrorism list.
In 2001, there were 7 countries on the State Department’s list: Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Sudan and Syria. Today there are just 4: Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria. After reading the State Department’s 2009 ‘rap sheet‘ on each of these countries, you might wonder which of these countries is not like the other? Here’s what it looked like in 2006, in 2000, and in 1993.
While the Obama Administration may not be ready to normalize relations with Cuba just yet, you have to wonder whether it makes sense to keep Cuba on the terrorism list in an age when fewer states sponsor terrorism but many more tolerate or fail to stop the groups and individuals who plot against the United States in some of the most lawless corners of the world.
This is an issue that has been raised repeatedly by Congress and addressed by the Government Accountability Office in 2008, which found that the U.S. applies resources to enforcing Cuba-related sanctions that could otherwise be applied to more grave terrorist threats. And if these new regulations mean that travelers arriving from Cuba will receive full pat downs and baggage inspections upon their arrival in Miami, you can imagine the renewed strain it could put on U.S. security resources there.
Are full body pat downs on as many as 200,000 Cuban Americans who are expected to travel to Cuba to visit their family annually a good use of resources? Particularly when the airport nearly all of them are traveling through – Miami – is the same airport through which many, many other international travelers (including several of the 9-11 hijackers) reach the United States.
How will the Cuban American community react to being treated like a higher potential terrorist threat every time they travel home? Over time, could the new inspection policy toward terrorist list countries rile a community that is increasingly ready to throw off old and counterproductive policies toward Cuba? And how long will it take for Congress to start asking questions about the outsize drain on security-focused resources now that nearly all Cuban Americans can travel home to Cuba whenever they want?
Most of all, won’t it seem more than a little ironic that the United States continues to accept Cubans who reach the United States illegally (and fast track them to green card status within a year), but that those same Cubans will then have to be double and triple checked to get back in the United States when they visit their family? If Cuba truly were a terrorist threat to the United States, surely the Department of Homeland Security would only accept only those illegal arrivals who could prove a political asylum case.
The State Department is slated to update its overview on terrorism at the end of April this year. But the President can remove a country from the list at any time, provided he submits proper notice and explanation to Congress first. To learn more about how Cuba got on the State Department’s terrorism list, why it remains today, and the removal process, flip to page 29 in this resource guide I wrote for the Lexington Institute.
— Anya Landau French


13 comments on “Guest Post by Anya Landau French: New TSA Regs Could Spark Terrorism List Debate on Cuba

  1. Igor Sill says:

    Cuba has suffered disportionately enough. The new TSA enhanced security screening procedures naming US-bound flights originating from or through “state sponsors of terrorism or other countries of interest” tops Cuba on the list. The U.S. government officially lists four countries as those that sponsor terror: Cuba, Sudan, Syria and Iran. Additionally, there are 10 other countries listed as “of interest” which include Afghanistan, Algeria, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and Yemen. Many knowledgeable intelligence experts and analysts are skeptical of Cuba’s inclusion. In 1998, a comprehensive review by the U.S. intelligence community concluded that Cuba does not pose a threat to U.S. national security, implying that Cuba is no longer participating in sponsoring terrorism. More recently, The Center for Defense Intelligence (CDI) also supported this opinion. Cuba imposes a state atheist attitude towards religions and the few Cuban Muslims on the island usually pray in their homes since there is no Mosque in Havana and the state has yet to allow any construction of mosques. I suspect that elderly US statesman with long memories of the Castro/Kennedy feud are the only reason for keeping Cuba on the list. The facts don’t support it.


  2. Paul Norheim says:

    Stephen Walt wrote on his blog that he received the following suggestion in a private e-mail the other
    “Here’s how: a flight would begin with every passenger stripped and water-boarded. Then they would all
    be given those orange jumpsuits, blacked out goggles, and adult diapers, which eliminate the need for
    in-flight service, video entertainment, and bathroom breaks during the flight. Finally, all flights
    would be to “undisclosed locations” so any terrorist who got through the system would have no idea when
    to light his or her BVDs on fire.”
    For the thousands of Cuban American jihadists, Gitmo would be an obvious destination.


  3. JamesL says:

    CB: “Simple solution! Everyone boards nude!”
    Temporary solution, until a motivated someone does the ultimate breast implant, or manages to swallow a complete device. There are no ultimate protections in a complex society, only reductions of threat and geometrically mounting costs. The MacGuyver phenomenon is real, and is not limited to tv reruns. THe US military and the GWOT are vainly fighting MacGuyver. The ultimate protection maxes out when everyone is your friend. THe US is on a reciprocal course.


  4. Paul Norheim says:

    The patient died, but the fever left him.


  5. Clay Barham says:

    Simple solution! Everyone boards nude! That costs less and everyone can see what everyone is carrying that would otherwise be concealed, which means nothing is concealed. Of course, Muslims would be exempt because their religion prohibits nudity in public, so …. “boom.”


  6. samuelburke says:

    treating the sympton instead of the cause does seem to be a
    western disease.
    i hope the patient recovers.


  7. JamesL says:

    I checked my nearest big city for its murder rate. The first Google hit contained not one hard figure. Everything was in percents. My heart alternately leapt and crashed reading down the page! Up someteen here, down someteen here. Up down up down. It was relentless. Lots of numbers, no information. If 2009 murders had gone from from 28 to 42 it would be a BIG change, a HUGE trend, a compelling reason for higher budgets, a great opportunity for a stiff jawed law-and-order anchorman to fuse the best angle of his craggy visage into the viewer’s minds. Anchor Person. Anchor dufus. Whatever. Wolf Blitzer would swoon. If 2009 showed a decline from 1114 to 1097, there’d be nothing to write about. Much the same, much the same. It’s the story of US media. It’s not the numbers, it’s what you make out of them. It’s showtime!!


  8. PissedOffAmerican says:

    If you’re near an urban center, run a google on murders in your city, and check out how many qualify as “gang violence”.
    It would be interesting to know the odds of being victimized by a radicalized Muslim, compared to the odds of being a victim of gang violence. I know for myself, I am far more likely to get shot in Bakersfield by a gang member than I am likely to get offed by some crazed Yemeni, or a postal Cuban. I wonder how much money these fucks in Washington spend on reducing gang violence as opposed to how much they spend on bombing Muslims in foreign lands???
    And how about our southern borders? If we truly are threatened by terrorism from Cuba, or Yemen, or Afganistan, or etc., when will these lying sacks of shit in DC start treating border SECURITY as a SECURITY issue, instead of an immigration issue? If I’m inclined to bring in a biological or chemical weapon capable of inflicting mass casualties, would I attempt to smuggle it onto an aircraft, or would I simply pay some mule a coupla thousand bucks to guide me on a Saturday afternoon stroll over the border, picnic lunch in hand.
    Billions of dollars, the Patriot Act, intrusive and draconian security at the airports, illegal evesdropping, torture and mayhem, and some halfwit rich kid with an Al Qaeda fantasy can get on an airplane sporting an exploding scrotum.
    And the guys that REALLY wanna put on a show, if in fact they exist, can simply skip-to-my-lou from Tijuana into San Diego, then blend in with the natives.
    Oh dear.


  9. Dewey Tellit says:

    With tens of millions now unemployed in this country, tens of millions with no health insurance, untold houses lost on the giant housing bubble, the commercial and residential real estate markets in shambles, jobs disappearing as fast as personal assets shrinking, immoral behavior from bankers as banksters, to past presidents and Tiger Woods, what Mid East Muslim is really “jealous” over our lifestyles to cause such insane anger?
    Or, could it be. . .


  10. Dewey Tellit says:

    “Don’t we need to ask ourselves what is it in us, the US, as country that pushes our thinking and actions in such tortured directions?”
    The answer is so simple, how can you and most miss? It is Israel’s and AIPAC’s underhanded control and death grip on U.S. Politics, elections, and policies. This whole mess, including the war in Iraq and the terrorist attacks, is a result of the American government’s involvement with Israel. It’s a dangerous and unhealthy state of affairs that will not be cured until Americans find the courage to have an open and honest debate about our foreign policy in the Middle East. Washington won’t even try because of the two death grippers mentioned above.
    Independents, young people, teachers, school boards, firemen, farmers, small business owners, small town mayors and city councilmen, need a strong third party organizational voice.
    Why wait another day to get started in your own community?


  11. Jackie says:

    I understand your disgust with the wussies in this country. Unfortunately, most our fellow citizens didn’t realize Bush and Cheney were really running a campaign based on fear. I swear, most Repubs must have peed their pants on 9/11 and still do anytime there is a possible “terror” attack. Apparently, I have more nerve than they do because I haven’t wet my bloomers yet over this stuff.
    For my part, I’d prefer to “live free or die” than live in a national nanny state. The government can’t protect us from everything and they should just say so.


  12. Outraged American says:

    A few men using box cutters, underwear and shoe bombs took
    down the US Bill of Rights. Nation of Cowards should be our new
    All that blood spilt to make America what it was, was obviously
    spilt in vain.
    “Live free or die” — who said that, I wonder?


  13. DonS says:

    The post is relevant, of course, with special irony, to Cuba, but the implications of the new regs for the US are what is striking.
    First off, the knee jerk reaction of the administration and the TSA, and the rushed promulgation of new regs smacks of stupidity of the worst sort. As are most knee jerk reactions. But who can doubt that the prime motivation is Obama’s wish to be seen as doing something, anything, to make Americans ‘safer’ (that elusive grail that even David Brooks recognizes as a reflection of an American populace supposedly too immature to accept the bad news that, yes America, you are subject to chance and accident in this big bad world just like all those benighted foreigners).
    So, number one: the regs are primarily aimed at domestic consumption. The whole ‘weak on terra’ schtick.
    Number two: the bad guys. They’re doing the gotcha dance right now since the higher the greater the knee jerk by the US the more they ‘win’, even without a plane coming down. And the promulgation of the new super regs is far greater a knee jerk signifier than the nuanced understanding of the cognoscenti that Obama continuing to vacation in Hawaii was supposed to be some big deal. Aloso, new regs, hahahaha. Since when have the ‘bad guys’ found that a big damn deal?
    But additionally tragic in this charade is the way it highlights to the muslim world, at least those muslim countries which make up the bulk of the listed ones, just how clearly right they are to note that the US lumps muslims in one big pot psychologically identified as ‘the enemy’, the ‘other’. True, the regs don’t go quite so far as General Tom McInerney (ret) who suggested all muslim males between 18 and 28 be stripped searched, but it’s a matter of degree.
    Don’t we need to ask ourselves what is it in us, the US, as country that pushes our thinking and actions in such tortured directions? Seriously, “strip search” as even an aired talking point (by a hired gun of course, but none the less). Could there be a clearer way of saying, as a group, muslims are barely human? And we’re surprised that youth are radicalized?
    Maybe the US should just get over with it and hang out a sign, “Foreigners not welcome”.
    Whoever thought David Brooks would seem the soul of reason.


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