This is a guest post by Anya Landau French, who directs the New America Foundation/U.S.-Cuba Policy Initiative. This post originally appeared at The Havana Note.
Taking a page, literally, from the Cuban Triangle, it’s worth beginning this post with this comment from Secretary Clinton:
There have been examples in history in which official conduct has been made public in the name of exposing wrongdoings or misdeeds. This is not one of those cases.
Maybe no one needs to know that our diplomats think Angela Merkel lacks creativity. But, for those of us who have repeatedly sought information about just what kind of threat the country of Cuba, one of four countries remaining on the State Department’s state sponsors of terrorism list, actually poses, we finally have a much sought-after, on-the-record answer: “Very little.”
In a cabled response to a spring 2009 questionnaire assessing the security environment in Cuba, the U.S. Interests Section assessment on Cuba’s terrorist threat includes the following:
5. (U) ANTI-AMERICAN TERRORIST GROUPS
6. (U) OTHER INDIGENOUS TERRORIST GROUPS
Okay, well how about transnational terrorism. Afterall, those of us who bother to read the State Department’s annual terrorism report know that Cuba’s ties to other terrorism list countries and the presence of members of foreign terrorist groups like Spain’s ETA or Colombia’s FARC, make up the bulk of the justification for keeping Cuba on the list. (The presence in Cuba of several dozen fugitives of U.S. justice who were convicted of non-terrorism related crimes could and should be addressed as part of a law enforcement dialogue).
We have reliable reporting indicating the presence of ELN, FARC and ETA members here in Havana. That said, they are unlikely to conduct terrorist operations in Cuba.
The specific activities of these groups are largely unknown but Post was able to corroborate that ETA members assisting the FARC had spent time in Cuba and some even had family members in country. There is little chance of any operational activity given the need for safehaven.
Frankly, I find it of greater concern that the U.S. government largely knows nothing about the activities of these groups in Cuba, than the fact that they are there. Doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in our intelligence gathering, does it?
Well, what about Cuba’s coziness with the terrorist likes of Iran and other terrorist supporting governments? “Very little threat.”
Although the GOC maintains diplomatic ties with these states and many of these statesmaintain a diplomatic presence/embassy in Havana, we have seen no evidence that the GOC allows hostile intelligence service to plan terrorist, anti-U.S. operations in Cuba. Conventional wisdom in the diplomatic community is that the GOC is anxious to avoid giving the United States a rationale to conduct counterterrorism operations against it. Moreover, the GOC guards its own prerogatives jealously and would not want a foreign service or organization operating on its soil even if relations between the GOC and that organization or service were excellent.
That’s not to say Cuba comes out squeaky clean – what country does? But this cable puts the U.S. government on the record, finally, on what the real threat from Cuba is. And that will make next year’s terrorism list report, due out April 30th, all the more useless.
— Anya Landau French