Moral Low Ground


Western Hemisphere’s Most Wanted Terrorist Acquitted by Texas Jury– of Immigration Violation

Terrorist, acquitted.

Terrorist, acquitted.

Luis Posada Carriles, the most notorious terrorist in the Western Hemisphere but one most Americans have never heard of, has been acquitted of perjury, obstruction of justice and immigration fraud charges by a jury in El Paso, Texas.

Posada, an 83-year-old anti-Castro Cuban exile and former CIA agent, is wanted by authorities in Cuba and Venezuela for masterminding the bombing of a commercial airliner over the Caribbean in 1976, an attack that killed 73 innocent people.

He is also wanted for orchestrating a string of terror attacks against Cuban hotels and for plotting the assassination of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro in Panama.

But this trial was about immigration. Specifically, prosecutors accused Posada of lying to US immigration officials about how he entered the country and about his role in the 1997 Cuban terror attacks, one of which killed an Italian tourist. The indictment did not charge Posada with the bombings.

The jury deliberated for only three hours following the 13-week trial before acquitting Posada.

The decision incensed Cubans, Venezuelans and justice-minded individuals the world over who were once again reminded of the incredible hypocrisy inherent in American policies and actions. Although the US government was prosecuting Posada, it was doing so for ridiculously minor violations.

How can Washington claim to be fighting a war on terrorism when it allowed the  hemisphere’s most wanted terrorist to escape justice for his crimes? How can this nation threaten others who harbor terrorists when Posada, and hundreds of other international terrorists, live freely– some as heroes– among us?

How can the Obama administration continue to hold men and boys, some of them innocent, indefinitely, without trial nor charge in the concentration camp at Guantanamo Bay, while letting a man with the blood of hundreds of innocents on his hands walk free over immigration-related charges?

In case you’re unfamiliar with Luis Posada Carriles, allow me to introduce you:

When President John F. Kennedy decided to visit “the terrors of the earth” upon Castro’s Cuba, Posada was one of the young CIA-trained exiles who planned the ill-fated Bay of Pigs invasion. Following that colossal embarrassment, Posada received explosives and sabotage training at Ft. Benning, Georgia. He would put his American education to good use. Posada was at the forefront of the anti-Castro terrorist movement based in Miami.

The CIA set up a station at the University of Miami with an annual budget of $100 million and over 3,000 agents hell-bent on overthrowing Fidel Castro. Thousands of sabotage and terror missions were launched and militant anti-Castro exile groups operated openly in south Florida, setting up training camps in the Everglades where they planned terrorist attacks against Cuba with the full knowledge, blessing and instruction of the United States government, military and intelligence services. Luis Posada Carriles boasted that  “the CIA taught us everything– everything. They taught us explosives, how to kill, bomb, trained us in sabotage.”

Posada honed those skills and in 1976 he and Orlando Bosch, another vicious anti-Castro terrorist, hand-picked operatives to assassinate former Chilean minister Orlando Letelier in Washington D.C., in broad daylight. Letelier’s American aide, newlywed Ronni Moffitt, was also killed in this gruesome car bombing.

Then, just a few months later, Posada and Bosch masterminded the bombing of Cubana Airlines flight 455, an attack which killed 73 innocent people including the teenage members of Cuba’s junior Olympic fencing team. Posada was tried for this heinous act of terrorism in Venezuela but managed to bribe his way out of prison. Following his escape, he spent a good part of the 1980s working for the CIA in an illegal gun-running operation to supply the Nicaraguan Contra terrorists, for which he was paid $3000 a month by an aide to disgraced  Iran-Contra figure Oliver North.

In 1997 Posada was behind a string of hotel bombings in Cuba that injured many tourists and killed one Italian man. Posada’s goal was to cripple the socialist country’s burgeoning tourism industry and thus deprive the Castro regime of sorely needed hard currency. Posada bragged that he “slept like a baby” despite the deadly results of the bombing campaign. “That Italian was in the wrong place at the wrong time,” he said. Posada was also responsible for over 40 bombings in Honduras in the 1990s.

In 2000, Cuban intelligence agents foiled a plot by Posada and others to set off a bomb in a Panama City university auditorium where Fidel Castro would be addressing a large crowd of mostly students. Posada was convicted and jailed for the failed attack, but Panamanian president Mireya Moscoso, a close ally of the George W. Bush administration, pardoned him before leaving office to move to Miami.

With so much loyal service to the United States under his belt, Luis Posada Carriles must have felt entitled to live freely in America. He snuck back into the country in 2005, returning to a hero’s welcome in Miami. Posada sought asylum but was instead arrested for illegally entering the United States. Despite the fact that the US Justice Department called him “an unrepentant criminal and admitted mastermind of terrorist plots and attacks on tourist sites,” a U.S. federal judge recommended that Posada be set free on September 11, 2006.

And incredibly, he was. The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 clearly states that anyone who plans or carries out “an act that would constitute the offense of murder, kidnapping, or maiming” in any country could face lifetime imprisonment. An earlier anti-terror law passed in the wake of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing that banned “material assistance for terrorist activity” also applies many times over to Luis Posada Carriles. But Posada was our terrorist; those laws only apply to terrorist attacks carried out by countries or groups Washington does not like.

Posada settled in Miami, where he is regarded by many Cuban-Americans as a hero. The city even honored his co-conspirator with an “Orlando Bosch Day” in 1983. Posada found work as an artist, exhibiting and selling his work at galleries across south Florida. He makes frequent radio and television appearances and even sat in the front row with Orlando Bosch at a speech by President George W. Bush.

This, after Bosch declared that “there were no innocents on that plane [Cubana flight 455], they were all henchmen.” Roseanne Nenninger Persaud of Guyana, whose 19 year-old brother Raymond was one of the “henchmen” killed aboard flight 455, said Posada and Bosch ought to be “treated like bin Laden.” “If this were a plane full of Americans, it would have been a different story,” she told the New York Times.

Incredibly, despite a terrorism resumé that would earn him a spot on al-Qaeda’s board of directors, some Florida lawmakers have lined up to express support for Posada.

Letting Posada just walk away will certainly not help the United States’ moral authority on terrorism. Nor will it inspire much faith in our judicial system. Jose Pertierra, an attorney for the Venezuelan government at the Texas trial, asserted that the not guilty verdict “shows that in US courts theater is worth more than evidence.” That may not be entirely true. A more accurate statement would have been “in US courts politics is worth more than evidence.”

How else to explain what just happened in El Paso?

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