The Washington Post Discusses Posada Carriles

by Kevin Jon Heller

Today is the deadline for the Bush administration to respond to a federal magistrate judge’s recommendation that Luis Posada Carriles be freed. Amazingly enough, a mainstream media outlet — the Washington Post — has actually bothered to publish an article about Posada’s case. The article is something of a mixed bag; although it discusses Posada’s CIA training, his responsibility for blowing up the Air Cubana flight, and how his case open us the Bush administration to charges of hypocrisy (regarding its oft-repeated intention to punish states that harbor terrorists), it doesn’t mention his involvement in Iran-Contra or recount the Bush administration’s early missteps — almost certainly intentional — in the case. The best part of the article is its explanation of how the Bush administration has only itself to blame for its current predicament:

U.S. officials see the aging Castro opponent as a more sinister figure. A field officer at the Department of Homeland Security who follows Posada Carriles’s case described him as a “present danger to the community” whose “propensity to engage in terrorist activities poses a national security risk to the United States.”

All of which makes the actions of the U.S. government in the case puzzling to critics, who say Posada Carriles should be prosecuted or at least confined to prison. Even some Cuba hard-liners in the United States confide privately that the case has turned into an embarrassment for the United States.

“They’re just dancing around,” Wayne Smith, a former head of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana and vocal critic of the Bush administration’s Cuba policies, said of prosecutors. “They have all kinds of evidence against him.”

It’s clear that the U.S. government would prefer to make Posada Carriles someone else’s problem. According to court documents, the Department of Homeland Security failed to persuade seven countries to take him — Canada, Mexico, Panama, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala and Costa Rica. The magistrate in Posada Carriles’s case said that the Justice Department could have legally held him for a longer period if it had officially certified him as a terrorist, but that prosecutors did not do so.

I’m not sure I would use the word “puzzling” to describe the Bush administration’s complacent attitude toward Posada’s release. The adminstration has never shown much interest in bringing Posada to justice for what he has done, and now — as the article notes — it just wants the problem to go away. We can only hope that “going away” doesn’t mean giving an admitted terrorist his freedom.

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