Friday, November 16, 2012

Alan Gross sues U.S. government and "subversion" contractor, claiming he was deceived about Cuba gig

It was all about greed and a lucrative contract, alleges beleaguered high tech smuggler from prison

*Updated May 30, 2013*
Guadalajara -
He's serving a 15 year prison sentence for smuggling contraband equipment into Cuba, but from his jail cell in Havana imprisoned contractor Alan Gross today filed suit against the U.S. government and a private contractor which hired Gross to carry out subversive activities on behalf of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

A copy of Gross' federal complaint, filed in the U.S, District Court for the District of Columbia, is below.

According to articles published by two Miami newspapers last February, Gross, a former Maryland resident, was a U.S. subcontractor knowingly involved in activities prohibited by Cuban law when he was arrested in Havana in Dec. 2009. Accused of national security offenses, Gross told a Cuban criminal court in March 2011 that he was nothing more than a "humanitarian aid" worker. The articles were based upon a lengthy Associated Press investigation of his multiple trips to the island, and progress reports he filed with the contractor (Gross knew USAID mission was illegal).

Gross was convicted of subversive conduct 20 months ago. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison by an island criminal court, and has been in custody since his detention. President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton both have called Gross a political prisoner of the Castro regime. Former president Jimmy Carter and ex-New Mexico governor Bill Richardson were unable to secure Gross' release during separate visits to the island last year. The latter effort ended with name calling, torpedoing hopes for quick resolution of a matter which has refrozen thawing U.S.-Cuba relations.

In an article published in May 2011, former CIA agent Philip Giraldi alleged that Gross was paid $500,000 by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), to travel to Cuba "to hand out laptop computers and cell and satellite phones to the local 1,000 strong Jewish community" on the island. The claims have since been confirmed by other sources. Such activities made Gross far more than a humanitarian aid worker, and required government permission under Cuban law.

Gross lied to the Cuban criminal court which heard his case, according to the Miami newspapers. They said that before his arrest Gross had acknowledged in written reports, "What we're engaged in here is very risky business." On another occasion he wrote, "The discovery of satellite (phone) signals would be catastrophic." Both newspapers also claimed that Gross went to extraordinary lengths to conceal from Cuban customs officials the computer and communications network he was constructing for the island's Jewish community. But Gross told the court that he had not intended to violate Cuban law and was unaware that he was doing so. His attorneys, supporters and family have issued public statements to the same effect, saying Gross had only charitable motives for his travels.

On Nov. 28, 2011 the Associated Press identified a Maryland company, Development Alternatives Inc. (DAI), as the private USAID contractor for whom Gross was working when he made his trips to Cuba. According to that AP story, "A spokesman for DAI said that Gross 'designed, proposed, and implemented work' for the company, which had a government contract for a democracy-building project on the Communist island." Although DAI was hired directly by the government, the project was subcontracted to Alan Gross, who is purportedly a technology and communications expert.

There is no evidence that Cuban officials had knowledge of or authorized any "democracy-building" activities or projects, however. Private possession of satellite phones is strictly forbidden by island law, absent government authorization. The AP reported that Gross enlisted other persons to help him smuggle in prohibited equipment, "piece by piece," often with the brand names obscured or defaced.

In the February articles the Miami newspapers quoted Robert Pastor, a specialist in Latin American affairs at The American University in Washington, who said USAID programs like the one for which Gross worked should be considered covert or subversive operations, because "they're about regime change."

Gross and his attorneys have issued several press releases since his conviction declaring that he was "used, duped and was a trusting fool," without elaborating further. Today Gross sued both the U.S. government and Development Alternatives, Inc., claiming they failed to inform him of the risks inherent in his secret missions.

In an opening paragraph of the 38 page lawsuit, Gross' attorneys told the court,

"Both before and after Gross began traveling to Cuba, Defendants failed to disclose adequately to him the superior knowledge that they had, or should have had, about the material risks that Gross faced due to his participation in the project. Defendants also failed to take basic remedial measures to protect Gross, including failing to provide him with the education and training that was necessary to minimize the risk of harm, and failing to call him back from Cuba and/or preclude him from returning."

Gross had particularly harsh words for private contractor Development Alternatives:

"Defendant DAI, with negligence, gross negligence and willful disregard for Plaintiffs’ rights, failed to take these basic remedial steps because doing so would have delayed or prevented DAI’s complete performance under part of a lucrative contract with Defendant United States, depriving Defendant DAI of significant revenue. Defendant DAI’s business model depends upon obtaining and performing contracts with Defendant United States."

Gross' wife, Judy, joined in the action as a plaintiff. Both allege they have suffered great emotional injury and severe financial losses as a result of his conviction and imprisonment in Cuba, which they characterized as "wrongful." They're seeking unspecified damages, and have demanded a jury trial.

No hearing date has been set in the case. Neither the U.S. Justice Dept. nor DAI had an immediate comment on today's filing.

Nov. 28 - Alan Gross is in a good state of health, does not have cancer and is not suffering from any maladies other than those normal for his age, Cuban officials reported this week to the U.S. Interests Section in Havana.

Nov. 30 - The U.S. State Dept.'s chief propaganda minister in Washington continued to insist today that Gross was just an innocent "international development worker," and claimed once again that the American government will never trade him for the Miami Five. But it's obvious that Washington is really feeling the pressure from Alan Gross' best and most effective advocate - his own wife. Judy Gross is becoming increasingly acrid in her public oratory about this case, and in a press conference today with her counsel she demanded that the Obama administration do something immediately - like sending a special emissary to Cuba with full negotiating authority. But it will all fall on deaf ears in Havana. The island government will never release Alan Gross until the Miami Five are soutbound. Moreover, it will likely also demand that Cuba be removed from the U.S. state sponsored terror list - and perhaps even that the economic embargo be lifted. On the latter point it has the overwhelming support of the world community. Barack Obama will eventually have to yield in this case and do what he should have done a long time ago. If not, Gross may be in for a very, very long stay. Cuba can easily hold out just as long as the United States. It has absolutely nothing to lose from doing so.

Dec. 2 - On the third anniversary of his arrest and detention in Havana while working as a secret subcontractor for USAID, Judy Gross says the government sent her husband into a trap.

Dec. 12 - Raúl Castro makes it clear once again: the Miami Five must be returned, or Gross will stay.

May 30, 2013 - A federal judge in Washington has dismissed Gross' lawsuit against the government, on sovereign immunity grounds. The court also announced that Mr. and Mrs. Gross have entered into a private settlement with Alternative Development Inc. for an undisclosed sum, the details of which will remain sealed. Alan Gross remains in a Havana jail, not one step closer to freedom.

June 5 - Cuba busca negociar con EU sobre un intercambio de reos

Gross vs. USA et al

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Barack Obama should free Alan Gross
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Judy Gross urges Obama, "please bring my husband home"
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Fidel Castro greets Pope Benedict XVI - but no jail pass for Alan Gross
Two American senators visit Cuba
Alan Gross knew USAID mission was illegal and lied to Cuban authorities
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Alan Gross y Los Cinco de Miami
Colombia's president Santos calls for normalization of U.S.-Cuba relations
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Why the Cuban Embargo should be abandoned
United Nations condemns U.S. embargo of Cuba (186-2) for the 20th time

1 comment:

  1. Mr. Gross and his wife should remember the old adage "Don't do the crime if you can't do the time". It's ludicrous that he and his wife want the public to believe he is a naive pawn.