Giving Passes in the War on Terrorism
by Jacob G. Hornberger
There is still no trial date set in the federal case of Luis Posada Carriles, the foreigner whom Venezuela accuses of having planned the terrorist downing of a Cuban civilian airliner in 1976 that killed 73 innocent people, including 24 members of Cuba’s national fencing team.
After Carriles entered the United States in 2005, Venezuela sought his extradition, pursuant to an extradition agreement between the United States and Venezuela.
U.S. officials, however, have refused to grant Venezuela’s extradition request, which would appear odd given the U.S. government’s ardent commitment to waging war on terrorism and, also, given its steadfast insistence that the Taliban government turn over accused terrorist Osama bin Laden, notwithstanding the absence of an extradition agreement between the United States and Afghanistan.
What is the reason they give for their refusal to extradite Carriles? They say that Venezuela might torture him. This is not something, U.S. officials say, they could countenance, given their steadfast opposition to torture as part of their war on terrorism.
But there could be another reason that they are vigorously fighting to protect Carriles from being extradited. He just happens to be a former CIA operative, one who allegedly was involved in the CIA’s nefarious activities in Cuba as far back as the Bay of Pigs invasion in the 1960s. The last thing the CIA would want is for Carriles to be put in a position in which he might begin singing about the things he did for his former employer, including, of course, the possible commission of terrorist acts in Cuba itself. Cuban officials allege that Carriles was, in fact, involved in a series of terrorist bombings in Cuba in 1997.
One of the interesting aspects of the federal case in which Carriles is being prosecuted is that many of the documents in the case are sealed from public view. Imagine that! I wonder why they have to be kept secret. National security, I suppose.
So, what’s the federal case against Carriles all about? No, it’s not about the terrorist bombing of that Cuban airliner that he is accused of orchestrating. Instead, they’ve indicted him for lying to U.S. officials when he entered the United States.
Now, that doesn’t seem to be an extremely difficult case to prosecute. Yet, it’s been a year since he’s been indicted, and there’s still no trial date. Just recently, the presiding judge in the case, Kathleen Cardone, granted the government’s unopposed motion to postpone a status conference in the case from May 20 to June 2. Obviously, a status conference is not a trial date but rather a hearing to determine whether a trial date should be set at some point in the future.
The question we have to ask is: Is the Carriles prosecution nothing more than a sham, one designed to make it look like the U.S. government is taking action against an accused terrorist while actually protecting a loyal operative of the CIA who has the ability to disclose many uncomfortable and embarrassing secrets? Indeed, we need to ask whether it’s possible that the government will end up granting Carriles favorable treatment out of fear that he might disclose the things that he did on behalf of the CIA.
My prediction: the 82-year-old Carriles will die before he ever serves any significant time in jail. If his perjury case is ever brought to trial and if he is convicted, my hunch is that he will be given a very light sentence, especially when the CIA reveals, in secret communications to the judge, how much Carriles loyally served the CIA. Appeals will delay the case even longer, especially if the prosecution commits procedural errors in the trial that enable Carriles to win a reversal of the conviction, which would mean that the prosecution would have to start all over.
After all, look at the special treatment that former CIA operative Michael Townley received. He is the man who planned the pre-meditated murder, through a terrorist bombing in Washington, D.C, of former Chilean official Orlando Letelier and his young American assistant Ronni Moffit and the pre-meditated attempted murder of Moffit’s husband, who was severely injured in the attack.
Townley ended up serving only 5 years in jail and then was permitted to enter the Federal Witness Protection Program, which enabled him to begin a new life in seclusion. In fact, just recently the Justice Department came to Townley’s assistance in a case in which a widow from another terrorist bombing in which Townley was accused of participating was attempting to collect a $7 million judgment against him for the killing. The Justice Department successfully argued in the Court of Appeals that Townley’s status in its Witness Protection Program protected him from the widow’s attempt to collect her judgment.
If they did all that for a CIA-connected terrorist like Townley, why wouldn’t they also do it for former CIA operative Luis Posada-Carriles?
Jacob Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.