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Arresting the Messengers

The State Department and the Cuban Five


When I arrived back in Halifax on September 14, 2014 from talks in Washington about the case of the Cuban Five, there was an envelope waiting for me. It was from the “U.S. Department of State” and there was a sticker on the manila envelope that warned: “To be opened by addressee ONLY.”

The envelope contained the State Department’s response to an almost forgotten Freedom of Information Act request I’d filed four years earlier, on September 9, 2010 (not “2004” as the accompanying letter declared; even the State Department — one hopes — doesn’t take that long to respond to a simple request for information).

Since I’d filed the original request — Case #201005562 — four years ago, I’d periodically emailed the Department for progress reports. On July 12, 2013, a Chris Barnes responded: “I checked the electronic notes on this case. The case is still open. The case notes indicate documents from a search are currently under review. Each case is different and the time it takes depends on the complexity of information requested and the time it takes to review the material.”

Given the time it was taking, I began to hope State Department minions, in their diligent search among musty basement documents and back-room records from more than 15 years before, must have struck the motherlode and were now busily assembling it for me.

So when the Department wrote again on April 1, 2013 — humour unintentional, I’m sure — to “determine if you are still interested” in the files, I immediately responded that I was. “Can you tell me when I can expect a response?”

No none did — until the envelope arrived in the mail.

The envelope contained 10 pages, three of them the cover letter and boilerplate on Appeals Procedures, on the off chance I wanted to wait another four years for a further answer.

Of the seven remaining pages, there were three documents: “We have determined that two may be released in full and one may be released with excisions.[1] All released material is enclosed.”

The good news was that, “since fewer than 100 pages have been duplicated in this case, your request has been processed without charge to you.” Well, thanks for that.

So what are these documents that took the U.S. government four long years to uncover and vet? [2]

The three documents — two cables and a diplomatic note — all relate to the 1997 Havana hotel bombing campaign, which was masterminded by Cuban exile militant Luis Posada Carriles and financed by members of the powerful Cuban American National Foundation. (Posada acknowledged both those assertions in a 1998 New York Times interview.)

There is...

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