Tracey Eaton from Along the Malecon sifts through the USAID court documents from the Alan Gross lawsuit, finding details of the operation Gross undertook in Cuba before he was arrested. Another interesting find in the documents is the USAID’s mention of Babalú (page 3) as a go-to source for information on Cuba.
Secrecy, politics at heart of Cuba project
From Alan Gross memo: Internet in a backpack
U.S. officials stressed the importance of secrecy during a 2008 meeting with a Maryland contractor that had been chosen to carry out a new democracy project in Cuba, according to a confidential memo (download 8-page document).
The project wasn’t considered classified, however, because the U.S. Agency for International Development wanted to create the illusion of transparency.
Development Alternatives Inc., of Bethesda, Md., won the USAID contract on Aug. 14, 2008, and quickly hired Alan Gross, who was later arrested in Cuba while working on the project.
DAI wrote the confidential memo to summarize what was said during a private Aug. 26, 2008, meeting with top USAID officials.
During the meeting, DAI learned that the U.S. government had “five to seven different transition plans” for Cuba. DAI would “not be asked to write a new one.”
Instead, the contractor would carry out a daring plan to set up satellite Internet connections under the nose of Cuban state security agents.
USAID promised to protect the identities of contractors and their associates in and out of Cuba. “The program is not pressing (and will not press) them to disclose networks,” said the memo, which DAI filed in federal court on Jan. 15 as part of its reply to a $60 million lawsuit filed by the Gross family in November 2012.
The memo stressed the unusual nature of the Cuba program:
The project was not classified because USAID wanted to send the message that this is a transparent process. Also, a classified project imposes significant security, documentation burdens and delays on all its stakeholders.
USAID wanted no delays and was eager to move ahead. The memo said:
This Administration expects immediate results from this program, definitely before mid-January.
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