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“As millions of us shuffle shoeless through airport security lines, few remember that the age of civilian airline terrorism began 31 years ago, on October 6, 1976, when two bombs exploded aboard a civilian passenger plane, killing all 73 people aboard…..”
Author: Jane Franklin
Published in: Oregon Herald
Date: December 10, 2007
Read the full article:
Who’s Harboring This Fugitive Terrorist?
by Jane Franklin
As millions of us shuffle shoeless through airport security lines, few remember that the age of civilian airline terrorism began 31 years ago, on October 6, 1976, when two bombs exploded aboard a civilian passenger plane, killing all 73 people aboard. Cubana Airlines Flight 455 had just taken off from Barbados headed for Havana. Thanks to rapid work by police in Barbados and Trinidad, two bombers were arrested within 24 hours, and their capture led directly to the arrests in Venezuela of Cuban-born terrorists Luis Posada and Orlando Bosch, charged with masterminding the bombing.
Posada escaped while awaiting trial and continued his career of terrorism that began when he came to the United States from Havana after the Cuban revolution. At that time, Posada joined thousands of Cubans being trained by the CIA to bring down the government of Cuba. As he bragged to New York Times journalists in 1998, “`The CIA taught us everything–everythingâ€¦.They taught us explosives, how to kill, bomb, trained us in acts of sabotage.'” After his escape from Venezuela, he operated from Central America with the impunity of a CIA asset. Posada knew he would always have the support of the CIA and plenty of money from the Cuban American National Foundation, the wealthy and influential group based in Florida and New Jersey.
In 2005, he entered Florida illegally and made the mistake of holding a press conference in Miami. This forced the FBI to arrest him, and he was held for trial. But what was he to be tried for? Not for overseeing the explosions that killed the passengers and crew aboard that civilian airliner. Not for orchestrating the fatal 1997 bombing campaign aimed at tourists in Havana hotels and restaurants about which he openly boasted. Not for his many attempts to assassinate the head of a foreign government, Fidel Castro. No, Posada was facing trial on seven minor charges of immigration fraud.
Venezuela, which has an extradition treaty with the United States, asked that Posada be extradited to be tried for the murders of those 73 people. Washington evidently is afraid to put Posada on trial for fear of the secrets he would reveal. His lawyers have made it clear that Posada would use those secrets in his defense. A federal judge conveniently dismissed all charges last May and turned Posada loose in Miami. Continuing to ignore his terrorist activities, the U.S. Government has just meekly appealed the dismissal of those minor charges.
When Posada was released, Representative Bill Delahunt, Democrat of Massachusetts, called on President Bush to certify Posada as a terrorist under the Patriot Act and detain him to “prevent him from fleeing the country while the Administration determines how and where he can stand trial for his crimes.” On November 15, Representative Delahunt convened the first of a series of hearings before the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on International Organizations, Human Rights, and Oversight to investigate how and why “this infamous terrorist” has not been treated as a terrorist by the Bush Administration.
The testimony of the five witnesses at the congressional hearing are available, along with Representative Delahunt’s opening statement, at www.house.gov/Delahunt . Roseanne Persaud Nenninger testified about the death of her brother on Flight 455. Raymond Persaud was 19 years old when he left his home in Guyana that morning to fly to Cuba where he had a scholarship to study medicine. Peter Kornbluh, senior analyst at the National Security Archive, presented declassified evidence that virtually proves Posada’s role in the destruction of Flight 455. Ann Louise Bardach, whose startling interviews with Posada were published in the New York Times nine years ago, described her extensive research and told the Committee how the FBI closed the Posada case in 2003 and destroyed the five boxes containing the evidence in his case. She testified that FBI spokeswoman Judy Orihuela initially claimed that the FBI at that time did not know where Posada was even though his exact location had been front page news: he was in prison in Panama after an attempted assassination of Fidel Castro in Panama City. Blake Fleetwood delivered testimony about his interview with Posada and Bosch in 1977 while they were imprisoned in Venezuela–“an extended, taped interview with terrorists who proudly bragged of their complicity in hundreds of murders, bombings and assassinations throughout the world, supported and financed, and sometimes betrayed, by state-sponsored nefarious secret agencies, including the CIA.” In his opening statement at the hearing, Representative Delahunt pointed out that it was President Bush himself who proclaimed that if you harbor terrorists, then you are a terrorist. But Luis Posada continues to walk free in Miami.
Jane Franklin is the author of Cuba and the United States: A Chronological History (Ocean Press).