Cuba should have never been removed from the state sponsors of terrorism list. Yleem and I penned more than one item about it before it happened, including one on January 2015 at National Review and an op-ed, a few weeks later, in the Wall Street Journal. While we both believed after December 17, 2014 that the administration would whitewash the policy, we did not think they’d try to whitewash the intelligence that, in part, is used to justify Cuba’s place on the list.
Did U.S. intelligence agencies whitewash the terror report? We doubt it, however, we have no idea and likely never will. And, frankly, there are more pressing national security issues right now than an island 90 miles away. It does not mean you ignore it. They could attach this issue to a few robust oversight hearings, but there appears to be little political will in Congress to open yet another investigation about foreign policy failures. This can change if someone, possibly a whistleblower, volunteers to work with the Congress.
As for Cuba’s place on the state sponsors of terror list, there was before December 17, and it remains the case today, enough information the public domain to tick the main statutory guidelines to keep Cuba designated a state sponsor of terror. The policy whitewash continued with the opening of the embassy and, both Yleem and I suspect, a great deal more rapprochement is in store for 2015. As former UN Ambassador John Bolton penned yesterday, the President’s Cuba policy is the “purest form of ideological diplomacy … Obama has untethered our foreign policy from any discernible American interests.” In other words, facts be damned.
Congress could’ve done something to put the brakes on this bizarre “cart before the horse” approach to Cuba, especially in light of existing U.S. laws and regulations. There was an effort afoot, however, at last-minute, and for reasons unknown, folks just backed out. It could not have been the votes because US-Cuba policy votes taken since the President’s December 17 announcement clearly show that Congress had the votes to stop the removal or, at least, muck it up.
Why does any of this matter? There are many reasons, not the least of which U.S. law, that has been trampled on by unchecked executive action. It also removed the stigma associated with the designation that, in part, serves as a green light to banks and other potential creditors that lending to Cuba may not be as risky as it used to be. Then there is the security argument. Congress needs to re-assess, with robust oversight, on all State Department activities, or lack thereof, since December 17, 2014.
There is a great piece today in MarketWatch written by Fred Burton who, among other things, for more than a decade served as counterterrorism agent at the State Department. Burton details Cuba’s history of espionage and how, thanks to this administration’s and Congress’s failure to act (these two editorial comments are my own), the re-opening of embassies will
“…make the United States much more vulnerable to monitoring and infiltration by Cuban intelligence agencies. And today foreign spies pose as real and immediate a threat to U.S. interests as they did during the Cold War.”
Burton’s piece is well worth a read. Why the U.S. should be wary of Cuba, can accessed here. By the way, if you’re planning any travel to Cuba either on business or pleasure be sure it is consistent with U.S. law and read Burton’s piece. Cuba remains a police state. It is a Potemkin nation. The hospitality, skin deep.