home Cuba, Export Controls Inert US Hellfire Missile Ends Up in Cuba

Inert US Hellfire Missile Ends Up in Cuba

How did an inert U.S. Hellfire missile, loaded with high-end technology, travel from Europe to, get this, Cuba? According to an unnamed U.S. government official quoted in the Wall Street Journal, mistakes happen. That is unacceptable. That type of thinking is what led to the terrorist attacks of 09/11. The Wall Street Journal reports:

an inert U.S. Hellfire missile sent to Europe for training purposes was wrongly shipped from there to Cuba in 2014, said people familiar with the matter, a loss of sensitive military technology that ranks among the worst-known incidents of its kind.

Keep a few things in mind as you read stories about this matter; an incident that will likely be buried in the days and weeks ahead. First, at the time that this incident allegedly took place, Cuba was on the state sponsors of terror list. Second, this incident also appears to have taken place well before President Obama’s December 17, 2014 Cuba policy shift. Finally, why is the world learning about this now?

Despite the policy whitewashing by the Obama Administration, Cuba has been a country of proliferation concern for some time. The U.S. can take Cuba off the list, but Cuba remains a state sponsor of terror.

From a legal perspective, and I’d need a lot more facts to confirm, there appear that there could be multiple violations of the Arms Export Control Act, as well as other laws. And, since the Obama Administration has been reforming the export control regulatory system, Congress may want to probe whether recent changes to the licensing system created the conditions (doubtful), or a lax enforcement environment (even more doubtful), made it easier for this incident to happen (too early to tell).

What did Cuba do with this device? Did they tinker with it? Did they share the technology with other rogue regimes such as Iran or North Korea? What about China or Russia? Did the Obama administration press Cuba to return the missile and did Cuba cooperate with the investigation? Was this incident factored into the Obama Administration’s decision to remove Cuba from the state sponsors of terrorism list?

This is not the first incident of proliferation concern in recent years, albeit it is the most serious one with respect to Cuba. A year before this happened, Cuba was caught smuggling missile technology to North Korea. United Nations experts concluded in a July 2013 report that some of the technology sent to North Korea by Cuba could “meet the criteria defined in the list of items, materials, equipment, goods and technology related to ballistic missile programmes (S/2012/947), whose export and import by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea are prohibited.” North Korea this week tested a bomb of some sort, maybe a super-EMP weapon. Whose connecting the dots?

There are many legal and policy equities at play in this matter. If this turns out to be a willful violation of U.S. export control laws, it will be one of the most serious in recent memory. Even if this was human error it calls in to question, among other things, contractor supply chain policies and procedures. But let’s not lose sight of Cuba. Export control violations tend not to happen in isolation. In other words, the Hellfire missile could be the tip of the iceberg.

My guess is that the Communist Party of Cuba does not come to this process with clean hands. And now it appears that the Obama administration was hiding this very embarrassing matter from the American people to press forward on an already misguided U.S. foreign policy toward the regime.

Congress, wake up. Then again, it is very possible, and likely, that select Congressional officials were read in and opted not to do anything with the information. If that is the case, that would be just as bad as the Obama administration pressing forward on the policy changes toward Cuba. Big policy decisions were made during the last two years with respect to Cuba. If there were folks in Congress who knew about this and did nothing about it, well, shame on them as well. Now that the information is public, let’s see what the overseers do with it.

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