What the CIA Could Learn from Venezuela: The Luis Posada Carriles Case

The stir raised by the recent news of a political asylum petition submitted by one Luis Posada Carriles, Cuban by nationality and wanted international terrorist, has placed the Bush Administration in a conundrum.

The stir raised by the recent news of a political asylum petition submitted by one Luis Posada Carriles, Cuban by nationality and wanted international terrorist, has placed the Bush Administration in a conundrum. If it grants asylum to Posada Carriles, it negates its universal declaration of a "war on terrorism" that includes "those who harbor or refuge terrorists". But if it denies asylum to Posada Carriles, not only does the U.S. Government turn its back on a former servant of this country, since Posada was an agent of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) from the 1960s to an unknown date, but it also is placed in the most delicate situation of deciding whether to extradite him to Venezuela, where he is a fugitive from justice, sending him to some third country considered neutral where he could be tried for his crimes, or giving him protected status in the U.S., which would grant him rights to reside and work freely in the confines of the world’s superpower and top warrior against terrorism. Granting the extradition of Posada Carriles to Venezuela would be treated by the international media as a victory for President Hugo Chávez, a pill hard to swallow for a Bush Administration that has supported several efforts to oust the Venezuelan leader over the past few years.

As a result of this rather sticky situation posed to a second term Bush government, State Department and White House spokesmen have refused to recognize Posada Carriles’ presence in the United States, despite the known fact that his asylum application has been submitted to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services Department. Approximately six weeks ago, news stories on local Florida channels began broadcasting information about the clandestine arrival of Luis Posada Carriles to US soil. Soon after, his attorney, Eduardo Soto, announced that Posada Carriles would apply for asylum based on his service to the Central Intelligence Agency during the cold war and his fear of political persecution should he be deported to his native Cuba.

An application for political asylum can only be submitted once an individual enters the United States, and it must be presented within one year of entry.

In order to be eligible for asylum, an individual must meet the definition of a "refugee" under the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), defined as "someone who is unable or unwilling to return to and avail himself or herself of the protection of his or her home country or, if stateless, country of last habitual residence because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion."

However, an individual who meets the definition of "refugee" under the INA, can be barred from receiving political asylum per the following sections of the Act:

An applicant will be barred from being granted asylum under INA § 208(b)(2) if he or she:

  1. Ordered, incited, assisted, or otherwise participated in the persecution of any person on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.
  2. Was convicted of a particularly serious crime (includes aggravated felonies).
  3. Committed a serious nonpolitical crime outside the United States.
  4. Poses a danger to the security of the United States.
  5. Firmly resettled in another country prior to arriving in the United States (see 8 CFR § 208.15 for a definition of "firm resettlement").

An individual will also be barred from being granted asylum under INA § 208 if he or she is inadmissible under INA § 212(a)(3)(B) or removable under INA § 237(a)(4)(B) because he or she:

  1. Has engaged in terrorist activity;
  2. Is engaged in or is likely to engage after entry in any terrorist activity (a consular officer or the Attorney General knows, or has reasonable grounds to believe, that this is the case);
  3. Has, under any circumstances indicating an intention to cause death or serious bodily harm, incited terrorist activity;
  4. Is a representative of
    1. a foreign terrorist organization, as designated by the Secretary of State under section 219 of the INA, or
    2. a political, social, or other similar group whose public endorsement of acts of terrorist activity the Secretary of State has determined undermines United States efforts to reduce or eliminate terrorist activities;*
  5. Is a member of a foreign terrorist organization, as designated by the Secretary of State under section 219 of the INA, or which you know or should have known is a terrorist organization;
  6. Has used a position of prominence within any country to endorse or espouse terrorist activity, or to persuade others to support terrorist activity or a terrorist organization, in a way that the Secretary of State has determined undermines United States efforts to reduce or eliminate terrorist activities.*

(*These two categories were added by the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism (USA PATRIOT Act, P.L. 107-56, October 26, 2001), which was passed in response to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.)

Luis Posada Carriles is a fugitive from justice in Venezuela and an international terrorist, so defined by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), and therefore cannot be granted political asylum under U.S. law. In 1985, he escaped from a minimum security prison in Venezuela dressed as a priest with the help of the U.S. government funded Cuban American National Foundation, after nine years of detention for his involvement in the 1976 bombing of a Cubana de Aviación airplane that killed all 73 people on board.

At the time of his escape from prison, the case against Posada Carriles for his role as the co-author of the Cubana airlines bombing, along with fellow anti-Castro Cuban terrorist Orlando Bosch, was on appeal. As such, a conviction was never obtained, despite ample evidence to put Posada Carriles behind bars for a few decades.

Bosch was jailed for eleven years for his involvement in the bombing, and was released by corrupt judges that made deals with then U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela, Mr. Otto Reich, who along with mega financial and political support from the Cuban American National Foundation and the first Bush administration, secured Bosch’s entry into the United States. Note that upon Bosch’s arrival to the U.S. in 1988, he was detained by immigration services, since he had also been classified by the FBI as a "terrorist", but President George H.W. Bush gave him an official "get out of jail free pass", a pardon that has allowed him to live freely in Miami ever since.

Two of the other accomplices in the bombing, Freddy Lugo and Hernan Ricardo Lozano, known as the Venezuelans who actually placed the bombs aboard the October 6, 1976 flight out of Barbados, were convicted for their role in the terrorist act and spent more than twenty years in prison in Venezuela. Both Lugo and Lozano completed their prison terms and continue to reside in Venezuela.

Recently declassified documents from the CIA and the FBI, obtained by the Washington-based non-profit National Security Archives, provide ample evidence confirming Posada Carriles’ involvement in the bombing of the Cubana airplane along with other acts of terrorism, as well as his status as a CIA agent. A CIA secret document dated October 1976, states, "We have determined that this agency had a relationship with one person whose name has been mentioned in connection with the reported bombing…Both Lugo’s and Lozano’s employer in Caracas is Luis Posada Carriles, former head of the Counterintelligence Division of the Directorate for the Services of Intelligence and Prevention (DISIP), the Venezuelan civilian security service. Posada is a former agent of CIA. He was amicably terminated in July 1987 but contact was re-established in October 1967…We continued occasional contact with him…"

Another U.S. Government document confirms Posada’s status with the CIA: "Luis Posada, in whom CIA has an operational interest…Posada is receiving approximately $300 per month from CIA…"

A November 1976 FBI document affirms that Posada Carriles participated in at least two meetings planning the bombing of the Cubana airplane: "Some plans regarding the bombing of a Cubana airlines airplane were discussed at the bar in the Anauco Hilton Hotel in Caracas, Venezuela, at which meeting Frank Castro, Gustavo Castillo, Luis Posada Carriles and Morales Navarrete were present… Morales Navarrete told the source that another meeting to plan the bombing of a Cubana airliner took place in the apartment of Morales Navarrete in the Anauco Hilton. This meeting was also prior to the bombing of the Cubana airliner on October 6, 1976. Present at this meeting were Morales Navarrete, Posada Carriles and Frank Castro…"

In addition to this newly revealed evidence, Posada Carriles, upon his own admission to the New York Times in an interview seven years ago, was involved in a series of missions to "blow up Cuban people and places". He masterminded several bombings in major tourist spots in Havana that caused terror throughout the city and resulted in the death of an Italian tourist.

In November 2000, Cuban President Fidel Castro accused Posada Carriles of planning to assassinate him in Panama during an international conference. Posada was arrested and found with 33 pounds of C-4 plastic explosive and given an eight-year prison sentence for "endangering public safety".

Outgoing Panamanian President Mireya Moscoso, an ally of the anti-Castro Cuban community in Florida, pardoned Posada Carriles as a last act before leaving office, causing international outcry for releasing such a dangerous terrorist.

Ample evidence exists as to Posada Carriles’ numerous terrorist activities.

Venezuela has a pending warrant for his arrest for charges of homicide in the Cubana airlines bombing. The CIA and FBI’s own documents confirm Posada Carriles’ participation in several terrorist organizations and other activities. Venezuela’s Supreme Court has authorized the extradition request under Venezuelan law, maintaining the charges against Posada Carriles are still valid.

Under the 1922 Extradition Treaty between the United States and Venezuela, "any person who may be charged with or may have been convicted of any of the crimes committed within the jurisdiction of one of the Contracting Parties and specified in Article II of this Convention, while said person was actually within such jurisdiction when the crime was committed, and who shall seek an asylum or who shall be found within the territories of the other…" shall be "delivered up to justice" to the appropriate nation.

Article II of the Treaty includes the crimes of "murder, assassination, manslaughter…and the attempt to commit murder." Posada Carriles has been charged with several counts of homicide, murder, by the Venezuelan courts, for his role as the intellectual author of the Cubana airline bombing, which killed 73 people. The bombing, as confirmed by the CIA and FBI declassified documents, was planned by Posada Carriles and conspirators in the Anauco Hilton Hotel in Caracas, in the weeks prior to the attack. Therefore, the requirements of the Extradition Treaty are clearly met.

So then why, if the legalities have been fulfilled, is the U.S. wavering and skirting around the issue?

Could the Bush Administration truly believe that it owes Posada Carriles "protection" because of the years he served the interests of the U.S. Government first as a soldier in the U.S. Army during February 1963 to March 1964 and subsequently as a CIA agent? Osama bin laden was also a trained and paid agent of the U.S. Government back during the Afghani war against the former Soviet Union. But the Bush Administration was quick to put a ransom on his head and declare him an international terrorist after the September 11, 2001 attacks on U.S. soil. Could Posada Carriles be receiving special treatment because his terrorist activities have never been directed at U.S. interests? Maybe the waffling is meant to appease the Miami-based Cuban-American community, long a supporter of the Bush family, including the all-important Governor of Florida, Jeb Bush, whose job would be in jeopardy if the Miami Cubans were snubbed.

Posada Carriles was also once the Director of Counterintelligence at Venezuela’s FBI equivalent, the DISIP. Certainly that is a higher position than a mere CIA agent receiving a $300 per month stipend. Yet Venezuela does not feel as though it owes Posada Carriles any kind of "protection" or special treatment. As soon as the Venezuelan Government discovered his role in the bombing back in 1976, a warrant was issued for his arrest. He wasn’t given a break because of his "service" to Venezuela as an intelligence agent. And even though Venezuelan interests weren’t directly affected by the Cubana airline bombing, the Venezuelan Government clearly comprehends the definition of "international terrorist" and "crimes against humanity".

It’s not surprising that a nation that unsigned itself from the International Criminal Court and that has never ratified international treaties and conventions on human rights and terrorism is potentially about to provide refuge to an international terrorist. What is surprising is that U.S. citizens continue to allow such unquestioned hypocrisy in their government. Are members of the U.S. community going to allow their government to condone acts of terrorism against other nations and to provide refuge to international terrorists, so long as they don’t hurt any U.S. citizens?

Orlando Bosch was labeled a terrorist back in the 1970's by the FBI, yet today he resides freely in Miami with the blessing of the Bush family. A host of other former dictators and tortures have been given refuge in the "land of the free." Will Posada Carriles meet the same fate?

The Venezuelan Government is mature enough to accept that its former intelligence director committed a crime and must be brought to justice. The CIA should stick its tail between its legs and follow Venezuela’s good example. This isn’t about Bush saving face with Chávez and Castro, it’s about one man responsible for the horrific deaths of innocent victims paying for his crimes so that those victims’ families can finally have peace.

Eva Golinger is a Venezuelan-American attorney specializing in international and immigration law. She is the author of The Chávez Code: Cracking U.S. Intervention in Venezuela, available through her website, www.venezuelafoia.info and on Amazon.com. The FBI and CIA documents regarding Luis Posada Carriles mentioned in the article can be viewed at the National Security Archives webpage: http://www2.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB153/index.htm.