April 20, 2007
WITH A MISGUIDED decision upholding bail for Cuban-born terrorist LuisPosada Carriles, the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans hasdone more than free a frail old man facing unremarkable immigration charges.It has exposed Washington to legitimate charges of hypocrisy in the war onterror.
By allowing Posada to go free before his May 11 trial, the court hasreleased a known flight risk who previously escaped from a Venezuelanprison, a man who has boasted of helping set off deadly bombs in Havanahotels 10 years ago and the alleged mastermind of a 1976 bombing of a Cubanairplane that killed 73 people. Posada's employees confessed to the attack,and declassified FBI and CIA documents have shown that he attended planningsessions.
In other words, Posada is the Zacarias Moussaoui of Havana and Caracas.Moussaoui is serving a life sentence without parole in a federal prison inColorado for conspiracy in the 9/11 attacks; Posada is free to live inMiami.
Posada, a 79-year-old Bay of Pigs veteran who served time in Panama forplotting to kill Fidel Castro, has never been charged with crimes ofterrorism in U.S. courts. Instead, Immigrations and Customs Enforcementnabbed him for lying to immigration authorities after he sneaked in thecountry in March 2005 and held a news conference announcing his triumphantreturn. Both Customs and the Justice Department lobbied to keep Posadabehind bars, but U.S. law enforcement has never shown a strong interest intrying him for more serious crimes. In turn, Posada's lawyer haspreemptively warned that if charged, his client would likely revealextensive collaboration with the CIA.
The United States keeps 385 suspected terrorists imprisoned in GuantanamoBay, many in isolation and all without U.S. norms of due process. YetPosada, a confessed terrorist, is sent home with an ankle bracelet.
The United States has not been able to persuade any of seven allied nationsto accept Posada. A federal judge has ruled that he can't be extradited toCuba or Venezuela because he might be tortured. The best solution would havebeen for the court to refuse bail until trial while the State Departmentkeeps searching for a third-party country that would agree to try him onterrorism charges.
Instead, Castro receives a propaganda victory gift, the White House has itsmoral authority undermined and the victims of Carriles' alleged crimes seejustice delayed once more.
The U.S. government has done many odd things in 46 years of a largely failedCuba policy, but letting a notorious terrorist walk stands among the mostperverse yet.