18 January, 2013 — National Security Archive



National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 411

Edited by Peter Kornbluh

For more information contact:
Peter Kornbluh 202/994-7116 or

Washington, DC, January 18, 2013 — The U.S. government has “between five to seven different transition plans” for Cuba, and the USAID-sponsored “Democracy” program aimed at the Castro government is “an operational activity” that demands “continuous discretion,” according to documents filed in court this week, and posted today by the National Security Archive. The records were filed by Development Alternatives Inc (DAI), one of USAID‘s largest contractors, in response to a lawsuit filed by the family of Alan Gross, who was arrested in Cuba in December 2009 for attempting to set up satellite communications networks on the island, as part of the USAID program.

In an August 2008 meeting toward the end of the George W. Bush administration, according to a confidential memorandum of conversation attached to DAI‘s filing, officials from the “Cuba Democracy and Contingency Planning Program,” as the Democracy effort is officially known, told DAI representatives that “USAID is not telling Cubans how or why they need a democratic transition, but rather, the Agency wants to provide the technology and means for communicating the spark which could benefit the population.” The program, the officials stated, intended to “provide a base from which Cubans can ‘develop alternative visions of the future.'”

Gross has spent three years of a 15-year sentence in prison in Cuba, charged and convicted of “acts against the integrity of the state” for attempting to supply members of Cuba‘s Jewish community with Broadband Global Area Network (BGAN) satellite communications consoles and establish independent internet networks on the island. Last year, he and his wife, Judy, sued both DAI and USAID for failing to adequately prepare, train and supervise him given the dangerous nature of the democracy program activities.

During a four-hour meeting last November 28, 2012, with Archive analyst Peter Kornbluh at the military hospital where he is incarcerated, Gross insisted that “my goals were not the same as the program that sent me.” He called on the Obama administration to meet Cuba at the negotiating table and resolve his case, among other bilateral issues between the two nations.

The exhibits attached to DAI‘s court filing included USAID‘s original “Request for Proposals” for stepped up efforts to bring about political transition to Cuba, USAID communications with DAI, and Gross’s own proposals for bringing computers, cell phones, routers and BGAN systems–“Telco in a Bag,” as he called it–into Cuba.

According to Kornbluh, DAI‘s filing is “a form of ‘graymail'”–an alert to the U.S. government that unless the Obama administration steps up its efforts to get Gross released, the suit would yield unwelcome details of ongoing U.S. intervention in Cuba.

In its effort to dismiss the suit, DAI‘s filing stated that it was “deeply concerned that the development of the record in this case over the course of litigation [through discovery] could create significant risks to the U.S. government’s national security, foreign policy, and human rights interests.”

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THE NATIONAL SECURITY ARCHIVE is an independent non-governmental research institute and library located at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. The Archive collects and publishes declassified documents acquired through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). A tax-exempt public charity, the Archive receives no U.S. government funding; its budget is supported by publication royalties and donations from foundations and individuals.

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