ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
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MICHELE NORRIS, host:
Cuban exile Luis Posada Carriles was released from federal custody in New Mexico today, and he is headed for his wife's house in Miami. The anti-Castro militant will be under house arrest and will still stand trial for immigration fraud. But his release is sure to create anger in Cuba and Venezuela. Venezuela wants Carriles in connection with the bombing of a Cuban airliner in 1976, which killed 73 people.
Peter Kornbluh is with us now in the studio. He's the director of the Cuba Documentation Project at the National Security Archive.
So glad you're on the program. Welcome.
Mr. PETER KORNBLUH (Director, Cuba Documentation Project): Thank you for having me.
Mr. KORNBLUH: Oh, is a tremendously significant. His release sends a message to the world that the United States really is not serious in its war on terrorism. Here is a guy who has a lifelong resume of violent acts: blowing up planes, bombing hotels, attempting to blow up ships, assassination efforts against Fidel Castro. Our own intelligence community identifies him as the mastermind of the bombing of a civilian airliner - Air Cubana Flight 455 - in which 73 people were killed; quite a number of them teenagers, who were on the Cuban fencing team, and a Guyanese medical students going to Havana to study, to be doctors.
NORRIS: Given the fact that we hear the White House talk almost everyday about the global war on terrorism, why would the federal government do this, release this man from federal custody?
Mr. KORNBLUH: Well, the allegation will be is because Luis Posada Carriles had a history of connection to the Central Intelligence Agency. He was indeed paid by them to train other exiles in the arts of demolition; he was an informant for them for many years, up until mid and late 1970s; and people who alleged that the U.S. government wanted to protect him, wanted him not to spill the beans on kind of the dirty history of U.S. efforts to overthrow Castro. But here was a case where the Bush administration could have employed the Patriot Act to hold Posada as a terrorist.
All they had to do was certify that he was a terrorist or that his release would be detrimental to U.S. national security interests. And despite the fact that immigrations and customs have said to him directly in letters - your history of violence means you are a danger to the security of U.S. citizens - they have now let him go.
NORRIS: Is it possible that the U.S. might be pursuing a sort of lower throttle course of action here, trying him on immigration fraud because there is a greater chance of success there given all the difficulties that the U.S. government has had in trying to try terrorism cases?
Mr. KORNBLUH: The United States government has the option of extraditing him to Venezuela. Venezuela has petitioned for his extradition. He is a fugitive from justice, where he was in jail for blowing up this plane - escaped in 1985. They have a legitimate request in and the U.S. government has refused to respond to that request. Prosecuting him as a run of the mill illegal immigrant really sends yet another message to the world that the United States is not serious in fighting the war on terrorism. Luis Posadas Carriles was a litmus test for the Bush administration. They could have applied the Patriot Act and held him for his crimes, instead they have let him return to his home in Miami, where many of his supporters will gather and cheer; and this will be seen by the families, this will be viewed around the world. It will be basically a painful reminder for the families of the victims of Cubana Flight 455. And I think that the world will take this as the United States compromising its principle on fighting the war on terrorism.
NORRIS: Peter Kornbluh, thank you for coming in. Peter Kornbluh is the director of the Cuba Documentation Project at the National Security Archive.
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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
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