U.S. backs away from claims that Cuba
has bioweapons program
By Warren P. Strobel, Knight
Ridder Newspapers, Aug 30, 7:11 PM ET.
WASHINGTON - The Bush administration backed
away Tuesday from claims that Cuba has an
offensive biological weapons effort, acknowledging
in a report to Congress that "there
is a split view" among intelligence
analysts on the question.
The report says instead that Cuba has
the "technical capability" to
pursue biological weapons research and development
because of its advanced pharmaceutical industry.
But it leaves open the critical question
of whether it has done so.
The State Department report apparently
marks the first time that the U.S. government
has publicly softened its earlier charge,
which has been controversial from the outset.
Then-Undersecretary of State John Bolton
had tried to reassign two intelligence analysts
at the State Department and National Intelligence
Council who had challenged Bolton's view
that Cuba had biowar capabilities, according
to testimony at Bolton's nomination hearing
to become United Nations ambassador.
Democrats prevented a full Senate vote
on Bolton's nomination. President Bush circumvented
lawmakers with a recess appointment on Aug.
The 108-page State Department report, mandated
by Congress, assesses other nations' compliance
with their arms-control obligations.
It repeats U.S. charges that Iran is seeking
to develop a nuclear weapon in violation
of the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
However, on a positive note, it states
that Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi has lived
up to promises to dismantle his country's
nuclear, biological and chemical weapons
The new finding on Cuba is based on a U.S.
known as a National Intelligence Estimate,
completed last year.
In that estimate, which is classified,
"the Intelligence Community unanimously
held that it was unclear whether Cuba has
an active biological weapons effort now,
or even had one in the past," the State
Department report states.
A senior State Department official, briefing
reporters on the document, said biological
weapons programs are "some of the most
difficult activities to verify" because
the facilities needed are small.
Also, the technologies needed to make bioweapons
are in some cases indistinguishable from
those necessary for a pharmaceutical industry
or for constructing defenses against biological
weapons, which is permitted under international
The senior official, briefing on condition
of anonymity, said the report was written
to reflect that "there are a couple
different views within the administration"
on Cuba's efforts.
Cuba has denied any biological weapons
The classified evidence behind the U.S.
charges has never been detailed publicly,
but it's believed to include interviews
with Cubans who worked in such programs
and Cuban biotechnology sales to Iran.
The new stance on Cuba's efforts is a retreat
from the unequivocal language in a previous
report in June 2003. That document stated:
"The United States believes that Cuba
has at least a limited, developmental offensive
biological warfare research and development
Tuesday's report states that while U.S.
intelligence agencies are divided, policymakers
believe the earlier statement "remains
U.S.: Cuban Militant Shouldn't Be Deported
AP, August 30, 2005.
A Cuban militant and accused terrorist
is not eligible for asylum in the United
States but shouldn't be sent back to Cuba,
a lawyer for the government told a judge
in the opening day of the man's deportation
Luis Posada Carriles requested asylum after
being arrested in May on charges that he
sneaked into the country illegally through
Mexico. He was arrested in Miami.
Lead government attorney Gina Garrett-Jackson
told the judge Monday that federal officials
hadn't yet decided if they would oppose
Posada's deportation to Venezuela, where
he has been accused of orchestrating the
deadly 1976 bombing of a Cuba jetliner.
She cited concerns about torture in opposing
his potential deportation to Cuba.
A number of governments that had citizens
aboard the jetliner have demanded the deportation
of the one-time CIA operative. The government
of Venezuela has requested that the 77-year-old
Posada be sent back to that country to stand
trial on charges accusing him of plotting
the bombing while in Caracas.
A Venezuelan lawyer is expected to be the
first witness on the stand when the hearing
resumes Tuesday. Attorneys in the case have
not said what the lawyer will testify about.
Posada, who is Cuban, has denied any involvement
in the bombing, which killed 73 people when
it crashed off the coast of the Barbados.
He also has declined to name a country he
would prefer to be deported to if his request
for asylum is denied.
A recently declassified CIA document quotes
an unnamed former Venezuelan official saying
that shortly before the bombing Posada was
heard to say that he and others "are
going to hit a Cuban airplane."
CIA documents show the spy agency trained
Posada in 1961 to participate in the Bay
of Pigs. An immigration judge last month
asked lawyers in the case to prepare briefs
on whether the invasion was a terrorist
Posada's lawyers have said he did not participate
in the failed attempt to topple Fidel Castro's
He was acquitted by a Venezuelan military
court but that decision was later thrown
out when it was decided that he should be
tried in a civilian court. He escaped from
a Venezuelan jail in 1985 before the trial
had been completed.
The chief of the Organization of American
States said Monday that the U.S. should
extradite Posada if there is evidence of
links to the 1976 bombing.
"If evidence against him exists in
Venezuela, extradition must proceed,"
OAS Secretary-General Jose Miguel Insulza
said. "He should be extradited to Venezuela
to face justice."