Thursday, October 20, 2022

Some questions for Ed Augustin on his NBC article "Should Cuba be on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism"

Aftermath of bombing in Fraunces Tavern in 1975 that killed four in New York City

Ed Augustin's October 20th article "Should Cuba be on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism? Former intelligence officials say no" engages in omissions of the extensive history of Havana's sponsorship and engagement in international terrorism that continues to the present, and spans several continents. 

Did the author base his article reproducing the official Cuban government line, or was it being regurgitated by U.S. officials he interviewed? The line from the Cuban dictatorship's U.N. statement  falsely claimed: "We reiterate that Cuba has never participated in the organization, financing or execution of terrorist acts against any country, has never supported or will never support acts of international terrorism. The Cuban territory has never been used and will never be used to organize, finance or execute terrorist acts against any country." 

The Puerto Rican terrorist group, Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional Puertorriqueña, (FALN), ‘FALN was started in the mid-1960’s with a nucleus . . . that received advanced training in Cuba. From the mid-1970s through the mid-1980s, the FALN carried out more than 130 bombings, including in the United States killing five Americans in the New York City area. There were many other terrorist groups trained, and equipped in Cuba over the past 63 years, but for the sake of brevity will focus on the FALN, and the Congressional testimony of a U.S. official who carried out counter-intelligence efforts against Havana.

Why did the author not present the numerous times the Castro regime has been caught in major lies, and present these claims concerning terrorism at face value without fact checking?

Nor does the NBC journalist explore how terrorism was a frequently used tactic of the Castro revolutionaries in the 1950s targeting Cuban nationals, or Raul Castro's involvement in air hijackings, including one that claimed 17 civilian deaths. Terrorism is baked into the DNA of the Castro regime.

Worse yet, Mr. Augustin selects former intelligence officials and an Administration official with a long history of whitewashing the Cuban dictatorship, and in the case of Fulton Armstrong, trying to shutdown pro-democracy programs in Cuba.  

Fulton Armstrong, a harsh critic of U.S. pro-democracy programs suspected of leaking and spinning information to the Associated Press to compromise them was also a close confidante of Ana Belen Montes, a long time agent of Havana at the Pentagon. Mr. Armstrong sought to undermine USAID's pro-democracy programs in Cuba and was caught red handed in 2014 fabricating information with a pro-regime spin. U.S. spy catcher Chris Simmons offered the following assessment at the time on his blog:

Armstrong is well-known for consistently minimizing Cuba’s ability to threaten U.S. interests and its continued support to terrorists. In one interview, Scott Carmichael – the senior Counterintelligence investigator for the Defense Intelligence Agency – said Montes was “on a first name basis” with Armstrong. In fact, Montes and Armstrong confided in one another by phone into the final stages of her investigation.
There has been a decades long obsession in the U.S. establishment to cozy up to the Castro regime that achieved its first concrete breakthrough in 1977 during the Carter Administration, but was largely reversed during the Reagan-Bush years. This effort was resumed again in 1993 during the Clinton Administration, and full normalization achieved during the Obama Administration in 2014 despite numerous setbacks against U.S. national security during all three thaws. Fulton Armstrong, a former staffer to Senator John Kerry, has been an advocate for these efforts.

Why didn't Mr. Augustin interview U.S. officials that have testified on the record to Havana's deep involvement in international terrorism? The NBC article by Agustin is a one sided piece that falsely portrays a non-existent consensus. Counter-intelligence officials such as Chris Simmons offer a diametrically opposed analysis to the one provided in Augustin's article.

Chris Simmons: "Cuba remains a clear and present danger"

Mr. Simmons in his February 26, 2015 congressional testimony stated "Cuba remains a clear and present danger to the United States." Simmons was a  counterintelligence officer with the U.S. Army and Defense Intelligence Agency for over 20 years. With regard to Cuba, he was deeply involved  in counterintelligence successes against Havana from 1996 through 2004. He was a central figure in the Ana Montes spy case, and the lead military official in the 2003 expulsion of 14 Cuban diplomat-spies.

Three years earlier, on May 17, 2012 the Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere in the U.S. Congress's Committee on Foreign Affairs hearing on "Cuba’s Global Network of Terrorism, Intelligence, and Warfare" Mr. Simmons testified specifically on Havana's continuing role in terrorism. Here is an excerpt from that testimony.

Transitioning to the issue of terrorism, Havana takes a three-tier approach to its involvement in terrorism: Regime- directed, regime-supported, and finally, alliances with state sponsors. For regime-directed activities we're looking at specifically bona fide acts of terrorism, Cuban Intelligence Service targeting of the U.S. war on terrorism, and ``Active Measures.''  
Moving on to regime-supported activities, this focuses on aid to any of the 40 groups the State Department currently lists as Foreign Terrorist Organizations. Cuba currently has relations with four of those groups: Hezbollah; the Basque Fatherland and Liberty also known as ETA; and two Colombian groups, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and the National Liberation Army. Regarding state sponsors of terrorism, that definition is self explanatory and I'll continue to move right along.  
In the written testimony before you, I've kept the most important aspects of the Cuban threat. You may read those details at your leisure. However, I would like to touch on a few issues with reference to the Cuban intelligence missions. First, Cuban intelligence targeting of U.S. operations in Afghanistan. From April 2006 into the weeks leading up to the death of Osama bin Laden, Cuba's mission Embassy in Pakistan was led by one of their premiere experts in the targeting of the United States. This officer who was thrown out of the United States for espionage is known as Gustavo Ricardo Machin. It is believed that Machin advised the Pakistani Government and their intelligence services using information supplied via Havana, the massive SIGINT and HUMINT capability we talked about earlier and provided much needed context to the Pakistanis to help them take their own operations against U.S. counter-terrorism missions.  
It is important to understand when talking about Cuba's collaboration with Pakistan is that the massive penetration of Pakistan's directorate for intelligence services intelligence also makes it almost a certainty that al-Qaeda received information from the Cubans via the Pakistani Government.  
Transitioning to the Cuban intelligence targeting of U.S. operations in Iraq. In late 2002 through early 2003, Havana provided the Iraqi intelligence with information on U.S. troop movements and associated military activities. Cuba's high-risk adventurism in this endeavor occurred on the heels of the revelations of the American traitor Ana Belen Montes' espionage including her efforts to kill U.S. and host nations' soldiers during the secret war against leftist guerrillas in El Salvador. 
Moving on to post-9/11, Cuba flooded U.S. Embassies with walk-ins claiming to provide intelligence on the terrorism threat. Of the normal 12 walk-ins we expect from the Cubans every year in the first 6 months they sent in almost 20 walk- ins to tie up U.S. resources. This is a 330 percent increase in the normal activities.  
Last, but not least, of the highlighted issues, I'd like to address Operation Scorpion which was addressed earlier as a shootdown of Brothers to the Rescue. While this mission on February 24, 1996 predates the other information I discussed, it is important because this act of terrorism involves highest levels of the Castro regime. On February 24, 1996, Cuban MiGs shot down two U.S. search and rescue aircraft in international waters. Code named Operation Scorpion, it was led by General Eduardo Delgado Rodriguez, the current head of Cuban intelligence. It was personally approved by Fidel Castro and supported by Raul Castro, the current President of Cuba. Four Americans were murdered in this act of terrorism.

Why is all this missing from Mr. Agustin's article?  It is fair to mention the U.S. side of the ledger during the Cold War conflict with Cuba, but why leave out the actions of the Castro regime, and their role in sponsoring terrorist acts on U.S. soil that killed innocent Americans?

The Puerto Rican terrorist group, Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional Puertorriqueña, (FALN), from the mid-1970s through the mid-1980s, carried out more than 130 bombings, including in the United States. The FALN was responsible for the January 24, 1975 explosion at Fraunces Tavern, which killed Alejandro Berger (28), James Gezork (32), Frank Connor (33), Harold H. Sherburne (66) and wounded 63 others; a bombing spree in New York City in August 1977 that killed Charles Steinberg, (age 26), injured six, and forced the evacuation of 100,000 office workers; and the purposeful targeting and maiming of four police officers, among many other crimes. This group was started in the mid-1960s and received advanced training in Cuba. This information is taken from Zach Dorfman’s article “How Fidel Castro Supported Terrorism in America: ‘FALN was started in the mid-1960’s with a nucleus . . . that received advanced training in Cuba,’” published in The Wall Street Journal on June 8, 2017. 

Backgrounds on four of the five FARC victims.

Alejandro H. Berger, age 28

Alejandro H. Berger of Cherry Hill, N. J., who was with the international division of Rohm & Haas, a Philadelphia plastics and chemical company, died Friday in the lunchtime bombing at Fraunces Tavern. He was 28 years old. Mr. Bergen was here on business. He was born in Montevideo, Uruguay, and came to the United States in 1965. He attended the Philadelphia College of Textiles and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Surviving are his widow, the former Diana Greenberg, and his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Josef Berger. [ Source: New York Times ]

Harold H. Sherburne, age 66

Harold H. Sherburne, a prominent Wall Street investment banker and partner in charge of the New York office of Bacon, Whipple & Co., was killed yesterday in the lunchtime bombing at Fraunces Tavern. He was 66 years old and had lived at 480 Park Avenue and in Pine Orchard, Conn. Mr. Sherburne, who had been on Wall Street for nearly 40 years both with individual companies and in industry associations, had been dining alone at the Angler's Club on the second floor when the bomb exploded. He had left his office at 1 Chase Manhattan Plaza at 12:30 P.M., an hour before the blast, and had planned to return there before leaving for a skiing weekend with friends at 2:30. He left his glasses on his desk. Mr. Sherburne was born in 1908 and graduated from Dartmouth College in 1930. He went to Wall Street in 1936 with Edward B. Smith & Co., and remained with the company and its successor, Smith, Barney & Co., until 1940, when he joined Charles W. Scranton & Co. in New Haven. [ Source: New York Times ]

Frank Connor (age 33)

Frank Connor killed by Castro backed terrorists.

Frank Thomas Connor was among the four people murdered in the FALN (Fuerzas Armadas Liberacion Nacional Puertoriquena) bombing of the historic Fraunces Tavern in lower Manhattan. Frank was having lunch with clients when the bomb exploded, his body was pulverized and his life was ended. The mastermind of this sick act of terror was Filiberto Ojeda-Rios. At the time of his murder, Frank was 33 years of age.

Ironically, the waiter had just moved Frank and his party to a better table, their death table, minutes before the bomb exploded.

In historical perspective, The FALN conducted some 120 bombings in the USA (including Puerto Rico) from 1974 to 1983. They murdered five people in their bombings. They sent the financial proceeds of their actions to Cuba.

It is more important to remember how Frank Connor lived, rather than how he was murdered. Frank was born to a humble immigrant Irish family in the Washington Heights section of New York City. His father, Thomas Connor, was an elevator operator. Frank's Mom, Margaret Maloney Connor was a cleaning lady at Morgan Guaranty Trust.

Frank pulled himself up by his own bootstraps. He graduated from Bishop Dubois High School in Washington Heights. Frank went on to study at City College of New York. Frank paused in his studies for Mary Lynch, the most beautiful woman in the world. After their marriage, Frank resumed college at night. He graduated with the class of 1973 from Farleigh Dickenson College in New Jersey. Frank worked for Morgan Guaranty Trust.

Together, Frank and Mary had two fine sons, Thomas and Joseph. On the day their father died Tom was 11 and Joe was 9 years of age. 

Thomas, Joseph, Frank & Mary all together. (Photo courtesy of Joseph F. Connor)

Frank, Mary and the boys were off to a great start. Frank's life was just beginning when it was all taken away. Besides his young family, Frank left behind his beloved mother, Margaret Connor, who was the constant inspiration for his success in this life. [ Source: Find a grave ]

 Charles S. Steinberg, age 26 [ August 3, 1977 bombing in midtown New York City]

The only fatality in yesterday's midtown bombings was sitting with his partner at the Mobil Oil Corporation's personnel office on the ground floor at 150 East 42d Street when a bomb exploded.

The dead man, Charles S. Steinberg, 26 years old, and his partner, Ivan Gerson, 31, ran the Viva Temporary Services, employment agency, and they wanted to see if there were any jobs available for their applicants.

They had been waiting for, 12 minutes to see a personnel officer when, at 10:42 A.M., the bomb went off, propelling Mr. Steinberg across the room and hurling Mr. Gerson onto his back.

Mr.. Steinberg died within minutes of the blast ‐ Mr. Gerson was taken, to Bellevue Hospital, where he underwent surgery for facial injuries suffered from flying glass. He was later listed in satisfactory condition.


Pauline Adkins, 32, of 1851 Third Avenue, who had ‘come’ to the personnel office to apply for ‘a job ‘as a secretary, Was sitting next to Mr. Steinberg when the bomb went off.

“I had been there, for about six minutes,” she said, “and I was filling out an application to take a typing test when there was an explosion like a big firecracker.”

Mrs. Adkins was pulled to the floor by one man where she watched as Mr. Steinberg fell “face down on the floor, his body covered with blood.”

Steinberg Family Mourns

"He was still,” she said. “There was nothing but — dust, dirt, and glass all around. Plaster from "the ceiling hit me on the head and on my arm.”

While Mrs. Adkins and six others‐including Mr. Gerson, and and Daub, 50, who was listed in critical condition were being treated for injuries at Bellevue, the wife and relatives of Mr. Steinberg gathered at his apartment at 300 East’ 34thStreet to mourn.

Harold Liebman; Mr. Steinberg's father-in‐law, held back tears as he said: “He was a hard working, successful young man whose life was just snuffed out, blown away. Why? Why did they do it?”

“This is an incredibly close family,” he continued, his voice once more steady. “My older daughter, Elizabeth, is married to Charles's older brother, Steven. That's how Charles and my daughter Robin met.

“They were both students at the State University at Albany, and they got together because their brother and sister were already married. I walked each of those girls down the aisle, and now one of them has had her life blown away. We just don't know what happened.”

Steven Steinberg said his brother was “a tremendous business success.” 

An Honors Graduate 

“He worked for a year as an employment agency salesman and then two years ago, not long after he married Robin, he started his own business with Ivan Gershon,” he said. “He was an honors graduate in Business administration who became a success in the real world. And now Charles is dead and his partner is in the hospital: It's a tragedy.”

Coatless and tie askew, he tried to control his emotion as he talked. He took visible gulps between sentences and then talked ‘rapidly, as if hoping to finish before breaking into tears.

He told how both he and his brother had dated’ the two Liebman sisters while they were students at Lynbrook High School on Long Island. When Robin Liebman graduated and enrolled at the State University of New York in Albanyy, Charles Steinberg transferred from Bridgeport University in, Connecticut to be near her.

“He thought about his business and his family—that pretty much filled his time,” said Steven Steinberg. “He was a terrific person. He‐loved the piano. He played excellent jazz pïano.” [ Source: New York Times ]

Why was all this omitted from Mr. Augustin's article?

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