How does the commutation of the prison sentence of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, former chief of staff for Vice President Dick Cheney, coincide with the release by a federal judge of Luis Posada Carriles, former top terrorist of the Western Hemisphere?
Answer: Both the commuted and the released could have spilled the beans on powerful officials for criminal conspiracies.
Indeed, Libby knew that Cheney conspired with Bush to coordinate public lying — Iraq had WMD and links to al Qaeda – and tried to suppress information to the contrary. Cheney authorized the “outing” of undercover CIA operator Valerie Plame to show how he would punish those who challenged the lies. Plame’s husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, made public that Cheney’s pet story about Saddam Hussein trying to buy yellowcake uranium in Niger was nonsense.
In June, a rarely compassionate Bush complained that Libby’s sentence was “excessive” and cut his two plus year jail sentence, leaving him to pay a $250,000 fine – mostly covered by contributions from his “friends”- and a meaningless probation period. Bush as Governor of Texas (1994-2001) steadfastly refused to commute death sentences for men whose lawyers had fallen asleep during key portions of their trials. “Compassionate Conservatism” means compassion only for conservatives – who have the goods on you?
Libby lied about the Plame affair and obstructed justice, that is he covered up larger lies told by Bush and Cheney about reasons for invading Iraq.
Posada also lied on immigration issues unrelated to his 1976 plot to bomb a Cuban airliner in mid flight. Federal prosecutors purposely bungled the case and a judge released him in 2007 after he served a short time in jail.
Behind both cases loomed a dirty secret: the accused would implicate higher ups if Bush did get them off the hook of justice.
Before Libby became Cheney’s Boy Friday, he had already crisscrossed the world of pardons and influence peddling. Ironically, Republicans pointed to Clinton’s pardon of Switzerland-based American fugitive financier Marc Rich when Democrats complained about Bush’s “lenience” on Libby. Did they forget that Libby was Rich’s attorney, the key man responsible for arranging Clinton’s January 2001 pardon?
Leading then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, and Israeli political heavies Shimon Peres and Ehud Olmert phoned Clinton to ask his indulgence. Former Mossad chief Shabtai Shavit “praised Rich for helping in ‘the rescue and evacuation of Jews from enemy countries’ and searching for missing Israeli soldiers. Israeli officials also praised Rich for putting up $400,000 in 1984 that was used by Egypt as compensation after the murders of Israeli tourists by an Egyptian policeman in the Sinai desert.” (Michael Dobbs, Washington Post Feb 24, 2001)
In 1983, the aggressive Rudy Giuliani, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, pushed for Rich to serve prison time for racketeering. In 2001, New York Mayor Giuliani, not yet a presidential contender, was “shocked that the President of the United States would pardon” Rich. But in June 2007, presidential aspirant Giuliani commended Bush’s commutation. “I think the sentence was way out of line.” Ah principle!
No leading official of either Party, however, suggested that Bush pardon Luis Posada Carriles, known as the Osama bin Laden of the Western Hemisphere. What could the Justice Department do with this man? In 1973, Washington signed the Montreal Agreement that would have each country try airplane terrorists or extradite them. Venezuela had requested Posada’s extradition for the October 1976 blowing up of a Cuban commercial airliner over Barbados. Posada did the plotting in Caracas.
Every prosecutor remembered Bush’s November 21, 2001 words: “If you harbor terrorists, you are terrorists. If you train or arm a terrorist, you are a terrorist. If you feed a terrorist or fund a terrorist, you’re a terrorist, and you will be held accountable.” What Bush didn’t say was “this doesn’t refer to ‘our terrorists.’”
In February 1961, Posada joined Brigade 2506, the CIA’s Cuban exiles who invaded Cuba that April. Posada belonged to a special group the CIA had designated to “clean up” the Castro supporters — after their presumably successful invasion. This Cuban exile Waffen SS corps included the most brutal and cold blooded men, as the CIA rated them. So, he didn’t land at Giron Beach with the rest of the Brigade.
Posada then joined the army, received spy and demolition instruction and moved to the CIA in 1965, “as a source of information on Cuban exile activities.” The CIA kept close relations with Posada (1967-74) as he rose in Venezuelan intelligence, DISIP. The CIA trained, funded and fed Posada who even indirectly advised the Agency of his plans to blow up a Cuba airliner over Barbados in 1976.
FBI Agents interviewed Posada and other suspects in Caracas and concluded “Posada was up to his eyeballs” in planning the bombing. (Interview with former FBI Special Agent L. Carter Cornick, who interrogated Posada) Given the documentation on Posada’s role in that mass murder and his boasting to New York Times reporters Anne Bardach and Larry Rohter about bombings he did in Cuba – obvious acts of terrorism – much of the legal world expected the Justice Department to charge the man with terrorism after he illegally entered the United States in 2005 or else deport him to Venezuela, which had requested his extradition.
Instead, Justice accused Posada of lying to US officials during interviews and on his application to become a naturalized U.S. citizen. U.S. District Judge Kathleen Cardone ruled that the government had manipulated its interview with Posada and then used it as a pretext to charge him with a felony. The judge accused the prosecutors of using “grossly shocking” tactics in building their case. (AP, June 5, 2007) Like Libby, Posada’s top level political connections got scared. The official entanglements with the Bush family and this terrorist began in 1985 when US officials helped Posada “escape” from a Venezuelan prison. The man who directed the illegal Contra War of the 1980s, Lt. Col. Oliver North of the National Security Council, noted in his diary – made public during Senate hearings — “JMC $50K.” This referred to the bribe paid by Jorge Mas Canosa (head of the Cuban American National Foundation) to Venezuelan prison authorities for the “escape” and the waiting car and plane that landed in El Salvador where a Salvadoran officer met the fugitive with false identification papers. CIA official Felix Rodriguez fixed that part of the operation. Then-Vice President George H.W. Bush played a key supervisory role in supplying the Contra rebels in their illegal war against the Nicaraguan government. Reagan himself approved that covert action.
Posada worked with Oliver North and retired General Richard Secord in the White House-directed operation to supply the Contras. In October 1986, a Sandinista anti-aircraft missile felled a supply plane in Nicaragua and exposed the operation.
Posada then became security chief to Salvadoran President Jose Napoleon Duarte, which required approval from US officials who knew Posada had downed the Cuban airliner. In 1990, a year after Duarte left the presidency, Posada became chief of security for Guatemalan President Vinicio Cerezo. Again, the CIA and Pentagon played heavy roles in a country whose destiny they had altered in a 1954 military coup.
In 1992, the FBI investigated the Iran-Contra scandal and interrogated Posada at the U.S. Embassy in Honduras. Posada, recuperating from a bullet wound in the cheek, told the Bureau about Felix Rodriguez’s close connections to Donald Gregg, Bush’s national security adviser. Posada knew that “Rodriguez was always calling Gregg,” the FBI concluded, because he “paid Rodriguez’ phone bill.” (Robert Parry, Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & Project Truth) Reagan officials also aided Orlando Bosch, Posada’s partner in sabotaging the Cubana plane. In 1989-90, US Ambassador to Venezuela Otto Reich, an anti-Castro Cuban with a reputation for being a liar, convinced President Bush, against strong advice from INS and Justice, to allow Bosch to return to the United States. Bosch, a terrorist of world stature, got “harbored.” The President’s youngest son, Jeb – now Florida governor – belittled the INS’ warnings and convinced his father.
By 1994, Posada had recuperated from a bullet wound that unknown pistoleros put in his check in Guatemala. He resumed his vocation: assassinate Castro. Fidel planned a visit to Cartagena, Colombia. Posada and cohorts awaited him with a sniper rifle. Fidel’s security forces, however, thwarted the eager shooters. (Miami Herald, June 7, 1998) Having failed to assassinate Cuba’s leader – Cuba’s security forces claim over 625 separate attempts, many with CIA backing – Posada directed his attentions to sabotaging Cuba’s economy. In 1997, working with Mas Canosa, he hired money-hungry Salvadorans to plant bombs at tourist spots in Havana. One explosion killed an Italian tourist. Cuban authorities then captured two Salvadorans who named Posada as their boss and paymaster. Using the alias of SOLO, Posada wired them of money transfers.
Posada limps along Miami Beach’s boulevards, sometimes with his old cohort Orlando Bosch. Libby walks the streets of Washington. Bush continues his empty rant against terrorism. Both geriatric terrorists must chuckle over those familiar grim facial expressions and the threatening words. “He who harbors a terroristâ€¦”
Landau’s new book is A BUSH AND BOTOX WORLD. His films are available on dvd from [email protected]