Case of Cuban Exile Could Test the U.S. Definition of Terrorist
Washington D.C. May 10, 2005 - Declassified CIA and FBI records posted today on the Web by the National Security Archive at George Washington University identify Cuban exile Luis Posada Carriles, who is apparently in Florida seeking asylum, as a former CIA agent and as one of the "engineer[s]" of the 1976 terrorist bombing of Cubana Airlines flight 455 that killed 73 passengers.
The documents include a November 1976 FBI report on the bombing cited in yesterday's New York Times article "Case of Cuban Exile Could Test the U.S. Definition of Terrorist," CIA trace reports covering the Agency's recruitment of Posada in the 1960s, as well as the FBI intelligence reporting on the downing of the plane. The Archive also posted a second FBI report, dated one day after the bombing, in which a confidential source "all but admitted that Posada and [Orlando] Bosch had engineered the bombing of the airline." In addition, the posting includes several documents relating to Bosch and his suspected role in the downing of the jetliner on October 6, 1976.
Using a false passport, Posada apparently snuck into the United States in late March and remains in hiding. His lawyer announced that Posada is asking the Bush administration for asylum because of the work he had done for the Central Intelligence Agency in the 1960s. The documents posted today include CIA records confirming that Posada was an agent in the 1960s and early 1970s, and remained an informant in regular contact with CIA officials at least until June 1976.
In 1985, Posada escaped from prison in Venezuela where he had been incarcerated after the plane bombing and remains a fugitive from justice. He went directly to El Salvador, where he worked, using the alias "Ramon Medina," on the illegal contra resupply program being run by Lt. Col. Oliver North in the Reagan National Security Council. In 1998 he was interviewed by Ann Louise Bardach for the New York Times at a secret location in Aruba, and claimed responsibility for a string of hotel bombings in Havana during which eleven people were injured and one Italian businessman was killed. Most recently he was imprisoned in Panama for trying to assassinate Fidel Castro in December 2000 with 33 pounds of C-4 explosives. In September 2004, he and three co-conspirators were suddenly pardoned, and Posada went to Honduras. Venezuela is now preparing to submit an official extradition request to the United States for his return.
According to Peter Kornbluh, who directs the Archive's Cuba Documentation Project, Posada's presence in the United States "poses a direct challenge to the Bush administration's terrorism policy. The declassified record," he said, "leaves no doubt that Posada has been one of the world's most unremitting purveyors of terrorist violence." President Bush has repeatedly stated that no nation should harbor terrorists, and all nations should work to bring individuals who advocate and employ the use of terror tactics to justice. During the Presidential campaign last year Bush stated that "I think you can create conditions so that those who use terror as a tool are less acceptable in parts of the world." Although Posada has reportedly been in the Miami area for more than six weeks, the FBI has indicated it is not actively searching for him.
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THE CIA CONNECTION
Luis Posada Carriles had a long relationship with the CIA. In February 1961, he joined the CIA's Brigade 2506 to invade Cuba, although the ship to which he was assigned never landed at the Bay of Pigs. While in the U.S. military between 1963 and 1965 the CIA recruited him and trained him in demolitions; he subsequently became a trainer of other paramilitary exile forces in the mid 1960s. CIA documents posted below reveal that he was terminated as an asset in July 1967, but then reinstated four months later and apparently remained an asset until 1974. The documents also show that he remained in contact with the Agency until June 1976, only three months before the plane bombing.
Document 1: CIA, October 13, 1976, Report, "Traces on Persons Involved in 6 Oct 1976 Cubana Crash."
In the aftermath of the bombing of Cubana flight 455, the CIA ran a file check on all names associated with the terror attack. In a report to the FBI the Agency stated that it had no association with the two Venezuelans who were arrested. A section on Luis Posada Carriles was heavily redacted when the document was declassified. But the FBI retransmitted the report three days later and that version was released uncensored revealing Posada's relations with the CIA.
Document 2: FBI, October 16, 1976, Retransmission of CIA Trace Report
In this uncensored version of the CIA trace report, the Agency admits that it "had a relationship with one person whose name has been mentioned in connection with the reported bombing," Luis Posada Carriles. The CIA file check shows that Posada was "a former agent of CIA." Although it doesn't say when his employment began, it indicates he was terminated briefly in the summer of 1967 but then reinstated in the fall and continued as an asset while a high level official in the Venezuelan intelligence service, DISIP, until 1974. Even then, "occasional contact with him" continued until June 1976.
Document 3: CIA, June 1966, File search on Luis "Pozada"
In this file search the CIA states that Posada has "been of operational interest to this Agency since April 1965," the likely date when he first became a paid CIA agent.
Document 4: FBI, July 18, 1966, "Cuba"
An informant reports to the FBI that Posada is a CIA agent and is "receiving approximately $300.00 per month from CIA."
Document 5: CIA, April 17, 1972, Personal Record Questionnaire on Posada
This "PRQ" was compiled in 1972 at a time Posada was a high level official at the Venezuelan intelligence service, DISIP, in charge of demolitions. The CIA was beginning to have some concerns about him, based on reports that he had taken CIA explosives equipment to Venezuela, and that he had ties to a Miami mafia figure named Lefty Rosenthal. The PRQ spells out Posada's personal background and includes his travel to various countries between 1956 and 1971. It also confirms that one of his many aliases was "Bambi Carriles."
EARLY TERRORIST PLOTTING
During the time that Posada was on the CIA payroll in the mid-1960s, he participated in a number of plots that involved sabotage and explosives. FBI reporting recorded some of Posada's earliest activities, including his financial ties to Jorge Mas Canosa, who would later become head of the powerful anti-Castro lobby, the Cuban American National Foundation.
Document 6: FBI, July 7, 1965, "Luis Posada Carriles"
The FBI transmits information obtained from the CIA's Mexico station titled "Intention of Cuban Representation in Exile (RECE) to Blow up a Cuban or Soviet Vessel in Veracruz, Mexico." The document summarizes intelligence on a payment that Jorge Mas Canosa, then the head of RECE, has made to Luis Posada to finance a sabotage operation against ships in Mexico. Posada reportedly has "100 pounds of C-4 explosives and detonators" and limpet mines to use in the operation.
Document 7: FBI, July 13, 1965, "Cuban Representation in Exile (RECE)"
A FBI cable reports on intelligence obtained from "MM T-1" (a code reference to the CIA) on a number of RECE terrorist operations, including the bombing of the Soviet library in Mexico City. The document contains information on payments from Jorge Mas Canosa to Luis Posada for an operation to bomb ships in the port of Veracruz, as well as a description of Posada and a statement he gave to the FBI in June of 1964.
Document 8: FBI, May 17, 1965, "Roberto Alejos Arzu; Luis Sierra Lopez, Neutrality Matters, Internal Security-Guatemala"
The FBI links Posada to a major plot to overthrow the government of Guatemala. U.S. Customs agents force Posada and other co-conspirators to turn over a cache of weapons that are listed in this document. The weapons include napalm, 80 pounds of C-4 explosives, and 28 pounds of C-3 explosives.
BOMBING OF CUBANA FLIGHT 455
Document 9: FBI, October 7, 1976, Secret Intelligence Report, "Suspected Bombing of Cubana Airlines DC-8 Near Barbados"
In one of the very first reports on the October 6, 1976, downing of Cubana Flight 455, the FBI Venezuelan bureau cables that a confidential source has identified Luis Posada and Orlando Bosch as responsible for the bombing. "The source all but admitted that Posada and Bosch had engineered the bombing of the airline," according to the report. The report appears to indicate that the Venezuelan secret police, DISIP, were arranging for Bosch and Posada to leave Caracas, although this section of the document has been censored.
In the report, the FBI identifies two Venezuelan suspects arrested in Barbados: Freddy Lugo and Jose Vazquez Garcia. Vazquez Garcia is an alias for Hernan Ricardo Lozano. Both Ricardo and Lugo worked for Luis Posada's private security firm in Caracas at the time of the bombing.
Document 10: FBI, November 2, 1976, Secret Intelligence Report "Bombing of Cubana Airlines DC-8 Near Barbados, West Indies, October 6, 1976"
The FBI receives information from a source who has spoken with Ricardo Morales Navarrete, a Cuban exile informant working for DISIP in Caracas. Known as "Monkey" Morales, he tells the FBI source of two meetings during which plotting for the plane bombing took place: one in the Hotel Anauco Hilton in Caracas, and another in Morales room at the Hilton. Both meetings were attended by Posada Carriles. A key passage of the report quotes Morales as stating that "some people in the Venezuelan government are involved in this airplane bombing, and that if Posada Carriles talks, then Morales Navarrete and others in the Venezuelan government will 'go down the tube.' He said that if people start talking 'we'll have our own Watergate.'" Morales also states that after the plane went down, one of the men who placed the bomb aboard the jet called Orlando Bosch and reported: "A bus with 73 dogs went off a cliff and all got killed."
Document 11: FBI, November 3, 1976, Cable, "Bombing of Cubana Airlines DC-8 Near Barbados, West Indies, October 6, 1976"
The FBI reports on arrest warrants issued by a Venezuelan judge for Posada, Bosch, Freddy Lugo and Ricardo Lozano.
ORLANDO BOSCH AND ANTI-CASTRO TERRORIST ORGANIZATIONS
Document 12: FBI, January 24, 1977, Secret Report, "Coordination of United Revolutionary Organizations (CORU) Neutrality Matters - Cuba - (Anti-Castro)"
The FBI reports on a plot to carry out terrorist attacks that will divert attention from the prosecution of Orlando Bosch and Luis Posada in Caracas. Orders for the attacks are attributed to Orlando Garcia Vazquez, a Cuban exile who was then head of the Venezuelan intelligence service, DISIP. (Garcia Vazquez currently lives in Miami.) The report also provides some details on CORU.
Document 13: FBI, August 16, 1978, Secret Report, "Coordinacion de Organizaciones Revolucionarias Unidas (Coordination of United Revolutionary Organizations) (CORU), Neutrality Matters - Cuba - (Anti-Castro)"
This FBI report provides a comprehensive overview of CORU which the FBI describes as "an anti-Castro terrorist umbrella organization" headed by Orlando Bosch. The report records how CORU was created at a secret meeting in Santo Domingo on June 11, 1976, during which a series of bombing attacks were planned, including the bombing of a Cubana airliner. On page 6, the report relates in great detail how Orlando Bosch was met in Caracas on September 8, 1976, by Luis Posada and other anti-Castro exiles and a deal was struck as to what kind of activities he could organize on Venezuelan soil. The document also contains substantive details on behind-the-scene efforts in Caracas to obtain the early release of Bosch and Posada from prison.
IRAN-CONTRA AND POSADA (A.K.A. RAMON MEDINA)
Document 14: September 2, 1986, Contra re-supply document, [Distribution of Warehoused Contra Weapons and Equipment - in Spanish with English translation]
After bribing his way out of prison in Venezuela in September 1985, Posada went directly to El Salvador to work on the illicit contra resupply operations being run by Lt. Col. Oliver North. Posada assumed the name "Ramon Medina," and worked as a deputy to another anti-Castro Cuban exile, Felix Rodriguez, who was in charge of a small airlift of arms and supplies to the contras in Southern Nicaragua. Rodriguez used the code name, Max Gomez. This document, released during the Congressional investigation into the Iran-Contra operations, records both Posada and Rodriguez obtaining supplies for contra troops from a warehouse at Illopango airbase in San Salvador.
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