12 September 2007

National Australia Bank takes hit from OFAC

The National Australia Bank informed OFAC that in transactions involving at least one Cuban national, the bank transfered money through New York City.

In response, the agency slapped the golden swimmers from down under with a 100,000 dollar fine, 10% of what OFAC claims they could have hit them with.

It’d be nice to get some details on this. But surely someone in the bank’s IT department must have had a re-routing headache, providing the bank still wants to do business with Cubans, which seems like a fair question for the bank’s PR people.

I trust Australia has some laws against discriminating on the basis of Nationality and, if even re-routing the Cubans costs them some money, the bank could find itself between a rock and hard place. Time being money, sort of thing, or so they tell me.

But, for OFAC, the spectacle gives them a chance to put all banks on notice that data flowing across the United States is subject to their jurisdiction. And there’s a whole lot of money transfered through New York City, in a minute.

Compliance officers, you’ve been warned.


(say, is there an election in Florida soon?)

10 September 2007

U.S. Director of National Intelligence indicates Cuba's priority

Under questioning from Senator Lieberman, Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell revealed Cuba’s priority level in the counter-terrorism effort:

Mission managers engage in strategic planning and collection management against our hardest targets. Today, we have mission managers for North Korea, Iran, Cuba and Venezuela, counterterrorism, counterproliferation and counterintelligence.

I provide below more context for his remarks. But I can't remember in either Bush or Clinton's administration an intelligence director placing Cuba among our greatest international security concerns.

In the recent past, US officials would talk about Cuba as though she were a problem in the hemisphere but one for other nations (or markets). An irritant for us, not a priority.

And with Hillary Clinton saying US policy toward the island won't change, I don't see the political advantage. Inflating Cuba’s significance to comfort CANF is not necessary. So there’s something to be taken seriously here.

As you’ll see, information sharing among agencies is now the order of the day (which has to be a concern for those of us who like to salsa with the Commies).

Nonetheless, the administration has clearly accepted the damning charge that 9/11 could have been prevented if only the agencies had worked together

(or, better yet, had not ignored FBI agent Coleen Rowly. They certainly don’t want to hear these facts again,


But what’s done is done. And with the leader of Hezbullah, that fat ugly guy who attracts a crowd, publicly thanking Chavez and (to a lesser extent) Cuba for the Lebanese fighters’s success against Israel, I cannot blame McConnell. He’s gotta tough job to do.

But I sense that we are at an historically significant crossroad, as if there’s another curtain about to fall, although I’m not sure whose.

There’s still a lot of room under the Embargo for the Executive put up barriers against all things Cuban (let alone aggressively enforce the ones that are articulated).

For things to get worse for everybody, all we’d need to see is a few black & white surveillance photographs of Hezbullah in Havana.

On the other hand, for the things to get better, this moment would be a good time for the U.S. to throw a face-saving gesture at the Cuban Government, one such as declaring the Embargo a total failure (not exactly a stretch) and therefore repealing it, which in turn could empower the Cuban people and set their imaginations in motion.

It’s worth the risk, unless of course you’re okay with a Hezbullah terrorist with a Cuban passport heading to the US in a go-boat.

From Congressional Quarterly :


Admiral McConnell, go ahead.


Sir, Senator Warner was secretary of the Navy when I was briefing him as a young lieutenant. So thank you, sir.

Mr. Chairman, Senator Collins and members of the committee, thank you very much for the opportunity to appear before the committee and provide a status of our efforts to confront terrorism to the nation.

I also appreciate the opportunity to describe the implementation of the reforms mandated by the Congress and the president since 9/11 and, as has been mentioned, six years ago tomorrow.

My biggest concern, as mentioned by Senator Collins, is going back to September 10th thinking by many in our country. As stated in our July national intelligence estimate, the level of focus and commitment may wane in time. The threat is real and we must remain vigilant.

As noted in July, my office released the national intelligence estimate, the intelligence community's most authoritative judgment on a particular subject, and this was the terrorist threat to the United States homeland.

And our key judgments, an unclassed version of which has been mentioned here and is posted on our Web site, for the period of the three-year period of the estimate, we assess that our nation faces and will continue to face a persistent and evolving threat mainly from Islamic terrorist groups and cells, and most especially Al Qaida.

The terrorist threat without question is real. I will share with you today, how we in the intelligence community are working to counter these threats. I also have submitted a more comprehensive overview in my statement for the record and I ask that it be submitted to the record.


Without objection.


To confront today's threats, we have made many changes in the way we conduct intelligence, law enforcement, homeland security, diplomatic and defensive activities.

Our greatest progress can be concentrated, I believe, in four areas: first, by improving our organizational structures to meet the new threats of this century; next, by fostering greater information sharing to provide the right information to the right people at the right time, largely driven by this committee; strengthening our intelligence analysis; and fourth, implementing the necessary reforms that allow us to build a dynamic intelligence enterprise that promotes diversity to gain insight and to sustain a competitive advantage against those we are seeing as adversaries.

First, let me touch on the structural improvements in the intelligence community.

One of our challenges was integrating foreign and domestic intelligence -- that is foreign intelligence collected inside the United States. We are ensuring that we collect the right information to most accurately and objectively reflect the threat inside the U.S. We are better able to do this with the establishment of the FBI's National Security Branch, NSB.

The NSB integrates the FBI's counterterrorism, counterintelligence, weapons of mass destruction and intelligence programs, allowing for a coordinated focus on collecting foreign intelligence within the United States.


And, of course, as mentioned, the NCTC, the National Counterterrorism Center, uses all that information with foreign- collected information to provide a more comprehensive picture.

Second, with regard to our structure, creation of the National Clandestine Service at CIA to guide all clandestine human operations across the community with the most effective leadership allows for better oversight and coordination we did not have before.

Thirdly, we are working to dismantle stovepipes -- the stovepipe mentality inside the intelligence community. This mindset is where an agency can produce and limit within its walls vital national intelligence.

One way we promote greater collaboration is by using cross- community mission managers to identify intelligence priorities, gaps and requirements. Mission managers engage in strategic planning and collection management against our hardest targets. Today, we have mission managers for North Korea, Iran, Cuba and Venezuela, counterterrorism, counterproliferation and counterintelligence.

Finally, with the support of this committee, we have established the program manager for information-sharing environment to enhance our sharing of terrorism information not only among federal, but also among state, local, tribal governments as well as the private sector.

Let me turn now more specifically to information-sharing.

Our efforts to improve information-sharing mechanisms are of special significance, given that the failure to do so contributed to our inability or our failure to prevent the 9/11 attacks.

In our July national intelligence estimate, we assess that Al Qaida is planning to attack the homeland, is likely to continue to focus on prominent political, economic and infrastructure targets with the goal of producing mass casualties, visually dramatic destruction and significant economic shocks.


And, of course, as mentioned by the chairman, the intent is to create fear among our population.

To counter this, we must depend not only on the 16 agencies of the intelligence community, but also on the eyes and ears of our state and local partners across the country. And more than depending on them, we must be willing to share threat information and work with them to protect our nation.

We believe that state and local partners can no longer be treated only as first responders, but also as the first lines of prevention. In the past six years, the program manager for information-sharing has led the charge to transform our policies, processes, procedures and, most importantly, workforce -- or workplace cultures to reinforce sharing terrorist information as the rule, not the exception.

I have also made improved information-sharing a centerpiece of the DNI's strategic plan in going forward.

Although of the effort to implement the information-sharing environment is well under way, it is essential that the implementation activities take place within a broader strategic context of enhancing our nation's ability to combat terrorism.

The ultimate goal is not simply information-sharing for the sake of sharing, The objective is to improve our national capacity to protect our nation from future attack. We are working very hard to do just that.

Let me now turn to analysis.

09 September 2007

Will the Revolutionary Army Permit Exiles to Hold Office in a Post-Castro Government?

Not if history is any kind of teacher, specifically not if the RAF has learned the lessons of 1901, when the Americans took control of the Cuban government.

Consider this denouncement of appointments originating in Washington DC from The [Cuban] Society of Veterans of Independence:

“Only those having influence with Secretary Alger through Washington connections are able to secure appointments, and there are some of those who were not in Cuba during the War.” The practice “will eventually lead to trouble. Those who defended the country deserve recognition and will tire of consistently being ignored.”

by 'trouble,' the writer predicts Fidel Castro.

But shoot, even the American governors on the island were trying to tell Washington to cool it. Among others, Major Booker:

“the most difficult matter is to harmonize several factions on the island” He continues, “A large proportion of the better educated Cubans refugeed in various lands during the rebellion; many of these self-appointed, perhaps, were agents of members of the so-called Cuban junta. Most of these have returned, and are eager for recognition. As they speak English they have more readily found employment and appointment at the hands of United States officers. The fact that they have been recognized, which I do not pretend was ill-advised, has created friction between them and the Cuban soldier.”

Louis A. Perez, Jr. Cuba between Empires 1878-1902, page 296.

03 September 2007

Vote for Barak Obama

U.S. policy toward Cuba is a casket full of laws, regulations, and executive orders, not just the set of code sections entitled the Economic Embargo.

But to evaluate the politics, we can simplify the subject by thinking of US policy in terms

(1) of the Government’s stated attempts to subvert the existing Cuban government using methods we would not tolerate were they directed at us, including belligerent violations of Cuba’s sovereign rights, and

(2) of our refusal to do business with what we perceive as a brutal tyrant, a regime that’s gone beyond the pale, or both.

For historical reasons, Americans have no business subverting (nor any moral authority to subvert) the Cuban government. Period.

And quite apart from the damage this hostile aspect does to our critical efforts to coordinate international responses to transnational terrorism, the price we pay for the hearts and minds of the Cuban people is going up, too, because we are finally making enemies of our patient neighbors on the island.

Sentiment on the island toward Americans has clearly changed since the 90’s when many Cubans wanted nothing more than to be politically hegemonized by Americans.

Now, after we flouted Cuban pleas to ignore the chimera of Fidel Castro and jump through the foreign-investment window, and, after they witnessed us destroy the Iraqi government in service of our energy industry and our Chicken-hawk's attempt at global domination, skepticism toward US government could not be higher.

It’s as though, with these two strokes, we vindicated every ugly thing the Fidelistas had said about us. The chip on the shoulder toward the “yankee” is now approaching pre-Revolution size.

And a typical Cuban’s attitude toward Americans is profoundly conflicted, drawn to us, yes, but quick to regurgitate that Americans come from a “land of liars.” (Right, he said it in English.)

So much for Republican foreign policy.

But as a democracy, America should always reserve the right to refuse to do business with brutal tyrants that threaten our national security, including the stability of our markets.

And that refusal could include restricting travel, although with Cuba I think as Obama does that travel restrictions are brain-dead because there is no better way than foreign intercourse to remind Cubans that there are other ways to govern themselves.

The problem here, though, is that the international jury, so to speak, is out on whether Fidel Castro rises to the level of a brutal tyrant. He does not in my judgment, certainly not as one who sufficiently threatens US national security.

In fact, the USG has not even been able to persuade Canada, Mexico, and Great Britain --all of whom depend on the stability of the US--that Fidel is such a threat, either.

So one must ask what the evidence is because these nations, supposedly our strongest allies, have each enacted counter legislation (or have interpreted existing ones) to block the USG from sanctioning US subsidiaries for doing business with Cubans.

To be sure, it is not as though these (and other) allies are stepping out of our way as we enforce that particular extraterritorial section of the Economic Embargo to cope with the mighty Cuban threat to our existence.

Quite the contrary, our allies are increasingly sanctioning foreign US subsidiaries for not doing business with Cubans.

Clearly, if only to get our subsidiaries out from under this catch 22, it’s time to review the evidence that the Cuban government poses a significant threat to the security of the USA.

But that is not Obama’s position. He accepts that Cuba is a national security threat and argues that through trade, specifically through tourism and remittances, we can subvert the government.

Obviously, I don’t think that goal should be our purpose, not as long our nation isn’t frightened of Fidel.

In the absence of a threat to our national security, then, it is for the Cuban people to dissolve their government, not Americans.

And so far, we haven’t heard a peep out of Cuban Cubans, which is all the more reason to exchange ideas with them about good governance.

Traveling to Cuba is best way you can do that.

So for whatever reason, Vote for Barak Obama.