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Who Was Alan Gross Working For?

By CARMELO RUIZ-MARRERO | CounterPunch | December 22, 2014

Alan P. Gross, an American arrested in Cuba in 2009 for smuggling broadband satellite communications equipment, made world headlines on December 2014 when he was released the same day that US president Obama ordered the release of three Cubans who were in American prisons serving sentences for espionage. Press reports mentioned that Gross was in the Caribbean island in his capacity as a subcontractor for USAID, a US government agency that administers aid programs abroad. Throughout its history this agency has been accused of being an arm of US foreign policy and at worst a mere front for intelligence operations rather than the neutral and apolitical provider of aid to poor countries that it pretends to be. In 2014 USAID was caught red-handed in bizarre schemes to destabilize Cuba through Twitter and by funding hip hop artists.

A lesser known fact is that Gross was in Cuba working for a USAID contractor called Development Alternatives Inc. (DAI), a company that supervises and executes economic development projects all over the world. In 2010 it was USAID’s fifth biggest contractor, raking in almost $382.5 million in contracts just in that year.

DAI has also worked for the US State Department, the Pentagon, the World Bank, the United Nations, the European Commission, and private sector giants like Monsanto, Wal-Mart, Hewlett Packard, Sun Microsystems, Exxon Mobil, Daimler Chrysler, Unilever and The Gap.

“We tackle fundamental social and economic development problems caused by inefficient markets, ineffective governance, and instability”, says DAI about its work. “Since 1970, we have worked in more than 150 countries—delivering results across the spectrum of international development contexts, from stable societies and high-growth economies to challenging environments racked by political or military conflict.”

The company’s services include: corporate social responsibility, public-private partnerships, business strategy, exploration and analysis of market opportunities, integration of small businesses and small farmers into global value chains, food security and agribusiness promotion, financial services, drafting laws to make competitive economies, innovation and entrepreneurship, gender issues, climate change adaptation, carbon markets, water resources management, market environmentalism, legislative reform, citizen participation, public safety, health care, information and communications technology, and more. In short, if you want to set up a country from scratch, just call DAI.

According to Sourcewatch, a sort of Wikipedia of the left:

“DAI acted as a conduit for USAID (through the Office of Transition Initiatives) and National Endowment for Democracy (NED) funds to the Venezuelan opposition to president Hugo Chavez. Furthermore, it was instrumental along with NED affiliated organizations for financing black propaganda on Venezuelan private network TV during the general strike in 2002. Documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request show that DAI was required to keep certain personnel in Venezuela and had to consult with USAID about staff changes. Philip Agee, a former CIA officer, suggests that this is merely a cover for what passed for CIA operations in the past.”

The company’s own web site informs that it has played an important role in the United States’ geopolitical and military strategy in the Middle East:

“Following the 9/11 attacks of 2001 and the subsequent U.S. military actions, DAI was called on to lead a variety of challenging development projects in the midst of the counterinsurgency in Afghanistan, a country where we worked as early as 1977. Similarly, after the United States toppled the Iraqi regime in 2003, DAI won a project to help provide legitimate governance in the country. Other assignments in Iraq covered agriculture.”

It is most interesting that DAI would be in Afghanistan in 1977, way before the Soviet invasion, just when the CIA was arming and training an Islamic fundamentalist insurgent force to destabilize the country.

According to a 2011 article in The Guardian by Jonathan Steele:

“Western backing for these (Afghan) rebels had begun before Soviet troops arrived. It served western propaganda to say the Russians had no justification for entering Afghanistan in what the west called an aggressive land grab. In fact, US officials saw an advantage in the mujahedin rebellion which grew after a pro-Moscow government toppled (Prime Minister) Daoud in April 1978. In his memoirs, Robert Gates, then a CIA official and later defence secretary under Presidents Bush and Obama, recounts a staff meeting in March 1979 where CIA officials asked whether they should keep the mujahedin going, thereby “sucking the Soviets into a Vietnamese quagmire”. The meeting agreed to fund them to buy weapons.”

Needless to say, this type of work can be pretty hazardous. In December 2009 five DAI employees were killed by an explosion in the USAID headquarters in Gardez, Afghanistan. From that facility DAI was running a Local Governance and Community Development project. According to DAI:

“Our mission on behalf of (USAID) was crucial: encourage communities in the most volatile parts of the country to turn away from the insurgency and toward the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. We set out to do this in large part by facilitating 2,635 community projects that addressed local grievances, fostered stability, facilitated dialogue, and engendered trust in district and provincial leaders.”

The most notorious death of a DAI employee in a war zone was that of Linda Norgrove, who was abducted by the Taliban in eastern Afghanistan on September 2010. The US sent a Navy elite force to rescue her but the Rambo-style operation did not go well. Norgrove was killed, not by her captors but by a grenade thrown by one of her would-be rescuers, according to an official joint US-UK investigation of her death.

According to DAI CEO Jim Boomgard, Gross was in Cuba running a US government program called “Cuba Democracy and Contingency Planning Program”. In an August 2008 meeting, officials from this program told DAI representatives that “USAID is not telling Cubans how or why they need a democratic transition, but rather, the Agency wants to provide the technology and means for communicating the spark which could benefit the population.” The program, the officials said, intended to “provide a base from which Cubans can ‘develop alternative visions of the future.’”

In 2012 Gross and his wife sued USAID and DAI for allegedly not informing him adequately of the risk that his mission entailed – the case was settled out of court in 2013. If what Gross claimed in his lawsuit is true, then the man was an unwitting dupe in a US intelligence operation. It remains to be seen how many American aid workers who sincerely believed they were engaging in harmless, uncontroversial activity helping people abroad were actually being used by the CIA or other agencies as pawns in high risk games of political chess.

Carmello Ruiz-Marrero is a Puerto Rican journalist. Web site: Twitter: @carmeloruiz

December 22, 2014 Posted by | Corruption, Deception | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Alan Gross and his descent into hell

Along the Malecon | January 21, 2013

This isn’t “Everything You Wanted to Know About Alan Gross, But Were Afraid to Ask.” Unanswered questions about Gross abound more than three years after Cuban authorities nabbed him in Havana.

The Agency for International Development dispatched the American development worker to Cuba on a highly sensitive mission in 2009. Cuban authorities followed his movements at first, then arrested him and deposited him in jail. Discovering how he got there, ever so far from his home in Maryland, is a winding trail of money, bureaucracy and barely intelligible acronyms.

Below is a post aimed at answering some basic questions in the case and adding context to new details that emerged this month in court records, confidential memos and other documents (see links to source material at end of post).

Who hired Alan Gross?

A global development company, Development Alternatives Inc., or DAI, based in Bethesda, Md., and with offices in London, Islamabad and other cities. The company had revenue of nearly $300 million in 2012.

What’s DAI’s connection to USAID?

DAI is one of USAID’s top contractors. USAID has awarded more than $4 billion in contracts to DAI since 2000.

On Sept. 27, 2005, USAID signed a $25,000 contract with DAI as part of the agency’s “Instability, Crisis and Recovery Programs.”

The contract description shown in federal records is cryptic: CMM IQC.

What does that stand for?

CMM refers to the Office of Conflict Management and Mitigation in USAID’s Bureau for Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance. The office works with USAID and its partners, along with the State Department and the Pentagon. “These new partnerships,” USAID says, have boosted the U.S. government’s ability to fight the “Global War on Terror.”

IQC is Indefinite Quantity Contract, an agreement that delivers an unspecified quantity of products or services.

What was DAI supposed to do?

USAID hired DAI to conduct “conflict and fragility” assessments, which involved:

  • A review of risk factors in specific countries or regions
  • The development of work plans
  • Research
  • Fieldwork and reports
  • Planning and implementation of meetings and other duties.

What does that have to do with Cuba?

Under the 2005 contract, DAI became one of USAID’s go-to contractors for a range of tasks. So when USAID wanted to assign a sensitive Cuba project in August 2008, it turned to DAI.

What was that project called?

The Cuba Democracy and Contingency Planning Program, or CDCPP.

How did Alan Gross get involved?

By 2008, Gross was in debt and had evidently been trying to land a Cuba-related contract for at least a year. He had been to the island before and knew key people who were handling U.S. government-financed projects in Cuba.

Key people? Any names?

Gross was in contact with Marc Wachtenheim, then director and founder of the Cuba Development Initiative at the Pan American Development Foundation, or PADF, another big USAID contractor.

José Manuel Collera

In 2004, Wachtenheim had asked Gross to deliver a video camera and other items to José Manuel Collera, former head of the Freemasons fraternal organization in Cuba. Gross delivered the package and the PADF paid him $400.

What was Gross doing in Cuba in 2004?

At his 2011 trial, Gross testified that he went to the island as a tourist in 2004. He stayed at the four-star Hotel Raquel in Havana. It’s unclear if he traveled to Cuba again before 2009. His 2006 company tax records cited ongoing humanitarian work in Cuba.

Anything special about Collera?

Collera was an important contact for Wachtenheim, but turned out to be a spy. In 2011, Collera revealed that he was a state security agent known as “Agent Gerardo.”

Wachtenheim, left, and Collera in surveillance video.

What became of Wachtenheim?

Cuban state security agents secretly caught Wachtenheim on surveillance video while he met with Collera and others. Presumably, agents could have detained Wachtenheim, but they did not interfere with his travels to the island.

Wachtenheim reached out to Gross again in 2007. He gave him $5,500 and asked him to buy a Hughes model 9201 satellite terminal that was to be taken to Cuba. The equipment allows users to send information over the Inmarsat Broadband Global Area Network, or BGAN, satellite network. It’s not clear who delivered it and how it was used. The equipment may have been tied to an unrelated PADF program. Raúl Capote, a Cuban professor who worked for Cuban state security, said James Benson, a U.S. official in Havana, delivered a portable BGAN terminal to him and said, “Marc Wachtenheim sends you this.”

That same year, Gross pitched a Cuba proposal to Wachtenheim. He called it “Information and Communications Technology for Cuba: A Pilot Project.”

Wachtenheim didn’t bite. Cuban authorities found out about the project because information about it was on a flash drive Gross had when he was arrested in December 2009.

Marc Wachtenheim

How did Gross finally get the DAI subcontract?

In 2008, Gross learned that DAI had received a Cuba-related contract, described as a “Washington, DC-based project focused on promoting democratic governance in Cuba.”

One version of the story is that Gross then contacted John McCarthy, chief of party for the Cuba project at DAI, and told him he wanted in. Gross told a different story at his trial, saying DAI had asked him to submit a proposal for an upcoming project that he “knew nothing about.”

Whatever the case, Gross got the job even though he didn’t speak Spanish, was not a Cuba specialist and didn’t appear to have extensive experience on the island.

What happened to McCarthy?

He was promoted. He is now DAI’s Global Practice Leader.

So why did DAI hire Gross?

Gross’s connections certainly didn’t hurt. A DAI official who recommended him to USAID on Oct. 21, 2008, wrote:

I can comment on Alan Gross as a former colleague (we overlapped at Nathan from the late 1980s to the early 1990s) and general acquaintance (we stayed in touch over the years) with whom I have exchanged insights about economic development and new business opportunities in this arena every few months.

Alan is a very conscientious and trustworthy individual. He is particularly strong in situational and issues analysis, brokering of technologies and programmatic concepts, and the identification of business opportunities (and this last is a reference to business start-ups, pilots, and innovative ways of overcoming constraints to business growth). I cannot comment on JBDC, as I have never contracted services directly from his company.

Back up. What’s the reference to Nathan?

Gross was a senior partner at Robert R. Nathan Associates from 1987 to 1991.

What about JBDC?

Joint Business Development Center, Inc., was a business and economic development group that Gross founded and ran.

Who designed DAI’s Cuba project?

The project was “based entirely” on Gross’s Dec. 29, 2008, proposal. Gross called it the “ICTs Para La Isla Project.”

From an Alan Gross memo

How long was the project supposed to last?

The initial phase was set for 15 weeks: Feb. 10, 2009, to June 10, 2009.

How much was Gross paid?

The original subcontract amount was $258,274. Gross asked DAI for a project extension and $332,334 in additional funds. USAID agreed and Gross signed the deal on Oct. 26, 2009, bringing the subcontract amount to $590,608.

How much did Gross actually receive?

DAI paid the original $258,274. Neither USAID nor DAI has revealed how much more he received. The contractor has said Gross was paid for the “deliverables” he completed.

Under the contract terms, Gross would have gotten $65,132.80 before departing on his last Cuba trip.

Then he would have received $21,168 after returning to the U.S. and filing a trip report with DAI, but he was arrested before he could do that. So it is quite possible he received just $65,132.80, not the full $332,334.

Did Gross have to pay his own expenses out of that budget?

Yes. His proposed $332,334 budget, for instance, included at least $167,445 in expenses. That means Gross would have taken home only $164,889 if he had completed the contract.

What were some of big costs that Gross expected to pay?

  • Airfare and lodging in Havana and Miami, $40,112
  • Satellite modem user charges for just four months, $68,640

What was his salary?

Gross charged DAI $620 per day. That came in just under USAID’s limit of $626.54, which was the agency’s maximum allowable salary without a waiver in 2009. Gross figured he’d collect that amount for 102 days under the contract extension, giving him $63,240.

So how could Gross have taken home $164,889?

Ah, therein lies the beauty of a federal contract. He threw in company overhead, $21,854; fringe benefits, $21,528; administrative costs, $35,081; and an expense that was simply described as his “fee,” a tidy $35,081, which may have been added to compensate for any cost overruns and other unexpected expenses.

What did Gross accomplish under the subcontract?

He installed three BGAN broadband Internet connections as part of a pilot project. The satellite modems were evidently placed at Jewish synagogues or offices in Havana, Camagüey and Santiago de Cuba. Gross wrote in a memo:

A wireless network where none previously existed was developed and made operational at 3 target group communities….The target group is now capable of receiving, transmitting, storing and conveying mass information through multi-modal means not previously available.

Gross said “activities initially developed” in Havana and the two other cities now “can be expanded to other identified target groups.”

He added:

Although not part of the Contractor’s initial scope of work, basic content was provided to each of the three communities. This includes three encyclopedias, pictures and video of each other’s communities (developed during three field visits), a significant array of music, and more than a terabyte of storage capacity at each site.

How many trips did Gross make to Cuba under the DAI subcontract?

Four during the initial phase, and one after the contract extension. He was arrested during the fifth trip.

How many trips did he plan under the contract extension, in addition to the five?

Seven, which would have brought the total to 12. His goals were to:

  • Beef up security at the three Internet sites he had already established because he feared they’d be detected.
  • Study and monitor usage at the sites.
  • Supply “up to three new beneficiaries” with telecommunications kits he called “Telco-in-a-Bag.” They were each to include a satellite modem, laptop and other equipment that would fit in a backpack.

When was Gross arrested?

Dec. 3, 2009.

Was anyone else jailed?

None of Gross’s Cuba contacts were reported jailed, but Wachtenheim was reportedly in Cuba around that time and was forced to leave the country in a hurry.
Capote, the professor who was also known as Agent Daniel, said Wachtenheim had traveled to Havana in December 2009 and had called him to arrange a meeting, but he didn’t show up.

Later he called to apologize. Capote recalled the conversation.

Wachtenheim: I had to urgently leave Cuba. Do you have your equipment with you? Do you have it?

Capote: I have it.

Wachtenheim: Make it disappear. Get rid of it quickly.

Cuban authorities had arrested an American who was “very awkward and naive,” Wachtenheim explained. He said Capote needed to get rid of his BGAN because having it would be “very dangerous” for Capote and for the American.

What were the charges against Gross?

In February 2011, Cuban authorities charged Gross with “actions against the independence or the territorial integrity of the state.” Prosecutors also accused him of taking part in a “subversive project aiming at bringing down the revolution.”

How did Gross explain his work?

In a statement given to the court, Gross said he saw the Cuba project as a way to help support his family and “pay off accumulated debts,” and improve Internet access for members of the Jewish community in Cuba.

Gross said:

Let me be absolutely clear and unambiguous: I have never, would never, and will never purposely or knowingly do anything personally or professionally to subvert a government or political system, or bring harm to anyone…I do deeply regret that my actions have been misinterpreted as harmful and a threat against the security and independence of Cuba. Surely, this runs counter to what I had intended.

How did the arrest impact DAI?

On Sept. 14, 2010, USAID modified its contract with DAI. The agency made changes to the scope of work, cut the funding amount from $28,310,630 to $6,857,817, and scheduled early termination of its agreement with the contractor.

Did USAID or DAI say how the contractor spent $6,857,817? Was there any accountability to taxpayers?

No and no. USAID has not made public any reports on the outcome of the Cuba Democracy and Contingency Planning Program. The agency said “due to the sensitive nature of content,” no reports on the program would be submitted to USAID’s huge online database, the Development Experience Clearinghouse.

Have auditors examined USAID’s Cuba programs?

Yes. USAID paid the DMP Group at least $1.47 million to audit the agency’s Cuba programs in 2009 and 2010.

However, USAID has refused disclose any meaningful audit results. In response to a Freedom of Information Act request, USAID in 2011 released a 10-page heavily redacted report that contained few details.

Who used the Internet connections that Gross set up?

Neither DAI nor USAID has reported usage details. Trusted Cubans who were vetted in some way evidently managed the sites, so access was limited. Gross’s subcontract required a usage analysis, but no documents on that have been make public.

Where are the BGAN modems, laptops and other equipment now?

Cuban authorities seized the gear.

How did the project advance the democratization of Cuba?

It is not clear the project had any impact in Cuba, despite its cost and the jailing of Our Man in Havana.


January 22, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Documents Describe US “Transition Plans” for Cuba

Secrecy, politics at heart of Cuba project

Along the Malecon | January 17, 2013

U.S. officials stressed the importance of secrecy during a 2008 meeting with a Maryland contractor that had been chosen to carry out a new democracy project in Cuba, according to a confidential memo (download 8-page document).

The project wasn’t considered classified, however, because the U.S. Agency for International Development wanted to create the illusion of transparency.

Development Alternatives Inc., of Bethesda, Md., won the USAID contract on Aug. 14, 2008, and quickly hired Alan Gross, who was later arrested in Cuba while working on the project.

DAI – not USAID, as some websites have reported – wrote the confidential memo to summarize what was said during a private Aug. 26, 2008, meeting with top USAID officials.

During the meeting, DAI learned that the U.S. government had “five to seven different transition plans” for Cuba. DAI would “not be asked to write a new one.”

Instead, the contractor would carry out a daring plan to set up satellite Internet connections under the nose of Cuban state security agents.

USAID promised to protect the identities of contractors and their associates in and out of Cuba. “The program is not pressing (and will not press) them to disclose networks,” said the memo, which DAI filed in federal court on Jan. 15 as part of its reply to a $60 million lawsuit filed by the Gross family in November 2012 (See Spanish-language translation of this post here, h/t Letras Afiladas).

The memo stressed the unusual nature of the Cuba program:

The project was not classified because USAID wanted to send the message that this is a transparent process. Also, a classified project imposes significant security, documentation burdens and delays on all its stakeholders.

USAID wanted no delays and was eager to move ahead. The memo said:

This Administration expects immediate results from this program, definitely before mid-January.

That deadline likely had something to do with the departure of George W. Bush, a strong supporter of USAID’s programs in Cuba, and the arrival of Barack Obama, who was sworn in on Jan. 20, 2009.
The DAI memo summed up a top USAID official’s view of the political undercurrents:

  • This project has received and will continue to warrant intense political scrutiny and pressure for results and fiscal integrity.
  • Target populations for grants are those NGO reaching out to pro-democracy and human rights change agents and those Cubans with a different vision for their country.
  • USAID is not telling Cubans how or why they need a democratic transition, but rather, the Agency wants to provide the technology and means for communicating the spark which could benefit the population.
  • This project will be difficult to implement because an ‘ossified’ Cuban government prevents change, and because most government resources go to its police and control machinery.
  • The Cuba program attracts significant attention and scrutiny by US Congress, where some support and others question existing activities.
  • There is, of course, skepticism on this project, influential political and civic leaders have the perception that this program is paying too much for work that could be significantly less expensive through other contract or award options.

The challenge, the memo said, would be finding “creativity to implement this project in the face of opposition from the Cuban State…while protecting the security of participants and change agents.”

The project was entitled “Cuba Democracy and Contingency Planning Program,” or CDCPP. The memo gave explicit instructions on how the initiative should be described if any lawmakers should ask about it.

Explanation to the Hill regarding CDCPP: to empower pro-democracy, pro-human rights and those looking for alternative visions for the island. The program seeks to expand the reach of their ideas and activities, to build and fortify networks and their capacity to act, and to increase the flow of communication to and around the island.

That vague description gave no clues to the project’s clandestine nature, but the DAI memo was clear:

CDCPP is not an analytical project; it’s an operational activity. USAID approval is needed for everything. We cannot freelance.

The memo said USAID picked DAI in part because of its international reach.

USAID would like to tap into the global network of contacts that DAI has in terms of democracy promotion…

Planes flying in to Cuba from Europe, Central America and the Caribbean look “less conspicuous.”
Grant limits to non-U.S. NGOs “have no funding ceiling,” the memo added. But:

Cuban security apparatus is very strong so non-US NGOs should be vetted.

The DAI memo spelled out what the contractor should say in response to any inquiries from the public or the media:

Yes, we have been awarded CDCPP and we are working with USAID on discussions, but the project is not fully operational yet. Please refer other questions to (redacted) of USAID.

The memo said USAID stressed:

Nothing anywhere.

DAI said that meant:

We must not post anything on our website or issue a press release on the awarded contract.

DAI wound up picking Gross to handle “new media” – the satellite Internet connections – described as the “most sensitive component in a very sensitive project.”

And during four trips to Cuba, Gross established three Internet connections – one in Havana, two outside the capital.

DAI paid him $258,274. He requested more money to continue the project and was promised $332,334, which would have brought his subcontract total to $590,608, an October 2009 memo shows (download 6-page document).

In late November 2009, Gross returned to Cuba a fifth time. Cuban authorities arrested him on Dec. 3, 2009, and accused him of crimes against the socialist state.

DAI said it paid Gross “the full amount owed under the Subcontract for completed deliverables.”

That evidently means Gross would have been entitled to just $65,132.80. That would bring his total payments to $323,406.80, not the full $590,608 he could have collected if he were not arrested.

Gross called his effort “Para La Isla” – For The Island. According to a proposal (download 13-page document) he wrote after his first four trips to Cuba:

Efforts to date under the Para-La-Isla (PLI) Pilot have been focused on establishing and operationalizing 3 sites on the Island through which target group members now have greater access to information than they had previously.

Activities in support of these efforts included the selection, configuration, logistics and training on the use of specific information and communication technologies (ICTs). Primary objectives of the Pilot dealt with the efficacy of the technologies deployed and the contractor’s demonstration that these technologies work.

In the Sept. 17, 2009, memo, Gross proposed six eight additional trips to Cuba that his company would carry out from Nov. 1, 2009, to Oct. 31, 2010.

The memo stated:

Activities initially developed under this pilot at the first site in the capital city have been replicated and expanded to two other target group member communities in the provinces. These activities can be expanded to other identified target groups.

That likely means that Gross and DAI had envisioned taking the program beyond the Jewish community where Gross installed his first Internet connection.
Gross had supplied his Cuban collaborators with Broadband Global Area Network equipment, BGAN for short. The equipment, which fits into a backpack, can be used to establish a broadband Internet connection from anywhere in the world. Users can also make phone calls, send e-mail messages and set up a WiFi network.

During follow-up visits, Gross wanted to learn how Cubans were using the BGAN equipment, increase the number of users at each site and boost security so they wouldn’t be caught.

He considered it “highly probable” that state security agents would detect the satellite connections in the provinces. He wrote:

Radio Frequency activity in the Capitol City is more difficult to monitor than in the provinces because of an already existing level of RF congestion (e.g., from government, commercial sites, embassies, etc.). Therefore, monitoring and detection in the use of ICTs is less likely to occur in the Capitol City. Conversely and because there is little RF congestion in the provinces, monitoring and detection of ICT devices is highly probable.

Even limited use of BGANs and wireless networks will be monitored and detected because Island government technicians routinely “sniff” neighborhoods with their handheld devices in search of ham-radio and satellite dishes. While wireless computer networks (intranet) are not likely to cause any problem if detected, discovery of BGAN usage for Internet access would be catastrophic.

Gross planned to install special SIM cards in the three BGAN systems that would disable their GPS tracking feature and make them more difficult to detect. He wrote:

In order to improve and supplement security tactics and protocols already in place, the contractor will use an alternative SIM card, called “discreet” SIM card, that will increase the level of technical security with each of the 3 BGANs deployed. Discreet SIM cards impede the ability to track or detect specific aspects of non-terrestrial transmitted signals, regarding location and IP identification of transmission. This is accomplished by:

  • Masking the IP address of the BGAN, in case some entity is able to “hack” into the transmission at either end, and
  • Masking the signal so that its GPS location cannot be pinpointed within 400 km.

During the last three of the six trips that Gross planned, he had hoped to supply “up to an additional three prospective new target group sites” with what he described as “Telco-in-a-Bag.” He wrote:

Beneficiaries will utilize this equipment to support activities that are consistent with CDP program. A standard configuration will include:

  • Hardware and software (e.g., computers, modems)
  • Content sharing devices (e.g. iPods, flash drives, smartphones)
  • Activation and Service (BGAN and mobile)
  • Installation
  • Training on the use of this equipment will be similar to the first 3 sites (excluding training on Ruckus Wireless equipment)
  • Local Technical Support to be provided by local contractor staff for trouble-shooting, technical assistance, maintenance, etc.
  • Accessories
  • Schematic

Gross said each ‘Telco-In-A-Bag” would include:

  • Unlocked SmartPhones
  • Sim Card
  • 2GB miniSD Expansion Memory Card
  • iPod 120 GB
  • Composite AV Cable for use with iPod & TV
  • RF Modulator for TVs, Coaxial Cable
  • BGAN satellite modem (1 T&T, 2 Nera)
  • Discreet BGAN Sim card
  • Wireless Router
  • Switch
  • MacBook
  • Backpack
  • Surge Protector (3-outlet) & Adapters
  • Polycom Communicator for Notebook
  • WD External Hard Drive, 500 GB
  • USB Memory Stick (4 GB Flash Drive)”

The memo said that Gross and DAI would reach “an amicable agreement on how to resolve or settle” any differences if forces beyond their control prevented the project’s completion.

But there was no amicable agreement after Gross was arrested and Gross and his wife, Judy, sued DAI and USAID.

On Jan. 15, DAI asked a federal judge to throw out the lawsuit. Lawyers for DAI wrote (download 57-page document):

The Cuban government, reprehensibly, has sought to manipulate its detention of Mr. Gross to strengthen its hand in dealings with the United States. This has included seeking to exchange Mr. Gross’s release for the U.S. Government’s release of five Cuban spies. As Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen observed, “[t]he Cuban dictatorship is clearly using Mr. Gross to strengthen its grip on power and gain leverage with the United States.”
Against this backdrop, Plaintiffs have filed the present tort suit seeking monetary damages from the Defendants. The fundamental premise of the Complaint is that Plaintiffs may bring tort claims against the Defendants based on the tragic harm that has befallen Mr. Gross.
This premise is wrong. Plaintiffs’ allegations are inextricably intertwined with Federal laws and policies that bar Plaintiffs’ claims, and also fail to state a claim on which the Court can grant relief. Plaintiffs’ claims must be dismissed for eight distinct reasons, any one of which would justify dismissal.

The DAI lawyers – Steven J. Weber, Sarah M. Graves and Matthew J. Gaziano – also said that the company did not have duty to protect Gross. They said he was an independent contractor who should have done more to avoid arrest.
They wrote:

…the Subcontract explicitly states “[t]he Subcontractor shall take all reasonable precautions to prevent damage, injury, or loss to all persons performing services hereunder, the Work, all materials and equipment utilized therein, and all other property at the site of the Work and adjacent thereto.” § 7.3. Thus, § 410 is inapplicable on its face, and the general rule restricting liability to independent contractor employees should prevail.
In sum, DAI had no duty to protect Mr. Gross from the type of injury he suffered, and no exception to this rule is applicable given his admitted status as an employee of an independent contractor. Whether his injury was foreseeable is a factual question that does not change this analysis.

The Cuban government – not DAI – are ultimately to blame for any harm done to Gross and his wife, the contractor’s lawyers said.

DAI deeply regrets that Mr. and Mrs. Gross have suffered harm due to the actions of the Cuban government while Mr. Gross was undertaking activities in Cuba to further the U.S.Government’s foreign policy. For the reasons stated above, however, the Complaint against DAI must be dismissed in its entirety and with prejudice.

January 22, 2013 Posted by | Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | 1 Comment