Wednesday, December 19, 2007

How Cuba policy makes the U.S. less safe

From the NYT: the GAO is about to release a report arguing that the U.S. government is so intent on enforcing sanctions against Cuba that it is neglecting other, more important missions. The bottom line is that obsession with seizing contraband cigars and rum means real potential national security threats go unexamined.

Catching Americans who travel illegally to Cuba or who purchase cigars, rum or other products from the island may be distracting some American government agencies from higher-priority missions like fighting terrorism and combating narcotics trafficking, a government audit to be released Wednesday says.

The report, from the Government Accountability Office, says that Customs and Border Protection, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security, conducts secondary inspections on 20 percent of charter passengers arriving from Cuba at Miami International Airport, more than six times the inspection rate for other international arrivals, even from countries considered shipment points for narcotics.

That high rate of inspections and the numerous seizures of relatively benign contraband “have strained C.B.P.’s capacity to carry out its primary mission of keeping terrorists, criminals and inadmissible aliens from entering the country at Miami International Airport,” says the audit, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times.

The audit also called on the Treasury Department to scrutinize the priorities of its Office of Foreign Assets Control, which enforces more than 20 economic and trade sanctions programs, including those aimed at freezing terrorists’ assets and restricting the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, but has long focused on Cuba.

Between 2000 and 2006, 61 percent of the agency’s investigation and penalty caseload involved Cuba embargo cases. Over that period, the office opened 10,823 investigations into possible violations involving Cuba and just 6,791 investigations on all other cases, the audit found.

This report will definitely be worth a read. It is absurd enough to argue that the sanctions make the United States safer, but it’s even worse when other issues are neglected as a result.


Anonymous,  3:58 PM  

Good point. It seems to me that this report, if anyone pays any attention to it, should help begin the move away from the right-wing nuts that fill so much of the ex-pat Cuban community.

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