Sunday, March 6, 2011

What did Alan Gross actually do?

Alan Gross and his wife Judy
The trial of Alan Gross, who was arrested in December 2009, has begun in Havana. Gross is accused of working on a USAID contract to bring illegal equipment into Cuba for distribution to NGOs.

I can readily believe that USAID might have commissioned such a project -- they are pretty open about their goals and funding programs -- but I can't get a fix on exactly what Gross allegedly brought in. I've read cryptic statements saying he brought:
The court proceedings are closed to the public and press, but let's assume he brought it all -- cell phones, laptops, and BGAN ground stations, and that he was doing so on a USAID contract. How much damage could he have done?

Cell phones and laptops are increasingly available in Cuba, so those he might have brought would not have made a significant difference.

What about BGAN ground stations, which can be used for clandestine Internet connectivity? I discussed the limited capability of BGAN equipment in a previous post -- a few BGAN ground stations would have no practical impact. (Elsa Claro speculated that they could be used for encrypted messages perhaps containing bombing coordinates, but so could any other IP-connected computer in Cuba -- see, for example, this post).

Without taking a position on the right or of the US and USAID to meddle in Cuban affairs, the efficacy of that meddling or Alan Gross' motives, it seems clear that what he allegedly tried to do would not have made a difference even if he had succeeded.
Real Time Analytics