Saturday, March 16, 2013

Alan Gross files an affidavit

Last November, Alan Gross and his wife filed a law suit against Development Alternatives, Inc. (the company that he contracted with for his ill-fated work in Cuba) and the United States of America for "damages arising from tortious conduct committed against them."

His attorneys have filed an affidavit based on three sets of in-person interviews (December 2012, February 2013, and March 2013) and reviewed by Gross. Tracey Eaton has posted that statement on his blog Along the Malecón. It is detailed and revealing -- I advise you to read it in its entirety. I did, and here are a couple of the quotes that I noticed.

His physical condition
I currently weigh 144 pounds. I am 5 feet, 11 inches tall. When I was arrested, my weight was approximately 254 pounds.
He was experienced
For the last ten years before my arrest, my projects through JBDC (his company) focused primarily on facilitating the use of information and communications technology ("ICT") to aid citizens in other countries with limited access to ICT. Over this period, I set up and managed approximately 150 fixed-earth stations to increase Internet access.
Before the project that led to my arrest, I had worked on numerous USAID sponsored projects throughout the world.
What he brought in
To do this work, I usually would purchase the required components and assemble what I call a "telco in a bag." These kits would contain "BGANS," which are commercially-available modems that permit connectivity from anywhere in the world by accessing satellites. (For more on the equipment, see this post)
Work in Jewish communities
Further, as part of my international development career, I also had worked on several development projects with numerous Jewish communities around the world, including Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Israel, and the former Soviet republic of Georgia.
His motivation
I was excited when I received DAl's RFP. The potential project provided me with an opportunity to combine my professional interest in technology and international development with my personal passion for helping Jewish communities around the world.
DAI security
When I arrived for the meeting on November 6, 2008, I was escorted into a conference room in which approximately 20 DAI employees were present. This was different from subsequent meetings, which were held in a secure suite designated for DAI employees working on the Cuba Project.
His proposal to DAI
I developed a proposal, known as "ICT4Cuba," or its trade name, "Para La Isla," that addressed all of the requirements ofDAI's RFP, particularly the goal of facilitating media access for faith~based groups. Specifically, I chose to focus on Cuba's small Jewish community; I proposed loaning ICT devices such as cell phones, wireless technologies, personal computers, BGANS, and other computer network devices to local community members at each project site, testing the equipment, and then training citizens to use the equipment.
His naivette
After my arrest, I was informed by Cuban Government officials that it was illegal in Cuba to distribute anything funded in whole or in part by USAID. At no point before or during the ICT Project was I aware or warned that activities contemplated by this USAID and DAl-sponsored project were crimes in Cuba.
During my trips to Cuba, I had significant success in connecting members of the small Cuban Jewish community to the rest of the world.

For example, some of my Cuban contacts were able to have video conferences with friends and relatives in Israel and other parts of the world, using Skype.

Similarly, one of the synagogues that I worked with was able to download the weekly Torah readings from the Internet.

Other Cuban Jews used the equipment to access Wikipedia and the Encyclopedia Britannica in Spanish.

Still others were able to download anti-virus programs, to protect the computers that they already had.
His openess
During none of my trips to Cuba did I attempt to conceal the equipment in my possession. Each time I arrived at the airport in Havana, airport security and Cuban Customs officials inspected all of my bags, including those containing the equipment. I even told them that the equipment was for the purpose of using computer systems inside synagogues.
DAI wiped his laptop
... several days after my arrest in Cuba, Jack McCarthy (DAI project leader) contacted Judy, who naturally was completely distraught emotionally about my arrest, and told her that DAI needed to take my personal laptop from my home and "wipe" certain information from it, for my own "protection."

DAI came to my house, left with my laptop, and advised Judy to come to DAI to retrieve the laptop within the following week.

Update 9/19/2014

Alan Gross lost his case in 2013, but he appealed the decision today. It would be good for his family if he were to prevail, but would it make any difference to the Cuban government?

Update 11/14/2014

Alan Gross settled with DAI for undisclosed terms, but a U.S. district court rejected his claim against the government. Today, a federal appeals court in Washington upheld that decision.

Update 12/26/2014

Alan Gross received $3.2 million in a settlement with the company he contracted with and USAID:
The USAid said that an agreement reached in principle last month with Development Alternatives Inc of Bethesda, Maryland, had been made final this week.

Update 4/6/2015

In what is evidently the final legal step in the Alan Gross case, the Supreme Court has rejected his appeal of the lower court verdict in his negligence suit against the US government. He has; however, reached a $3.2 million damages settlement with the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and Development Alternatives Inc. (DAI). Gross was a sub contractor to DAI on a USAID contract when he was apprehended bringing illegal satellite equipment into Cuba.

For discussion and analysis of the case and its impact, see these 12 posts beginning in February 2011.

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