Since the attacks on the Boston Marathon, and the investigation of the Tsarnaev brothers, there has been much discussion about terror watch lists. When Russian intelligence officials warned both the FBI and CIA that Tamerlan Tsarnaev was a potential threat, he was put on a massive list known as TIDE. The initial FBI investigation found nothing to warrant his entry into more exclusive, and therefore more intrusive, groupings such as the No Fly List or the Selectee List. It seems more confusing than it ought to be and not, it appears, perfectly synched, as each intelligence agency works under different standards and legal guidelines.
This week, another terrorism watch list will be announced, known as the state sponsors of terrorism list. It is a formal designation that began in December 1979 and serves as the State Department’s ranking of countries that “repeatedly provide . . . support for acts of international terrorism.” Nations currently on the list include Iran, Sudan, and Syria. It also includes Cuba. Whatever historical complaints or ideological rifts the United States may have with its close neighbor, Cuba should be off the state sponsor list. It is time to take our terror designations seriously.
The state sponsor list is not just name-calling, though there is an element of shaming in the public condemnation. Countries are subject to strict sanctions, including a ban on arms-related sales, controls over commercial exports, and prohibitions of economic assistance.
Cuba seems to be on the list because, as previous State Department assessments have determined, it supports revolutionary movements in Latin America and gives direct support in terms of training and arms to “guerrilla groups” and, note the turn of phrase here, their “terrorist operations.” Cuba’s support includes safe haven to members of Columbia’s Revolutionary Armed Forces, known as FARC, which has waged an insurgency there but is now engaged in peace negotiations.
None of this has to do with the United States and its direct safety and security. Sure, the FARC and other guerrilla groups have destabilized the region, but that has nothing to do with terrorist threats to the United States.
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