American jailed for 5 years in Cuba made little attempt to disguise his work
By GREG TOPPO | USA Today (Tribune News Service) | Published: November 30, 2015
American aid worker Alan Gross, who was imprisoned for five years in Cuba, said he made little attempt to disguise his work setting up Internet connections for the communist island's small Jewish community.
In an interview broadcast Sunday on CBS' "60 Minutes," Gross, a communications specialist who has worked in more than 50 countries, said he made five trips to Cuba as a contractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development, The Associated Press reported. He was arrested in late 2009 on accusations of spying and was later convicted and sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Gross, 66, was freed last December as part of a historic U.S.-Cuba policy change in diplomatic relations.
A 2012 AP investigation found that Gross was using sensitive technology typically available only to governments, and that the Internet connections he was establishing were intended to bypass local restrictions and be hard for the government to trace.
On "60 Minutes," Gross said he had no trouble bringing the equipment into Cuba. The only precaution he took, he said, was to tape over a model number on a satellite modem.
"They had every opportunity to stop me from bringing that equipment in, they knew what that equipment was and if they didn't, you know, shame on them," Gross said.
Gross lost more than 100 pounds in prison, AP reported. Five of his teeth fell out because of malnutrition. He went on hunger strikes and spoke of wanting to end his life. And he became disillusioned with the U.S. government as he considered the possibility of dying in prison.
"It was ridiculous. I wasn't a spy. I wasn't a smuggler. I wasn't a criminal," he said.
He added, "U.S. government, you want to send people to countries where we have no diplomatic relations and run cockamamie programs? Go ahead, but leave me out of it."
(c)2015 USA Today
Visit USA Today at www.usatoday.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.