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Ex-CIA agent's lawyer deconstructs '98 Times story

 FILE - In this Nov. 8, 2010, file photo Luis Posada Carriles talks to a reporter in Miami. The former CIA operative is on trial in El Paso, Texas, fa...
  Former New York Times reporter Ann Louise Bardach poses for a portrait, Wednesday, March 16, 2011 at the El Paso Federal Court in El Paso, Texas. Ba...

Cuban Militant

FILE - In this Nov. 8, 2010, file photo Luis Posada Carriles talks to a reporter in Miami. The former CIA operative is on trial in El Paso, Texas, fa...

CORRECTION Cuban Militant

Former New York Times reporter Ann Louise Bardach poses for a portrait, Wednesday, March 16, 2011 at the El Paso Federal Court in El Paso, Texas. Ba...

A former New York Times reporter was forced to defend her 1998 front-page article Monday as attorneys for an ex-CIA agent on trial for perjury said she overstated his role in a wave of 1997 bombings in Cuba.
Ann Louise Bardach interviewed Luis Posada Carriles over three days in June 1998. She co-wrote three articles published that July, including a front-page Sunday story that said Posada acknowledged planning the bombings at luxury hotels and tourist sites that killed an Italian tourist and injured many others.
Posada, who was born in Cuba and crisscrossed Latin America for years as an anti-communist militant, is accused of failing to disclose his alleged involvement in the bombings during U.S. citizenship hearings in Texas in 2005.
Going through Bardach's article, deconstructing it for jurors sometimes line-by-line, lead defense lawyer Arturo Hernandez suggested that Bardach and the Times exaggerated what Posada said. The article asserted that Posada "proudly admitted authorship" of the bombings, which Hernandez suggested was a sensational choice of words.
"Yes, it was a choice of words, and I agree with it," Bardach responded. "You don't contact The New York Times and sit down with a reporter for three days without being proud of it."
Bardach interviewed Posada for 13 hours in Aruba, where he was hiding at the time, and recorded about half of their conversations. She said Posada spoke to the Times because he wanted more publicity for the bombings and to clarify that they meant to discourage tourists from coming to Cuba, not to kill anyone.
Posada, 83, is still Public Enemy No. 1 in his homeland, featured on propaganda billboards and considered ex-President Fidel Castro's nemesis. He worked for years to destabilize communist governments in Latin America, often with the backing of the U.S. government.
But he is now charged with 11 counts of obstruction, perjury and immigration fraud. He also is accused of lying to immigration officials in El Paso about how he sneaked into the U.S. and of using a Guatemalan passport with a false name.
Jurors have not been allowed to see the full Times articles, hearing only about excerpts raised by Hernandez. He took issue with several of the newspaper's claims, including that Posada admitted a person arrested in Cuba in connection with the bombings worked for him.
"You can take a word here, a word there and string them together and get anything you want," Bardach said as Hernandez dissected the article. "Let's stick to the context of the interview here."
Monday marked Bardach's fourth day of testimony. She has been an unwilling witness, compelled by court order despite her argument that doing so would make sources wary of speaking to reporters. She has written two books on Cuba, Castro and the Cuban-American exile community, both of which deal heavily with Posada. Bardach now works for The Daily Beast and Newsweek.
She wrote the 1998 articles with then-Times Caribbean bureau chief Larry Rohter. When Hernandez asked if she was aware of a 54-page New York Times handbook on values and practices, Bardach said: "The bar doesn't get any higher than The New York Times."
The court edited Bardach's tapes to focus on the bombings, and Hernandez played all of what was left of the recordings _ two hours and 40 minutes _ for the jury.
Posada is recorded saying he supported acts of sabotage in Cuba and "in the bombings, we tried, we put small explosives ... because we don't want to hurt anybody. Just to make a big scandal."
Asked about the Italian man who was killed by shrapnel from a blast, Posada can be heard saying it was "not intentional, but we can't stop because, right then, Italian was sit down in the wrong time and the wrong place."
On the tape, Bardach can be heard asking Posada if he directed Central American associates to sneak plastic explosives into Cuba in shampoo bottles, diapers and clothing of people posing as tourists. He replied, "more or less true."
"Is saying something is 'more or less true' different in your mind than making a 'proud admission'?" Hernandez asked.
"I think that's just an admission," Bardach responded. "For more, it would take the totality of the three days, 13 hours, not just that one sentence."
Hernandez asked Bardach to point out when Posada said he solicited someone to plant the bombs, but Bardach said neither she nor Posada used the word "soliciting." Hernandez hammered that point because, according to the indictment, when immigration officials asked if he was "ever involved in soliciting other individuals to carry out the bombings in Cuba," Posada answered "no."
A CIA agent until 1976, Posada participated indirectly in the failed Bay of Pigs invasion. He later served as head of the Venezuelan government's intelligence service and was arrested for planning the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner that killed 73 people. He escaped from a Venezuelan prison while still facing trial, however.
In 2000, Posada was imprisoned in Panama in connection with a plot to kill Castro during a summit there. He was pardoned in 2004 and turned up in the U.S. the following March.


Updated : 2021-06-14 23:28 GMT+08:00