The acquittal of right-wing Cuban militant Luis Posada Carriles on charges of lying to immigration officials underscores the U.S. double standard on terrorists, applying delicate legal rules to "ours" and a rough-and-tumble approach to "theirs."
In the Posada case, federal prosecutors sought to prove that Posada lied at an immigration hearing when he denied a role in a lethal bombing campaign inside Cuba in the 1990s. The perjury case rested heavily on taped admissions that Posada made in an interview with a New York Times reporter, although he later recanted those statements.
More notoriously, however, Posada was implicated in the mid-air bombing of a Cubana Airliner in 1976, killing 73 people onboard including the country's youth fencing team. Though the evidence of Posada's role in that attack is strong, U.S. authorities have ruled out turning the former CIA operative over to Venezuela or Cuba to face prosecution for mass murder.
As the acquittal on Friday shows, Posada continues to earn lots of sympathy because the former CIA operative is viewed by some as a Cold War hero who has battled Fidel Castro for many years. At Posada's perjury trial in El Paso, Texas, his lawyers appealed to the jury to let him live out his life in Miami.
The jury apparently agreed, acquitting the 83-year-old after only three hours of deliberation.
In its totality -- from prosecutors to judges to juries -- the U.S. legal system appears to have adopted a de facto immunity for acts of terrorism by Posada and other right-wing Cubans. Yet, different standards of prosecutorial determination are demonstrated in Islamic terror cases.
While it doesn't seem to matter how much evidence exists connecting Posada to the Cubana terror bombing, alleged Muslim "terrorists" have found themselves locked away on the flimsiest of suspicions. Some were "renditioned" to countries that are infamous for torture chambers and some were tortured by U.S. interrogators directly.
Some of these Muslim detainees turned out to be victims of mistaken identity. Others were eventually released without being charged with any crime. Some died in custody, including cases that were ruled homicides.
However, Posada and his cohorts have mostly enjoyed comfortable lives in Miami where the Cuban-American community harbors them. They have had a long history of protection, too, under the wing of the Bush Family and other powerful U.S. politicians.
Indeed, Posada came to personify the hypocrisy of George W. Bush's famous declaration that harboring a terrorist was no better than being a terrorist.
On May 2, 2008, for example, Posada was feted at a gala fundraising dinner in Miami. Some 500 supporters chipped in to his legal defense fund and Posada arrived to thundering applause.
In a bristling speech against the Castro regime, Posada told his supporters, "We ask God to sharpen our machetes."
Venezuelan Ambassador Bernardo Alvarez protested the Bush administration's tolerance of the dinner. "This is outrageous, particularly because he kept talking about [more] violence," Alvarez said.
Similarly, his alleged co-conspirator in the Cubana Airlines bombing, Orlando Bosch, showed no remorse for his violent past.
In a TV interview, reporter Manuel Cao on Miami's Channel 41 asked Bosch to comment on the civilians who died when the Cubana plane crashed off the coast of Barbados.