- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 18, 2002

Cuban President Fidel Castro has been giving the United States false leads on potential terrorist activity to hinder the U.S.-led war against terrorism, a State Department official told a group of Cuban Americans yesterday.
Since the September 11 attacks, the Castro regime has sent at least one "walk-in" a month to a U.S. intelligence agency, purporting to offer information about pending terrorist attacks against the United States or other Western interests, said Daniel W. Fisk, deputy assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs.
Following up on such leads misdirected the United States' investigation into international terrorism and used up the nation's valuable resources that could have been directed toward assessing real threats, Mr. Fisk said.
"The Castro regime has intentionally worked through human and electronic means to distract the attention and resources from our ongoing counterterrorist efforts," Mr. Fisk told the group at a press conference in the National Press Club.
"This is not harmless game planning. This is a dangerous and unjustifiable action that damages our ability to assess real threats. This is obstructionism," he said.
Mr. Castro also handed over "decades-old" information on al Qaeda when, in days after the attacks, the United States called on other countries to share information they had on the terrorist networks, Mr. Fisk said.
Critics of the Castro government organized the press conference to argue for the retention of the trade embargo. Sanctions were imposed in the early 1960s after Mr. Castro accepted aid from the Soviet Union. With the end of the Cold War, calls have risen for closer relations with Cuba.
They said Mr. Castro has little money to be a U.S. customer and must treat his people better to earn any concessions.
Mr. Castro also continues to sponsor terrorism and has developed potential biological weapons, including anthrax, said members of Americans for a Free Cuba, which held the event with the Center for a Free Cuba and the Cuban American National Foundation (CANF), a leading anti-Castro group.
"We felt the best thing we could do was to bring attention to the issue to take them head-on," said Dennis Hays, of CANF.
Legislation is pending in Congress to end the ban on U.S. tourism to Cuba and to allow food sales to Havana. In 2000, President Clinton signed a law allowing cash-only sales of U.S.-grown food and farm exports.
Last May, Mr. Bush said the U.S. embargo would remain in force unless Cuba held free parliamentary elections in 2003, released political prisoners, allowed a free political opposition and reformed the state-controlled economy.
The groups released results of a nationwide poll, conducted last week, that concluded that 56 percent of Americans agreed the United States should end the embargo only if Cuba met conditions set by Mr. Bush.
The poll also shows that 77 percent of Republicans support Mr. Bush's position on the embargo, compared with 52 percent of independents and 45 percent of Democrats.
Another poll, released yesterday by pro-trade groups, showed that 55 percent of Americans believed the United States should lift restrictions on Americans' freedom to travel to Cuba and allow U.S.-produced food and medical products to be sold to Cuba. That poll, conducted last week, also said a majority support taking steps to normalize relations with Cuba.


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