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Obituary Leonard Weinglass: Another error against the Cuban Five

By Jane Franlin

The New York Times

Dear Friends in my Cubalists,

Len would be amused that I would interrupt my hiatus to bring attention to an error about the case of the five Cuban heroes in his New York Times obituary this morning, an error frequently made by the media and frequently corrected by Len. He would have wanted this error to be corrected right away. Len worked constantly for justice and he will always be our treasure. He combined brilliance about legal issues with his sweet generosity of spirit, a magnificent combination.

This morning I called Bill Keller’s office at The New York Times and someone there returned my call and said she will report my remarks and someone will get back to me.  So perhaps the error will be corrected soon. Perhaps not, so I want to correct it here.

In the obituary, Bruce Weber writes that “the Cuban 5…were convicted in 2001 of espionage against the United States”. There was never a charge of espionage against any of the Cuban Five. There was a charge of “conspiracy to commit espionage” against three of the heroes.

Here is what Leonard Weinglass said about the use of the conspiracy charge in the case of the Cuban Five:

“Conspiracy has always been the charge used by the prosecution in political cases. A conspiracy is an agreement between people to commit a substantive crime. By using the charge of conspiracy, the government is relieved of the requirement that the underlying crime be proven.  All the government has to prove to a jury is that there was an agreement to do the crime. The individuals charged with conspiracy are convicted even if the underlying crime was never committed. In the case of the Five, the Miami jury was asked to find that there was an agreement to commit espionage. The government never had to prove that espionage actually happened. It could not have proven that espionage occurred.  None of the Five sought or possessed any top secret information or US national defense secrets.”

Please help keep that charge straight when speaking and writing about the Cuban Five. Please see below for the obituary.

My best,


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  1. Steve Patt / AlsotheLosAngelesTimes

    I sent the following letter to the editor of the Los Angeles Times this morning:

    The Times perpetuates a common misconception about Leonard Weinglass’ most recent case, that of the Cuban Five. The Five were not convicted of spying, as reported by The Times, but of “conspiracy to commit espionage.” They neither possessed nor even saw a single classified document, nor was any
    evidence introduced that they ever attempted to obtain such material. As Weinglass himself said, speaking on CNN in 2007, “This is the first [espionage] case in our history where not a single page of classified document was introduced into evidence.”

    The Cuban Five came to the U.S. not to spy on the U.S. government, but to infiltrate right-wing groups who were carrying out, as they had been for decades, acts of terrorism against Cuba. Indeed, one of the masterminds of that reign of terror, Luis Posada Carriles, is at this very moment on trial
    in El Paso for lying about his role in a series of Havana hotel bombings in 1997.

    Steven Patt
    Webmaster, National Committee to Free the Cuban Five