You'll Never Guess What Happens When You Give the Feds More Power Over Your Very Freedom of Movement


If you are an American who travels to Cuba, legally or illegally, you are expected to fill out a detailed report listing every place you spent money, and every Cuban you came into contact with. This is one of many ingenius methods we have for finally overthrowing that rat bastard Castro. When I traveled illegally to Cuba, for example, the Treasury Department's hideous Office of Foreign Assets Control sent me a threatening note, indicating I'd better name names or else possibly face time in the pokey. I declined; pointed out (accurately) that the money I spent there originated from my non-American wife, and luckily that knock never came on my front door. But that was back in the anything-goes '90s, and in any case, I wasn't a politically controversial exile Cuban who'd dared to change his mind about supporting the U.S. embargo.

In Sunday's Los Angeles Times, Ann Louise Bardach spells out just how these flagrantly illiberal (and I believe unconstitutional) regulations can be rained down on the head of one individual to score cheap and injurious political points. She writes of the case of Alberto Coll, "a military expert of impeccable pedigree who is a dean at the U.S. Naval War College," a "former deputy assistant secretary of Defense during the George H.W. Bush administration," and a lifelong Republican "anti-Castro hard-liner" who was persuaded after Pope John Paul II's 1998 visit to the island that the embargo wasn't working. "Hence," Bardach writes, "Coll had to be destroyed."

The opportunity came in January, about six months after his 18-year-old daughter died in a car accident, which by all accounts left Coll devastated. Coll visited Cuba, as he has done legally over the years for research and to visit relatives. He noted on his visa that he would be visiting an aunt, which he did.

But he also had a romantic liaison with a childhood friend while seeking "a shoulder to cry on," his lawyer says. Coll did not note the rendezvous on his visa. It is the kind of semi-lie of omission committed routinely by thousands of Cuban exiles since the Bush administration instituted onerous restrictions on travel to the island last year.

Nevertheless, Coll's enemies pursued a vigorous yearlong prosecution—one that may well have cost taxpayers $1 million. Sources close to Coll believe that his liaison was discovered through secret wiretaps by the Justice Department at the behest of influential Cuban hard-liners. […]

With legal bills close to $100,000 and overwhelmed at having to face a protracted trial, Coll agreed to plead guilty to making a false statement on a federal form. He faced five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, but an incredulous judge reduced the fine to $5,000 and gave him one year of probation.

Still, he will lose his security clearance because he is now a felon, which also effectively sabotages his future with the military.

Whole shameful thing here.