BY Granma/Jorge Luis González“I urge people to publicize our cause in the U.S.,” said René González, above with wife Olga Salanueva at May 6 press conference in Havana. “We will continue the battle until the other four are returned.”
In a victory for the international campaign to free five Cuban revolutionaries jailed in the U.S. since 1998, René González returned to Cuba. Since González was paroled in October 2011, he had been forced to remain in the U.S. to serve a three-year term of supervised release.
González traveled to Havana April 22 under a two-week court-ordered release to attend a memorial for his father Cándido González, who died April 1. On May 3 U.S. District Judge Joan Lenard ruled he could serve the remaining half of his supervised release in Cuba on condition he renounce his U.S. citizenship and never return to the United States.
“Fighting to free Fernando [González], Antonio [Guerrero], Gerardo [Hernández] and Ramón [Labañino] will be the priority of my life,” González said May 6 at a press conference in Havana. “There can be no justice. We endured a long trial plagued with irregularities and absurd sentences. But we will continue the battle until they are returned to Cuba.”
González holds dual U.S. and Cuban citizenship, having been born in Chicago before moving to Cuba with his parents when he was five.
His first motion to serve supervised release in Cuba, filed while still in prison, was rejected by Judge Lenard on the basis of his dual citizenship, in spite of the fact that released prisoners with dual citizenship are normally allowed to serve parole in the other country.
The U.S. government urged rejection of his second motion filed last June, despite a long-standing offer by González to renounce his U.S. citizenship. Lenard granted the motion May 3 after the U.S. Justice Department reversed its position and said it would accept the offer.
“The Justice Department explained its turnabout,” an Associated Press dispatch reported May 3, “by saying that since González was already in Cuba, there was no longer concern that he would use a promise of citizenship renunciation to improperly return to the island.”
On May 6 González went to the U.S. Interests Section in Havana to begin the paperwork for renouncing his U.S. citizenship “as bystanders in the streets and on apartment balconies above applauded and called his name,” Reuters reported. Known internationally as the Cuban Five, they are called the Five Heroes in Cuba, deeply respected by millions there for their example of determination and steadfastness in defense of the Cuban Revolution.
The Five were living and working in southern Florida where, at the request of Cuban security services, they monitored and kept Havana informed of activities by armed Cuban-American counterrevolutionary groups with a long record of violent attacks on Cuba and supporters of the Cuban Revolution.
After “stealing” a crop-duster plane in Cuba and ostensibly defecting to the U.S. in December 1990, González was welcomed into counterrevolutionary circles and integrated into paramilitary groups dedicated to the overthrow of the Cuban Revolution, a goal shared by Washington.
González became a pilot in Brothers to the Rescue, an organization established in 1991 by CIA-trained operative José Basulto. In the mid-1990s the group began organizing flights penetrating Cuban airspace designed to provoke a confrontation with Washington.
Despite repeated warnings from Havana that the incursions would not continue with impunity, the U.S. government did not stop them. In January 1996 a Brothers to the Rescue operation dropped counterrevolutionary propaganda on the island. The following month, after repeated warnings to turn back, Cuban fighter jets shot down two of the group’s planes that had once again entered Cuban airspace.
The Five were arrested in FBI raids in September 1998 and framed up on various conspiracy charges. René González received the shortest sentence — 15 years on charges of failure to register as a foreign agent and conspiracy to act as the unregistered agent of a foreign government.
“I did it as a Cuban patriot and I have no regrets,” González is quoted as telling Associated Press in a recent interview. “I’ve never doubted myself for a second.”
González has family in Cuba, including his wife Olga Salanueva, two daughters Irma and Ivette and his mother Irma Sehwerert. Salanueva had been barred entry into the U.S. to visit González while he was in prison, as is Adriana Pérez, the wife of Gerardo Hernández who was sentenced to two life terms plus 15 years.
In mid-April Pérez spoke at meetings in Canada organized by the United Steelworkers, one of the largest unions in the country. An example of growing support for the Five, the 650 delegates attending the Steelworkers national convention unanimously adopted a resolution pledging to campaign for the Five’s release.
The coming “5 Days for the Cuban 5,” which will take place May 30-June 5 in Washington, D.C., are being built as an opportunity to broaden the campaign to free the remaining four revolutionaries. The series of events includes an international rally June 1 in front of the White House.
“The only thing lacking is for people in the U.S. to know the case well,” González said at the Havana press conference. “That’s why I urge those here to help publicize our cause in the United States.”
The question of whether genetic material can or should be patented by pharmaceutical companies is being tested in courts both in the U.S. and overseas.
On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court heard an appeal by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Public Patent Foundation against Myriad Genetics Inc., a Utah-based private biotechnology company that holds patents on the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, two genetic mutations associated with breast and ovarian cancer.
The case pits groups that want freer access to gene mutations against companies who argue that they need patent protection to recoup research and development costs.
According to Myriad’s website, approximately 7 percent of breast cancer cases and up to 15 percent of ovarian cancer cases are caused by mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. It says people with mutations of either gene have “risks of up to 87 percent for breast cancer and up to 44 percent for ovarian cancer by age 70.” The company’s $3,340 BRACAnalysis test identifies the mutations.
The Supreme Court decision is expected by June, and Credit Suisse analysts have said other firms would quickly enter the market if the company loses patent protection, forcing Myriad to lower prices.
“The frustration that many in the medical community have toward the way (Myriad) has profited from its BRCA patents should not be underestimated when they are given an opportunity to help find an alternative to using (Myriad) for their BRCA tests going forward,” Credit Suisse analysts Vamil Divan and Jeremy Joseph wrote in a note entitled “Assessing How SCOTUS May Move MYGN.”
Under U.S. law, a DNA sequence can be considered for patenting by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office if the patentee alters its environment or structure. Myriad’s patents were approved because the BRCA genes were isolated from their natural environment, giving Myriad the right to prevent anyone else from testing, studying or even looking at the genes.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which represents the Association for Molecular Pathology, argues that patents on human genes violate the First Amendment and U.S. patent law because genes are “products of nature” and therefore can’t be patented.
“By patenting the genes, Myriad obtained the rights to exclude all other medical and scientific work on the genes,” ACLU attorney Sandra Park told The Financialist. “It enforced its patents to create a monopoly on BRCA genetic testing offered to patients. It therefore faces no competition for its genetic testing services, even when other laboratories could provide testing that is more comprehensive or lower-priced.”
Myriad declined to comment, but argued on its blog that patent protection encourages innovation. In its most recent quarterly earnings report, Myriad said revenue from the BRACAnalysis test, which represented 74 percent of the company’s total quarterly revenue, was $110.3 million, a 9 percent increase over the same period of the prior year.
“Without the patents, our work would not have been possible,” the company said. “We would not have been able to raise the funds necessary to decode the genes, design and deliver the tests, interpret the results, and help patients.”
“We did not patent the genes in your body, and neither does any other company,” it continued. “Instead, we patented synthetic molecules based on the genes that were created in the lab in order to deliver life-saving tests to patients.”
In February, Australian Federal Court Justice John Nicholas dismissed a 2010 lawsuit brought by advocacy group Cancer Voices Australia and breast cancer patient Yvonne D’Arcy against Melbourne-based Myriad and Genetic Technologies, which has exclusive rights to the testing in Australia and New Zealand. The plaintiffs attempted to block the companies’ Australian patent, which covers mutations of BRCA1. No Australian court had ever been asked to consider the question of whether isolated human genes are patentable, and Justice Nicholas decided that the process of isolating the BRCA1 gene for testing constitutes a patentable action. But in his ruling, Nicholas said there was “no doubt that naturally occurring DNA and RNA as they exist inside the cells of the human body cannot be the subject of a valid patent.”
The ruling means that in Australia, only Myriad can continue carrying out tests with the gene mutation. Genetic Technologies is not currently enforcing its ownership rights under patent laws, though it could at any time, potentially halting medical research and testing in Australia.
Lawyer Rebecca Gilsenan, who represented Cancer Voices Australia and D’Arcy, has said her clients would appeal. That appeal is likely to be heard later this month.
The ACLU contends that unless gene patents are overturned, scientists at universities, laboratories, and biotechnology companies will continue to face difficulty developing new tests, drugs and other information based on genetic information and sequencing.
“Genetic tests currently exist to screen the multiple genes now associated with breast and ovarian cancer, but these clinical tests cannot include the BRCA genes because geneticists would be legally liable,” Park said. “Scientists are aware of which genes are patented and choose not to pursue research on those genes for fear of patent liability. Moreover, gene patents allow a single laboratory to use its patents to control most of the data about a gene.”
Steven L. Salzberg, Professor of Medicine, Biostatistics, and Computer Science at
Johns Hopkins University, told The Financialist the argument that isolating DNA means it’s somehow different is a “very unscientific argument.”
Salzberg said there are patents on thousands of human genes already, but only a few have such a significant influence on the chance of developing cancer.
“The outcome of this case might see a whole lot of companies come out and enforce [their patents],” said Salzberg.
If David H. Petraeus couldn’t keep his affair from prying eyes as director of the Central Intelligence Agency, then how is the average American to keep a secret?
In the past, a spymaster might have placed a flower pot with a red flag on his balcony or drawn a mark on page 20 of his mistress’s newspaper. Instead, Mr. Petraeus used Gmail. And he got caught.
Granted, most people don’t have the Federal Bureau of Investigation sifting through their personal e-mails, but privacy experts say people grossly underestimate how transparent their digital communications have become.
“What people don’t realize is that hacking and spying went mainstream a decade ago,” said Dan Kaminsky, an Internet security researcher. “They think hacking is some difficult thing. Meanwhile, everyone is reading everyone else’s e-mails — girlfriends are reading boyfriends’, bosses are reading employees’ — because it’s just so easy to do.”
Face it: no matter what you are trying to hide in your e-mail in-box or text message folder — be it an extramarital affair or company trade secrets — it is possible that someone will find out. If it involves criminal activity or litigation, the odds increase because the government has search and subpoena powers that can be used to get any and all information, whether it is stored on your computer or, as is more likely these days, stored in the cloud. And lawyers for the other side in a lawsuit can get reams of documents in court-sanctioned discovery.
Still determined? Thought so. You certainly are not alone, as there are legitimate reasons that people want to keep private all types of information and communications that are not suspicious (like the contents of your will, for example, or a chronic illness). In that case, here are your best shots at hiding the skeletons in your digital closet.
KNOW YOUR ADVERSARY. Technically speaking, the undoing of Mr. Petraeus was not the extramarital affair, per se, it was that he misunderstood the threat. He and his mistress/biographer, Paula Broadwell, may have thought the threat was their spouses snooping through their e-mails, not the F.B.I. looking through Google’s e-mail servers.
“Understanding the threat is always the most difficult part of security technology,” said Matthew Blaze, an associate professor of computer and information science at the University of Pennsylvania and a security and cryptography specialist. “If they believed the threat to be a government with the ability to get their login records from a service provider, not just their spouse, they might have acted differently.”
To hide their affair from their spouses, the two reportedly limited their digital communications to a shared Gmail account. They did not send e-mails, but saved messages to the draft folder instead, ostensibly to avoid a digital trail. It is unlikely either of their spouses would have seen it.
But neither took necessary steps to hide their computers’ I.P. addresses. According to published accounts of the affair, Ms. Broadwell exposed the subterfuge when she used the same computer to send harassing e-mails to a woman in Florida, Jill Kelley, who sent them to a friend at the F.B.I.
Authorities matched the digital trail from Ms. Kelley’s e-mails — some had been sent via hotel Wi-Fi networks — to hotel guest lists. In crosschecking lists of hotel guests, they arrived at Ms. Broadwell and her computer, which led them to more e-mail accounts, including the one she shared with Mr. Petraeus.
HIDE YOUR LOCATION The two could have masked their I.P. addresses using Tor, a popular privacy tool that allows anonymous Web browsing. They could have also used a virtual private network, which adds a layer of security to public Wi-Fi networks like the one in your hotel room.
By not doing so, Mr. Blaze said, “they made a fairly elementary mistake.” E-mail providers like Google and Yahoo keep login records, which reveal I.P. addresses, for 18 months, during which they can easily be subpoenaed. The Fourth Amendment requires the authorities to get a warrant from a judge to search physical property. Rules governing e-mail searches are far more lax: Under the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act, a warrant is not required for e-mails six months old or older. Even if e-mails are more recent, the federal government needs a search warrant only for “unopened” e-mail, according to the Department of Justice’s manual for electronic searches. The rest requires only a subpoena.
Google reported that United States law enforcement agencies requested data for 16,281 accounts from January to June of this year, and it complied in 90 percent of cases.
GO OFF THE RECORD At bare minimum, choose the “off the record” feature on Google Talk, Google’s instant messaging client, which ensures that nothing typed is saved or searchable in either person’s Gmail account.
ENCRYPT YOUR MESSAGES E-mail encryption services, like GPG, help protect digital secrets from eavesdroppers. Without an encryption key, any message stored in an in-box, or reached from the cloud, will look like gibberish. The intended recipient must get a key from the sender to read the message. The drawback is that managing those keys — which often involves writing them down — can be cumbersome. And ultimately, even though a message’s contents are unreadable, the frequency of communication is not. That is bound to arouse suspicions.
Wickr, a mobile app, performs a similar service for smartphones, encrypting video, photos and text and erasing deleted files for good. Typically, metadata for deleted files remains on a phone’s hard drive, where forensics specialists and skilled hackers can piece it back together. Wickr erases those files by writing gibberish over the metadata.
SET YOUR SELF-DESTRUCT TIMER Services like 10 Minute Mail allow users to open an e-mail address and send a message, and the address self-destructs 10 minutes later. Wickr also allows users to set a self-destruct timer for mobile communications so they can control how long a recipient can view a file before it disappears. But there is always the chance that your recipient captured screenshots.
DROP THE DRAFT FOLDER IDEA It may sound clever, but saving e-mails in a shared draft folder is no safer than transmitting them. Christopher Soghoian, a policy analyst at the American Civil Liberties Union, noted that this tactic had long been used by terrorists — Khaled Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, and Richard Reid, “the shoe bomber,” among them — and it doesn’t work. E-mails saved to the draft folder are still stored in the cloud. Even if they are deleted, e-mail service providers can be compelled to provide copies.
USE ONLY A DESIGNATED DEVICE Security experts suggest using a separate, designated device for sensitive communications. Of course, few things say philanderer, or meth dealer for that matter, like a second cellphone. (Watch “Breaking Bad.”)
GET AN ALIBI Then there is the obvious problem of having to explain to someone why you are carrying a pager or suddenly so knowledgeable about encryption technologies. “The sneakier you are, the weirder you look,” said Mr. Kaminsky.
DON’T MESS UP It is hard to pull off one of these steps, let alone all of them all the time. It takes just one mistake — forgetting to use Tor, leaving your encryption keys where someone can find them, connecting to an airport Wi-Fi just once — to ruin you.
“Robust tools for privacy and anonymity exist, but they are not integrated in a way that makes them easy to use,” Mr. Blaze warned. “We’ve all made the mistake of accidentally hitting ‘Reply All.’ Well, if you’re trying to hide your e-mails or account or I.P. address, there are a thousand other mistakes you can make.”
In the end, Mr. Kaminsky noted, if the F.B.I. is after your e-mails, it will find a way to read them. In that case, any attempt to stand in their way may just lull you into a false sense of security.
Some people think that if something is difficult to do, “it has security benefits, but that’s all fake — everything is logged,” said Mr. Kaminsky. “The reality is if you don’t want something to show up on the front page of The New York Times, then don’t say it.”