The day after the Wall Street Journal released a story (January 7, 2016) about a Hellfire missile erroneously sent to Cuba, Senator Marco Rubio sent a letter to Roberta Jacobson, the Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, demanding answers.
The following is a letter sent in response from Jacobson to Rubio; readers can draw their own conclusions. Rubio’s letter can be found at the Senator’s website and has been thoroughly confirmed. Machetera has been unable to confirm the authenticity of the response from Jacobson.
Dear Senator Rubio:
I am pleased to learn of your awareness that the proliferation of sensitive U.S. technology is one of the most important issues managed by the U.S. State Department. I am gratified to see that you understand there are offices within the State Department specifically designated to handle this question. What I do find strange is that you and other congressional leaders say you found out through the press that there might be a U.S. manufactured missile in Cuba which arrived there in a way that has still not been totally clarified.
Stranger still is your concern for this embarrassing incident when more than 1,500 such potential violations of the U.S. Arms Export Control Act were revealed last year and yet you did not express the least concern for the destination of any of those devices, which have often ended up in the hands of terrorists fighting against the U.S. and against those to whom the U.S. has lent all its military might.
The United States is not at war with Cuba, much as a part of the Cuban community that you represent in Miami might believe or desire.
As your letter contains a number of questions that you, and I imagine, your constituents would like answered, I will do my best to respond.
When was the State Department informed that a U.S. Hellfire missile had been sent to Cuba?
Your claim to have learned about this from the newspapers is evidently untrue, since the very reporters who discovered it through unknown sources clearly stated that the missile’s manufacturer, Lockheed Martin Corporation, informed the State Department about the missing missile in June of 2014.
When were you personally first informed of this matter and by whom?
It would seem that you are trying to hold me personally responsible for not informing Congress about an affair that you yourself acknowledge is within the jurisdiction of the State Department, not Congress. It would be very pretentious of me to take an interest in the workings of Congress; therefore why should it occur to me to inform Congress about a matter that is handled by the State Department? Just imagine what a workload Congress would face if every activity undertaken here and in every other government agency were reported to Congress? Why are you not concerned about the other 1,500 violations that have taken place and only suddenly upset about the one that occurred involving Cuba?
Nevertheless, I will answer your question. I was informed at the appropriate time by the proper person.
What has been done to obtain the missile’s return by the Cuban government?
What has been done is what ought to be done, according to international procedure, and with respect for the sovereignty of other countries: a claim is presented to the receiving country through established diplomatic channels while we await or negotiate the most workable solution for both sides. After all, it was not the Cubans who made the mistake, it was us.
What specific entity of the Cuban government is currently in possession of the missile?
Your letter demonstrates very clearly that its objective is publicity rather than official business. The Cuban government has the missile, and is responsible before the international community for what occurs in Cuba, therefore the entity or warehouse or shelf where it might be located is completely irrelevant. The Cuban government is the party with whom to negotiate, period.
Please provide a list of the specific occasions on which you or other U.S. Government officials have raised this issue with the Castro regime.
First of all, I should explain to you that we are negotiating with a government established and recognized by the United Nations, and in official discourse we do not use the term “regime.” Please save such expressions for your meetings in Hialeah.
I can tell you that according to international norms, negotiations between governments are not revealed publicly and that it is strictly the Executive branch which implements the country’s foreign policy. Nevertheless I can assure you that we have discussed the subject with our Cuban counterparts as often as necessary for them to be aware of our position and to seek a resolution.
Why was the return of the missile not obtained as a result of the negotiations that led to President Obama’s December 17, 2014 announced change in U.S. policy toward Cuba?
Senator, perhaps it is difficult for you to be aware of what is happening in Congress, due to your continual absences from the chambers where problems within the Senate’s domain are discussed, or perhaps you have not been able to spend the time to familiarize yourself with the enormous number of laws that have created obstacles in our relations with Cuba and complicate any kind of effort by the Executive to re-establish those relations. What would cause you to believe that we should also include an affair for which we are responsible, and that more or less shows our own institutions to be incompetent?
I should like to remind you that for more than 50 years, the United States has confiscated Cuban planes, boats, ships, and even children, under the sacrosanct rule that they had shown up on our shores, and sorry, but if someone brought them here, that wasn’t our problem. Now these things were ours.
The Cubans could say the same about the missile. “Not our fault; you should have been more careful.”
Why was the return of the missile not a condition of removal of Cuba from the State Sponsors of Terrorism list?
Because that would be blackmail, which no-one with any dignity would accept. Let me also remind you that it is actually the Congress to which you belong, which has repeatedly approved specific budgets for “democracy activists” who for reasons unknown to me have become terrorists. Cuba might just as well ask that we also refrain from continuing to supply weapons to such groups, in order to re-establish relations.
Why was the return of the missile not a condition of establishment of embassies in Havana and Washington?
Because Christopher Columbus got to the Antilles before we did, and as a result the Cubans have Spanish blood and a Latin temper and are not thumb-sucking infants.
What members of Congress did you inform of this issue during your briefings and testimony regarding U.S. policy toward Cuba over the last 18 months?
Once again, I am truly sorry that you have so little time to concern yourself with the matters under your purview, but if you review the records of Congressional sessions, I’m sure you will find everything you need to know in regard to this question. Please spend a little bit of time at your workplace and read the documents, and surely you will not have so many questions.
Does the State Department know if the Cuban government shared the missile or its design with any foreign governments?
Unfortunately my dear Senator, we do not have access to NSA and CIA information. But if the Senate were to officially request it, we could send a letter to all the heads of state around the world so that they might answer such an obvious question. It’s possible that Swaziland, or Monaco or perhaps the Fiji Islands may have some information about it.
Finally, I would like to point out to you that it is not just Cuba that has relations with China, Russia and North Korea, but the U.S. does as well. Nevertheless that does not mean that we can draw the inference that the Cubans think the same way we do.
Every country has the right to have relations with whoever they wish; this is a sovereign principle recognized under international law and endorsed by the United Nations charter.
I hope that you are not somehow ashamed by this; in reality you are not ashamed about having broken the record for absences from Senate votes, nor were you ashamed about the uncontrolled use of the Republican Party’s credit card when you were the Republican leader in Florida’s House of Representatives and used it to go to the movies, or repair your truck, or go on family vacations. You were also not ashamed about the purchase of a luxury yacht that could not be justified by your income, nor were you ashamed by your participation in the dirty dealings in the prisons, and so on. As a matter of fact, you have no shame.
For that reason I suggest that rather than focusing on these questions that evidently keep you up at night, you dedicate your time to responding to the citizens who voted for you and spent their money to make sure you were elected.
Meanwhile, you can leave us to carry out the complex assignment of managing U.S. foreign relations, and doing our jobs, one of which includes resolving the problem of a missile lost in Cuba.
I assure you that we will not cease in our efforts to defend the interests of the country in which we were both born, to the benefit of the rest of our fellow citizens.
Roberta S. Jacobson
Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs