Secret Cuba Work and the other Alan Gross

By Tracey Eaton  (Alongthemalecon)

Jeff Kline
Jeff Kline

HAVANA TIMES – Cuban authorities arrested American development worker Alan Gross in 2009 after his fifth trip to the island to set up a network of Internet hotspots.

But Gross evidently wasn’t the only older Jewish man spotted in Cuba carrying out a mission for the U.S. government.

Jeffrey Robert Kline, founder of the Self Reliance Foundation, went to the island to test cell phones and other wireless devices for a contractor that was working for the State Department, according to a knowledgeable source who asked not to be identified.

Government agencies turned to Kline because he was considered a “maverick,” said the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “People hire him to do things others won’t touch.”

Kline, 64, could not be reached for comment. In February, I wrote about a Cuba project he is doing for the Broadcasting Board of Governors. (See “The incredible disappearing $450,000 contract”).

DAI, an international development company in Bethesda, Md., had hired Gross to travel to Cuba to set up the Internet hotspots. The U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID, financed DAI as part of a democracy project aimed at undermining Cuba’s socialist government.

Alan Gross is serving a 15-year sentence in Cuba.

Gross went about his business quietly, the knowledgeable source said, but Kline “was being very public” and “was slinging cell phones around.”

According to the source’s version of events:

Kline and other Self Reliance Foundation employees had brought into Cuba some $50,000 worth of communications gear, including at least one satellite phone.

Cuban authorities confiscated some of the gear and briefly detained one of the employees.

The employees heard rumors that Cuban police were looking for a Jewish man who was distributing communication gear.

They never found out whether authorities were looking for Kline or for Alan Gross. But they were worried and hurried to get out of the country and return to the U.S.

The State Department did not consider the mission a success. The testing of the wireless equipment taken to Cuba was not as detailed or as sophisticated as U.S. officials had wanted.
Still, everyone got home safely.

The source’s version of events could not be confirmed.

Emily Goulding, a former Self Reliance Foundation employee, worked for Kline for three years, said
classified“He’s an interesting man. Very creative.” However, she declined to talk about Kline’s work in Cuba, calling it “classified.” She would not answer questions about experiences in Cuba, either, and suggested that the State Department might have more information.

Goulding’s resume says she was a development special for the Self Reliance Foundation from 2007 to 2009. Her accomplishments are listed as:

– Helped social entrepreneur raise $5.6 million for media-based social justice projects
– Designed and secured funding for multiple international public diplomacy projects such as a hip hop organizing projects, such as Mi Pais Inventado/My Invented Country street theater project in Cuba, and a youth-run Venezuelan Web magazine through the Department of State’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
-Wrote winning proposal for the Department of Justice’s 2007-8 national Project Safe Childhood 2.5 million dollar outreach initiative, and 1.2 million dollar national cancer prevention initiatives for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Emily Goulding
Emily Goulding

Her LinkedIn profile does not show any Cuba work. It states, in part:

Founder of Girasol Consulting, Emily Goulding-Oliveira is a writer, educator, and activist. Emily thinks through pressing issues in public affairs and helps leaders and organizations find grant funds, especially in the areas of emerging communities and global civil society.
In her career as a grantwriter, she has written winning proposals for the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the U.S. State Department…

Goulding has traveled to Cuba. In 2011, Goulding wrote an article entitled, “Viva el Arte: DC’s Capital Fringe Festival Reminiscent of Cuba.” It stated:

I went to Cuba for the 2009 Juanes Concert for Peace and found the arts scene there to look almost exactly like the community arts scene here. The Fringe, like Cuba, is not air-conditioned, and is a bit dusty. Chipping paint is an issue, as is the vague risk of electrocution from exposed wires.

The scene is homemade, and high-minded. It’s presented with a proudly regional twist under red, white, and blue flags with stars, and people aren’t there to make money — the artists at Fringe aren’t in it for the money, and in Cuba, you can’t actually make money, so that’s that.
At the Fringe, as in much of Havana, art can be made anywhere – any slab of concrete can serve as a stage. Both Cuban and Fringe artists are more likely to form collectives or ensembles instead of businesses, and they even dress the same – I’d never seen as many pairs of Chuck Taylors as I did at the Bohemian Park, Parque de los Bohemios in Downtown Havana.
By political accident, the type of work created in the capital of the Free World and the capital of the Commie World is also similar. Great Recession-era Americans are no entirely longer sold on capitalism, and Cuban artists are no longer entirely sold on communism.
Both are creating some new in-between where old ideas are transformed.

srfBrigitte Savage also worked at Self Reliance. She was development director. Asked about Kline’s Cuba work, Savage replied in an email:

Sorry Mr. Eaton – there is nothing I can tell you!

Robert Russell is the former executive director of Self Reliance. He said in an email:

While I worked for the Self-Reliance Foundation, my work involved domestic projects focusing on science and health education projects targeting Latinos. I was aware that the organization was doing a project related to media in Cuba, but had no direct involvement and don’t really know much more than that.

header-newThe Office of Inspector General at the Justice Department mentioned Self Reliance in a semiannual report to Congress in 2010. The report said the OIG had detected $470,750 in costs that were questioned and didn’t appear to be adequately documented.

But I digress…

Back to Jeff Kline.

He is director of a non-profit company called the Pinyon Foundation. Its corporate address appears to be Kline’s home address in Santa Fe, N.M.

Federal records show that the BBG, which runs Radio & TV Martí, awarded the non-profit Pinyon Foundation a $450,000 grant to produce a self-help video series for Cubans. I asked Kline about the grant in February. He said:

“I do know that the Pinyon Foundation has not received $450,000. I would know that. Pinyon does not have any money of that nature at all.”

Records showed that the contract was signed Sept. 30, 2013. I called it a “disappearing $450,000 contract” because Kline said his foundation didn’t get the money.

Now I think I know why.

On Jan. 15, 2014, another $450,000 contract was signed. It lists the exact same contract number as the Pinyon Foundation agreement: BBG50C130046.

But this time, the money goes to a for-profit company. It’s called Canyon Communications LLC. And its creator is a man named Jeff Kline.

4 thoughts on “Secret Cuba Work and the other Alan Gross

  • For the honestly innocent who wonder why these strange events happen, two pieces of ancient reality are at play. One is that states and political movements of all types have been committing covert activities for thousands of years. Literature is full of such examples even if histories tend to be riddled with lies and gaps. The second old reality is that participants tend to divide into two very different types of motivation; those who do it for the money, power, plunder or ego-centric glory and second those who do it for the principals they support. The first category are seldom moral except in terms of the rules as written by the “winners.” The later can cover a wide spectrum from very odd to very laudable. Now these terms are judgmental and subjective, but so too are the motivations of those motivated by belief or dedication to the cause. In modern times, we tend to divide both these two categories into self-serving good and bad sub-categories.

    Alan Gross and Kline both are in the first group, those doing it for the money, even if they think success will bring some glory and good for their side. They are certainly not in the later category of agents secretly fighting in a very self-sacrificing and dedicated way for a greater cause. But where they fall on the subcategory spectrum from rational to irrational, can be debated, but Alan has given two very different portrayals of his awareness and actions. In court and some interviews he has admitted he knew what he was doing was very dangerous and illegal in Cuba, but in public or at least in as far as he doesn’t correct his supporters portrayal of him as an innocent, he allows that he was duped and let down by his AID contractors and maybe his government. I don’t know much about Kline, but would bet it is the money in his case too.

    Now the Cuban 5 are in the second category of covert agents committed to a cause and have proven they are neither odd nor irrational. Maybe the only naive members of their team were their superiors who seemed to have thought the FBI would act intelligently and honorably. If they actually thought that, they were clearly wrong.

    For obvious reasons, I hope they can all go home as soon as possible.

  • The government pay scale is too low.

  • Oh hell, there are any number if people who will do almost any immoral act for money and who can be competent .
    Hitler and Stalin and Obama were/are all competent to perform the immoral work their positions called for .
    But then you do have to address their stupidity in being known employees of the GOUSA or sub-agencies thereof , going into a Cuba which the U.S. openly admits it is trying to smash and has been for some 54 years.
    They should be shot just for their stupidity so they will not be able to pass their grossly (no pun) defective genes on to future spies.
    I think you’d be an excellent recruit for USAID .

  • Seems like Jeff Kline is better at his craft than Alan Gross was.

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